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Gadhafi's brutal regime can't survive

  • Fareed Zakaria: Moammar Gadhafi's regime can't survive
  • He says crisis has vividly shown thuggish and brutal nature of regime
  • United States must call for Gadhafi to step down, says Zakaria
  • He says talk of sanctions and international coordination is meaningless

Editor's note: Fareed Zakaria is an author and foreign affairs analyst who hosts "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on CNN at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET Sundays and on CNN International at 2 and 10 p.m. Central European Time/ 5 p.m. Abu Dhabi/ 9 p.m. Hong Kong.

New York (CNN) -- Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi's embattled regime can't survive, and the United States should call on him to resign, says analyst Fareed Zakaria.

In the wake of an uprising that has put anti-Gadhafi forces in control of Benghazi and other Libyan territory, President Barack Obama spoke Thursday with the heads of other Western countries on a coordinated response to the crisis, according to the White House.

The president has condemned the violence in Libya, and the United States is seeking to evacuate its citizens. American officials have said sanctions and a no-fly zone were among options being discussed to try to stop the Libyan government from attacking protesters.

Zakaria said in an interview that he doesn't believe sanctions would work. "The one thing that would make a difference is if the president of the United States called for his ouster," Zakaria said. "And it would make a difference mostly to the opposition, to the anti-Gadhafi forces, and I think they would be tremendously emboldened."

The author and host of CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS" spoke to CNN on Thursday. Here is an edited transcript:

CNN: Where are events headed in Libya?

Zakaria: I think Gadhafi can't last. The unusual thing about Libya is that it's a very large country with a very small population, but the population is actually concentrated very narrowly along the coast. So when you hear these stories about cities on the coast being moved over to the anti-Gadhafi forces, this is increasingly most of the country.

I think Gadhafi is holed up in Tripoli asking to be treated like a constitutional monarch, so it feels as though these are the last days. Unless he really surrenders, it could be bloody but I think the end is preordained.

CNN: Why do you think the Libyan military won't rally to his side?

Zakaria: That's the real question, but I think the military won't rally to his side because they see the writing on the wall. They see that the only way to keep this regime in power would be a wholesale massacre of thousands or tens of thousands of Libyans. I can't believe they would do that or that ultimately the world would let it happen. At some point there is going to be a crack in the regime, at some point some general or the head of the intelligence service is going to turn and at that point, when the regime cracks, I think then it crumbles.

CNN: What opportunities and difficulties does this present for the United States?

Zakaria: Well I'm a bit puzzled by the Obama administration's somewhat cautious approach here. I supported the way in which they handled Egypt and Bahrain. I think in both cases, they had longstanding allies that they had very good relations with. They were trying to make sure there was some stability and continuity. The Egyptians had been very good on most foreign policy issues the United States cared about, from fighting al Qaeda to making peace with Israel. In Bahrain, you had not only an important American ally but also a country that hosts a very important naval base and also a somewhat reformist policy.

Gadhafi, for all his comical aspects, has been one of the most thuggish, brutal, repressive dictators in the world.
--Fareed Zakaria
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But here you have an anti-American rogue state, the principal state sponsor of terrorism for decades, that was under sanctions and international isolation for years and with a dictator who ruled his people in the most brutal manner possible.

Gadhafi, for all his comical aspects, has been one of the most thuggish, brutal, repressive dictators in the world. I don't see why the administration can't push harder and be more forceful in its policy on Libya.

CNN: The suggestion has been made that the reason is a fear that Americans trying to leave Libya would be taken hostage.

Zakaria: If that's the case perhaps it's valid, but the truth of the matter is that they took a stronger line against Mubarak than they have taken against Gadhafi. They made clear they thought there needed to be a regime change in Egypt, there needed to be a political transition, a fundamental change, whereas in Libya all they have asked for is an end to the violence.

If the president of the United States were to get to the podium and say we believe that the regime in Libya needs to change, that Gadhafi needs to resign, that would be a very important moral signal, and would, I think, give a huge boost to the anti-Gadhafi forces.

Nothing else matters. All this talk about sanctions and international coordination is meaningless. Libya has been under sanctions most of the last 35 years. This is a regime that couldn't care less about that. They get their money from oil revenues, they don't trade much with the world. This is where Libya is different than Egypt and Tunisia.

CNN: What's the difference?

Zakaria: Both of them had active trading relations with the rest of the world, particularly Europe. In Egypt's case, they are heavily dependent on tourism, so they cared about the international community. I don't think Gadhafi does at all, he's never seemed to care in the past when he was not even threatened. I don't think he does now.

CNN: In recent years, the west has agreed to improved relations with Libya in return for concessions by Gadhafi. How does that look in the light of the latest developments?

Zakaria: The way Gadhafi has been willing to slaughter his own people highlights what has always been a central feature of his reign which has been a completely callous attitude toward human life -- whether it was sponsoring terrorist attacks against Americans, or sponsoring terrorism in the region.

CNN: So should the United States and the United Kingdom have reached an accommodation with him years ago -- or should they have been focused on regime change?

Zakaria: That's a tough one. Look he was giving up his nuclear program. That was a very worthwhile diplomatic effort the United States was engaged in. Imagine if Gadhafi had nuclear weapons or even a nuclear program today how much greater the anxieties would be. In order to get him to give up his nuclear program, he wanted something in return. Now we can have a debate about the precise nature of those negotiations and whether he was given too much, but in general I think it was a good thing that we got him to abandon his nuclear program.

Watch Fareed Zakaria GPS Sundays at 10am and 1pm ET. For the latest from Fareed Zakaria GPS click here.

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