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Contents 2011 Anti-Government Unrest Other Recent Developments Background and Recent History The Qadhafi Era The Green Book and Qadhafi's Ideology Terrorism and Confrontation with the United States Qadhafi's Arab-Israeli Intransigence International Isolation and Signs of Change Current Issues in U.S.-Libyan Relations Comprehensive Claims Settlement Agreement Settlement Details Settlement Eligibility and Adjudication BP plc and UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement U.S. Foreign Assistance to Libya Funding for New U.S. Embassy Construction Counterterrorism Cooperation Political and Economic Profile Muammar al Qadhafi: A Profile Political Dynamics Government Structure The "Authority of the People" Proposals for the Dissolution of State Ministries and Revenue Distribution Opposition Groups Exiles The Muslim Brotherhood Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) Political Reform and Human Rights Legal and Institutional Reform Human Rights Monitoring Fathi al Jahmi Libyan Foreign Policy Energy and the Libyan Economy Oil Reserves and Production Capacity Natural Gas Military Profile and WMD Disarmament The Libyan Military Structure, Training, and Equipment Arms Sales WMD Programs and Disarmament Nuclear, Chemical, and Ballistic Missile Programs Termination of WMD and Missile Programs Motives for Disarmament International Controls and Inspections Further Reading and Historical Resources Appendixes Appendix A. Libya's Pre-Qadhafi History. Appendix B. Normalization of Relations, Terrorism, and Related Claims Contacts Author Contact Information
February 18, 2011
Major anti-government protests broke out in Libya on February 15 and have since intensified, eliciting violent government responses. The demonstrations are in opposition to the 42-year regime of Libya's leader, Muammar al Qadhafi. As of February 18, some sources have reported that opposition forces have taken over areas of Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, and its surroundings in Libya's northeastern Mediterranean region of Cyrenaica.
Libyan-U.S. rapprochement has unfolded gradually since 2003, when the Libyan government accepted responsibility for the actions of its personnel in regard to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and announced its decision to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile programs. In response, U.S. sanctions were gradually removed, and, on May 15, 2006, the Bush Administration announced its intention to restore full diplomatic relations with Libya and to rescind Libya's listing as a state sponsor of terrorism. Full diplomatic relations were restored on May 31, 2006. Libya was removed from the lists of state sponsors of terrorism and states not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts in June 2006.
Until late 2008, U.S.-Libyan reengagement was hindered by lingering disagreements over outstanding legal claims related to U.S. citizens killed or injured in past Libyan-sponsored or supported terrorist attacks. From 2004 onward, Bush Administration officials argued that broader normalization of U.S.-Libyan relations would provide opportunities for the United States to address specific issues of concern to Congress, including the outstanding legal claims, political and economic reform, the development of Libyan energy resources, and human rights. However, some Members of Congress took steps to limit U.S.-Libyan re-engagement as a means of encouraging the Libyan government to settle outstanding terrorism cases in good faith prior to further normalization.
Under the terms of a Claims Settlement Agreement reached between the Libyan and U.S. governments in August 2008, funds are now available to settle specific outstanding legal claims. Congress supported the final stages of U.S.-Libyan negotiation on the agreement by passing S. 3370, the Libyan Claims Resolution Act (P.L. 110-301), which authorized the creation of an entity with legal immunity to receive settlement funds from Libya or other sources and to distribute them to U.S. plaintiffs. On October 31, 2008, President Bush signed Executive Order 13477 stating that claims covered by the agreement were settled.
When Scottish authorities returned convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abd al Baset Ali al Megrahi to Libya on humanitarian grounds in late 2009, the ensuing outcry in the United States and United Kingdom highlighted the continuing influence of past U.S.-Libyan differences. In July 2010, new scrutiny of Libyan-UK negotiations over Megrahi and energy contracts involving BP plc underscored this dynamic.
Current U.S. policy concerns, in addition to those linked with the ongoing unrest, include ensuring Libya's positive contribution to the security and economic prosperity of North Africa and the Sahel, securing commercial opportunities in Libya for U.S. firms, and addressing persistent human rights issues. The Obama Administration is requesting $875,000 in FY2011 foreign assistance funding for Libya programs. This report provides background information on Libya and U.S.-Libyan relations; discusses Libya's political and economic reform efforts; and reviews current issues of potential congressional interest.
2011 Anti-Government Unrest
Major anti-government protests broke out in Libya on February 15 and have since intensified. The demonstrations are in opposition to the regime of Libya's leader, Muammar al Qadhafi, who has ruled the country for 42 years. As of February 18, some sources have reported that opponents of the government taken over areas of Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, and its surroundings in Libya's northeastern Mediterranean region of Cyrenaica (see Figure 1 below). (1) They are reportedly broadcasting from a radio station they seized. (2) Feeds from the social networking website Twitter reported on February 18 that Internet and mobile communications were shut down in at least some parts of the country.
The National Conference for the Libyan Opposition (an umbrella organization of opposition groups headed by the National Libyan Salvation Front (NLSF)--see "Exiles" below) and Internet-based organizers called for a "day of rage" to take place on February 17. (3) Similar events had been organized by anti-government groups in many other countries in the Middle East and North Africa over the previous month. On February 17, hundreds of protestors took to the streets in Benghazi and in other cities in its vicinity. (4) Additional protests were reported in Az Zintan, approximately 100 miles southwest of Tripoli, Libya's capital and largest city, with an estimated population of 1.1 million.
International media have very little presence in Libya because of government controls. Other sources, however--mainly local media accounts, amateur video footage and anecdotes, and reports from human rights organizations and opposition groups in exile--indicate that at least 24 and possibly more than 50 people were killed on February 17 when Libyan government forces fired on crowds with live ammunition in an attempt to disperse them. (5) On February 18, demonstrators in Benghazi reportedly numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands, and violent crackdowns by government security forces and affiliated "revolutionary committees," possibly including forces brought in from other parts of the country, reportedly continued. Most reports state that Tripoli has remained under tight government control. On February 17, Libyan state television broadcast images of Al Qadhafi driving through Tripoli and rallying thousands of ostensible supporters. Other pro-Qadhafi rallies have reportedly been organized throughout the country. (6)
The ongoing unrest in Libya can be traced back to mid-January 2011, as part of the region-wide wave of popular protests--beginning in Tunisia in December 2010--against repression, political corruption, and poor and/or inequitable economic conditions. Although the Libyan government announced housing benefits and price controls, (7) and released 110 members of the opposition Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (see "Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)" below) in attempts to placate popular discontent, grievances persisted. They were possibly fueled by the other protests taking place throughout the region, particularly in Libya's eastern neighbor Egypt, where the military took power from President Hosni Mubarak on February 11. On the evening of February 15, the most recent round of demonstrations began when several hundred people gathered in front of the Benghazi police headquarters to protest the arrest of attorney and human rights activist Fethi Tarbel. As the February 17 "day of rage" neared, protests escalated in Benghazi and other cities despite reported police attempts at dispersion with water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons. There were multiple reports of protestors setting police and other government buildings on fire.
Al Qadhafi reportedly had privately warned Libyan political activists and media figures that the government would hold them responsible for any disturbance of the peace. (8) Additionally, the London-based, Saudi-financed Arab news source Asharq al Awsat reported on February 9 that "Libyan activists have claimed that the Libyan intelligence service has been carrying out a large-scale campaign to shut down Libyan websites based outside of the country due to their ongoing coverage of the situation in Libya." (9)
U.S. and international reactions to events in Libya are still developing. On February 18, Reuters quoted President Barack Obama as saying, "I am deeply concerned by reports of violence in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen. The United States condemns the use of violence by governments against peaceful protesters in those countries, and wherever else it may occur." (10) The prospects for U.S. influence on developments in Libya is uncertain. There is currently no U.S. ambassador serving in Libya, (11) and U.S.-Libya military ties are minimal, given that full diplomatic relations were restored only five years ago. Britain and France have reportedly suspended exports of security equipment to Libya and Bahrain that could be used to suppress crowds. (12) The Wall Street Journal has expressed concerns that because Libya is one of the world's largest oil producers, the unrest could "rattle oil markets and the international petroleum industry." (13)
Other Recent Developments
The Obama Administration is requesting the following FY2011 foreign assistance funds for Libya programs: $250,000 in Foreign Military Financing (FMF), $350,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET), and $275,000 in counterterrorism and border security assistance (Nonproliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related Programs account, NADR). The
Administration has not published its specific requests for Nonproliferation Disarmament Fund (NDF) or Global Threat Reduction (GTR) programs, Middle East Partnership Initiative programs, or Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership programs involving Libya. The State Department estimates that the U.S. government will spend at least $780,000 in FY2010 funding on Libya programs.
In August 2009, Scottish authorities released convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abd al Baset Ali al Megrahi on compassionate grounds in light of his diagnosis with terminal prostate cancer and a medical prognosis that reportedly projected that he would die within three months. His release was highly controversial, and outrage among some parties in the United Kingdom and United States grew after Al Megrahi was greeted publicly by a cheering crowd upon his arrival in Tripoli. Al Megrahi remains ill, but has survived longer than the reported prognosis used to justify his release, leading members of the Scottish parliament to demand that their government provide further information about the medical advice it relied upon as well as about Al Megrahi's current medical condition. The U.S. Department of Justice Foreign Claims Settlement Commission (FCSC) is currently accepting and adjudicating various categories of terrorism-related claims in accordance with the 2008 U.S.-Libya Claims Settlement Agreement and State Department letters of referral. This includes claims related to the Pan Am 103 bombing.
Al Megrahi's disputed release immediately preceded the September 2009 visit of Muammar al Qadhafi to New York for the United Nations General Assembly; that visit in turn fueled new controversy over the Libyan leader's accommodation during his stay and his remarks at the meeting. New scrutiny of the release emerged in July 2010, when four U.S. Senators wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the State Department to investigate claims that BP plc sought to influence the decisions of the governments of the United Kingdom and Scotland concerning Al Megrahi's release. Those claims and responses from the relevant parties are reviewed below (see "BP plc and UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement").
In October 2009, Al Qadhafi called for his relatively reform-oriented son, Sayf al Islam, to take a leadership position in the country. Sayf al Islam subsequently was appointed General Coordinator of the Popular Social Command, a position which could give him substantive executive and oversight authority as the equivalent of head of state.
The appointment followed months of speculation about whether or not Sayf al Islam had fallen irreparably out of favor among his father's more conservative supporters. However, speculation about Sayf's position relative to other political factions continues, since, to date, he has not publicly exercised the authorities implied by the appointment. Mutassim al Qadhafi, another of the leader's sons, visited Washington in April 2009 in his official capacity as his father's national security adviser. He appeared publicly with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with whom he reportedly discussed security cooperation, among other issues.
Background and Recent History
The North African territory that now composes the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahirriya (14) has a long cultural history as a center of Phoenician, Carthaginian, Roman, Berber, and Arab civilizations. Modern Libya's distinct regions and tribally influenced society create a complex political environment that is made up of diverse constituencies from northwestern Tripolitania, northeastern Cyrenaica, and the more remote southwestern Fezzan (see Figure 1). Significant economic and political changes have occurred since Libya became independent in 1951. These changes have been fueled by the country's emergence from Italian colonization, the discovery of vast oil and natural gas reserves, and the domination of political life by the authoritarian government of Muammar al Qadhafi, (15) who overthrew the Libyan monarchy on September 1, 1969. The legacies of anti-Italian insurgency and World War II combat, international pressures associated with the cold war, and complex relationships with Arab and African neighbors have all shaped Libya's development. See Appendix A for a discussion of Libya's pre-Qadhafi history, other background information, and a list of historical resources.
The Qadhafi Era
On September 1, 1969, a cabal of Libyan military officers led by army Captain Muammar al Qadhafi seized important government institutions in the eastern city of Benghazi and abolished the Libyan monarchy. Facing negligible internal resistance, the leadership of the movement, known as the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), established authority and announced that it would direct the activities of a new cabinet. The RCC also made statements affirming Libya's Arab and Islamic identity and its support for the Palestinian people. After renaming the country the Libyan Arab Republic, the RCC announced the promotion of Captain Qadhafi to Colonel and named him commander in chief of Libya's armed forces. (16) Like Qadhafi, the other members of the RCC were pan-Arabist and socialist ideologues from rural and somewhat marginalized communities. The United States did not oppose the 1969 coup, as the RCC initially presented an anti-Soviet and reformist platform.
Colonel Qadhafi and the RCC focused intensely in their early years in power on taking steps to safeguard "national independence" and consolidate their rule through populist and nationalist political and economic programs. The members of the RCC were determined to secure the immediate and full withdrawal of British and U.S. forces from military bases in Libya, which occurred on March 28 and June 11, 1970, respectively. Italian expatriates were expelled and their assets were confiscated on October 7, 1970. All three dates subsequently were declared national holidays. The new government also pressured U.S. and other foreign oil companies to renegotiate oil production contracts and cede a larger share of production revenues. Some British and U.S. oil operations eventually were nationalized. In the early 1970s, the RCC gradually reversed its stance on its initially icy relationship with the Soviet Union and extended Libyan support to revolutionary, anti-Western, and anti-Israeli movements across Africa, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. These policies contributed to a rapid souring of U.S.-Libyan political relations, although economic relations, particularly U.S. oil purchases from Libya, remained steady.
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The Green Book and Qadhafi's Ideology
Beginning in the early 1970s, Muammar al Qadhafi and his regime carried out drastic and frequent reorganizations of Libyan political and economic life in line with his "Third Universal Theory." The theory, which blends pan-Arab, Islamic, and socialist values, is enshrined in Qadhafi's three-volume Green Book. The redistribution of land and wealth, the allocation of fluctuating oil revenues, and a near total decentralization of political institutions reshaped Libya's social landscape in line with Qadhafi's principles. These trends also helped Qadhafi and his supporters maintain political control. Overseas, Qadhafi promoted his political and economic "Third International Theory" as an alternative to the capitalist and communist systems of the United States and the Soviet Union for the developing countries of the Third World. Qadhafi's confrontation with the United States was both a catalyst for and product of the Libyan government's violent and destabilizing activities abroad, Qadhafi's ideological fervor, and his regime's gradual drift into the Soviet sphere of influence.
Terrorism and Confrontation with the United States
In line with his ideological precepts, Muammar al Qadhafi long characterized Libyan backing for anti-colonial, separatist, and Islamist movements and terrorist groups around the world as legitimate support for parties seeking self determination. The United States and others categorically and continuously rejected Libya's policies as unacceptable sponsorship of illegitimate terrorism and subversive violence. In the 1970s and 1980s, U.S. officials cited the existence of training camps in Libya and other Libyan government support for a panoply of terrorist groups including the Abu Nidal organization, the Red Army Faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), and the Irish Republic Army. Libyan-sponsored bombings and assassinations also drew sharp international criticism, especially killings of Libyan dissidents and the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, Libyan-trained individuals led brutal rebel movements across Africa, including Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front in Sierra Leone and Charles Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia. (17)
Qadhafi's Arab-Israeli Intransigence
The Arab-Israeli conflict was another particularly pointed source of tension between the United States and Qadhafi: Libya remained distinctly opposed to negotiation or reconciliation with Israel throughout the cold war era and the 1990s, promoting armed struggle as the only viable means to end Israel's occupation of territory it captured from neighboring Arab states in 1967. At times, Qadhafi's positions led to deep bilateral rifts between Libya and Egypt, particularly under Anwar Sadat, as well as confrontations with PLO leader Yasir Arafat. Qadhafi and his security services provided support, training, and safe harbor for Palestinian terrorist groups until the late 1990s. After a temporary reconciliation with Arafat during the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, Qadhafi returned to voicing complete opposition to the Oslo peace process and called for Arab leaders to avoid further recognition of or negotiation with Israel.
In recent years, Qadhafi publicly has maintained his opposition to Arab engagement with Israel in the face of continued Israeli occupation and settlement activity. He also has called for a "one state solution" based on reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian people within a single state, which he proposes be called "Isratine." In a January 2009 opinion editorial in the New York Times Qadhafi rejected the "tired rhetoric of partition and two-state solutions," and argued that "the compromise is one state for all, an 'Isratine' that would allow the people in each party to feel that they live in all of the disputed land and they are not deprived of any one part of it." (18) Central to Qadhafi's position is the proposal that Palestinian refugees be granted "the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the homes their families left behind in 1948," which is rejected by the Israeli government.
More recent controversy has focused on reports that Qadhafi declined to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to Libya in February 2010; Qadhafi received a telephone …