Intel chief: Qaddafi "will prevail" over rebels

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing March 10, 2011, in Washington. Getty Images

Updated at 5:12 p.m. ET

The U.S. government's top intelligence official told senators Thursday that the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi "will prevail" eventually over the armed rebellion that grew from wave of unrest to hit North Africa and the Middle East.

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National Intelligence Director James Clapper gave that assessment while testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill.

"This is kind of a stalemate back and forth, but I think over the longer term that the regime will prevail," Clapper told senators.

(Watch Clapper testify above)

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Responding to a question from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Clapper said the Qaddafi regime's military forces simply have better resources than the rebellion.

"The first-line equipment anywhere in Libya is held by the regime forces with two special brigades, the 32nd and 9th, which are very, very loyal to Qaddafi and do his bidding," said Clapper. "They're the most robustly equipped with Russian equipment to include air defense ... tanks, mechanized equipment, and they appear to be much more disciplined about how they treat and repair that equipment."

Later Thursday, Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security adviser, called Clapper's testimony a "static, one-dimensional assessment" that does not take into account Qaddafi's loss of legitimacy, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

White House walks back claim Qadaffi will "prevail"

Donilon said in a conference call with reporters that imposing sanctions on the regime, freezing Qaddafi assets and losing the regime's "fear dynamic" also weren't included in Clapper's assessment, Martin reports.

Clapper's comments came as Qaddafi loyalists used rockets and tank shells to push pro-democracy rebels from the key oil port city of Ras Lanouf, according to the Associated Press.

The regime's military also claimed to have taken back the city of Zawiya, which was the rebellion's high water mark because of its proximity to the capital city of Tripoli. The moves cut down on the progress rebels made in the western part of the country after capturing many cities in the east.

Meanwhile, Qaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, told the Reuters news agency that the regime will not surrender and is planning a full-scale military operation to end the rebellion.

"We will never ever give up," he told Reuters. "We will never ever surrender. This is our country. We fight here in Libya."

Clapper told senators that the rebels fighting against Qaddafi won't be able to take him down easily.

"With respect to the rebels in Libya and whether or not they will succeed or not, I think frankly they're in for a tough row because - and a very important consideration here for the regime is - by design Qaddafi intentionally designed the military so that those select units loyal to him have had the most ... are the most luxuriously equipped and the best trained," said Clapper. "That is, I think, having a telling effect now with the rebels and now I think the over, logistically, the overwhelming power or control that Qaddafi has."

  • Alex Sundby

    Alex Sundby is an associate news editor for CBSNews.com

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