Even as Moammar Gadhafi's army pushes back rebel advances, he suffered a defection Wednesday, when his Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa fled to Britain. Koussa is Gadhafi's former intelligence chief, sometimes called the "envoy of death," and Britain has reserved the right to prosecute him given his suspected terrorism ties. His defection, followed by that of another senior official, Ali Abdussalam el-Treki, reportedly sent shockwaves through Tripoli. Is this "devastating" for Gadhafi's regime, as Koussa friend Noman Benotman argues, or just a minor setback?
This is a "major coup" for Gadhafi foes: "By any test this is a massive setback for the Gadhafi clan," says Con Coughlin in The Telegraph, and "a major coup" for anyone "who wants to see Gadhafi's detestable regime overthrown." Koussa was a "dedicated Gadhafi loyalist" for decades, and "he knows — literally — where the bodies are buried." On top of his crumbling regime, Gadhafi now has to worry about his upcoming war crimes trial, too.
"John Simpson has got it badly wrong on Moussa Koussa"
"Hold the champagne" for now: Koussa's desertion "will boost the morale of the rebels and please NATO," but it could make things worse for Libyans, says Bobby Ghosh in TIME. If this "rat" really believes Gadhafi shouldn't be killing his own people, his defection means there's one less person in Gadhafi's inner circle "trying to get the dictator to see sense." And if he tried and failed to curb Gadhafi's "sizable appetite for blood," that's "very bad news," too.
"The rat's deserted. Hold the champagne"
We need to "exploit" these defections more effectively: Koussa is the "most significant" defection yet, in part because of his close ties to others in the Gadhafi regime, says Oliver Miles in The Guardian. There are already rumors of other big defectors, but they won't ditch Gadhafi if the West threatens them with jail, as Britain has done with Koussa. Right now, Libya's warring sides are at "military deadlock," so our first priority should be to "exploit this piece of good news to undermine" Gadhafi.
"Moussa Koussa's defection should be exploited"