Washington — President Obama said today that the United States and its allies are “slowly tightening the noose” on Moammar Qaddafi, the embattled Libyan leader who continues to wage war against his people as he attempts to hold onto power.
“[Qaddafi] is more and more isolated internationally, both through sanctions as well as an arms embargo,” Obama said at a White House press conference. “The bottom line is, is that I have not taken any options off the table at this point. I think it is important to understand that we have moved about as swiftly as an international coalition has ever moved to impose sanctions on Qaddafi. I am absolutely clear that it is in the interest of the United States and, more importantly, in the interest of the Libyan people for Mr. Qaddafi to leave. And I have not foreclosed these options.”
Obama acknowledged that he remains “absolutely” concerned that Qaddafi could, via his military muscle, find a way to remain in power. “I think that’s why it’s so important for us not to stop where we are, but to continue to find options that will add additional pressure, including sending a clear message to those around Qaddafi that the world is watching and we’re paying attention, and that there have been referrals to the International Criminal Court,” he said. “There’s no doubt that I am concerned about it.”
“Qaddafi has a stash of weapons,” Obama continued. “He not only has some troops that remain loyal to him, but there have been reports that he’s also been hiring mercenaries. Even with the financial freeze that we’ve imposed, he still has some assets. The rebel groups are just now getting organized. And so we’re going to have to continue to apply pressure, and that’s why I say we have not taken any options off the table at this point.”
The president’s comments come days after James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, asserted that Qaddafi has the arms to prevail over rebel forces. Obama said that Clapper was making a “hardheaded assessment about military capability.” “I don’t think anybody disputes that Qaddafi has more firepower than the opposition,” he said. “[Clapper] wasn’t stating policy.”