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Qaddafi rout of Libya rebels pulls morale to a new low

The optimism of a few weeks ago that Col. Muammar Qaddafi would be ousted by a flexing of people power similar to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia is now a distant memory.

Anti-Qaddafi rebels, stand on their vehicle as one of them looks through his binoculars for pro-Qaddafi tanks at a desert road between Agela and Ras Lanouf towns, eastern Libya, Saturday. Rebels have been losing ground and moral as Qaddafi's forces advance eastward.

Hussein Malla/AP

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The chaotic collapse of rebel positions in eastern Libya in the past week is sapping the morale out of the rag-tag rebel troops that had been rapidly driving west just days ago.

The optimism of a few weeks ago that Col. Muammar Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya through the torture and execution of political opponents since 1969, would be swept by a flexing of people power similar to the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia is now a distant memory.

In Libya's second-largest city, Benghazi, activists and average citizens say they feel abandoned by the international community and need weapons and other material support fast, or Qaddafi will be able to plunge the country into a protracted civil war.

“If we don’t get international protection in the next week or less, this dream will be finished,” says Abdlekader Kadura, a politics professor in Benghazi. “We can hold out, but it’s not only about Benghazi, we have hope for all the Libyan people who are thirsty for liberty and democracy. The rest of Libya could be in big trouble.”

Would a no-fly zone even matter?

Yesterday, the Arab League threw its support behind a no-fly zone for Libya.

While the League is not offering to enforce a no-fly zone itself, the move would make the decision for either NATO or a member acting unilaterally to help the Libyan uprising easier, since it couldn’t be painted as an unwarranted Western intervention in regional affairs.

But a no-fly zone by itself would probably not do much more than boost rebel morale, since most of the damage is being done by Qaddafi’s tanks and ground-based rocket fire.

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