Tripoli looks likely to fall

I’m currently in Benghazi. The city is rejoicing at the impending fall of Tripoli, but of course as a journalist I’m kind of on the wrong side the country from where I ought to be. I’m trying not to be too much of a killjoy. In a short while I’ll go out to join the crowds who flock to the corniche each Ramadan evening until around 2am or so, and try to catch some of the jubilation.

I may be premature in saying this, but the capture of the Khamis base and large chunks of Mitiga airbase suggests that the Qaddafi forces are suffering a fin-de-regime crisis of morale. They could just be consolidating for a final stand inside the city, but I think it a little more likely that his troops are going to start taking off their uniforms and fleeing to safe areas — to Sirte or the oasis of Sebha if they can, or simply just lying low in Tripoli. But I could be wrong — I never expected Qaddafi to have lasted this long, once Nato intervened, so maybe he’ll fight tenaciously on.

Rebel officials in Benghazi don’t seem too worried about what happens next. They expect a repeat of the fairly smooth transition here — that most officials will stay in their posts, that relatively few people will want to loot or carry out reprisals, and that there will be enough revolutionaries in the streets to keep order. They may be over-optimistic — Benghazi was held together by the shared sense of persecution during Qaddafi, and Tripoli is a much larger experience and seems to contain a much higher proportion of Qaddafi true believers. But the NTC has been pretty good about restricting reprisals and being as inclusive as possible of the different regions and grouping, and is acutely aware that it is an unelected body which must tread very carefully if it is to retain its legitimacy.

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