News / Africa

US-Gadhafi Relationship Never Fully Developed Before Uprising

Before the uprising against the rule of Moammar Gadhafi began, the long icy relationship between Libya and the U.S. had been slowly thawing. The rapprochement began in 2003 and had started to show some signs of promise. But  the warming trend had stalled by the time the uprising in Libya began in February because of Libyan demands for U.S. arms sales and hardcore anti-U.S. sentiment in some quarters of Mr. Gadhafi's government.

On a historic trip to Libya in September of 2008, then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice broke more than 20 years of diplomatic ice by declaring that her visit was proof that the U.S. has no permanent enemies.  In that year, relations were restored, a new ambassador to Libya was named - the first in more than 35 years - and the onetime adversaries talked of new opportunities for cooperation in nuclear nonproliferation, trade and investment, counterterrorism, and economic development.

But, says Gene Cretz, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the renewed U.S.-Libyan relationship kept getting sidetracked and never progressed very far.

“We embarked, really, on a process of normalization. But during those two years there were several crises, in fact, that plagued the relationship.  And each time that we were able to get the relationship back onto a stable path, one of these events would happen, and the whole thing would be blown off kilter and we’d have to start again,” Cretz said.

Since the 1980s Libya and the United States had clashed militarily and diplomatically. U.S. President Ronald Reagan famously declared Mr. Gadhafi the “mad dog of the Middle East” for Libya’s support for terrorism.  The low point came when 270 people were killed in the Libyan-sponsored bombing of PanAm Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988.  U.N. sanctions were imposed, leaving Libya deeply isolated.

But in 2003, Libya announced it was renouncing its weapons of mass destruction and said it was giving up using terrorism.  It also agreed to pay compensation to the families of the victims killed in the bombing of PanAm Flight 103.  

Current and former officials say the U.S. did not rush into a wholesale embrace of Libya and the Gadhafi regime.  However, they say Libya, which was home to an al-Qaida affiliate, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, did prove itself extremely helpful in counterterrorism because of Mr. Gadhafi's fierce opposition to Islamist extremists.  

Mark Kimmitt, a retired U.S. general who served as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, says the U.S. was looking at some tentative first steps, such as military-to-military exchanges.  

“Well, I think everybody wanted to see where the relationship would go.   Here was a country that at times had been considered part of the axis of terror. They had renounced weapons of mass destruction.  They had become helpful in the war on terrorism.  So what better way to completely close the circle and bring them into a more modern relationship between our countries than a security relationship, as well as other diplomatic relationships,” Kimmitt said.

Documents found in the aftermath of the ant-Gadhafi forces takeover of Tripoli, and released by Human Rights Watch, reveal U.S. and British plans to transfer some terrorism suspects to Libyan government custody where, says the rights group, they were sure to be tortured.  Officials would not comment on the reports.

In any case, the Tripoli-Washington relationship was not moving fast enough to suit the Libyan government. Ambassador Cretz says the Libyans felt their turnabout earned them unfettered access to U.S. military weapons and equipment, but Washington was not about to give it to them, even if it was non-lethal aid or sales.

“We had not promised anything. I mean, they had provided us a list, literally almost something you would write on the back of a napkin in a restaurant, of everything from M-16s (semiautomatic rifles) to F-16s (fighter planes) - a huge list of things.  And we said, this is not the way we do business,” Cretz said.

A $77 million deal to furnish Libya with refurbished armored personnel carriers was in the works but was never finalized, Ambassador Cretz says.  Likewise, Libya’s procurement of C-130 transport planes purchased in the 1970s but never delivered due to the freeze in relations was under discussion with the manufacturer but the deal was never finalized.

Ambassador Cretz says several events cause the relationship to unravel. Chief among them, he says, was the hero’s welcome Libya accorded the only person convicted in the PanAm bombings after his release from Scottish custody in 2009.  He says the Libyans were also upset that Mr. Gadhafi was not invited to the White House for a nuclear nonproliferation summit last year.

It was at that time, he says, that warning bells of divisions in the Gadhafi government over the rapprochement began ringing.

“There was always a group in Libya that did not want a strong relationship with the United States. And we were always in the position of having to battle from day to day and see who was on the particular side of the relationship and who was not. There appeared to be troublesome signs in the summer of 2010, actually, when normal things like permits for cars or household effects (customs) clearance for embassy personnel were being slowed up at an extraordinary rate, which kind of gave us some pause,” Cretz said.

Washington withdrew Ambassador Cretz in January. It is not clear how much the revelation of his candid assessments of Mr. Gadhafi in diplomatic cables released by the antisecrecy group, WikiLeaks, were a factor, but they had clearly displeased the Libyan government.

But with Mr. Gadhafi ousted and a new transitional ruling authority in place, Ambassador Cretz, who has been working in Washington, plans to return to Tripoli.  Asked when, he only smiles and replies, “soon.”

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death With IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs