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Misrata Carnage on Camera; Battling Libya's Dictator; Gadhafi's Son Left US to Fight; Willpower Versus Heavy Weapons; Willpower Versus Heavy Weapons; What Makes Libya Different?; Zooming in on the Battlefield; Moussa Koussa Mystery; Center of Power, Center of Controversy

Aired April 2, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Images of war and destruction in Libya that the world hasn't been able to see until now. CNN finds a way to get into the City of Misrata, ravaged and terrorized by Moammar Gadhafi's troops.

When the fighting started Gadhafi's youngest son rushed home to take command of a notorious Libyan Army unit. Now, new details on what he was doing right here in the United States.

And dashed hopes in Syria as protests rage and President Bashar al- Assad goes public this hour. An unlikely ruler is tested along with his glamorous wife.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Growing fears of the massacre in the Libyan City of Misrata. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen and his crew managed to get into the city on a humanitarian aid ship and to give us an exclusive look at the fighting and the destruction. A warning - this is war up close. Viewers may find some of the images disturbing.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weeks of urban combat have taken their toll on Misrata. Badly damaged buildings, streets littered with wreckage. For Libya's third largest city, the final position stronghold in the west is under siege by pro-Gadhafi forces.

PLEITGEN (on camera): So we're extremely close to the front line right now. We're with a couple of the fighters from the opposition forces. And this is in downtown Misrata. There's a lot of destruction everywhere. Most of the buildings here have some sort of damage to them, pock marks. There's a lot of destroyed cars in the streets as well. And you can also see that the people that we're with the - the fighters that we're with are very, very tense at this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Let's go.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): A celebration on a destroyed armored vehicle, a step too far for pro-Gadhafi forces nearby and the scene turns ugly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you see, that all is destroyed by pro-Gadhafi's forces. Building, gas stations, schools, (INAUDIBLE), police station, even fire station, they have destroyed it.

PLEITGEN: Most residents have fled downtown Misrata as pro-Gadhafi forces have positioned snipers on tall buildings and used tanks and artillery in the city center. The anti-Gadhafi fighters badly outgunned fight back with the few weapons they have.

They provided us with this video saying it shows a man disabling a battle tank with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Those civilians still left in Misrata are suffering. Twelve-year-old Muhammad (ph) and his 15-year-old brother were wounded when mortars hit their parents' home. Muhammad (ph) lost several fingers on his left hand and his whole right hand. Their father swears revenge. "Gadhafi should be killed", he says. "He's not a human and he should be killed."

But for now, the medical staff at one of the few functioning hospitals are struggling to keep many of the wounded alive. They lack even the basics, anesthetic, operating tools and space. Some patients must stay in the parking lot. The emergency room is in a tent in front of the building.

DR. ALI ABDALLAH, SURGEON: We don't go from here (ph). (INAUDIBLE). All the doctors and the medical staff are here now.

PLEITGEN: And they wouldn't leave any time soon.

As opposition fighters struggle to hold on to this besieged town and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi continue to pound what not long ago was one of Libya's most prosperous places.


BLITZER: And Fred Pleitgen is joining us now. I see you're on a boat still off the Coast of Misrata in the Mediterranean. What are you doing there?

PLEITGEN: Well, this is actually also how we got into Misrata. This is a fish trawler, a very old fish trawler. What they do is they use this to get aid, mostly medical and food aid into the Town of Misrata. It's a very, very dangerous thing to do, because in the past the pro- Gadhafi forces have actually tried to launch small boat attacks on the Port of Misrata, which is still in control of the opposition.

So it was this boat that we got into Misrata with. They've been unloaded their aid, we went into town, took a look there and now we're using that boat to get back out - Wolf.

BLITZER: When you were on - in the town in Misrata, we saw what happened. The fighting started. There was shelling. You were able to size up these opposition forces to Gadhafi. Did you get a sense they were up to the job of beating his - his military? PLEITGEN: I think they would have a very difficult time beating his military especially with the weapons they have right now. I mean, it's not only the fact that they have rifles and maybe some rocket- propelled grenades where Gadhafi has tanks and artillery. They actually make a lot of the weapons that they use themselves. I saw a lot of guys with machetes, some with sort of makeshift rifles. So it would be very difficult for them to beat Gadhafi.

However, having said that, as we can see, they've held on to their territory and it really is only a very small enclave right in Gadhafi territory. They've held on to that for weeks and are preventing Gadhafi tanks from coming into their neighborhoods by putting sort of carpets on the streets and setting those on fire.

So they tell us they believe, in spite of what's been going on, that they have the staying power to win this. At this stage, it seems quite difficult to see how they would do that. However, they are very much hanging in there - Wolf.

BLITZER: Would air strikes - NATO-led air strikes make any significant difference? Did you see any evidence that there were air strikes coming in that area?

PLEITGEN: Very - yes, yes. There were a couple of air strikes when we were on the ground. There weren't many. They were a few and they do make a very, very big difference. That's what the opposition fighters tell us.

They say one of the reasons why the Gadhafi forces haven't been able to take a lot of strategic locations in Misrata, especially the port area, which is the lifeline because ships like this one can still come in there and bring some aid. The reason why the Gadhafi forces wouldn't advance on those is because they'd be out in the open and they would get hit by coalition aircraft.

Again, I said they had a small boat attack on the port. Afterwards, the coalition air craft came and took out those boats. So the air strikes make a big difference. What the opposition fighters tell us is that they feel the coalition could take even more risks than it already is hitting some of Gadhafi's assets in downtown because he tries to hide his tanks in things like schools, under trees in residential areas. They say they feel the coalition should take more of those tanks out in spite of the danger of some civilian casualties - Wolf.

BLITZER: Bottom line, Fred, is it more weapons, ammunition that these opposition fighters need? Or is it basic training?

PLEITGEN: Well, they need a little bit of everything. I would say from the level of training, it isn't very high. They aren't very courageous. They will move forward. They don't seem to have any fear. Weapons are definitely a big thing and it is something that they would certainly need. They would need boat-loads of things like rifles, rocket-propelled grenades. It doesn't even have to be very high powered weapons, but certainly at least a little more than they have right now. They have a lot of trouble getting ammunition. They have a lot of trouble getting weapons in case they lose them - in some cases they lose battles against Gadhafi forces and lose their weapons. So, yes, that's a big issue. They say if they had a little more they'd be able to make advances in the Town of Misrata, because they feel that the population by and large of Misrata is very much in the camp of the opposition. So they've already won them over. So with a few more weapons they say they could make a big difference - Wolf.

BLITZER: A few more weapons? But you say that Gadhafi's forces have tanks, artillery. They're well armed. They have sophisticated equipment. It's hard just with a few more weapons to defeat an army like that.

PLEITGEN: Yes. But a lot of it, of course, in the sort of urban warfare, urban combat kind of environment - and I saw this up close - depends also on whether or not the population that actually lives there supports the force that's in there. And, of course, you have people laying booby traps against the Gadhafi forces.

We have people attacking the tanks, people laying booby traps for the tanks. As they said, using carpets to set roads on fire, putting oil on carpets, setting roads on fire and when the tanks go over them and the tanks catch fire and then people attack these tanks with metal bars and the like.

When the population is against an invading force, it would become very difficult for the Gadhafi forces to hold that area. Would the opposition be able to take it if they had a few more weapons? It is very much up in the air. That's what they say they would be able to do if they had a little more support and they say the big thing obviously is a few more air strikes - Wolf.

BLITZER: When I saw your report in Misrata, Fred, I was scared for you. I was frightened. How scared were you?

PLEITGEN: Well, I mean, there was certainly some situations where - where it seemed like quite a dicey situation. There was that one where we went downtown with the - with the opposition fighters and all of a sudden we saw that they seemed to be quite scared in that situation and that's where obviously we had to get out of there because there were bullets whizzing by.

So, yes, it is - it's a very uncertain situation. You don't really know where the front line is. You don't know who controls a lot of these streets. You don't know whether or not all of a sudden a tank might push forward. And that, of course, is something that - that can be quite disconcerting to people and you can see - I mean, we were a little bit worried, but the people who lived there, a lot of them are in absolute fear - Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly are. Fred Pleitgen doing an excellent job. Be careful over there. We'll stay in close touch. Thank you.

Gadhafi has been both shunned and embraced by the United States. Is there a risk, though, that the Obama administration right now is underestimating him? I'll talk to a former congressman who has met with Gadhafi three times about what it will take to force him out of power.

And Gadhafi's youngest son, the commander of a notorious Libya Brigade and a recent intern at a company right here in the United States.


BLITZER: Let's get some more now on the crisis in Libya from someone who has actually met with Moammar Gadhafi. Joining us the former Michigan Republican congressman, former Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

PETER HOEKSTRA (R) FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: It's always good to be with you. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Can Gadhafi be removed strictly by air power and economic or political sanctions?

HOEKSTRA: No, I don't think so. I think that there's going to have to be additional boots on the ground to help the rebels. You cannot remove a regime strictly through a no-fly zone or attacks by the air.

BLITZER: Well, you heard the Defense Secretary Robert Gates say no U.S. boots on the ground, no U.S. military personnel on the ground. Is it your belief that others will put boots on the ground?

HOEKSTRA: I think it's very possible, but I think, you know, with at least some of the press reports that have come out in the last couple of days, it appears that there are American boots on the ground. You know, they may not be military boots, but they may be CIA boots. And whether it's, you know, an intelligence person or a military person, it's an American presence on the ground. I think it's there.

BLITZER: And without confirming or not confirming that there are CIA personnel on the ground or whether special operation forces, contractors, covert operatives, to do that the president of the United States legally has to sign what's called a finding authorizing that. Is that right?

HOEKSTRA: Correct. It's called a Presidential Finding and depending exactly what the parameters of that finding are, there are then a very limited number of members of Congress, the leadership and probably in this case the membership of the intelligence committee who are - you know, who have been fully briefed and are aware of what are in the findings.

BLITZER: In Egypt, they got rid of Mubarak. He had been there for decades, without boots on the ground. In Tunisia, they got rid of Ben Ali without boots on the ground. Why is it - what's the difference between those two countries and the country that's in between those two countries, namely Libya? And you - I mean, you speak as someone who has actually met three times with Gadhafi.

HOEKSTRA: I've met with Gadhafi. I've met with Mubarak. I've met with their - their Intel chiefs and those types of things. I think at a certain level, what you found in Egypt and what you saw in Tunisia is that the regimes there had a certain respect for the people of their country and recognized that they had to step aside.

What you have with Gadhafi - you know, this is a tyrant. This is an individual who has made the decision - and the people around them have made the decision that they will do just about anything and everything that they can to stay in power, which includes attacking their own citizens.

BLITZER: Is the - is his leadership, though, the circle surrounding him cracking?

HOEKSTRA: It appears that it may be. I mean, you know, in the meetings - all of the meetings that I was in, Moussa Koussa was there. At that point in time, Moussa Koussa was their Intel chief --

BLITZER: He is - he is the former minister, the former intelligence chief who has now defected to England.

HOEKSTRA: That's right. And when you take a look at someone like Moussa Koussa, who's American-educated, you know, this is an individual when he headed the Intel Services and I'm sure as foreign minister this is - you know, as Intel chief, you know everything that's going on in that country and what's being done to maintain Gadhafi, but what's being done to maintain that regime in power.

And so when Moussa Koussa steps aside and turns up in London, I think that is - that demonstrates a significant crack in Gadhafi's, you know, inner circle. And I think that's his - that's the leverage point. That is - if that inner circle breaks, Gadhafi goes down. It's much more likely to happen that way than through the military taking him down.

BLITZER: You know, it's hard to believe that until only a few months ago, Congressman, the U.S. was warmly embracing Gadhafi, trying to improve relations with Gadhafi. Talk a little about that, because you have went there three times.

HOEKSTRA: We went there. We went there at the encouragement of the administrations. We went there at the encouragement of the State Department.

BLITZER: This is both the Bush administration and the Obama administration?

HOEKSTRA: That's right. You know, both - both administrations embraced Gadhafi. You know, Gadhafi boxed up his nuclear weapons program. He gave it to the - he gave it to the United States. It's now in America. You know, he turned over a number of his biological or chemical weapons programs. He helped us in the fight against radical Jihadists against the al Qaeda. He helped stem the flow of illegal aliens going from Northern Africa into Southern Europe. He helped us on some very critical problems and issues that were important to our national security and to the security of Western Europe. So, yes, both administrations reached out to the Gadhafi regime and opened the door and, yes, like you said, they almost embraced him because he was helping us in some very critical areas.

BLITZER: That was then and this is now. It's a whole different situation.

HOEKSTRA: That's -

BLITZER: Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

HOEKSTRA: Hey, thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Peter Hoekstra, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

He's the leader of a brutal Libyan brigade and a former intern at a company right here in the United States. Just ahead, the surprising resume of one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons.

Plus, we'll go to the frontlines in the battle between rebel forces and troops loyal to the Libyan dictator. CNN's Ben Wedeman is there.


BLITZER: One of Moammar Gadhafi's son rushed home from the United States when the fighting began in Libya, going from corporate intern to leader of an infamous army unit.

Brian Todd is here. He's been digging up some new details about this son. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, before this fighting broke out, the U.S. and Libya had been reaching out to each other to improve relations. Part of that involved an internship that Moammar Gadhafi's son Khamis got, which now looks a bit awkward.


TODD (voice-over): He's the man in the black beret greeting supporters in Libya, disproving rumors that he was killed in an allied air strike. Khamis Gadhafi, youngest son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi commands the notorious 32nd Brigade known for its brutality.

ADM. WILLIAM GORTNEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: This is one of Gadhafi's most loyal units and are also one of the most active in terms of attacking innocent people.

TODD: And here's another title Khamis Gadhafi's held - intern - in the U.S. For a month he interned with an American engineering and construction firm called AECOM. The L.A. based company had deep business dealings in Libya until the uprising began.

TODD (on camera): As an intern, Khamis Gadhafi wasn't exactly getting people's coffee or running to the printer every 10 minutes. He was jetting all over the U.S., meeting with high tech companies, universities, but also with defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and he paid a visit to the Port of Houston.

TODD (voice-over): And he went to these places just weeks, in some cases days before leading deadly attacks on the Libyan opposition. When the fighting broke out in mid-February, Khamis Gadhafi cut short his internship and flew back to Libya to oversee the 32nd Brigade.

Contacted by CNN, the Port of Houston issued a statement saying he toured several port authority facilities and received briefings on trade relations and acknowledged it was part of the port's prospective future deals with Libya.

Northrop Grumman wouldn't comment on his meetings there. But Khamis Gadhafi also visited the Air Force Academy, which told us he saw nothing classified. He went to the National War College. A spokesman there says tactics were not discussed. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin wouldn't confirm or deny media reports that he went there. Khamis went to the New York Stock Exchange, got what the exchange calls a "basic tour" the very day he scrambled back to Libya.

James Carafano is a national security expert with the Heritage Foundation.

TODD (on camera): Regardless of the hostilities that would break out later, is it all right for a U.S.-based company to give an internship to someone like Khamis Gadhafi?

JAMES CARAFANO, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, it's a qualified OK, because it's a process of engagement. I mean, if it's towards moving that country out of being a closed society and actually reforming, you know, giving them access can move in that direction. But, you know, it's qualified. I mean, there are a couple of things that are common sense. I mean, you don't want to compromise national security. You don't want to give away information, and you don't want to give somebody something for nothing.


TODD: Carafano says most of the places Khamis Gadhafi visited are savvy enough to likely not have given him any sensitive information.

Contacted by CNN, AECOM didn't want to put someone on camera with us. They issues a statement saying that this internship was part of the company's efforts to improve the quality of life in Libya, that they never paid Khamis Gadhafi, that they never knew about his military connection. And that when they found out about his role in the civil war back in Libya, quote, "We were shocked and outraged," - Wolf.

BLITZER: Right. What about the state department role in all of this?

TODD: Well, that's kind of a point of contention between AECOM and the State Department. AECOM says that the State Department knew of and approved all of his visits in the U.S. The State Department officials tell us they did know of the trip. They met him at the airport, but that was the extent of their involvement.

But a War College official told us there was a State Department official with Khamis Gadhafi him when he went to the War College to meet with them. A State Department official says, hey, we were just called and asked if we could sit in on the meeting. As a courtesy we did that but there's some gray area there involving the State Department.

BLITZER: Well, they were trying to improve the relations with Libya -

TODD: They were.

BLITZER: -- until the war basically started.

TODD: Right. Exactly. This was before it all happened.

BLITZER: That's right. Brian, thanks very much.

Massive protests now exploding across North Africa and the Middle East. What are the broader implications for the United States? I'll ask a leading expert.

Plus, he's the man at the center of one of the latest uprisings in the region. The story behind Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.


BLITZER: Driven out of several towns and cities, Libya's rebels have been trying to hold the line against the tanks and the artillery of Moammar Gadhafi's forces. The outgunned rebels have willpower but not much else.

CNN's Ben Wedeman takes us to the front lines with some of those opposition forces.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: This is some of the heaviest fire power the anti-Gadhafi forces have. Multiple rocket launchers, mortars, heavy machine guns. All in action on what is at best a very shaky frontline East of Brega, a strategic refinery town that has changed hands six times in the last six weeks.

Brega is once more under the control of Libyan government forces and the rebels say even with a no-fly zone and NATO air and missile strikes, they're still no match for Gadhafi's men.

"This is useless," says fighter Selah Belgazim (ph), giving me his antiquated Soviet-made machine gun, adding that it's only good for pigeon hunting.

(on camera): The fighters fire their weapons all day long, but by the afternoon, they start to run out of ammunition, which of course means they have to retreat.

(voice-over): Dramatic advances are followed by dramatic retreats. High morale doesn't really make up for lack of progress and organization. The supply of ammunition isn't running out, at least not yet. It's replenished each day when the rebels move to the front but logistics and supply, so critical to any military force, are a slap-dash affair.

The provision of fuel, food and other supplies is more a personal than a group responsibility, all of which underscores a basic fact. The rebels don't have a strategy. Ibrahim says he was in Libyan Special Forces 10 years ago and admits that even with better weaponry. The military opposition to Gadhafi is leaderless at the front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Group by group, you know, every group together. But no have commander to take these people and make -- don't have.

WEDEMAN (on camera): There is no plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Up to now no have.

WEDEMAN: So is somebody thinking of a plan?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe. Sure. Somebody, but I don't know why he don't come up to -- why he waiting. Waiting for what I don't know.

WEDEMAN (voice=over): The rebels need to come up with a plan soon because they won't be able to win this battle by bravado alone. Ben Wedeman, CNN, outside Brega in eastern Libya.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As unrest spreads across the Arab world, what is it about Libya that led the United States and its allies to step in militarily?

James Zogby is the author of the important book "Arab Voices: What They're Saying to us and Why It Matters." He's also the founder and president of the Arab-American Institute here in Washington.

Jim, thanks very much for coming in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Is the U.S. doing the right thing in Libya now?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, I don't know. This is actually going to be one of those situations where the outcome is going to determine whether it was the right thing or not.

There are a lot of questions and people both on the right and the left are asking those questions. And I think the president made a case on the humanitarian side and certainly Moammar Gadhafi helps make the case.

I mean, the speech he gave was outrageous, but there are legitimate questions. Who are the opposition?

BLITZER: Who are they?

ZOGBY: We don't know and I don't think we will know. We know that they're under -- they're not armed enough and there are not enough of them and they may not represent the majority force in the country. We just don't know and these questions are the questions that one would hope get asked and answered before the president presented a case for imminent crisis. I think we'll see this one play out.

BLITZER: So you're with those, like Robert Gates, who doesn't want the U.S. to arm the rebels?

ZOGBY: I'm on the Gates side of this argument for sure and I think that there are legitimate concerns that have been raised. I mean, the case made by the Newt Gingrichs or the John McCains that we should have done more earlier on and whatever.

If we didn't get an Arab league resolution, if we didn't get a U.N. resolution - people are still operating as if we're the white knight on the charger and they forget that George Bush shot the horse.

We're in trouble in that region and I think the president was right to be cautious. Still questions remain about what's the goal, what are the costs, what are the consequences, what are the terms of engagement, what's the outcome?

BLITZER: Is it hypocritical for the U.S. to be engaged militarily in Libya, but not in some of the other countries like Bahrain or Yemen?

ZOGBY: Well, Ivory Coast. I mean, there are crises everywhere in the world. He made a case for immanency of this, but there's imminent crisis elsewhere.

BLITZER: Did you think Gadhafi was going to slaughter tens of thousands of fellow Libyans in Benghazi?

ZOGBY: We don't know. I guess the president wasn't willing to wait and find out, but I think real questions can be asked was this an imminent crisis. We just don't know that.

BLITZER: It's pretty breathtaking to see over the last three months how this whole North Africa/Middle East region has exploded. Someone like yourself who watched this for a long time, did you anticipate these kinds of revolutions?

ZOGBY: You know, not only did I not anticipate it, but I think the people in the Square didn't anticipate it. I think they were as surprised as everyone when after the first day and the second day, it kept getting larger and larger.

The folks I've talked to found themselves empowered increasingly empowered as the days went on. You know, my book, I wouldn't take back a word of it. It tells the story of what Arabs are thinking and what their attitudes are.

But there's no way from those attitudes to find the predictor that this would have exploded, that it would have spread. I will say one thing. Tunisia was clearly important, but it was Cairo that set the stage.

BLITZER: So when you think Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak gone, now maybe Gadhafi. What about in Syria? What's happening in Syria?

ZOGBY: I think it was the Mubarak one that was the big one. Egypt is Broadway. It's like -

BLITZER: When it comes to the largest of all the Arab countries.

ZOGBY: When it happens there, it happens everywhere. I think there are different regimes with different degrees of legitimacy and therefore different degrees of support. Assad has a base of support.

You know, when we poll across the Arab world in many countries we asked the question give us a leader not from your own country who you respect. He comes out in the top three in about five of the eight or nine --

BLITZER: Syria or throughout the Arab world?

ZOGBY: Throughout the Arab world. The point is that there is a Baath Arab nationalism. He maybe the last one of those around, but he undercuts it in some corners by his alliance with Iran. But there's still a sense among some in the Arab world and certainly many in Syria.

Both that he protects minorities and particular Christians, but he's also carrying the banner of Arab nationalism. They may be wrong, but nevertheless that's an attitude. He's got a base of support and I don't think he's as vulnerable as Ben Ali was who didn't have that kind of support.

BLITZER: From the U.S. perspective, talk a little about the implications for the United States right now about this whole unrest throughout the Middle East?

ZOGBY: I'm not selling books, but Arab voices matter. We have to listen to what people are saying, paying attention. I was asked a question by a reporter during the growing crisis in Egypt. The question was, if we dumped Mubarak would our favorable ratings go up?

I said you got it wrong. We're not unpopular in Egypt because we supported Mubarak. He was unpopular because he supported us on Iraq. He supported us on the Gaza situation. He became a way station on the road to rendition. People knew about that stuff and were resentful.

And that created problems of legitimacy for his government, as it has for other governments in the region. So I think we have to start listening to Arab voices and understand they're paying attention to what we do and how we treat them.

BLITZER: Jim Zogby is author of "Arab Voices." Thanks very much for coming in.

ZOGBY: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. Satellite images of the impact of coalition airstrikes in Libya.

We'll take a closer look their effect on one of the most ferocious battles taking place in recent days.

A long time Gadhafi insider suddenly quits and flies off to Britain. What's behind the mysterious defection of the Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa? Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Satellite image technology is helping military commanders keep track of what's going on in Libya. CNN's Tom Foreman is here with some similar technology to show us the impact of coalition airstrikes on the battlefield.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let's look at the battle of Misrata, one of the hottest ones all week long, Wolf. If you look at the details of what the bombing campaign produced, you can really see a lot of the progress.

Here's an airfield. We know Gadhafi started with more than a dozen airfields, more than 300 aircraft. Here you can see where some of the strikes hit home. Now this looks like a lot of airplanes here that are untouched. Maybe there's a reason for that though.

If you move this end of the airfield, you see much heavier striking around some of these bigger jets down here. Not only that, if you crater the ground in here, many of the jets then can't easily be moved out to fly again even if you don't waste as many bombs on wiping out the jets themselves.

Look at the jets that were up near the terminal up there, really wrecked in here. Beyond that, military officials are using images much like this, but higher quality to keep track of all of their progress.

For example, look at this road that appears to be cut right here, a major road important for moving tanks and armored vehicles, but that the insurgents or the rebels there with smaller vehicles could probably get around.

They're also using images like this to track where the rebel forces are. You see a big city like this. You have to look around and say where are the folks gathered. Here's a big intersection and look right there, a big cluster of vehicles all along the road.

That certainly looks like one of the impromptu gatherings of rebel forces. This has been one of the hottest places for fighting. The ability of military leaders to look at pictures like this and to zoom in from far away and say, look, this is where the rebels are, here's where the other forces are.

Hour by hour, day by day, this is what's allowing them to keep track of what's happening in some of these hottest battles like the battle this week for Misrata, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Tom.

He was a long time Gadhafi regime insider, Libya's foreign minister and a former intelligence chief. Suddenly he shows up in Britain. We're digging deeper into the mysterious defection of Moussa Koussa. Here's CNN's foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just two hours before he arrived at an airfield in London, the U.S. says it got word from British authorities that Libya's foreign minister was defecting.

JAMES STEINBERG, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I think while we should not overstate the significance of this, we should not also understate the fact that somebody with such a long association with the regime has seen that there's no future there.

DOUGHERTY: The Gadhafi regime immediately down-played Moussa Koussa's defection.

MOUSSA IBRAHIM, LIBYAN GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Mr. Moussa Koussa asked for a sick leave because he was exhausted physically and he had diabetes and high blood pressure.

DOUGHERTY: But U.S. officials say if Koussa will talk, he could be a treasure trove of information. For years the former leader of military intelligence was one of Moammar Gadhafi's closest advisers.

And a senior U.S. official tells CNN he could provide inside information on the Libyan leader like his whereabouts, his closest associate associates, control over his military, and what would drive him to leave Libya.

The 62-year-old Moussa Koussa, a graduate of Michigan State University, was the main libyan negotiator with the U.S. and Britain on Gadhafi's decision to give up his nuclear weapons, but he also was suspected of involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Koussa played a key role in negotiating the release of the Lockerbie bomber. The British government insists he is not being given immunity from prosecution. Libyan rebels meanwhile want to put Koussa on trial for murder, for the brutal crackdown on the opposition. Just last month, Koussa was justifying it to CNN's Nic Robertson.

NIC ROBERSTON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So you're saying that innocent people haven't been shot -- unarmed innocent people have not been shot by the army or police?


ROBERTSON: Not at all.

KOUSSA (through translation): In some cases, only when the terrorist is holding his gun, of course, we have to answer back.

DOUGHERTY: Up until last week, Koussa was calling the State Department officials trying to make his case that the rebels were on the side of al Qaeda. But he never indicated, they say, that he wanted to defect.

MARK TONER, ACTING STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We made the argument that he was part of a regime that was going nowhere.


DOUGHERTY: U.S. officials also claim this defection has psychological value, perhaps making Moammar Gadhafi more paranoid, causing him to wonder if someone like Moussa Koussa leaves, who's next.

And now word from CNN's Ivan Watson that Libya's choice for U.N. representative is defecting too. Jill Dougherty, CNN, the State Department.


BLITZER: And in depth look in how Syria's leader came to power and the lifestyle he shares with his glamorous wife up that's coming up next.

Later on a very different note, some people call it twin speak. Jeanne Moos looks at a video that's sweeping the internet. It shows twins communicating in a most unusual way. Stay with us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Take a closer look now at a man at the center of the controversy in Syria right now. The unrest sweeping that country. The family of this man has been at the center of power in that country for more than four decades.

We're talking about the President Bashar Al Assad. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's working the story for us. Mary --

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Bashar Al Assad is an ophthalmologist who's only in line to become president because his older brother was killed in an accident in 1984.

The 45-year-old Assad studied in London and because of his background when he took power, there was hope of reform.


SNOW (voice-over): Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is facing his biggest test since taking off 11 years ago when his father died. One big question now as he faces growing street protests, will he reflect on his father's regime to control power.

In 1982, thousands were killed during an uprising in the city of Hamah. An author who has spent time with Bashar Al Assad says there were similarities and differences.

SNOW (on camera): Is he his father's son do you think?

DAVID LESCH, AUTHOR, "THE NEW LION OF DAMASCUS": He is much more open. He is very pensive like his father. He spent time in the west. He likes the technology toys of the west. He is a computer nerd. He married a beautiful Cosmopolitan British raised Syrian woman who's very actively civically and first lady right now.

SNOW (voice-over): First lady Assad was dubbed a rose in the desert in "Vogue" magazine just last month. The timing of the flattering piece, which virtually ignored human rights abuses in Syria grew criticism as unrest spread in the Middle East.

Assad promised reform when taking over, but hasn't delivered substantial changes beyond some economic change. David Lesch says there is no escaping he is the son of Assad.

LESCH: He is a child of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a child of super power Cold War. He views Lebanon with interest. He is the keeper of the flame of allied interests who have had a chokehold on power in this country for decades.

SNOW: They are a minority in Syria and their power is resented by many. As for those in Bashar Al Assad's inner circle, Lesch says he wasn't allowed to interview other people like his younger brother, Mohair Al Assad, a military figure.

Opposition forces say he is responsible for the harsh response against dissidents in the city of Basra. Then there is Assad's cousin. The most powerful businessman in Syria. A former U.S. ambassador to the Syria says, Syria's ruling family has been compared to "The Godfather."

LESCH: Bashar is a fellow who was supposed to make the family proud and be a medical doctor. Here he is now president of syria and in charge of keeping and protecting his family and protecting his associates and protecting his clan and in his eyes, protecting the country whether others view it that way or not.


SNOW: Wolf, as far as how he operates, the author who spent time with him says he likes to listen to many sides of an argument. And what may happen is that he will offer half carrots and some sticks without addressing the core problems of what's going on, Wolf.

BLITZER: He is under enormous, enormous pressure right nwo. Thanks, Mary. Thanks very much.

Britain's Prince Harry just before an expedition to the North Pole. That is one of our hot shots. You will see it next.


BLITZER: Here is a look at some hot shots.

In Norway, Britain's Prince Harry takes down his tent before an expedition to the North Pole.

In India, Cricket fans light sparklers after India's win over Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup.

In Cambodia, dancers perform at the airport to celebrate the arrival of the Air France jet.

In Germany, check it out, a green jellyfish floats through its tank at an aquarium.

Pictures from around the world.

Twin baby brothers holding an animated conversation with each other in their own baby language. What were they saying? Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNIE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you haven't heard the talking twin babies by now, you haven't been listening.

Their mom put the video on her blog and it ended up on Youtube and now these two boys have raised baby talk to an art. But now talk has turned to what they are saying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are not really saying anything. They are just babbling. They are imitating each other so one is perpetuating the babbling in the other.

MOOS: Dr. Harriet Kline is an expert in speech development. Most people seem to think the kids were talking about socks or maybe they were talking about current events, a certain snake escape. Other beasts seemed disturbed by the babbling.

There have been cases of twins who really did seem to develop their own private lingo. There was a documentary made about twins in California who spoke their own language until the age of 8 or so.

The two didn't have much adult interaction and picked up a combo of English spoken by their dad and German spoken by their grandmother. The parents of the Youtube twins have shied away from too much publicity. Actually, it is more like millions if you count TV and web views.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they were talking about Libya. I think.

MOOS: Someone else had the same idea in the mash up with Dutch sub titles. These two don't just imitate each other's babbling. They do simultaneous head stands. We will only know what they will do if they found out about the escaped cobra. As one person posted, "nominee for best foreign language film." Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I love that discussion.

This final note, congratulations to CNN for winning a Peabody Award for the coverage of the Gulf oil spill last year, excellent, excellent work done by all of us here I must say here at CNN. Thank you. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Join us weekdays in THE SITUATION ROOM from 5:00 to 7:00 Eastern, every Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. At this time every weekend on CNN International. The news continues next on CNN.