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JOHN KING, USA
Libya after Gadhafi
Aired August 22, 2011 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, CNN'S STATE OF THE UNION: Thanks Wolf and thank you for joining us. I'm Candy Crowley. John King is off.
Tonight Moammar Gadhafi is going, going, almost gone. The U.S. State Department says the Libyan rebels control about 90 percent of Tripoli. Right now though nobody can find Gadhafi and (INAUDIBLE) reports that one of his three captured sons has escaped. Let's get the very latest from Libya; CNN Sara Sidner was in Tripoli most of the day. She now joins us from the nearby city of Zawiya, which is under rebel control. So Sara, first tell me what's going on there in Zawiya.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We were hearing a lot, a lot of loud booms, a lot of what sounded like mortar fire. There was definitely small arms fire. It sounded like there was a firefight and we went and checked it out. And we think that we have confirmed -- now we've only talked to one of the rebels who has not been down at the square, but we think that it is again celebratory fire.
But what they're using in this celebratory fire are things like anti- aircraft missiles and things like that, so it is very loud. It's hard to tell what exactly is going on. Then we started hearing ambulances in the area. We do know though that Zawiya has been under the control of rebels for about three days and we know that this has been a place that has been relatively rid of Gadhafi forces for that period of time.
And they've pushed all the way into Tripoli from here. But it is disconcerting when you start seeing tracer fire come over your head and large amounts over and over and over again for several hours -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Particularly when you know there is still a fight going on for Libya itself. It is disconcerting. Let me take you back to earlier in your very long day, Sara. You went to Tripoli and back. Tell us about that trip; tell us about what you saw in Tripoli.
SIDNER: We got up early in the morning. We went back into the city after dawn to see what it was like because in the overnight hours, when we were there about 3:00, 4:00 in the morning, things were pretty tense, although people were celebrating in the Green Square there which the rebels now want everyone to refer to as Martyr Square. But we wanted to see in daylight what exactly was happening and what we saw was sort of an eerie scene at first.
When we first drove in there was no one to stop us. There were very few checkpoints that the rebels had set up, very few. We got into the city. We got to the very edge of the city, and we watched just people taking their time, driving in all of these rebel trucks and then we started seeing some of the celebrations in the city.
Some of the rebels standing around in complete disbelief that they've been able to get into the city so easily without having what they thought was going to be a massive firefight. They thought her going they were going to be faced with a large contingent of Gadhafi forces and those forces just never materialized.
Now this fight isn't over. They were still fighting this afternoon in the square, but we do know that we are just not seeing those numbers that we heard Moammar Gadhafi go on state television and go on the state radio saying that he had. We have not seen them. And I think that's also surprised the rebels and perhaps some of the civilians who have stayed behind -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Surprising pretty much everybody. Our Sara Sidner in Zawiya tonight, thanks so much.
President Obama hasn't given up on his vacation at Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, but he is getting regular briefings on developments in Libya and spoke by phone today with British Prime Minister David Cameron. He also went before cameras to sound a note of caution saying he wants to emphasize quote "this is not over yet."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty and there are still regime elements who pose a threat. But this much is clear. The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end. And the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: For more perspective on Libya and what this means, we're joined by two foreign policy experts. Nicholas Burns is a former U.S. ambassador to NATO and Robert Kagan is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution. Gentlemen thank you both.
Let me start out with Moammar Gadhafi. The man of the hour for better and it looks like for worse, are there any options for him at this point? Nick, I'll start with you.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Candy, I think there are very few options. Even a couple of weeks ago, he had the option of making some kind of a deal. The European government several weeks ago wanted to make a deal where he might even stay in the country if he gave up power. Other governments are willing to take him. But now if he's still in the country, and that's a big if, I don't think there's any possibility of another government taking him.
He's going to have to make a fateful decision. Does he fight to the last person? Does he hold out Saddam Hussein-like and hope that his proponents will fight with him? Or does he do the right thing and resign and face justice? That's what he should do. And I think, Candy, it's a very important question because how the war ends is going to write the next chapter of Libya's history. If it ends in vengeance and recrimination and further blood shed, it's going to make it all too difficult for the rebel government to become a government of all the people of Libya and to bind up a country that has been brutalized over the last 40 years.
CROWLEY: Robert, let me get your take on that. I mean from what we know from Moammar Gadhafi, watching him he seems to me a fight to the bitter end kind of guy. But what's your take?
ROBERT KAGAN, SENIOR FELLOW, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: My take is I wouldn't begin to try to understand the mind of Moammar Gadhafi and he will probably do lots of things that we wouldn't anticipate. He certainly -- Nick is absolutely right -- he had an opportunity to get out both gracefully, possibly live the rest of his life somewhere and allow his country to settle this in peace. He hasn't chosen that yet, but honestly I think it would be foolish to try to predict what he's going to do now.
CROWLEY: You know desperate men do desperate things. What is there left for him to do militarily if anything?
KAGAN: I think he's -- no, I think he's finished militarily. It's just a question, as Nick says, of how bloody it's going to be on his way down. I mean if it's true that both his sons have been captured, he can't be in a very strong position otherwise that wouldn't have happened. So I think it's just a question of how bloody it's going to be at the end. And one can only pray that there's some semblance of humanity left in that man and that he doesn't want to get more people killed in a futile gesture.
CROWLEY: We heard from the president this afternoon who said basically that this all began with the U.N. Security Council resolution that was pushed by the U.S. and here's what he had to say about how this all came about.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations and in March the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Gadhafi's forces in their tracks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Is that indeed, Nick, what turned this toward the rebels? Was it NATO? Was it this resolution? Is that where this began? Is that where the end began, let me put it that way.
BURNS: I think so you know -- well you remember, Candy, at the start of this there were a lot of people, including me, very skeptical that the United States should go in, that NATO should go into another Arab country with another military intervention, but the president's right. The fact that the Arab League invited NATO in that's unprecedented, the fact that the U.N. Security Council blessed the operation, the fact that there was an imminent seize of Benghazi at the very start of this I think that's what really forced the president to make the decision and he made the right decision to put NATO in. And I think in the last couple of weeks, NATO found its footing.
This was a stalemate for many, many months and NATO couldn't find a way to tip the balance in favor of the rebel alliance, but the precision airstrikes of the last several weeks and all the other work that the United States did, along with the European allies made a critical difference for the rebel alliance. They fought valiantly and courageously. There's been a spectacular victory over the last couple of days, but it wouldn't have happened in my opinion without the U.S. and the European allies.
CROWLEY: And Robert with that in mind, I want to get your take on that as well because the president was criticized throughout this -- sort of -- this is where the phrase leading from behind came. The U.S. went in there at first for the first week or so and then it pulled back and it let NATO forces, other NATO forces, do the bulk of the work. Does that now not seem like the right decision? It's turning out OK, isn't it?
KAGAN: Yes, I mean you know there were obviously many lives lost if this thing could have happened faster, if we could have gotten to this point sooner, perhaps with greater U.S. military action early on. I think there probably would be some people alive today. But nevertheless, this has been a success. It will go down in history as a success and ultimately by the way it will go down as a history -- in history as a success of U.S. leadership.
None of this would have been possible without the United States, not only the opening military effort, but also the ability to corral an international community to get a U.N. Security Council resolution, to get NATO on board. And it is unprecedented to have the Arab nations also supporting it. And I think actually it's a real blow for American leadership at a time when a lot of people are doubting and have doubted whether the United States can still play any kind of constructive roll in these situations.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you one of the questions that's out there because we do know or we do believe that there are stockpiles of mustard gas. There may as well be other chemical weapons. There are surface-to-air missiles presumably someplace locked up, but do we know, do both of you and I'll start with you, Nick, have confidence that we know where these are and that these rebels which really is a collection of people who took up arms almost spontaneously after you know one after the other, do we believe that they will safeguard these weapons or are you worried about it?
BURNS: Well I'm worried about it as are many others. I don't believe we can have confidence now because of course as Gadhafi's forces that have been in control of all the munitions and weapons in Libya for the most part, and so there has to be a very effective entry of this rebel government, a transformation from a people's army into an effective government over the next several days and weeks if we're to secure -- if they're to secure those weaponries because if they were to get out and proliferate, it could do untold damage on the United States. And I think, Candy, it points to another issue. The Obama administration made a big point of saying the Europeans and the Arabs should be leading. And I think now that needs to extend to the aftermath of the fighting. If there is going be a major international economic effort to help stabilize Libya, to rebuild the shattered cities, of course the United States should participate, but the Europeans should lead and do more because France and Italy and Spain have greater historical social economic interests and we do and certainly the Arab countries should do more to help the Libyans.
President Obama was criticized, as you remember, by some of his critics for having been too solicitous of the allies, for not having had the United States in front. It turns out to have been a very wise policy. It does spread the burden and the burden should still rest on the issue of weapons and other -- and on economic aid I think with the European allies and with the Arab neighbors.
CROWLEY: Robert, at this point do you have enough faith in whoever these rebels are and whoever their leaders are that they can keep all of this weaponry -- first of all, do they know where it is, do we know where it is and that they can keep all this weaponry from falling in to the wrong hands and that would be terrorist organizations buying them from someone?
KAGAN: Well I have faith in the good intentions of the rebels. They certainly have behaved very responsibly. They've been very inclusive. They've been very clear about who is in their ranks. But at the end of the day, I don't know what their capacities are to find this stuff and to secure it. And we are going to start having to talk about some of the issues that are a little bit more difficult like what kind of international role is going to have to be played in Libya once Gadhafi has fallen. Economic aid certainly, but we're going to be facing questions pretty early on about whether there has to be something more including perhaps some international forces that can go in and secure weaponry if the rebels are unable to do so.
CROWLEY: Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Nick Burns, former under secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to NATO. Thank you both so much for your expertise tonight.
KAGAN: Thank you.
BURNS: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Ahead, the National Hurricane Center warns Irene may be a major hurricane by the time it closes in it on the East Coast this week. What residents should be doing to prepare.
And what will Libya look like if Gadhafi's four decade rule comes to an end? That's next.
CROWLEY: Tonight Libya is on the verge of joining Tunisia and Egypt on the road to what everyone hopes will be a more democratic, maybe even a more peaceful Middle East. But there are plenty of pitfalls along the way. Here to talk about the big picture, CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend who advised President Bush and now is on the External Advisory Boards of the CIA and Homeland Security Department. In May of 2010, she visited high-ranking Libyan officials at the invitation of the Libyan government. Also with us Robin Wright, author of the new book "Rock the Casbah". It looks at rage and rebellion across the Islamic world. You were telling me 31 years ago about now, you first met Moammar Gadhafi?
ROBIN WRIGHT, AUTHOR, "ROCK THE CASBAH": I interviewed him several times and that was the first time in this bizarre tent and his military barracks.
CROWLEY: Everybody has a bizarre Moammar Gadhafi story and I know you've met him, as well, Fran. So let me ask you both just as a start off and as more specific, and that is what is he apt to do now? I mean it seems to me you can be Saddam Hussein and find a hole and crawl into it and hope they don't find you, you kill yourself, you are killed, or you give up.
WRIGHT: I think that the arrest of his son (INAUDIBLE) Gadhafi was really a pivotal turning point. This was a man who had navigated his reentry into the international community, his compromise on Pan Am 111 (ph), the surrender of his weapons of mass destruction. He was his political adviser. He's now gone. The main son left to advise him is Komos (ph), who runs one of the key military units that is protecting Tripoli and the inner circle. And he's the one person who will be with his father. And so when you look at what are the scenarios, the option, the military option seems far more likely now than some kind of negotiated surrender.
CROWLEY: So by military option you think there's more fight left in Gadhafi?
WRIGHT: Potentially more fight, but it's either capture or kill rather than some kind of negotiation --
CROWLEY: Going off to another country.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I think he's going to fight to the bitter end, but I did from the very beginning. I never thought he would negotiate his way out. He's got sort of a messianic vision of himself as this African leader who is invincible frankly. And I think that he desires if he can't remain in power, he said it himself, he wants his blood to darken the soil of Libya and he wants to go down as a martyr.
CROWLEY: And so if you are sitting in Syria tonight perhaps or supposedly head Yemen, you're in Bahrain, and you're a leader and you're looking at what's happening to Gadhafi, is there a signal in there?
WRIGHT: I think this is the beginning of phase two, that we with not only the pressure on Gadhafi, but the international community from Washington to Tokyo getting together and saying that Bashar Assad in Syria is no longer a legitimate leader and then you also have the trial playing out of Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt that all of these things are signaling and injecting a new kind of adrenaline, a new energy in the Arab uprisings and that we're likely to see things I think bubble --
CROWLEY: Message to the streets maybe even more than to the leaders.
TOWNSEND: I think that's exactly right. I think if you're a part of the Syrian opposition, you look at this and say you know I thought time was not on my side. Maybe time -- maybe it's OK that our consistency and persistence over time may be our great strength and may still force change. And so I think there's something inspirational in it to the streets in Syria.
CROWLEY: And what about the template looking at the international community through the U.N., getting a resolution, NATO then acting on that resolution with the U.S. spearheading, but you know the back seat thing and putting NATO out in front without the U.S. being the only part of NATO, how does that serve as a template for any place else in the Middle East or are these just all such different places that it doesn't fit anywhere else?
WRIGHT: Libya was a special case in part because of Gadhafi's erratic behavior, his support of terrorism, Pan Am 103 (ph) that this is also a country that had --
CROWLEY: So it was OK not to like him. It was OK to go after him.
WRIGHT: And also the United States did -- and Fran and I probably disagree on this -- did what it didn't do in Iraq. It got an Arab League endorsement for international intervention and it went to the United Nations and it worked through the world's largest military alliance. This is a model though that can't be replicated anyplace else. This is not something that the United States and its allies could use, for example, in a place like Syria. This is a one-time deal and that's, you know, it's a good thing for the Obama administration that he doesn't face this again, but Libya's one --
CROWLEY: This is a special (INAUDIBLE).
TOWNSEND: Well and remember Gadhafi had alienated other heads of state in the Arab world, most especially, the king of Saudi Arabia. He was not viewed as, among the Arab leaders, as one of them. That's different with Bashar Assad. There are close and historical ties with Syria --
TOWNSEND: -- and so getting the Arab League to invite you in works in Libya to Robin's point, but not in Syria.
CROWLEY: So talk to me about what lies ahead. Because we just have been told over these months oh these are shopkeepers and, you know, some professionals and then young children and they take you know 18, 19, 20-year-olds, taking up weapons and, you know, this is a people's rebellion and I'm thinking how do they now -- they have to put together a government and we've seen in Egypt that's not all that easy.
WRIGHT: But Libya is very different from both Egypt and Tunisia. This is a place where they've had five -- more than five months of a transitional national council that's had to do everything from work with, you know, a wide array of political players and also learn how to collect the garbage, but it has some practical experience in governance. This is also the one country of the 22 Arab members that has a very small population, 6.5 million people, and enormous oil wells.
This is the one place that could actually provide tangible rewards and economic gains, a country that now has 30 percent unemployment in rebuilding the country and has the finances to do it. And that's not something you find in Egypt with 85 million people and no oil wells. But there's no other place that has the things going for it that Libya does even though it's got 140 tribes, you know, and a lot of differences that will make the transition messy.
CROWLEY: So give me the other side of that.
TOWNSEND: I'm not quite so optimistic. I mean look there have been more than four decades without any history of civil institutions and the bureaucracy and organization that makes a government work. It is true to say the Transitional National Council has had these months of experience, but there will be spoilers in this. As Gadhafi's forces melt away and desert him and take off their uniforms and go back into the civilian population, we have to be worried and the TNC has got to be worried about a potential insurgency.
Take off your uniform now. Melt into the population. Live to fight another day which is what we saw in Iraq. You hope that you don't see that in Libya, but they're certainly vulnerable to that sort of a movement.
CROWLEY: And that sort of thing like the looting that we saw in the aftermath of Iraq, and the tumbling of Saddam Hussein --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right.
CROWLEY: There are just so -- seems to me there are so many variables here for what is now once again a very young country.
WRIGHT: It is a very young country, again, but this is also a place where the transition has been enacted by the locals. This is not where a country where a foreign army has come in and alienated the locals questioning the intent of a foreign nation where al Qaeda could exploit a foreign -- you know foreign presence.
This a country where most of the action, although backed by NATO in terms of air power, has played out on the ground and they have done it themselves and so that's something that will give them a legitimacy. The question is can you get the different militias that have played out, the west and the east are very different --
WRIGHT: -- and can you get these two sides -- they're traditionally different parts of the country -- can you get them to cooperate. And this is where the international community can play an important role both in economic development and helping guide the reconstruction and also reminding them what democracy really is.
CROWLEY: So you would agree Fran that there is a -- as a final word, there's a core there that wasn't really there in Iraq?
TOWNSEND: That's exactly -- they have the oil wealth as Robin has mentioned, which is critically important and there is this core around which -- you know having been there as Robin has, there are extraordinary archaeological sites that rival Pompey (ph). I mean this is a spectacular coast. I mean this is a really vibrant, beautiful place that has tremendous potential if they can organize and harness this effort and get over their internal differences.
TOWNSEND: Right --
WRIGHT: Huge tourism --
CROWLEY: Fran Townsend, Robin Wright, thank you both so much for joining us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Our next guest has met face to face with Moammar Gadhafi as well and he has some serious concerns about Libya's stockpile of chemical weapons. We'll be right back.
CROWLEY: The top Democrat on the House Select Intelligence Committee says U.S. actions in Libya protected America's national security as well as security worldwide. But Maryland Representative "Dutch" Ruppersberger still -- Ruppersberger -- sorry -- still has plenty of security concerns like what happens now to Moammar Gadhafi's weapons of mass destruction?
The congressman joins us from Baltimore. Thank you so much. I wanted to read something from your statement, Congressman that caught our attention. You said "we must also ensure radical extremist groups do not take control of the country. Libya has a large stockpile of chemical weapons and explosives that must not fall into the wrong hands."
And I have to telling that I spoke with two people recently who said what chemical weapons. He handed them over. The man's fired two Scuds in four months. He just doesn't have them. Do we know for sure there are mustard gas chemical weapons that are stockpiled there? REP. C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: Well based on all the information that I have, he has a lot of weapons. And we're very concerned that he does have those weapons. And we were surprised he didn't use those weapons throughout this whole exercise.
CROWLEY: And so you can tell me like what -- so what are we talking about here --
CROWLEY: -- because I thought he made a deal to get rid of weapons of mass destruction.
RUPPERSBERGER: You have -- you have mustard gas. You have man pads. You have different chemical weapons that he could use and it could be very serious. But we have been keeping an eye on that. When I say we the NATO and the coalition, but he's a very dangerous person. I met with him and the first thing he said, there were three or four of us from Congress, and we were in Libya, and he said you know why did you attack me? Why did -- I think President Reagan attack me? I'm a good person.
And I came back and I said, well, I don't agree with you. And you were involved in the killing of a college student from Baltimore in the Pan Am plane. So let's not go down that road.
And then he stopped. And he also knows English, but he made us use an interpreter. And I think all of us who walked away from that meeting felt he was very unstable.
CANDY CROWLEY, GUEST HOST: And so, let me see if I get this straight. You through whatever means and methods you have and again you are the ranking member on the intelligence committee. You believe that there are large stockpiles of chemical weapons. I'm assuming that there are others in the U.S. government that know this.
Do we know where they are and have we done anything to safeguard them?
RUPPERSBERGER: Well, I don't want to get into some of that as classified. What I do want to say is that there is going to be a lot of transition that we have to be concerned about. And NATO still has to be involved.
Right now know two of Gadhafi's sons are still in southern Libya. And they still control brigades.
And if you really look at what happened in Iran, we don't want to make the same mistake. You know what happened in Iraq is that we fired the military, who we trained. They became the opposition. They had weapons and it caused a serious problem for a long time in Iraq.
And we have to make sure that this transition goes well and it's going to take a lot of time and effort to do this. And we also don't need to create another Iraq.
CROWLEY: Well, as far as I know, that there wouldn't be -- if the rebels win, there is not an army per se or at least a professional army left behind. So, who guards those stockpiles? I mean, is this important enough for the U.S. or NATO, people to put boots on the ground and guard wherever this weaponry is?
RUPPERSBERGER: Well, that's a lot of what intelligence is about and getting the information and making sure that the right moves are made by the people who are going to be there. We should not put boots on the ground. The United States should not put boots on the ground. And I praise the president for making that decision.
It should be a coalition and other countries need to be involved in the transition that is going to happen in Libya, including money. We just can't be in charge of everything -- and with other issues that we have, we're still in Afghanistan, we need to look at this.
But our national security could be at risk here just as any other country. And we don't want radical terrorists to take control when taking advantage of this situation.
CROWLEY: The national transitional government's ambassador to the U.S. just told CNN that one of Gadhafi's sons that has been captured was, quote, "hijacked," somehow managed to escape from where he was being guarded by rebels.
What does that tell you about the ability of the rebel forces to maintain calm, to stop looting, perhaps protect these weaponry stockpiles?
RUPPERSBERGER: It's a wake-up call. And just because Gadhafi goes doesn't mean things are going to change right away. Again, let's learn from the lessons of Iraq. There was looting when finally we were able to take control of Iraq. We have to make sure that that doesn't occur. And there will be a lot of different extremist groups that will try to take advantage of the situation.
But, you know, we hope that we -- along with the coalition -- will have enough intelligence to be able to make a move to make sure that we take control of those weapons of mass deconstruction because they are there and they could be very dangerous.
And that's another thing that you just -- Gadhafi's son who escaped. So, this group, the rebel group, is not very sophisticated. So, they're going to need help in trying to stand up and bring peace to this government and the people who eventually want their rights and they want liberty and democracy.
CROWLEY: Let's me ask you about a man from district, Matthew Van Dyke, he's been missing in Libya since March, 31 years old, he's from Baltimore. He was in Libya to write a book about this uprising.
First, please tell us what you know about him and do you think that this obviously -- I think you must be hoping at any rate in the rest of Tripoli falls that you could find Matthew Van Dyke.
RUPPERSBERGER: Sure. We were very concerned about Matthew Van Dyke. A state senator contacted me and said Mrs. Van Dyke was going to call me because of my role on the intelligence committee. Our office got involved right away and we attempted to find Matthew.
The last time that he was seen was right around the time that the coalition started to get involved in the battle with Gadhafi. We didn't hear -- I was concerned that he might have been killed. As it turned out, we finally -- he was finally identified and the Hungarian government has been our liaison. We're working with our State Department. And he was in a prison.
Now, we know that there are a lot of people in prisons, there's been one prison where there's been a prison break, but that's still a very unstable situation. And we want to make sure go whatever we can to bring an American back to the United States who has been in a prison. He went over there as a journalist. But the good news is that we know that he's alive and he's been identified being in prison in Libya.
CROWLEY: I want to thank you so much, Congressman Ruppersberger.
CROWLEY: We appreciate your time. Hope to talk to you again.
RUPPERSBERGER: OK, Candy.
CROWLEY: We are keeping a close eye on Libya. CNN has word that another Moammar Gadhafi son who was supposed to be under arrest has been seen at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli. CNN's Matthew Chance will call in live with a report shortly. He'll have the details.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CROWLEY: Breaking news from our Matthew Chance in Tripoli, with word that yet another of Moammar Gadhafi's sons who was supposed to be under arrest has been seen at the hotel. He joins me on the phone now.
Matthew, where did you -- first, where are you and where did you see Gadhafi's son?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): In the lobby of the -- right outside of hotel, the Rixos Hotel, where we've all been holed up for the past several weeks, in particular in the past several days -- I mean, with all this fighting around Tripoli. You know, there has been many reports over the course of the last day or so that Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, who is the oldest son of Colonel Gadhafi is indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, had been taken into custody by the rebels as they advance into the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
And that's what many media organizations have been reporting. The ICC in The Hague has said that they confirmed that they had words that this is the case.
So, I can tell you within the past, you know, 10 minutes or so, I was outside this hotel. There was a big white armored Land Cruiser and everyone is saying, oh, you know, Saif al Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, he's inside that car and, you know, just about to drive off.
And so, I went up to it. And I knocked on the window, I said and sort of say, can you open the door? You know, we want to see your face. We want to make sure that it's you.
And he opened the door, turned the lights on inside the back of this armored Land Cruiser and it was indeed him. He was bearded. He looked quite thin.
I took a photograph. I took some video. He told me that his father, Colonel Gadhafi, Moammar Gadhafi, remains in Tripoli. He said the whole family are in Tripoli. He said it was a trick luring the rebels in to Tripoli.
He said that now Gadhafi forces had broken the backbone of the rebellion and given them a hard time. And then the door closed and he sped off in an armored convoy into the night, into the capital.
So, put (INAUDIBLE) pretty clearly these rumors or these reports the he was in the custody of the rebels and they were poised apparently to hand him over to the International Criminal Court -- Candy.
CROWLEY: So, Matthew, let me try to separate truth from propaganda. For sure, Saif was riding around freely. He says that his father is in Tripoli.
But what about the part that they pushed the rebels out, that this was all as farces? Do you any sign that the rebels are not in control of the 90 percent of Tripoli we were told they're in control of?
CHANCE: You know, it's really difficult for me in this hotel --
CHANCE: -- to give a good assessment to what extent the rebels are in control of Tripoli. They're definitely not in control of this area, nor have they been from the start of this crisis. This is an area where the Rixos Hotel is located. It's where Colonel Gadhafi's main compound is located. There are area key installations, as well. But there have been ferocious fighting all over the city particularly in this area, though.
But, you know, I can tell you quite definitely that they're not in control in this area. Definitely in the control of Gadhafi loyalist.
And it's -- you know, it's difficult to draw from what he said any real kind of firm assessment of rebel control in the city. Clearly, there is a large rebel presence. Clearly, it's a large rebel presence. But what Saif Islam Gadhafi was saying is that now, there's been a counter attack essentially and that, you know, the backbone of the rebels has been broken.
I don't know to what extent that's the reality of what's happening outside, or to what extent that's just, you know, a line that this oldest son of Colonel Gadhafi is spilling to the international media. I don't know. But, you know, certainly, he was in very defiant mood and he was certainly a free man. That's for certain.
CROWLEY: Matthew Chance, that's why we have you and so many other reporters there to give us the news from all the angles. That is an amazing piece of news. Thank you so much for being there for us, Matthew. We appreciate it.
Coming up, hurricane Irene is causing flooding and landslides in the Caribbean. The storm is gathering strength as it approaches the U.S. We'll get an update from the CNN weather center.
CROWLEY: "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is coming up at the top of the hour. Anderson is here with preview.
Anderson, I know you talked to a witness to the fighting in Tripoli. What you can tell us?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Yes, we did. And I know you were just talking to Matthew Chance who had that remarkable breaking news who said Saif Gadhafi is alive. The opposition had claimed he'd already been captured. It raises a lot of questions, Candy. As you know, what's really going on Tripoli, we'll try to sort all that out. There have been street to street firefights in the capital today. We know that.
Unconfirmed reports tonight of a new round of NATO air strikes. We're going to talk with a young woman in Tripoli who believes she is on the cusp of tasting freedom for the first time. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"NOURA," LIBYAN WOMAN IN TRIPOLI(via telephone): Now, I'm 23 years old and as you say I lived all my life under the control of him. My feeling now, I'm very, very close to my freedom. So I will just -- the moment that I will take it, I would live every moment of my life and I will thank Allah for every moment I will live without him, without his control and his son's control, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Talk about Gadhafi, of course. We'll also check back with CNN's Matthew Chance or at least try to get back in touch with him. He's trapped in that hotel in Gadhafi's territory in Tripoli -- try to get an update on the appearance of his son, Candy.
CROWLEY: Anderson Cooper, just about 11 1/2 minutes from now. We will be there. Thanks, Anderson.
Hurricane Irene is passing north of Dominican Republic and Haiti tonight, close enough to causing major flooding and landslides. Also, the National Hurricane Center warns Irene may be a major hurricane by the time it closes on the U.S. East Coast.
CNN meteorologist Chad Myers is tracking the storm.
So, Chad, when does it hit the East Coast?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, if it does, it will be Thursday or Friday for Florida. Or Friday or Saturday for the Carolinas. Or Saturday or Sunday for Massachusetts.
It could be a very big turn as the storm continues to get stronger and turns to the right as they always do, that big right hook. But right now, the storm is much stronger than it was just three hours ago. It was 80 miles an hour.
Now, it is a 100-mile-per-hour category 2. Just literally just updated as we got on the air right now, which means it will probably be that category 2 tomorrow and then into that category 3 which means major hurricane status making a run either at south Florida, got to look at this cone, it could miss the U.S. all together, but could run right into south Florida, or somewhere probably more likely in the Carolinas. Maybe northern Florida or Georgia.
But these storms tend to keep turning to the right. And as it continues to turn away, in fact, it may completely miss the U.S. That's not the forecast. The forecast is for a U.S. landfall of a major hurricane on Friday.
There's the storm right there. The eye moving away from San Juan, still very significant flooding going on in San Juan, Puerto Rico, at this hour. It's been flooding all day long. Trees are down, over a million people without power in Puerto Rico as we speak right now from all of this.
We do know that there is a hurricane hunter aircraft in it. This is a Google map. It has flown through the eye of the storm right there. It has found that the pressure has gone down significantly in the past two or three hours. That means the storm is rapidly intensifying. That means it's going to be a major hurricane fairly soon -- Candy.
CROWLEY: You've got your work cut out for you for the next couple of days. Thanks so much, Chad Myers -- watching hurricane Irene for us.
Up next, can the U.S. military secure Libya's weapons of mass destruction if they're there during this political upheaval? We'll have an update from the Pentagon after the break.
CROWLEY: Recapping this hour's breaking news, Moammar Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam made an appearance outside a Tripoli hotel early Tuesday, more than a day after rebel forces reported they had captured him. Saif al-Islam told CNN's Matthew Chance that Moammar Gadhafi, his father, is still in Tripoli. In a sort of a brief press conference, he also told reporters rebels had not in fact taken over 90 percent of Tripoli.
Always an interesting situation over there. We have reporters all over the place and here. We want to check in with Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence and foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty at the State Department.
Jill, let me begin with you and ask you that we -- you've been reporting that in the final -- even up to the final moments, Moammar Gadhafi was reaching out trying to buy time. Tell us about these negotiations, if they even were -- if they even got to that point.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, it was people who were close to Gadhafi. Six people in fact who had been in contact with U.S. officials before and we are told by Jeff Feltman, who is the assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs that, all of a sudden, there were these frantic calls coming from these six men. And they were saying, look, we want to negotiate. We want to negotiate.
And when it came down to it, U.S. officials said, negotiate over what? They were -- they did not want to negotiate over Moammar Gadhafi leaving.
So, at that point, the U.S. said come back when you get real. But the U.S. officials took it as a sign of desperation. They say that what they really wanted to do, the Libyans, was to stop the rebel attack on the city of Tripoli.
CROWLEY: And, Chris, to you, we've been talking throughout the day about chemical weapons or stockpiles that Moammar Gadhafi might have. I thought many people were under the impression that he had given up weapons of mass destruction.
What do we know about what he has and what's been done to try to safeguard it?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Candy. The Arms Control Association estimates right now that Libya still has about 10 tons of mustard gas, the deadly blister agent. And we're told by a NATO official that NATO has been using satellites, drones and other aircraft to keep a sort of direct eye on where some of this material, the mustard gas and other weapons of mass destruction are being stored.
We've also been told that the U.S. and other countries have had people in contact working with the National Transitional Council to try to help them in securing some of these sites. They have been in the country over the past several weeks and have been in contact with NTC leaders. And the hope is that none of this material would sort of leave the control of the NTC right now.
CROWLEY: Chris, we want to show our audience some video, this just coming into us, from "Reuters". This is, and I'm seeing it for the first time, but in -- we are going to see Saif al-Islam who is on the shoulders of some people here.
I'm sure -- you've looking at this as I'm looking at it.
CROWLEY: And we have been told all along that this man had been captured by the rebels. Now, we are in a part of Tripoli that we know is under Gadhafi force control. But what does it say to either one of you that the rebels said they had Saif and another brother, in fact, and they apparently don't? Who are we to believe in all of this?
LAWRENCE: Well, in some ways you have to believe your eyes if you see Saif on the shoulders of people outside, clearly not captured. I think it does sort of call into question exactly how organized the hierarchy of the rebel forces.
CROWLEY: Tell our audience, this is Saif here that we're seeing here, Chris. I know you can't see it.
LAWRENCE: I can see it now. I mean, it does call into question if he's out and about -- you know, clearly you have to believe your eyes if he's standing there and he's out in public talking. And it also, you know, lends new credence to what some U.S. officials have said is a concern that Gadhafi may launch a last-ditch attack. That the rebels are not in complete control yet and that, you know, this combined with the fact that a Scud missile was launched near the city of Sirte today show that Gadhafi's forces are still viable and still very much have a chance to mount an offensive.
CROWLEY: And, Jill in, our last 50 seconds or so, let's assume that Gadhafi goes at some point, although the president is right, it's not over yet. What's next for the rebels?
DOUGHERTY: Well, if that happens, then the Transitional National Council, the NTC, puts together an interim government and that's kind of an expanded government and responsibility that would be to move forward toward elections, toward writing a constitution, and that would be a little longer term. But most immediately would be security, immediate support services for people, humanitarian aid, and mustering that through the international community -- also dealing with oil revenue and the frozen, now to be soon unfrozen, assets that they will be getting.
CROWLEY: Thanks again. Once again for our audience, that is Saif al- Islam that you saw on the right-hand side of your screen, free and not captured by the rebels.
That is all for us tonight.
"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.