TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI

As the Libyan civil war enters its seventh month, a tipping point leading to the eventual collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s embattled regime looks near. On August 16th a NATO spokesman declared that the colonel no longer had “an effective operational capability”. [The rebels] took control of most of Zawiya, a strategically vital port that is home to the last oil refinery still in the regime’s hands and straddles the road between Tripoli, the capital (30 miles away), and the Tunisian border. The rebels also seized Gharyan, a mainly Berber town 50 miles south of Tripoli that sits on the road to Algeria, a big source of arms for Colonel Qaddafi’s militias. Heavy fighting continued around Zlitan, where rebels advancing from Misrata had less success in breaking the resistance of loyalist forces.

One thing is certain: the rebels are getting stronger, while Colonel Qaddafi’s position is crumbling. It may be too soon to talk of an endgame. But the overthrow of the colonel’s 42-year-old regime is getting closer. It could happen quite quickly if the defection of his security chief, Nassr al-Mabrouk Abdullah, who arrived in Cairo on a private plane from Tunisia with nine family members on August 15th, is anything to go by.
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