Last night President Obama said Moammar Gadhafi's regime is at a "tipping point." And this morning the top U.S. diplomat on the ground went even further, telling me the 42-year rule is "absolutely" past the tipping point.
“What’s clear is that the wind [is] in the sails of the rebels, that the rebels are winning, that it’s only a matter of time now before Gadhafi has to step down, before Gadhafi loses the entire country,” Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman said on “GMA.”
I spoke to him as news broke that the rebels now control 95% of Tripoli. He said until Gadhafi takes steps to prove he has resigned, no one will negotiate with him for safe passage out of the country. Feltman said the U.S. doesn’t know where Gadhafi is but that “almost doesn’t matter.”
“The rebels are clearly taking over the city, taking over the institutions, we just got reports that they have taken over state television,” Feltman said.
“[Gadhafi] has become, for all intents and purposes, part of Libya’s past and now people need to look to build Libya’s better future.”
The Assistant Secretary of State spent the past several days with rebel officials in Benghazi talking about what a post Gadhafi Libya would look like. The first thing the rebel leaders have done is reiterate a message of no retribution.
“They clearly have thought thru how to make sure to avoid a cycle of revenge killings and to make sure essential services continue to be delivered. We’ll see what happens in practice on the ground of course, one can’t really predict this,” Feltman said. “But they are, they have worked thru the scenarios and have maintained and nurtured contacts inside Tripoli to help preserve security and stability in the capitol.”
I asked Feltman if the chaos that followed the fall of Sadaam Hussein in Iraq could be avoided in Libya. He said they are working on minimizing that potential risk but can’t predict anything – including if the new leaders would form an alliance with al Qaeda or other enemies of the United States.
“I think the assassination of Abdel Fattah Younis, the chief of staff a few weeks ago highlighted the dangers of some of the Islamic elements inside the fighting militias of Libya and people are definitely pushing back against that in order to ensure that a moderate, secular Libya is the one that emerges from 42 years of Gadhafi tyranny,” he told me.
Watch my interview here: