News / Middle East

US-Libya Relations Contentious During Gadhafi's Leadership

Moammar Gadhafi is shown at the Cairo Airport in Cairo, Egypt, 1970. (file photo)
Moammar Gadhafi is shown at the Cairo Airport in Cairo, Egypt, 1970. (file photo)

Former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has been killed by provisional government forces, bringing an end to his 40-year autocratic rule. The relationship was rocky between Washington and Tripoli during the past four decades.

Gadhafi came to power on September 1, 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, says 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. 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,” said St. John.

Attempted Arab unity

Analysts say during the 1970s, Gadhafi tried to unite Libya with other Arab countries - but to no avail. Experts say it is also 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.  

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 said 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. And it was particularly the La Belle discotheque incident that led the Reagan administration to take a decision to punish the Gadhafi regime and put it on notice that we would no longer tolerate that kind of activity,” said St. John.

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

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. 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," said St. John. "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.”

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

St. John said 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. And of course now, he is still alive, which throws into question what the decision was based on, what the medical evidence really looked like and so forth,” said St. John.

Gadhafi's 'rehabilitation'

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. And when he [Gadhafi] 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,” said Djerejian.

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

The United States has recognized Libya’s National Transitional Council as the country’s legitimate government. Analysts say the Council has a daunting task ahead as it begins to rebuild a country scarred by 40 years of autocratic rule.

You May Like

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid