The blitzkrieg launched by the Libyan rebels in collaboration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) forces six months ago, has finally brought to a tragic end the 42-year old autocratic reign of Colonel Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi.
In the second part of this report The Tide continues with a look at the Gaddafi era, the event leading to its collapse as well as the future of Libya under the National Transitional Council (NTC). Read on.
In 1974, Gaddafi and Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba agreed to merge their nations
Gaddafi’s signed an agreement with Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba to merge nations in 1974. The pact came as a surprise because Bouguiba had rebuked similar offers for over two years previously. Weeks after the agreement, he postponed a referendum on the issue, effectively ending it weeks later. The idea of merging states was highly unpopular in Tunisia, and cost Bourguiba much of his people’s respect. The agreement was said to allow Bourguiba the presidency while Gaddafi would be defense minister. A later treaty with Morocco’s Hassan II in 1984 broke down in two years when Hassan II met with Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Gaddafi said recognition of Israel was “an act of treason”. In 1989, Gaddafi was overjoyed by the Maghreb Pact between Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. Gaddafi saw the Pact as a first step towards the formation of “one invincible Arab nation” and shouted for a state “from Marrakesh to Bahrain”, pumping his fists in the air.
Gaddafi’s image in the Arab world was damaged severely in 1978 when Shia imam Musa al-Sadr disappeared en route to Libya. The Libyan government consistently denied responsibility, but Lebanon held Gaddafi responsible, and continues to do so. Allegedly, Yasser Arafat told Gaddafi to eliminate al-Sadr because of his opposition to Palestinians in the Lebanese Civil War. Shia Lebanese vigilantes hijacked two Libyan aircraft in 1981, demanding information on al-Sadr’s whereabouts. Shia Muslims across the Arab world continue to view Gaddafi negatively since this incident. His relations with Shia-populated Lebanon and Iran soured as a result. Lebanon formally indicted Gaddafi in 2008 for al-Sadr’s disappearance. Some reports claim that al-Sadr still lives and secretly remains in jail in Libya.
In 1995 Gaddafi expelled some 30,000 Palestinians living in Libya, a response to the peace negotiations that had commenced between Israel and the PLO.
Weapons of mass destruction programs
Gaddafi’s attempts to procure weapons of mass destruction began in 1972, when Gaddafi tried to get the People’s Republic of China to sell him a nuclear bomb.
In 1977, he tried to get a bomb from Pakistan, but Pakistan severed ties before Libya succeeded in building a weapon. After ties were restored, Gaddafi tried to buy a nuclear weapon from India, but instead, India and Libya agreed for a peaceful use of nuclear energy, in line with India’s “atoms for peace” policy.
Several people around the world were indicted for assisting Gaddafi in his chemical weapons programs. Thailand reported its citizens had helped build a storage facility for nerve gas. Germany sentenced a businessman, Jurgen Hippenstiel-Imhausen, to five years in prison for involvement in Libyan chemical weapons.
Inspectors from the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) verified in 2004 that Libya owned a stockpile of 23 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,300 metric tons of precursor chemicals. Disposing of such large quantities of chemical weapons was expected to be expensive. Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by US forces in 2003, Gaddafi announced that his nation had an active weapons of mass destruction program, but was willing to allow international inspectors into his country to observe and dismantle them. US President George W. Bush and other supporters of the Iraq War portrayed Gaddafi’s announcement as a direct consequence of the Iraq War. Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, a supporter of the Iraq War, was quoted as saying that Gaddafi had privately phoned him, admitting as much. Many foreign policy experts, however, contend that Gaddafi’s announcement was merely a continuation of his prior attempts at normalizing relations with the West and getting the sanctions removed. To support this, they point to the fact that Libya had already made similar offers starting four years before one was finally accepted. International inspectors turned up several tons of chemical weaponry in Libya, as well as an active nuclear weapons program.
From the beginning of his leadership, Gaddafi confronted foreign oil companies for increases in revenues. Immediately after assuming office, he demanded that oil companies pay 10 percent more taxes and an increased royalty of 44 cents per barrel. Gaddafi argued that Libyan oil was closer to Europe, and was cheaper to ship than oil from the Persian Gulf. Western companies refused his demands, and Gaddafi asserted himself by cutting the production of Occidental Petroleum, an American company in Libya, from 800,000 to 500,000 that year. Occidental Petroleum’s President, Armand Hammer, met with Gaddafi in Tripoli and had difficulty understanding exactly what he wanted at first. He said at one meeting, Prime Minister Abdessalam Jalloud finally took out his gun belt and left the loaded revolver in full view. Later, Hammer recalled that moment and said he felt then “that Gaddafi was ready to negotiate”. In The Age of Oil, historians considered Gaddafi’s success in 1970 to be the “decisive spark that set off an unprecedented chain reaction” in oil-producing nations. Libya continued a winning streak against the oil companies throughout the 1970s energy crisis; Later that year, the Shah of Iran raised his demands to match those of Gaddafi. OPEC nations began a game of “leap frogging” to win further concessions from the oil companies after following Gaddafi’s lead.
Gaddafi and the Shah of Iran both argued for quadrupling the cost of oil in 1975. In 1975, Gaddafi allegedly organized the hostage incident at OPEC in Vienna, Austria.
Alliances with other authoritarian national leaders
Gaddafi had close relationship with Idi Amin, whom he sponsored and gave some of the key ideas, such as expulsions of Indian-Ugandans. When Amin’s government began to crumble, Gaddafi sent troops to fight against Tanzania on behalf of Amin and 600 Libyan soldiers lost their lives. Gaddafi also financed Mengistu Haile Mariam’s military junta in Ethiopia, which was later convicted of one of the deadliest genocides in modern history.
Gaddafi ran a school near Benghazi called the World Revolutionary Center (WRC). A notable number of its graduates have seized power in African countries. Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Idriss Déby of Chad were graduates of this school, and are currently in power in their respective countries. Gaddafi trained and supported Charles Taylor of Liberia, Foday Sankoh, the founder of Revolutionary United Front, and Jean-Bédel Bokassa, the Emperor of the Central African Empire.
Cutting Ties With Arab Nations
In 1998, Gaddafi turned his attention away from Arab nationalism. He eliminated a government office in charge of promoting pan-Arab ideas and told reporters “I had been crying slogans of Arab Unity and brandishing standard of Arab nationalism for 40 years, but it was not realised. That means that I was talking in the desert. I have no more time to lose talking with Arabs…I am returning back to realism…I now talk about Pan-Africanism and African Unity. The Arab world is finished…Africa is a paradise…and it is full of natural resources like water, uranium, cobalt, iron, manganese.” Gaddafi’s state-run television networks switched from middle eastern soap operas to African themes involving slavery. The background of a unified Arab League that had been a staple of Libyan television for over two decades was replaced by a map of Africa. Gaddafi sported a map of Africa on his outfits from then forward. He also stated that, “I would like Libya to become a black country. Hence, I recommend to Libyan men to marry only black women and to Libyan women to marry black men.”
Gaddafi’s support frequently went to leaders recognized by the United Nations as dictators and warlords. Gaddafi used anti-Western rhetoric against the UN, and complained that the International Criminal Court was a “new form of world terrorism” that wanted to recolonize developing countries. Gaddafi opposed the ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir and personally gave refuge to Idi Amin in Libya after his fall from rule in 1979.
According to the Special Court for Sierra Leone, Charles Taylor’s orders for “The amputation of the arms and legs of men, women, and children as part of a scorched-earth campaign was designed to take over the region’s rich diamond fields and was backed by Gaddafi, who routinely reviewed their progress and supplied weapons”.
Gaddafi intervened militarily in the Central African Republic in 2001 to protect his ally Ange-Félix Patassé from overthrow. Patassé signed a deal giving Libya a 99-year lease to exploit all of that country’s natural resources, including uranium, copper, diamonds, and oil.
Qaddafi acquired at least 20 luxurious properties after he went to rescue Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
Gaddafi’s strong military support and finances gained him several allies across the continent. He was bestowed with the title “King of Kings of Africa” in 2008, as he had remained in power longer than any African king. Gaddafi was celebrated in the presence of over 200 African traditional rulers and kings, although his views on African political and military unification received a lukewarm response from their governments. His 2009 forum for African kings was canceled by the Ugandan hosts, who believed that traditional rulers discussing politics would lead to instability. On 1 February 2009, a ‘coronation ceremony’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was held to coincide with the 53rd African Union Summit, at which he was elected head of the African Union for the year. When his election was opposed by an African leader, Gaddafi arranged with Silvio Berlusconi to have two escorts sent to that leader to have him change his mind. It worked, and he was elected Chairman of the African Union from 2009 to 2010. It is unclear which nation or which leader was in question, although Namibia had formerly been opposed to his appointment. Gaddafi told the assembled African leaders: “I shall continue to insist that our sovereign countries work to achieve the United States of Africa.”
Gaddafi supported terrorist organizations that held anti-Western sympathies around the world. The Foreign Minister of Libya called the massacres “heroic acts”. Gaddafi fueled a number of Islamist and communist terrorist groups in the Philippines, including the New People’s Army of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The country still struggles with their murders and kidnappings. In Indonesia, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka was a Libyan backed militant group. Vanuatu’s ruling party also enjoyed Libyan support. In Australia he attempted to radicalize Australian Aborigines, left-wing unions, Arab Australians, and one Labor Party politician, Bill Hartley, against the “imperialist” government of Australia. In New Zealand he financed the Workers Revolutionary Party and attempted to radicalize Maoris.
In 1979, Gaddafi said he supported the Iranian Revolution, and hoped that “…he (the Shah) ends up in the hands of the Iranian people, where he deserves.”
Gaddafi explicitly stated that he would kill Libyan dissidents that had escaped from Libya, raising tensions with refugee countries and European governments. In 1985 he stated that he would continue to support the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades, and the Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) as long as European countries supported anti-Gaddafi Libyans. In 1976, after a series of terrorist attacks by the Provisional IRA, Gaddafi announced that “the bombs which are convulsing Britain and breaking its spirit are the bombs of Libyan people. We have sent them to the Irish revolutionaries so that the British will pay the price for their past deeds”. In April 1984 some Libyan refugees in London protested the execution of two dissidents. Libyan diplomats shot at 11 people and killed Yvonne Fletcher, a British policewoman. The incident led to the cessation of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Libya for over a decade. In June 1984 Gaddafi asserted that he wanted his agents to assassinate dissident refugees even when they were on pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca and, in August that year, a Libyan plot in Mecca was thwarted by Saudi Arabian police.
On 5 April 1986 Libyan agents bombed “La Belle” nightclub in West Berlin, killing three and injuring . Gaddafi’s plan was intercepted by Western intelligence and more detailed information was retrieved some years later from Stasi archives. Libyan agents who had carried out the operation, from the Libyan embassy in East Germany, were prosecuted by the reunited Germany in the 1990s.
Following the 1986 bombing of Libya, Gaddafi intensified his terror attacks on Americans. He financed the Nation of Islam, which emerged as one of the leading organizations receiving assistance from Libya; and Al-Rukn, in their emergence as an indigenous anti-American armed revolutionary movement. Members of Al-Rukn were arrested in 1986 for preparing to conduct terrorist strikes on behalf of Libya, including blowing up U.S. government buildings and bringing down an airplane; the Al-Rukn defendants were convicted in 1987 of “offering to commit bombings and assassinations on U.S. soil for Libyan payment.” In 1986, Libyan state television announced that Libya was training suicide squads to attack American and European interests. He began financing the IRA again in 1986, to retaliate against the British for harboring American fighter planes.
Gaddafi had close ties with two European right-wing heads of state, Slobodan Miloševi? and Jörg Haider, who were both anti-Islamic politicians. Jörg Haider of Austria was reported as having received tens of millions of dollars from both Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Gaddafi also aligned himself with the Orthodox Serbs against Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, supporting Miloševi? even when he was charged with large-scale ethnic cleansing against Albanians in Kosovo.
Gaddafi developed a friendship with Hugo Chávez and in March 2009 a stadium was named after the Venezuelan leader. Documents seized during a 2008 raid on FARC showed that both Chavez and Gaddafi backed the group. Gaddafi developed an ongoing relationship with FARC, becoming acquainted with its leaders at meetings of revolutionary groups which were regularly hosted in Libya. In September 2009, at the Second Africa-South America Summit on Isla Margarita, Venezuela, Gaddafi joined Chávez in calling for an “anti-imperialist” front across Africa and Latin America. Gaddafi proposed the establishment of a South Atlantic Treaty Organization to rival NATO, saying: “The world’s powers want to continue to hold on to their power. Now we have to fight to build our own power.”
Gaddafi also sought close relations with the Soviet Union and purchased arms from the Soviet bloc.
To be contd.