News / Africa

US-Libya Relations Rocky During Gadhafi's Leadership

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of the American military bases in the country, in Tripoli, June 12, 2010
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi talks during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the evacuation of the American military bases in the country, in Tripoli, June 12, 2010

President Barack Obama has described as “outrageous” the killings of protesters demonstrating against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Gadhafi came to power on September 1st, 1969, leading a bloodless military coup that toppled Libya’s King Idris, who was out of the country receiving medical treatment.

Bruce St John, an author of seven books on Libya, said early on, relations between Gadhafi and the United States were generally good.

“In the early years, he was very much focused on Arab nationalism, Arab unity, Arab socialism,' he said. "And in fact, the United States government in the first two or three years - maybe even until 1974 - there were people in the United States government who thought we could work with the man and work with his regime. It was only later that he began to employ terrorist-type techniques, not only in North Africa and the Middle East, but eventually throughout the world.”

Analysts say during the 1970s, Gadhafi tried to unite Libya with other Arab countries - but to no avail. Experts say it also is at this time that he began to provide aid to organizations considered by some governments to be terrorist - such as the Irish Republican Army and the Abu Nidal Group.

Rocky relationship

Relations between Washington and Tripoli reached an all time low during the Reagan administration. President Reagan called Gadhafi “the mad dog of the Middle East.”

St John says two incidents brought about the ire of the United States: in December 1985, terrorists attacked the Rome and Vienna airports. And in April 1986, two American soldiers were killed after a bomb went off in a popular West Berlin discotheque favored by U.S. servicemen.  

“Gadhafi and his regime - the evidence was somewhat murky - but the United States government believed that they were involved in both of those instances," he said. "And it was particularly the La Belle discotheque incident that led the Reagan administration to take a decision to punish the Gahhafi regime and put it on notice that we no longer tolerate that kind of activity.”

In mid-April 1986, U.S. warplanes hit targets in Benghazi and Tripoli, including Gadhafi’s personal compound. Dozens of people were killed, including the Libyan leader’s adopted daughter.

Lockerbie bombing

Police and investigators look at what remains of the flight deck of Pan Am 103 on a field in Lockerbie, Scotland, December 22, 1988 file photo
Police and investigators look at what remains of the flight deck of Pan Am 103 on a field in Lockerbie, Scotland, December 22, 1988 file photo

Several years later, suspected Libyan agents planted a bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people, many of them Americans.

“The Lockerbie bombing took place in 1988," said Bruce St John. "There was a subsequent bombing in 1989 of a UTA flight over Niger on the way to France. The two attacks led the United States, Great Britain and France to move towards sanctions in the United Nations on Libya, after the Libyan government refused to hand over the suspects in those instances. That began in 1992.

"And those sanctions remained in place until the end of the decade, when the Gadhafi regime finally turned over the two suspects in the Lockerbie bombings, one of which was subsequently convicted,” he added.

The man convicted in 2001 was Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Bruce St John says there was quite an uproar - especially from the Lockerbie families - when in 2009, the Scottish government released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, saying he had terminal prostate cancer.

“At the time, the belief of the Scottish government, at least the belief that they articulated to the general public, was that he was likely to die within three months," he said. "And of course now, a year and a half later, he is still alive, which throws into question what the decision was based on, what the medical evidence really looked like and so forth.”

'Revesal of policies'

Analysts say in 2003, Gadhafi made a dramatic turnaround. First he agreed to pay the final amount of money due the families of the victims in the Lockerbie disaster. And second, he announced Libya was renouncing its weapons of mass destruction program and the missiles required to deliver them.

Edward Djerejian, former U.S. ambassador to Syria and Israel, said Gadhafi realized he was in a precarious position.

“Remember, in 2003 we still very much thought that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," he said. "And when he saw that the United States launched a military invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, he saw the handwriting on the wall that maybe he would be next. And that certainly caught his attention. And then he did make this reversal of policies and it did lead to an accommodation with western countries.”

New chapter

Several years later [2006] the U.S. restored diplomatic relations with Libya, but an ambassador arrived in Tripoli only in 2009.

Analysts now say the future path of U.S.-Libyan relations is uncertain, given the popular uprising against Gadhafi. The current U.S. ambassador to Tripoli is in the United States, for consultations.

View the timeline of U.S.-Libya relations

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid