Return to Transcripts main page


Libya Unrest Creating Humanitarian Crisis; Libyan Rebels' Firepower?

Aired March 1, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The bloody unrest is creating a second crisis. Aid organizations now are pleading for a massive evacuation. And they're pleading for help to prevent a human catastrophe.

Tanks on the streets of the Libyan capital amid new reports that pro-Gadhafi troops are fighting to retake control of the country. An opposition leader says forces loyal to the Libyan leader attacked the town of Zawiyah outside of Tripoli, but were pushed back by rebels.

After two weeks of clashes, top Pentagon officials now say they haven't seen independent confirmation that Gadhafi's troops have fired on Libyans from the air. They say two Navy warships are being sent to the Mediterranean to help with humanitarian aid, as the U.S. weighs its military options.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In Libya right now, you never know when you might find yourself staring down the barrel of a rifle. We have been hearing about new clashes between armed rebels and pro-Gadhafi troops at war over land and oil.

Let's go straight to Libya. CNN's Ben Wedeman is joining us now live from Benghazi with the latest.

What are you seeing and what are you hearing right now, Ben?


Well, what we did today is drive several hours to the south and then to the west from here going in the direction of Colonel Gadhafi's forces. We ended up at a checkpoint, one of the last before you get to the area that is under Colonel Gadhafi's control.

There, we found some very tense men, people worry that had Colonel Gadhafi may be sending forces in the night or surreptitiously back to this area to sabotage it, because this checkpoint was right next to a critical oil facility.


WEDEMAN: We're in Al Brega in eastern Libya at one of the major facilities for the production of natural gas and petroleum. This facility was not at all damaged during the recent or the -- rather, the ongoing revolt in Libya. Production seems to be normal. They are processing natural gas, not only for the eastern part of the country, which is under the control of anti-Gadhafi forces, but they're also providing gas to fuel power plants in the west, which is still under the control of Moammar Gadhafi.

As far as the production of oil goes, they continue to produce gasoline for the local market. However, exports are severely reduced. Company officials, who declined to appear on camera, say they're hoping to get exports back to normal levels in the coming weeks. On this day, only one tanker came in, filled up and left.

I'm Ben Wedeman, CNN, reporting from Al Brega in eastern Libya.


BLITZER: Ben is joining us once again from -- from Benghazi.


BLITZER: Ben, I know you -- I know you have been hearing these reports that Gadhafi's forces are supposedly sending aid convoys -- that's what they saying you -- toward you, where you are, in Benghazi. What, if anything, do you know of this?

WEDEMAN: Well, I heard about this from our colleague in Tripoli Nic Robertson, who says that that convoy, which is composed of 18 very large trucks containing aid, is heading this way.

Now, I asked the men at the checkpoint about that. And they said that if those people show up, they will arrest them and impound that aid. They said they don't need nor do they want anything coming from Colonel Moammar Gadhafi -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman is in Benghazi for us.

Thanks, Ben.

Let's go to the Libyan capital right now. Signs of everyday life can't mask the fierce power struggle that is going on in the country right now.


BLITZER: And Nic Robertson is joining us once again from Tripoli.

Nic, from your vantage point, in the Libyan capital right now, does it look at least in Tripoli that Gadhafi is fully in charge?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It looks like he's pretty much got a firm grip on the place. The cities where there's a question mark, Zawiyah, just to the west, and Misurata just to the east of the city. And senior government officials are telling me today that what happens in those cities where there are armed rebels right now is going to be key to what happens in Tripoli in the coming days and weeks. They're trying to negotiate, they say, with those rebels. But if that doesn't work out, they also say that this standoff can't carry on.

So it's perhaps what's going on just outside of Tripoli that is really going to affect the situation here. And of course, the rebels can't overthrow this regime until they get to the capital here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Because we know the rebels are in charge of most of the eastern part of Libya and a lot of the other towns. How much information do the people in Tripoli have right now about, A., what's going on elsewhere in Libya, and, B., what the international community is saying and doing?

ROBERTSON: You know, they get quite a lot of information, because a lot of people here watch the Arabic-language satellite channels. They watch international news channels, like ours, in English. And they get informed by that.

In the past week or so, people said they were very afraid and worried about what they have seen on some of the Arabic-language stations. They thought the city was about to collapse. That's why people tell us they have retreated into their homes. Indeed, some people come and ask us which station do we work for, because they're still angry with some of those Arabic-language stations.

The people that are watching CNN here and listening and understanding English tend to sort of have a more balanced view of what's going on. But they tell us is, they don't want Western intervention. They can sort of see this momentum building. And they say, look at what happened in Iraq. Look at what happened in Afghanistan.

They're worried that violence here could escalate. It's a tribal society. They say that kind of violence, with international intervention that wouldn't understand the dynamic, could be very bloody and very messy. And that's what worries them, Wolf.

BLITZER: How much freedom, Nic, do you and your crew have to roam around Tripoli right now?

ROBERTSON: Sometimes, it feels great. You have got a lot of freedom. We get in a government vehicle with a government official. But we say where we want to go, when we want to go. The government has a piece of paper permission that, when we got stopped at the police checkpoints for filming, he pulls us out that piece of paper, he gets us out of trouble.

But yesterday when there was a demonstration going on somewhere, we couldn't get to cover it, because at the time, we were just told we can't go there. We got an explanation later. We were told it was too dangerous. Today, we wanted to go to Misurata, 100 miles to east of the city, where rebels recently had taken control there, or reported to have taken control. The government wouldn't take us there. So there are limits. Sometimes, it feels you're getting what you want and other times it's just -- it's a blank wall. You don't get it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Have we seen Gadhafi or his son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi? Have we seen either one of them today?

ROBERTSON: I bumped into Saif al-Gadhafi here just earlier on today. I asked him about how the negotiations were going on. The government insists that it's negotiating with the opposition at the moment. And he told me it was chaotic.

And I asked one of his people what he meant by that. And I was told that the opposition, they say, are divided amongst themselves, some sort of former regime elements that have gone over to the opposition, others sort of doctors, lawyers, the new leadership aspiring. They don't trust each other. And for that this, the government say they're having a hard time figuring out who to deal with and where they can find some common ground, because that's what they say they want to do, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, our man in Tripoli right now, be careful over there, Nic. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is thinking about the U.S. role in Libya as well. He's here with "The Cafferty File."

I have got to give a lot of credit to our men and women who are reporting this story, Jack. They're very courageous journalists.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: And -- well, and stories like this and the one in Egypt, these are the times when CNN rises to the top and shows what it's all about. There's not a news organization, at least a broadcast news organization, that can touch us when it comes to covering these kinds of stories.

And Ben Wedeman and Nic Robertson and the crews and all the people who are inside these places where the bullets are flying and the blood is flowing, God bless them. They have got more guts than I do.

The humanitarian crisis in Libya, it has the potential to become a full-blown catastrophe.

Gadhafi has made it clear he won't be forced out. He has attacked and killed his own people who dare to protest his leadership, his dictatorship. It's estimated that more than 1,000 people have been killed so far. The country has virtually sunk into a civil war that has caused tens of thousands of people to flee to the Libyan/Tunisian border.

And it's getting worse by the day. So what's a superpower like the United States to do in a case like this?

After days of not saying much while Americans were evacuated, the White House is beginning to talk tougher, saying that all options are on the table with respect to Libya.

The U.S. has frozen $30 billion in Libyan assets. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meeting with top diplomats to talk about possible next steps.

Today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is moving two Naval warships in the Mediterranean near the Libyan coast. He said the focus is humanitarian assistance and evacuations, if needed. There has been no authorization for any use of force.

In a piece in the UK "Telegraph," their foreign affairs analyst, Nile Gardiner, asks whether tyrants even fear the United States anymore. He writes -- quote -- "Just a few years ago, the U.S. was genuinely feared on the world stage, and dictatorial regimes, strategic adversaries and state sponsors of terror trod carefully in the face of the world's most powerful nation. Now Washington appears weak, rudderless and frequently confused in its approach" -- unquote.

Here's the question: Should the United States do something to protect Libyans from Gadhafi?

Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Thanks very much for doing that.

There's been an extraordinary new attempt to blame the United States and Israel for the unrest, at least in parts of the Middle East and North Africa. Stand by to hear what the president of Yemen, a close friend of the United States, is now saying about the U.S. Will it influence the Obama administration's response to the uprising?

And we will take a much closer look at what pro-Gadhafi troops are up against. Do rebels have the firepower to take down the Gadhafi regime?


BLITZER: Fresh calls today by the Obama administration for Moammar Gadhafi to step down immediately, a senior U.S. diplomatic official telling CNN the administration is considering whether it should cut formal diplomatic ties with Libya. The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, stressing again the United States is keeping all options on the table to pressure Gadhafi, including military action.

Senator John McCain today pressed the head of the U.S. military's Central Command about the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya. Listen to this.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Would you venture an opinion as to the difficulty of establishing a no-fly zone? GEN. JAMES MATTIS, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: My military opinion is, sir, it would be challenging. You would have to remove air defense capability in order to establish a no-fly zone, so it -- just no illusions here, it would be a military operation. It wouldn't simply be telling people not to fly airplanes.


BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit more about the Obama administration's options in Libya and indeed throughout the region with Roger Cohen of "The New York Times."

You have been to Libya. You know this region well. Does the U.S. and its European allies, do they have any really good options right now, assuming Gadhafi wants to fight to the end?

ROGER COHEN, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Wolf, I'm not sure there are a great deal of good options. And I would put any military option extremely low on that list.

This uprising throughout the Arab world has been indigenous. It's come from within. It started in Tunisia. It spread from there. We have tried bringing change through military options from the outside in Iraq. And I think that's a very dangerous way to go at this point. It will inflame feelings in the region.

And while there's an urge to do something, seeing all the terrible things that have been happening in Libya, I would urge prudence.

BLITZER: And when you say prudence, just allow Gadhafi, if he wants, to go ahead and slaughter a whole bunch of fellow Libyans, allow him to do that?

COHEN: I don't want Gadhafi to do that, of course. And I think we should do what we can to stop it.

But it's tempting to go for a military option. I just don't think that that leads anywhere good. And we need to let this situation I think play out for a bit. By all means, we have to help as much as we can on the humanitarian crisis, move very quickly on that, bring in resources there, but beginning to put planes over Libya, bombing that kind of thing, no.

BLITZER: Well, we have seen what happened in Tunisia, later in Egypt -- we spoke when you were in Egypt recently -- now in Libya.

Which country do you think -- assuming Gadhafi goes, and that's still a big if right now, assuming he goes, what country, you think, is next most likely to see a revolution and an upheaval?

COHEN: Well, Wolf, I think the situation in Yemen is obviously extremely tenuous.

And we had this extraordinary outburst from President Saleh there today accusing Israel and the United States of being responsible for all this, saying there's some room in Israel where this is all being plotted.

The fact is, this guy has been in power for 32 years. Gadhafi has been in power for 40-plus years. Mubarak was in power for 30 years. And this is the conspiracy-filled Arab world that the Arab peoples are rising up right now to throw out. They want to take responsibility for their own lives. They want to have the dignity that goes with that.

And this is the process that -- going forward. And I think the United States and President Obama have done a pretty good job up to now of managing that, getting the military to help with the transition in Egypt, controlling the initial violence of the al-Khalifa family in Bahrain. And this is I think a strong, but not over-the-top response from the administration.

BLITZER: Listen to what President Saleh of Yemen said today, because it is pretty amazing, when you think about his relationship, longstanding relationship, with the United States and all the help the U.S. has given his government, his regime in Yemen. Listen to this.


ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, PRESIDENT OF YEMEN (through translator): A control room in Tel Aviv. It is managed from the White House, all of it. Let no one lie to another. Every day, we hear Obama's statements: Egypt, don't do this. Tunisia, don't do that.

It is not your business in Egypt. It is not your business in Oman. It is not your business in Palestine. Are you the president of the United States of America or the president of the Arab world?


BLITZER: Now, the accusation that the Israelis and the United States are behind all the unrest in his own country of Yemen, it's pretty outrageous. What do you make of it?

COHEN: Well, Wolf, we just saw one desperate man lashing out at whatever target he could find, trying to use those buzzwords, Israel, the United States, that have been used by dictators throughout the region for a long time. He's got his back against the wall and he's trying desperate measures.

But these conspiracy theories, they are so old and tired. And the peoples of the Arab world, through CNN, through Al-Jazeera, through networks, through the Internet, they have grown a lot more sophisticated. And part of what this is about is just populations that have a lot more information that can no longer be conned by that kind of ridiculous outburst.

BLITZER: We're going to talk more about Iran on a future occasion. We spoke in 2009 when you were in Tehran during the demonstrations then. We will see what happens next.

Roger, thanks very much for coming in.

COHEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Roger Cohen of "The New York Times."

From a soccer team to an entire energy company in Canada -- we're following Moammar Gadhafi's money. And guess what? There's lots of it. You won't believe where he stashed it and why investors all over the world right now are nervous.

And Mike Huckabee says President Obama's world view is influenced by where he grew up. So why is Huckabee saying the president grew up in Kenya?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The refugee crisis along Libya's border is getting more desperate by the day. We're going to the crowded camps where the workers, the aid workers right now, are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe in the making.


BLITZER: The United Nations is warning that a refugee crisis is unfolding right now along Libya's borders. U.N. officials say nearly 150,000 people have crossed over into neighboring Tunisia and Egypt and many, many thousands more are on the way.

CNN's Ivan Watson is joining us now from the Libya/Tunisia border with the latest.

What are you seeing there, Ivan?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, more than 75,000 people have fled across the border from Libya into Tunisia since this crisis began.

Those numbers just keep getting worse. The United Nations is warning of a humanitarian crisis that they say is on the verge of becoming a humanitarian catastrophe.


WATSON (voice-over): The scene at the Libyan border is getting ugly, in this frontier bottleneck, thousands of refugees, most of them Egyptian migrant workers, all fleeing the fighting in Libya, waving signs to the United Nations in a desperate plea for help.

The Tunisian military and police struggling to keep matters under control, sometimes beating back refugees who try to jump the fence.

(on camera): Look at this mess here on the border. That green flag signifies the end of Libyan territory. And right over here, this is the red flag of Tunisia. And behind this gate over here, this blue gate, is the no man's land in between, where you have thousands of desperate people who are trying to flee the bloodshed in Libya right now. And they're being forced to wait because the Tunisians simply do not have the capacity to bring all of these people in right now.

(voice-over): Expect more scenes like this in the days and weeks to come. Egypt alone has more than a million citizens working in Libya. And they need help getting home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we know, Egypt is also under a lot of stress now politically. So, any country who is able to provide airlift or, you know, key movement should pick up the ball, so that more people leave the -- more Egyptians are able to go back to their country.

WATSON: Egyptian hairdresser Mohammad Atai (ph) is stranded here after Libyan soldiers stole his money and cell phone on the road from Tripoli.

(on camera) Tomorrow, what do you do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. I don't know.

WATSON (voice-over): Among the refugees, there's one man who actually wants to go into Libya. This Libyan exile, who fled the Gadhafi regime 22 years ago and until now has never gone back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can help, I will help, and I help the people there. Try to do something with this resistance.

WATSON: The rush of refugees has already overwhelmed the network of temporary camps and shelters set up by the Tunisian government. As the wind kicks up, this growing army of stranded foreign workers is left camping in the dirt. Victims of the storm that is transforming the Middle East.


WATSON: Wolf, there are about 14,000 people across the border yesterday. But so far only the capacity to move 2,000 to 3,000 of them a day back to their countries of origin, like Egypt. So there just simply isn't enough sea or airlift power to get these people out of here.

The United Nations has started building a tent city today to house some 12,000 of these stranded refugees. That's simply not enough right now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Is there any indication that other countries, whether in Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, they're really stepping up to the plate right now? Any indications yet?

WATSON: Well, the U.N. only showed up here yesterday, Wolf, and have only really just started working here. For now it's been the Tunisians, the struggling Tunisian government, which has had cabinet ministers resigning in recent days. It's very politically unstable here right now. As well as just ordinary volunteers here who have been traveling from hundreds of miles away to try to help what they say are the brothers from across the border, distributing food, distributing aid, helping drive them to other places.

But it is really taxing local society. We're here in the provinces of Tunisia; really pushing them to the limits. And you've got hordes of people holed up in high schools throughout the countryside here. In sports stadiums, and some of them are starting to get really angry at particularly the Egyptians, lashing out at their own government for not doing enough to help.

As you heard in that report, a United Nations field officer saying other countries have to help these struggling North African countries still dealing with the aftermath of their own revolutions, have to help them. Otherwise this could generate more instability across an already turbulent region.

BLITZER: Here's an idea. If it's money, if that's part of the problem, the U.S. just froze $30 billion in Gadhafi's assets here in the United States. Use some of that money to help these refugees. That would be money well spent.

Thanks, Ivan. We'll check back with you.

The problem of refugees fleeing unrest is certainly bigger than Libya. It's bigger than North Africa and the Middle East. We could see a huge shift in population affecting Europe and countries around the world.

Lisa Sylvester has been looking into this part of the story for us.

What are you finding out?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, well, Italy's foreign minister has estimated as many as 300,000 Libyans could try to leave Libya, ending up in his country. This is on top of refugees flooding in from Tunisia and Egypt, adding to Europe's migration pressure.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Crossing what's known as the Sicilian Channel, would-be migrants from North Africa are arriving by the boatloads, escaping the violence that has swept across Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya, hoping for a new home in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): All of us, we are not asking for anything. We only ask for a possibility to find work in Europe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

GRAPHIC: How did you get here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language) GRAPHIC: On a boat. Twenty-five hours on a boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

GRAPHIC: How many were on the boat?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking foreign language)

GRAPHIC: Well, I don't know. There were 150 people with us.

SYLVESTER: Thousands of North Africans have arrived at the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in the last two weeks. The island is only about 180 miles from Libya's capitol, Tripoli. The U.N. Refugee Agency says the processing facility there has been inundated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now you have a situation like a center with 800 -- with the capacity of 800 is -- is containing 2,000 people. You can imagine, this is very difficult to -- to handle.

SYLVESTER: The political upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East have disrupted the countries' economies. In Libya, oil production has ceased in some parts of the country. The European Union's borders agency is patrolling waters off North Africa to try to stem the exodus.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We're in the worst-case scenario. What we've had is a tremendous population explosion in North Africa and the Middle East, creating a situation where two-thirds of the population is under 20 -- the age of 25. At the time as the economies in these countries are completely dysfunctional and cannot provide work and opportunity.

SYLVESTER: Others like Monya (ph) from Tunisia are leaving not to find work, but because she is too afraid to stay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): I had a good job and a car for ten years. But now I can't leave the house anymore. It's impossible for women to leave. Girls are being abducted. Women raped in their own homes.

SYLVESTER: Cheers erupted at one point at the Lampedusa processing facility when rumors spread that France would accept the would-be migrants. But the rumors turned out to be false.


SYLVESTER: Right now the people who are arrived at Lampedusa, Italy, are being allowed to stay there. Also, Italy's prime minister announced today that it is sending humanitarian aid to Tunisia to help the thousands of refugees who are fleeing Libya.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.

Troops who defected from Gadhafi's military could be key in deciding who wins control of the country. We're taking a closer look at the fire power of the rebels compared to the pro-Gadhafi forces. And the U.S. government's attempts to freeze Muammar Gadhafi's assets, they are complicated after several years of encouraging business with Libya.


BLITZER: While U.S. forces stay on the sidelines, Libyan rebels and pro-Gadhafi troops are fighting for control of the country. Brian Todd has been looking into their respective firepower.

Which side has the real advantage?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's very much up in the air right now, Wolf. Both sides have advantages, but also some very serious disadvantages. What you're looking at are two sides scrapping for every last recruit and piece of equipment to gain an edge.


TODD (voice-over): With intense fighting, including this battle at an airport about 100 miles from the capitol, Muammar Gadhafi's forces face a huge challenge. CNN's teams on the ground have been able to give us a picture of what territory Gadhafi has lost and what he's held onto.

(on camera) Rebel forces have captured the cities of Tebruk, Benghazi and Misrata. Forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi hold the cities of Tripoli, the capitol, and the city of Sirt. But the city of Zawiya is in contention. We're told that rebels hold parts of the city but that government forces are battling them. We're also told that government forces are massing around the cities of Zawiya and Misrata.

I'm joined now by Nate Hughes, military analyst with the global intelligence firm Stratfor.

Nate, how do you see this playing out?

NATE HUGHES, MILITARY ANALYST, STRATFOR: Well, watching how Gadhafi's forces are able to control the cities in the west will tell us a great deal about how strong his -- how loyal the forces are to him.

But the real thing here is this big strip of open land. It's 500 miles from Benghazi -- more than 500 miles from Benghazi round to Tripoli. It's going to be difficult for forces on either side to project force far through this -- this open area here.

TODD (voice-over): Defections have been crucial. Whole army units are reported to have gone to the opposition and brought firepower with them: machine guns, tanks, anti-aircraft guns.

(on camera) But the key question is do those defected military forces and the rebels, the lesser trained rebels who are fighting with them, actually know how to use this stuff?

HUGHES: Right. Well, this is a great example right here. This is a small anti-aircraft artillery cannon. Using it against the jets Gadhafi has been using against Benghazi, for example, is quite difficult. Without a radar to guide it and to give the crew some warning of the approach of jet aircraft, they might not even hear the aircraft until the bombs are already falling and the aircraft is peeling away.

TODD (voice-over): Gadhafi's forces have their own problems. Their only significant deployment was a disastrous war with Chad in the '70s and '80s. Libya suffered serious losses. That turned much of Gadhafi's officer corps against him. Always wary of coup attempts from them, Gadhafi started gutting his military.

HUGHES: Even training has been severely restricted, with some exercises being prohibited completely because of their potential applicability in a coup scenario.


TODD: So what's left are semi-professional security forces built along tribal lines loyal to Gadhafi and his sons.

Bottom line: Nate Hughes sees a real potential for a stalemate. He says because neither side seems to have the ability to push long distances and capture and hold territory. We could see Gadhafi's forces holding the west, the rebels holding the east for quite a long time, Wolf.

BLITZER: The foreign mercenaries that Gadhafi has hired, they've come in from other parts of Africa and certain parts in Europe. What role do they play in all this?

TODD: Well, right now, analysts say they're helping Gadhafi. They are coming in. They are adding fire power to his forces. But it's unclear how long they're going to stay loyal.

As long as Gadhafi's forces relatively can stay on top of things in the west, and hold that stably. They'll probably stay with them for a little while, just for the money.

But remember, these mercenaries have seen other mercenaries captured and killed in the east. If things start to get shaky for Gadhafi in the west, they're going to probably bail on him.

BLITZER: I'm going to be curious to see if the Obama administration heeds the advice of Senator Joe Lieberman who said over the weekend right here on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" that the U.S. should start arming those rebels. We'll see if that happens.

TODD: Risky. Some Republican senators are really against that.

BLITZER: I know. We'll see what happens on that. But that could be a game changer if the U.S. and the Europeans start doing that.

Thanks very much. We're following Muammar Gadhafi's money, as well, from an Italian soccer club to assets right here in the United States, some of them encouraged by the United States government.


BLITZER: The U.S. Navy is sending reinforcements to the Mediterranean to help with evacuations from Libya and to help with humanitarian aid. We are told there are eight U.S. ships in the Mediterranean right now, including the USS Barry, the Stout, and the Mt. Whitney. And two more are on the way right now. The Kearsarge (ph) and the Ponce, The Enterprise and its carrier strike group remain in the Red Sea, at least for now.

More countries are moving today to freeze the assets of Muammar Gadhafi and his family. The Canadian government say it's frozen more than $2 billion so far. Germany says it's putting a hold on more than $2 million belonging to one of Gadhafi's sons. Austria's central bank is freezing the assets of the entire Gadhafi family, possibly as much as $1.7 billion. This after the United States government froze at least $30 billion. That's a record amount.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian. He's tracking down the Gadhafi money trail. It's not easy to do it. It's a lot easier said than done, I take it, Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. It's not easy at all, because as you know, money is parked all around the world. Some of it reportedly in the hands of family members. And so that's why you're seeing the U.S. acting on its own but also with international partners, trying to send a message by freezing assets.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): The Libyan government's money trail is not easy to follow. Its wealth is diverse. Owning stakes in Unicredit, a major European financial institution; Uventis (ph), the Italian soccer club; and all of Vairnax (ph), an energy company in Canada.

Below the surface, a much more complex web of stocks and bonds, private equity investments and real estate. It's a rich target for the U.S. Following President Obama's executive order, the Treasury Department froze at least $30 billion in Libyan government assets.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That's a pretty strong message about the consequences of this continued behavior.

LOTHIAN: The Obama administration is concerned that, quote, "There is a serious risk that Libyan state assets will be misappropriated by Gadhafi, members of his government, members of his family, or his close associates."

A former undersecretary of commerce who now advises clients on cross-border investments, says the unrest and U.S. actions also put pressure on U.S. investors, who are concerned about exposure to the Libyan regime and the tightening financial noose. MARIO MANCUSO, FORMER COMMERCE DEPARTMENT UNDERSECRETARY: They want to ensure that, first and foremost, they're complying with the law. And secondly, they want to ensure, because they genuinely care about their reputations, they are not doing anything, you know, whether it's legal or not that might -- might harm or otherwise damage their reputation.

LOTHIAN: Libya had been considered a state sponsor of terrorism after the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland. But it was taken off that list.

Diplomatic ties with the U.S. were established and sanctions lifted in 2004 after that country renounced its evil ways and compensated the victims' family members. Seeking profits and political clout, the Gadhafi regime snapped up global assets, and U.S. investors sought good opportunities.

MANCUSO: It was not only permitted to do this with Libya; it was actually encouraged. This was part of U.S. foreign policy as a means to anchor Libya into the international community.

LOTHIAN: CNN contributor Fran Townsend, who was in the Bush administration at the time, had reservations about embracing Libya too tightly.

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It wasn't clear to me that -- while Libya was going to give up their weapons program, it wasn't clear to me that they were sincere in their renunciation of terrorist activities.

LOTHIAN: Now, Libya's vast wealth is being frozen as the U.S. and its international partners try to force Gadhafi from power and prevent more violence against anti-government protesters.


LOTHIAN: Now, Townsend believes that the U.S. policy was correct, and a different approach would not have changed the situation that we now see on the ground.

Meantime, the Obama administration continues to keep that pressure on Gadhafi and his allies, hunting for more assets, as well. But it's like searching for a needle in a hay stack, Wolf, because as the former U.S. ambassador -- former Libyan ambassador to the U.S. said, that that $30 billion is just a, quote, "little bit portion" of what Gadhafi has overseas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He'll argue he's not the former ambassador; he's still the ambassador of Libya, the Libyan people, for the United States, even though he split with Gadhafi.

Dan, thanks very much. Dan Lothian reporting for us.

As uncertainty over Libya grows, the question for the White House is this. Should it intervene? Jack Cafferty and what you think when we come back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is: "Should the United States do something to protect the Libyans from Gadhafi?"

Marvin writes from Missouri, "No. They seem to be doing quite well on their own. If the leaders of the opposition ask publicly for our help, we would then be justified in doing something. Otherwise, it will just be construed as the Americans attacking another Muslim country."

Paolo in Oregon writes, "Enforcing a no-fly zone would be a good first step. Arming the rebels, an excellent second, and hanging the consequences a necessary third. Innocent people are being slaughtered while wise men ponder. If acting now is not who we are, then who are we?"

Chris writes, "Unfortunately, countries like France, Russia and China don't come forward during these times to take steps to protect innocent people from being killed by their own government. Yet, they'll hide behind the U.S. and criticize us for whatever actions we take. The U.N. really doesn't have much credibility or effectiveness. We need to do the right thing, rather than stand by and watch the slaughter of innocent people."

Harold in Alaska: "Humanitarian aid, yes. Diplomatic pressure, of course. But no acts of war. We have plenty on our plate right now."

Ed in California: "Let the British do it. Gadhafi is their buddy. Didn't the British let that dying terrorist, who flew out off a hero's welcome, out of their prison? Doesn't the British government buy most of the country's oil from Libya? Let them deal with him."

Ron in Florida writes, "The United States ought to stay out of this, condemn the violence. Let the U.N. send food and medical aid. If the Libyans want freedom, they're going to need to shed their own blood in order to achieve it."

And N.D. writes, "The U.S. government has enough to do protecting us from ourselves, and that includes not getting into all the world's conflicts."

If you want to read more, go to my blog: -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will do, Jack. See you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

A pizzeria is in hot water. Jeanne Moos is coming up next.


BLITZER: A pizzeria smells a rat when he spotted a rival sneak into his restaurant. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the tale of a rat, allegedly caught in the act of planting mice in rival pizza parlors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's out of his mind. He lost his mind.

MOOS: Police in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, arrested this pizza shop owner...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insane. It's crazy.

MOOS: ... for trying to sneak in mice to infest two competing pizzerias.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's an act of a desperate man.

MOOS: Police say Nickolas Galiatsatos's recently opened pizza place wasn't doing so hot. He walked into rival Verona Pizza as two cops were having a bite and went into the restroom carrying the bag. When he left without the bag, Verona's owner checked the bathroom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was footprints on the toilet seat.

MOOS (on camera): So after finding the footprints, the owner climbs up to inspect the dropped ceiling. Finds a plastic bag; inside, half a dozen mice.

(voice-over) Five alive, one dead. The officers then followed Galiatsatos to Uncle Nick's Pizza, where they say he dumped another bag into a garbage can.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We look in there. There's a bag of mice.

MOOS: Now, maybe in the movies rodents can cook, skating to butter the grill in "The Muppets Take Manhattan" or firing up the stove and tossing in ingredients in "Ratatouille."

But in reality, a rodent can ruin an eatery's reputation. For instance when "The New York Post" front-paged a shot of a mouse in a New York City Dunkin' Doughnuts.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perhaps giving some customers some extra sprinkles.

MOOS: David Letterman made Dunkin' mouse jokes for months.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": The doughnuts that squeal when you eat them.

MOOS: Well, at least the pizza isn't squealing. The mice- planting plot was foiled.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never had to deal with mice as -- as an instrument of criminality.

MOOS: They were taken to a shelter. Police say the suspect purchased the nine mice from a pet store.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is outrageous. How could anyone do this?

MOOS: The suspect is free on $10,000 bail, facing charges ranging from criminal mischief to harassment.

(on camera) I'll take a pepperoni slice, hold the mice.

(voice-over) Jeanne Moos, CNN...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a bag of mice!

MOOS: ... New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.