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International Coalition Launches Air Strikes Against Gadhafi's Regime

Aired March 20, 2011 - 05:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


RICHARD QUEST, CNN ANCHOR: Striking at Libya; an international military coalition hammers the regime of Moammar Gadhafi. Missiles and fighter action in action for a second day.

The Libyan leader vows to fight back and claims he has all of the people of Libya standing behind him.

It's a dramatic escalation, the turmoil engulfing the Middle East and North Africa. And we'll explain what it means for the region.

A good day to you. I'm Richard Quest at CNN in London, and this is WORLD REPORT.

Explosion and the sounds of anti-aircraft fire are echoing in the skies of Tripoli this morning, as coalition foreign forces continue their assault on Libya's air defense systems. French, British, and American forces began attacking Moammar Gadhafi's military capabilities on Saturday with missiles and fighter jets. It's part of the United Nation's backed resolution to protect Libyan civilians.

Gadhafi issued a defiant statement on state television Sunday, vowing to fight back against what he called naked aggression. Gadhafi himself was not seen. Instead, his voice could only be heard while state TV showed this image of the presidential palace.

The state broadcaster also reported on Sunday that 48 people were killed, 150 people were injured by coalition air strikes so far. CNN is unable to confirm that claim.

We need to now know what's happening at the moment in Libya. A Tripoli resident joins us on the line. We will not identify her for obvious safety reasons.

First of all, let's check if you can hear me. Richard Quest in London, ma'am. Can you hear me?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I can hear you well. Good morning.

QUEST: Good morning to you. We need to begin by asking you what is happening. What are you hearing? What are you seeing? And what has happened din the last few hours?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For the last hour, there was a huge fire somewhere in the central area. It's believe it is coming out from an intelligence buildings. Just right after the fire started, we could hear ambulance and there's lots and lots of police cars speeding toward where the fire started.

QUEST: And are you hearing the sound of aircraft going overhead or any anti-aircraft fire coming from the ground?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It stopped in the early morning. We didn't hear anything after 4:00 a.m.

QUEST: Right. So would you say that it was a fairly noisy night then that you suffered?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be honest, I was asleep. I woke up to the sound of the explosion. I tried to run and see what's happening. And I could see. I saw actually one of the explosions, but no -- one of the fires. It was a very scary scene, especially since there's an anti-aircraft shooting against it.

I saw a couple of the -- I don't know what to call it, but it was a very bright light, and I could see some of the events. I saw them.

QUEST: How has the mood in Tripoli that you can best gauge from you, your family, your friends -- how has that mood shifted in the last 24 hours?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not -- we haven't expected things to speed up this quickly. To be honest, most of us are still in trauma. We're shocked. We're all home. We're scared.

I don't know what's going to happen next. We're not scared for what the international community or what the -- the flights will strike. We're scared what will be the domestic reactions towards those strikes.

QUEST: Forgive me for pushing harder, in what way? I mean, what's your fear basically here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My personal fear is for his speech to come true in Tripoli, where he said he's going to come in each ally and each house and each room and kill everyone who is against him. To be honest, I'm scared for my life.

QUEST: Which is understandable. This comment that opened the arms supply, arm the people so that they can fight back -- is this something that people like yourself take seriously?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Not at all. I think he's trying to add what we call a psychological war to intimidate people to say that he is still in command, which is a truth everybody had woken up with, that he's falling. He's falling very fast. He's no longer in command.

QUEST: You see, you say that. And let's just explore that for a second. You say that, but his ability to have taken back certain key areas and to continue to defy the international community, you seem to suggest that he's still severely weakened. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I ask you a question back? What does taking back command? Is it taking back the will of the people or taking back areas by shooting them? That's a serious question.

QUEST: A good question. As we consider that, we'll let you continue your day. And we'll hopefully check in with you later. But do be safe and keep in touch with us. And many thanks.

That was one of Tripoli's residents there who, for obvious reasons, we're not identifying, and we'll be talking to her in the hours ahead. Interesting question there, of course. And we'll be exploring that question with one of our experts, the question of whether or not taking back command involves mere regaining of territorial advantage or, of course, the will of the people.

Moammar Gadhafi, though, is vowing to defend Libya and says he will open up the weapons depos to his people so that they can fight. Gadhafi also called on other Islamic nations to stand by him. When he was speaking, it was on Libyan state TV. Soon after, the allied attacks began.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): Libya will exercise its right to defend itself according to Section I of the United Nations Charter. That all targets -- maritime targets will be exposed to real danger in the Mediterranean -- were the Mediterranean and North Africa. Because of this aggression -- naked aggression, and this irresponsible action. It's a war zone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Moammar Gadhafi. Now let's look at the countries that are leading the effort. France's Mirage and Rafaele fighter jets are currently enforcing this no-fly zone. The Aircraft Carrier Charles De Gaulle will leave the Mediterranean port of Toulon on Sunday. A refueling tanker is on stand-by.

The United Kingdom is deploying Typhoon Patrol Jets, their all weather Tornado attack aircraft, and air-to-air refueling and surveillance plans.

The United States will not disclose its operations, but has five combat ships in the Mediterranean. That includes a guided missile destroyer. While Canada is sending CF-18 fighter jets and has a warship on standby of Libya's coast.

It's near morning in Libya. The coalition should be getting a look at the damage its air strikes have caused in the country. CNN's Barbara Starr has more on that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBARA STARR, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think at first light now over Libya, there will begin to be this assessment of the damage caused by the initial strikes. Did they get the Libyan air defenses, the radars, the communications facilities, those surface to air missile sites that the Libyans manned, that could bring down no- fly zone aircraft?

They're going to have to look at all of that and decide how much of it across this coastline of Libya they got, how much of it is destroyed, and when it will be safe for pilots to begin to fly over Libya in this no-fly zone configuration.

But, you know, it's really interesting. You've seen both sides rapidly put their cards on the table here. The coalition side going for these very precise, unmanned cruise missiles to go after these targets. And look on the other side of your screen, the Libyans with their ground weapons in Tripoli putting up anti-aircraft fire, tracer fire, which isn't so dangerous, but making a very public show of their force and really making the point that they are in the cities; they are where the civilian populations are.

And they're going to make it very tough on the coalition to move into any additional phase of coming after their ground forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: CNN's Barbara Starr. >

The coalition will now get some more help enforcing the no-fly zone. Spain is to send fighter jets, a refueling plain, a submarine and a maritime surveillance plane.

The French fighter jets carried against the first strikes against Gadhafi's military forces on Saturday. It was France that had lobbied hard for international intervention in Libya.

Christopher Dickey joins me now live from Paris. Christopher is the Middle East editor for "Newsweek."

Christopher, no accident, no happenstance that it was France that led the first attack.

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, "NEWSWEEK": No, I don't thinking so. President Sarkozy has come out very clearly saying it's time to move against Gadhafi. But at the same time, President Sarkozy likes to be seen as a world leader. His poll ratings have been very low.

So I think he probably wants to come out here fighting, drawing a lot of attention to himself, but also doing the right thing.

QUEST: If -- if they have now done their first wave of attacks, and they're now going to be looking, if you like, for the damage and the level of degradation to defenses, what happens next, do you believe, politically?

DICKEY: Well, I think the big question, really, is what the Libyan people are going to do. I mean, this started as a popular uprising against Gadhafi. And it almost took him down. But then he turned his weapons on the people and he drove them back, and essentially he drove the opposition back to Benghazi. Can the opposition turn around now with this umbrella of allied air power over its head and start to win back territory and win back the rest of the Libyan people? That is really the big question mark. And I think that the allies, the United States, Britain, France, and the rest of the world are going to have to take a breath right now and see what the Libyan people are willing to do.

QUEST: You see, you and I were talking a short while ago. And you're very much of the opinion that the moment for this action was -- you know, was late.

DICKEY: It was very, very late. Look, really only a few days ago, the opposition to Gadhafi controlled essentially all the oil resources of the country. That was when they were in Ras Lanuf and Zawiyah, in Brega and these towns. He systematically drive them out of those towns.

And it was not until a civilian population center was about to be besieged that the west finally made its move. The problem is he's got the money now. He's got the oil. What is the west's strategy? Is it to divide Libya? Is it to protect Benghazi? That's not a very good long-term strategy.

And that's precisely why really the next few hours and days we'll see what the Libyan people are capable of doing. If it's not capable of bringing Libya down, we're going to see a divided country, a protracted struggle.

And it's one that the American, British, French, Italian, European people don't have the stomach for.

QUEST: Let's talk about that lateness of response. How much did the events in Japan play into the, if you like, paralysis of policymakers, their inability to deal with two gigantic issues at the same time?

DICKEY: Well, I think that is a huge problem. I mean, it's not because of Japan. But already you had within the counsels of the American government deep, deep divisions. You had the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, very much against military intervention and said so publicly.

So if there was going to be intervention, if it was going to move ahead quickly, it needed focused global attention. And once you had the earthquake and the tragedies that have beset Japan, that attention was diverted.

It's not just a problem of the government. It's also a problem of the press. In a sense, it's a problem of all of us. We watch one thing for a few hours or days, and then when something else happens; we turn our attention.

What happened in Japan was huge. So all global attention suddenly focused on that. And it was precisely at that moment that Gadhafi was able to move ahead very, very aggressively, using his military force to crush his people. And it was really only at the last minute, as you had a million people potentially under siege in Benghazi, that the west finally got its act together.

QUEST: Finely, and very briefly, of course, it wasn't eminently foreseeable, wasn't it, that the moment the world's attention turned to the horrors of tsunami and earthquake, that that would be the moment if you wanted to do something particularly evil, you'd get on and do it.

DICKEY: Well, that's exactly right. And that's exactly what Gadhafi does. You know, Gadhafi is very smart about doing evil things. And he's gotten away with them for a very long time. And it didn't only begin with the Lockerbie Bombing in 1988.

It's always gone and on. But he's always been able to buy his way out of trouble. He also has sons who are a little more savvy about western public opinion. They understood -- in fact, as I wrote in TheDailyBeast.com a couple of weeks ago that the west was sort of waiting for a massacre, something so huge that it would feel it had to act.

You had William Haig, the foreign minister of Britain, saying -- foreign secretary of Britain was essentially saying that. So they didn't give that kind of massacre, that kind of excuse to the west.

And then when they had the cover, as it were, of the tsunami and the earthquake and the nuclear meltdown in Japan, that was when they acted.

QUEST: Christopher Dickey joining me there from Paris. We thank you for your analysis on that.

Here with me in the studio is Shahshank Joshi. And we will be joining Shahshank in a moment or two, as we consider the response to Colonel Gadhafi.

These are pictures of Tomahawk Hawks being fired towards Libya. The defiant leader calls it naked aggression. What does Shahshank Joshi think, after the break?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Coalition forces hammered defense Positions near Libya's capital into early on Sunday. These are pictures of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The allies are taking action aiming to stop Libya's regime from attacking its own people.

A defiant Moammar Gadhafi vows to counter what he calls naked aggression. Gadhafi's military claims 50 people, including women and children, were killed in the strikes. These are pictures from Libyan state TV of what it says are wounded people from coalition attacks.

CNN cannot independently confirm that.

Shahshank Joshi of the think tank the Royal United Services Institute has been with us throughout the morning, and says the U.N.'s no-fly zone resolution is historic. Obviously historical or not, it's under way.

SHASHANK JOSHI, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Absolutely. Historic in the sense that it is etched into international law the responsibility to protect. It's done so with a broad coalition of states. That's just the first steps.

The hard work starts here. These air strikes are the straight forward part of the military operation. We can clear Libya's skies, but what about ground forces already poised just inside Libya's major cities? How will France and Britain deal with those without an unacceptable risk of civilian casualties?

QUEST: Whatever happens, clearly the allied forces do have superiority in weaponry and tactics and muscle.

JOSHI: Well, the last ten years suggest that a superiority in fire power, technology will route opposition forces initially. But where does that get you? How do we transfer to seeing Colonel Gadhafi fall or a stable equilibrium develop, where the rebels perhaps agree a settlement with the regime?

QUEST: That's a big question, though, isn't it? The age-old question of what happened after 2003 in Iraq is exactly back here again. What happens after they've done what they've done?

JOSHI: Well, in 2003, Baghdad was taken relatively easily. It was impossible to hold. Here, Tripoli is going to be very fairly resilient for a while to come. So it's not even as easy as Iraq in many ways.

QUEST: Yes, but in terms of what comes next, is there hope that the Libyan people befall Gadhafi?

JOSHI: There's a twin hope the Libyan people in the west turn on Gadhafi or his regime turns on Gadhafi from within. Both of those hopes are gambles. There's no guarantee they will -- it will unfold in that way.

QUEST: If Gadhafi survives this, in terms -- and we end up with a split -- some form of split country, the east with he rump of Benghazi and others -- has the allied forces now got an exceptionally dangerous menace on its hands, bearing in mind Gadhafi's history of arming terrorism, Lockerbie, and other attacks?

JOSHI: Well, there's a twin menace. One of them is Gadhafi renews his sponsorship for terrorism. He has organized movements as far afield as the Japanese Red Army, the PLO, the IRA. He's capable of doing this again.

And we've seen from Syria, Iran, Pakistan, it's very difficult to counter this from a diplomatic point of view.

The second difficulty is what if the rebels advance west. Are they civilians? Are they under the mandates of this resolution? Can they be protected? What would happen then?

QUEST: How did it go so wrong? No, no, no. What I mean is Gadhafi was being brought back into the fold. He was making three hour speeches at the United Nations. Tony Blair was visiting him.

And now all of a sudden, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars.

JOSHI: His three-hour speech at the United Nations was spent ripping up the U.N. charter and launching tirades against the west. So, yes, eight years of rehabilitation.

But at the same time, this is the same individual who killed 1,200 of his own citizens in Libya in 1996. Had he fundamentally changed or was it an expedient accommodation with the west? I think we're seeing his true colors come out now.

QUEST: We may end up -- you and I were talking about this yesterday. It's not out of the realms of possibility, maybe even probability, that we end up having to deal with him again.

JOSHI: Absolutely. Look, Milosevic hung on after Kosovo. Saddam Hussein hung on after the First Gulf War. It's not easy to dislodge dictators with sufficient resolve and a base of support. Gadhafi has all that plus oil.

So do not anticipate a quick end to this.

QUEST: Many thanks.

In a moment, we'll continue to the twin disasters and a nuclear crisis. It is, of course, Japan. We'll have the latest after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Take look at this video. It's from the Japanese Coast Guard vessel just riding the tsunami wave.

That was the wave as it gathered strength toward the shore. Of course, little did they know what was about to happen. Moments later, it slammed into the coast of Japan, killing thousands of people and devastating the country.

Let us now go to Japan for the latest developments. Brian Todd is in Tokyo this morning and joins me now.

Brian, we've -- obviously there are twin tracks here. There's the nuclear issue. There's the operation to put -- to see what's left over from the earthquake. Where would you like to start?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Richard, there are plenty of places to start. But we can start with the situation at the reactor today. And what we now know is that they're still monitoring the pressure in one of the very troubled reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. That's nuclear reactor number three. That's the one the that's given them the most problems throughout the last week. It's been heating up, cooling down, heating up, because it's got those exposed fueled rods, they believe.

And they're trying to find a way to keep that from exploding.

What we know now is that there was pressure at that reactor earlier today. Pressure of great concern to the point where they thought they might have to force some openings in that reactor to let some of the pressure out, which would have possibly emitted some radioactive material.

Since that time, the pressure has receded and they've not had to do that. But they're monitoring that very closely. They're very worried about the pressure to that reactor.

We can report some positive news that electricity has been restored to another reactor. That's reactor number two. That's key because when they get electricity restored to these reactors, they can possibly, if the electricity works, if the hook-ups are all clean -- they can start to pump water into those reactors with that electricity.

So electricity restored now in one of the reactors. They're trying to connect the others.

Another key situation here regarding this reactor is the emission of some radioactive material into the food supply. We've been reporting that some radioactive material at abnormally high levels has gotten into the milk and spinach supply.

What officials are doing today are trying to reassure the public that although these are abnormally high levels of radiation in the milk and spinach, they're not so extremely high to pose a significant public health hazard at the moment. They're monitoring it very closely.

They say that the levels of radioactivity are far below the levels of concern where they would be concerned about a major health hazard. But, again, they probably will decide by Monday whether to ban the shipment and consumption of milk, spinach, and possibly some other products.

They're monitoring other products as well, Richard.

QUEST: The -- I hesitate to call it the clean-up operation. It's much more than that. But the sheer amount of work that is now being done, I assume it's just still overwhelming. But are they making any serious inroads?

TODD: You're talking about the clean-up, the overall clean-up of the tsunami or the clean-up at the reactor?

QUEST: I beg your pardon. Forgive me. I was moving to the earthquake/tsunami. Forgive me, yes. I was talking about basically the devastation that's been left in the tsunami wake. TODD: Well, Richard, we actually witnessed some remarkable clean-up in just the few days that we were there in the days immediately after the tsunami.

In some of these towns, even towns that were completely devastated, they have been able to actually clear roads, scrape away massive, massive piles of debris, in order to clear some roads, clear some walk ways for people to get around and start to recover some of their things, for the clean-up crews to get there and pick up some of their debris.

They've already started that. They're making what we think is remarkable progress in doing that.

But I tell you, the level -- the scope of what they're going to have to do in that regard is just so overwhelming that you don't believe it's going to be done for probably a number of years. And in some towns --

QUEST: Brian, forgive me. I need to interrupt you. I do need to interrupt you. We now need to listen -- forgive me, Brian Todd in Tokyo. Forgive me.

We're going to go to Libya where Moammar Gadhafi is making a statement.

GADHAFI (through translator): -- with their planes and their weapons, they will be defeated. We are over our land. East, west, south, north, united, the people and the revolution -- the great revolution.

America, France, or Britain, the question that are in a pact against us today. They will not enjoy our oil. We will not leave it for them. They have to know that we will fight.

We are -- we have the depth of thousands of mind. This land will not submit ever. We have defeated Italy when it was a great power like you today.

You are aggressors. You are animals. You are criminals. Your people are against you in Europe and in America, against this aggression against the Libyan people.

We have the people on our side, even your people on our side. You will fall like Hitler have fallen, like others Napoleon have fallen and like Mussolini had fallen.

All tyrants fall under the pressure of the populous, the masses. You will not make us submit. You will not make the people submit. This is the time -- the people's time.

The Libyan people now -- all of the Libyan people now are united and hold its weapon. The Libyan men and women are -- have been given weapons, bombs. All the people are carrying weapons now.

It is fire now. You will not advance. You will not put -- you will not step on this land. This is -- will be hell.

We will fight you. If you continue with your aggression against us, we will fight you. We will not allow you to put your hand on our land, on our oil.

We are over land that God has given us. We are victims. And the victim always end up victorious, and the aggressor will be destroyed.

You have -- you have proven before the world that you are not civilized, that you are -- that you are terrorists, animals attacking a safe nation that nothing against you.

What's the justification for this aggression? Except that it is in you a crusaders' war.

Islam will be strengthened. The Libyan will be strengthened after today. And the revolutionary leadership will be stronger. We are now -- we are now holding the banner of the people fighting against oppression.

All the people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, even in Europe, your people are with us. You will fall from your chairs, from your positions.

People are revolting everywhere, in the Gulf, in Europe. We are the leader of this revolution. This -- this revolution has been predicted by the "Green Book."

This is the third theory. The "Green Book" that says that people should take command of their destiny and wipe out -- all people take the Libyan people as examples.

We will be victorious. We will achieve victory on behalf of the people. We have Allah with us. You have the devil on your side.

What right have you got to attack our people? Who gave you that right?

Who are you? You backward barbarians.

This is an aggression that has no justification. This is -- this monstrosity. We are -- we will hold to our land, to our rights. We will fight inch by inch.

This land has been stained with the blood of our people, our leaders, our forefathers.

The people of Benghazi will revolt -- will discover that this is an aggression. This is an imperial aggression. Benghazi will never allow traitors or British or France to pass over it.

We knew about the traitors when we were facing Italy. Benghazi will never allow the traitors to bring the American and British and French. They will not allow the soldiers of France, Britain, and others to stain our honors in Benghazi.

We will not allow them to come to Benghazi. Benghazi will revolt. If the men will be killed, the women will take over.

We will hold the green flag high. They must know today that it is a confrontation between the Libyan people and America, France, and Britain and the Christian pact.

All the Libyans, women and women, are ready today to be united. But we will be -- we will be victorious. You will be defeated.

This is -- this is a great hour. This is our greatest hours. All the peoples are with us. They are clapping for us as we face you.

All the -- all Libya will revolt. And we will distribute arms to all the Libyan people. And they will wipe out all traitors and British, American, and all the Christian-backed. Anybody who will collaborate with you will be eliminated.

It's no longer an internal matter. It is -- it became a confrontation between the people -- the Libyan people and the new Nazis, between the tyrants -- you tyrants, your people will bring you down.

We will not fall back. We will tell you, even if we like martyrdom, we tell you we will not die; you will die. We will stay alive.

All the people of the world, and without me addressing them in this way, it is standing with the people of Libya. People everywhere are supporting the Libyan people. All the people stands against this monstrous aggression.

We don't fear your rockets or planes. We are over our land. We are committed to protect it inch by inch, and we are entrenched in it.

You will fail. We promise you a long, drawn war, and patience that has no limit and belief -- deep belief. We are not disturbed. We are not worried. We are not afraid.

You are not going to frighten us with your rock stick or your bombs or your weapons. We are not afraid. You have bombed --

QUEST: Now we have the voice of what we believe is Moammar Gadhafi. We have no way of knowing that that is actually Colonel Gadhafi speaking. The words, of course, are the translation.

The symbolism of the golden first crushing the F-111 goes back to the 1986 Ronald Reagan bombing of Libya, when they strafed the country and killed more than 100 people. Only one aircraft was downed in that particular attack, one U.S. aircraft. And that's always now been the symbol, that sculpture that you're seeing on the screen.

So clearly some P.R. work to use that as the picture, if you like, for Moammar Gadhafi's statement, assuming it is Moammar Gadhafi. "Aggressors, animals, criminals, tyrants," "all tyrants fall under the pressure of the masses."

Those are the words, pretty much everything that we have heard on previous occasions, in what sounds to be like it's going to be quite a long speech by Moammar Gadhafi. But he does say the people have been given weapons, all the people have been given weapons.

"This will be hell," he says. And he called upon his own people to take part in what he's calling against the aggressors the new crusaders' war.

He then talks about how they will -- that the aggressors, referring to, of course, the allied forces, will not enjoy oil; we will continue to fight.

That's Moammar Gadhafi, we believe, speaking. We be will back in just a moment. This is CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

QUEST: Good morning. This is an extended edition of WORLD REPORT. I'm Richard Quest. Libyan Leader Moammar Gadhafi has been speaking on Libyan state television, calling forces "aggressors, animals and criminals." People are rising up, he says, against -- in Europe and the United States, and saying all tyrants fall under pressures of the masses.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GADHAFI (through translator): This is an aggression that has no justification. This is -- this monstrosity, we are -- we will hold to our land, to our rights. We will fight inch by inch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Moammar Gadhafi, or at least we believe that's Moammar Gadhafi, but we have no independent confirmation that is actually him speaking. U.S. officials, however, in the hours ahead will be conducting a damage assessment of Libyan strikes struck so far, in what's known as Odyssey Dawn or Operation Odyssey Dawn.

It was French fighters that led the charge on Saturday. They fired the first shots against the air and missile installations in Libya. The United States and the U.K. followed suit, launching more than 100 cruise missiles.

Here's how our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson reported the opening rounds from Tripoli.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's still going on at the moment. Let me get a little closer. Yeah. You might be able to hear it now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: We can, we can. Let's listen a bit, Nic.

ROBERTSON: that's the sounds of heavy anti-aircraft gun fire over the city of Tripoli here. We heard it sporadically several hours ago. Now we're hearing it much more, in a much more sustained fashion.

LEMON: And, Nic, if I can just jump in here for a second -- I'm going to let you continue. I want to tell our viewers Nic Robertson is in Tripoli. He's reporting he's hearing heavy gunfire and what's possibly -- probably artillery fire.

You're also looking at live pictures now from Tripoli. This is from the camera where -- in the location where Nic Robertson is. Nic Robertson, continue, please.

ROBERTSON: Yes, we're hearing the loud gunfire and explosions in the city. This gun fire seems to have followed from several missile explosions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUEST: Nic Robertson reporting from when the first bombardment first began. Christopher Dickey is live again with us from Paris, the Middle East editor for "Newsweek."

I assume you were listening to the -- to what I believe was Moammar Gadhafi speaking there. Did you hear anything new or different from what we heard before?

DICKEY: Well, what I think is striking is he's trying to push all the old buttons, not really what's new. He's calling this a crusade. He's talking about the Christian countries that are moving against Libya.

He's talking about this being an Islamic cause on his part. All of these things we've heard before from him and from other Arab leaders under pressure. But I don't think it's going to carry a lot of weight. Certainly not with the west, but probably not even in the Arab world.

QUEST: That's the point. Who is he talking to when he makes these bellicose statements?

DICKEY: Well, he's trying to rile up the Arab street, if you will. There is something important to understand here. We're going to start to see pictures of civilian casualties coming out of Libya. No matter how hard the allies try to avoid that, that's going to happen.

The way these confrontations tend to play out is that while the west starts to talk about victory, the Arab governments and the Arab people start to talk about victims.

And you see Gadhafi try to be defiant. But he's also getting ready to play the game of the victim, and use his people as victims to rile up the Arab streets, to get people to turn against him.

You know, one of the things that was really striking and strange about this was where he said that he is leading the Arab revolt, the Arab awakening all over the Arab world. I don't think anybody in the Arab street today believes that. But even a few months ago, he might have thought that would be at least a vaguely credible claim. He's claiming that his "Green Book," this little collection of incoherent ramblings that he takes as his sort of "Bible," is inspiring the Arab awakening all over the Arab world. It isn't.

In fact, it's a rejection of dictators just like him.

QUEST: Christopher, is it dangerous for -- we listen to this and sometimes you -- one rolls -- or I roll my eyes and think, here we go again; it's going to be half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour, whatever, of, as you say, ramblings.

But there will be people, won't there, in certain parts that will be taking it to heart.

DICKEY: Oh, absolutely, there will be. And there's a kind of a built-in reaction to western aggression, as it were, in the Arab world, and actually in almost all of the post-colonial world.

But it's not just a reaction to the violence, to air power, to that kind of thing. It's a reaction to particularly to occupation. This is why the Iraq War was such a big mistake. This is why staying in Afghanistan was such a big mistake.

As long as this doesn't lead to an occupation, then I think the west is not going to inspire the kind of opposition that those wars have inspired.

But that depends to a great extent on what happens in the next few weeks, whether Gadhafi is able to hold out or not, and whether his people are able to throw him out or not.

QUEST: Let me take you down the road of rampant speculation. If we accept that the allied powers learned the mistake of the Iraq invasion of 2003, of a post-invasion or post-military activity, what -- and the age-old question, what comes next? What do you believe they think is going to -- how this plays out?

DICKEY: I wish I knew. I'd feel a lot better about this whole thing if I had some clear articulated vision of what they think they are doing with these no-fly operations at this point. I mean probably what they think they're going to do is undermine Gadhafi so much by taking out his sources of military power that the people of Libya will rise up and throw him out. And then they'll figure out what they're going do.

Remember, this is not in Afghanistan and certainly not in Iraq, where we're fighting a war in which we were following on a public uprising. We were trying to impose a new situation, a new regime from the top down.

That's not what the west is trying to do this time around. They're just trying -- they're trying, belatedly, to get behind the people of Libya.

But whether those people are going to be able to deliver is another question.

Another scenario that's very possible is that Libya will be divided into what you might call the Benghazi side, what used to be called Cyrenaica, and the other side, the Tripoli side.

That's a real possibility.

QUEST: Christopher Dickey, who is in Paris this morning and joining me there.

When we come back, we have to consider the rest of the Arab world, exactly how they will be responding to what's taking place. We'll be back in just a moment. This is CNN. Good day.

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QUEST: So good morning to you. Libyan Ruler Moammar Gadhafi has been speaking on Libyan television, and he has promised a long, drawn out war. He called the allied forces terrorists. He also called them aggressors, animals, and criminals.

The air strikes on Libya are the largest international military effort since an Arab state -- since the Iraq invasion. What's being said in The Arab world right now on this?

Mohammed Jamjoom joins me from Abu Dhabi. Good morning to you. The -- they signed up in many ways to U.N. Resolution 1973, or many of the states did. Now they're living with the consequences. And what do they make of the first day's operation?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Richard. Beyond signing up to it, also you had the GCC and the Arab League both calling for a no-fly zone to be implemented in Libya even before that.

Now, what we've seen so far as far as Arab media here really just reporting on what's going on. No kind of editorializing, no kind of expression for concern as far as Gadhafi.

That may be a surprise to Gadhafi, especially when we listen to that speech, when he's talking about Christian aggressors and talking about Islamic states supporting him.

Right now, what you're seeing from the Arab media and this part of the world is basically in line with what the GCC countries have signed up for.

You have the UAE and Qatar who have both said that they will probably be part of the force. We don't know what role they will play so far.

I've spoken to some defense analysts here. They say they do believe that the UAE is capable of sending planes there. They say Qatar is capable as well, but they would probably play more of a humanitarian or aid role in this operation.

Richard?

QUEST: Yet, at the same time, we've seen unrest in Saudi Arabia, which has been put down. We've seen unrest in Syria. We're seeing unrest elsewhere. So there is this balancing act now that's taking place, isn't there?

JAMJOOM: That's what's so interesting. You've got these countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council that are having protest movements of their own, that have people there that are very unhappy with their rulers, trying to overthrow them or calling for reform. And then you have monarchs in these countries that are supporting the effort basically in support of the rebels of Libya.

So that's going to be interesting to see how that plays out. As you said, Saudi Arabia, you know, the forces there keep trying to put down the protest movement. But even today, just a few hours ago, there was a protest outside of the Interior Ministry, people calling for the release of family members they say have been imprisoned for years without justification.

In Syria, as well, we saw a funeral yesterday for protesters that were killed, hundreds of people out in the streets. And now the Interior Ministry there is saying they will investigate this.

But how is this going to play out in the long term? We just don't know yet. Richard?

QUEST: Mohammed, we can dance around this any which way and a thousand. But bluntly, how many of those other GCC countries or other Arab countries actually are saying privately we want Gadhafi gone and the sooner the better?

JAMJOOM: You can count on Saudi Arabia saying that. Saudi Arabia is a long time sworn enemy of Gadhafi. They've even accused Gadhafi of trying to assassinate King Abdullah in the past.

You are seeing it looks like the UAE and Qatar, certainly, by being part of this force, by committing themselves and saying that they're committing troops, they clearly want him gone.

As far as rest, you know, the GCC, as you know, more than most people, they're a very close-lipped bunch. We tried to get reaction from them today as to this campaign, how it will play out, what they're thinking. We're not getting anything yet.

But we expect to be seeing more in the coming hours and coming days. Richard?

QUEST: But then do they fear -- as we were talking earlier with Christopher Dickey -- do they fear that an emboldened Gadhafi who survives these air strikes in a split country with a rump in the east, but keeps Tripoli in the west, and then uses his oil well to ferment dissent in places like the UAE, in Bahrain, in all those countries that are experiencing unrest at the moment?

JAMJOOM: Oh, absolutely they fear this. Right now ,you've got leaders here who are so scared. They're more nervous than they ever have been. Not just about Libya; they don't know what to do.

Let's talk about Saudi Arabia for a minute. The other day, the Saudi King came out. He delivered a speech. It was an extraordinary speech to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The world was listening as well.

Many people thought he was going to basically cede to some demands of the reform movement there, that he was going to announce a cabinet shake up, some sort of constitutional reform, possibly elections, an expansion of women's rights.

None of that happened. It was basically more economic handouts. These regimes are very afraid and they don't know what's coming next. Richard?

QUEST: Mohammed Jamjoom with honest straight talking this morning from Abu Dhabi. We thank you for that.

Now, let me just remind you before I leave you, you can get the latest situation on Libya on a special page on our website. You'll find the latest video, information. And it's at CNN.com/Africa.

Around the world around the clock, this is CNN. The news continues after this break.

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