Muammar Qaddafi's forces are bombarding rebels in the eastern town of Ajdabiya, in what might prove one of the most pivotal battles in Libya's bloody month-long uprising. Ajdabiya, according to The New York Times, represents the "last defensive line" before the rebel headquarters of Benghazi, about 100 miles away. Libyan state TV is reporting that Qaddafi's forces are in "total control" of the town, but the rebels have not confirmed the report.
The fighting in Ajdabiya comes as Qaddafi's counteroffensive against rebel advances picks up steam. Government forces have captured a series of strategic rebel positions including the oil port of Ras Lanuf and the western city of Zawiyah. Al Jazeera is reporting that elite units commanded by Qaddafi's sons Khamis and Saadi are moving into the Libyan oil town of Brega.
Opposition forces, increasingly beset by Qaddafi's forces, have appealed to the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. But, even after a G8 meeting in Paris on Monday, it appears unlikely that foreign powers will commit to any military action, though they may impose further economic sanctions. While the Arab League supports a no-fly zone and the U.K. and France have drafted a resolution for such a measure, the reservations expressed in the U.N. Security Council by countries like Russia and China may prove insurmountable.
On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with opposition leader Mahmood Jibril, who asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes against Qaddafi's airfields Bloomberg reports. A Pew survey has found that Americans overwhelmingly oppose bombing Libyan military air defenses and feel the U.S. does not have a responsibility to do something about the fighting in Libya.
The apparent momentum swing in Libya has some already thinking about what will transpire if Qaddafi weathers the uprising.
Reuters explains how foreign powers, who have pretty uniformly condemned Qaddafi's violent crackdown, will have to decide whether to isolate the Libyan leader or rebuild relations with him if he emerges from the unrest still in power. Reuters points out that Qaddafi could seize the assets of foreign oil companies in Libya in retaliation for the international community's sanctions and asset freezes.
Some rebels, meanwhile, worry that Qaddafi will block roads leading to Benghazi and other coastal cities and lay siege to them. They're concerned, CNN explains, that if Qadddafi "reasserts control of those cities in eastern Libya that led the revolt against his rule, he might carry out bloody reprisals." And indeed, The Associated Press is reporting that pro-Qaddafi forces have seized control of the road to Benghazi to the east, sealing up the rebels’ main line of retreat.