The intelligence chief confirms and extrapolates reports coming from Libya today that pro-Qaddafi forces have been routing the rebels. The New York Times has the wrap on Clapper’s testimony:
One week after President Obama demanded that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi cede power in Libya, the president’s top intelligence official predicted on Thursday that “over the longer term, that the regime will prevail” in Libya’s civil war, an assessment that cast significant doubt on efforts so far by the NATO allies to drive him from power.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that Colonel Qaddafi has a potentially decisive advantage in arms and equipment that would make itself felt as the conflict wore on.
The statements by Mr. Clapper, a retired Air Force general who oversees America’s 16 intelligence services, could limit the Obama administration’s options. So far, only France has recognized the provisional government set up by the rebels, called the Libyan National Council. Mr. Clapper’s assessment that the Libyan leader is unlikely to be dislodged by the rebels — which presumably reflects the briefings Mr. Obama and his top national security advisers have been receiving in recent days — would appear to diminish the chances that that the United States and other NATO allies would follow suit.
While Mr. Obama and his aides have spoken of military options, including imposing a no-flight zone over Libya, they have so far limited their concrete actions to imposing new sanctions, freezing assets and monitoring Libyan military communications traffic. They have stopped short of direct military action, even the jamming of communications lines, and Mr. Clapper’s assessment may push both American officials and some allies to the conclusion that efforts to terminate Col. Qaddafi’s 41-year rule in Libya are futile.