On the day the U.N. resolution was passed, Mrs. Clinton ordered a general within the Pentagon to refuse to take a call with Gadhafi’s son Seif and other high-level members within the regime, to help negotiate a resolution, the secret recordings reveal.
A day later, on March 18, Gadhafi called for a cease-fire, another action the administration dismissed.
Soon, a call was set up between the former U.S. ambassador to Libya, Gene Cretz, and Gadhafi confidant Mohammed Ismael during which Mr. Ismael confirmed that the regime’s highest-ranking generals were under orders not to fire upon protesters.
“I told him we were not targeting civilians and Seif told him that,” Mr. Ismael told The Times in an telephone interview this month, recounting the fateful conversation.
While Mrs. Clinton urged the Pentagon to cease its communications with the Gadhafi regime, the intelligence asset working with the Joint Chiefs remained in contact for months afterward.
“Everything I am getting from the State Department is that they do not care about being part of this. Secretary Clinton does not want to negotiate at all,” the Pentagon intelligence asset told Seif Gadhafi and his adviser on the recordings.
Communication was so torn between the Libyan regime and the State Department that they had no point of contact within the department to even communicate whether they were willing to accept the U.N.’s mandates, former Libyan officials said.
Mrs. Clinton eventually named Mr. Cretz as the official U.S. point of contact for the Gadhafi regime. Mr. Cretz, the former ambassador to Libya, was removed from the country in 2010 amid Libyan anger over derogatory comments he made regarding Gadhafi released by Wikileaks. As a result, Mr. Cretz was not trusted or liked by the family.
Shutting the Gadhafis out of the conversation allowed Mrs. Clinton to pursue a solitary point of view, said a senior Pentagon official directly involved with the intervention.
“The decision to invade [Libya] had already been made, so everything coming out of the State Department at that time was to reinforce that decision,” the official explained, speaking only on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
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