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May 29, 2011

Libya The Struggle for Survival


May 29, 2011

A banker by profession, Salim Ansar has a passion for history and historic books. His personal library already boasts a treasure trove of over 7,000 rare and unique books.
Every week, we shall take a leaf from one such book and treat you to a little taste of history.
BOOK NAME: Libya The Struggle for Survival
AUTHOR: Geoff Simons
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Press Ltd - Great Britain
The following excerpt has been taken from Pages: 296 299
Third World countries such as Libya and Pakistan could become targets of American strategic nuclear missiles under secret plans being drawn up by the Pentagon.
The Sunday Times
9th February 1992
In 1953 Libya became a member of the Arab League. In 1954 air bases were granted to the USA. In 1955-56 concessions for oil explorations were granted to American Oil companies. In 1955 Libya became a member of the UN. A University was opened and a National Bank established. Oil was discovered in 1959. By July 1960, 35 oil wells were in production. On 25th October 1961, a 104-mile pipeline was opened from Zelten to Marsa al Berga. On December 1962, important changes towards greater centralization were introduced in the administration. The capital was shifted to Al-Baida. The executive councils of the provinces were changed into administrative councils. Oil developments have changed the face of the economy of the country from dependence on the leasing of bases. Apparently a great future is in store for the country.
The elected 1964 Libyan Parliament was dissolved by King Idris were dissolved on February 13, 1965 as the result of complaints about irregularities in the election procedure.
The withdrawal of the British troops stationed in Tripolitania took place in February and March 1966. Britain retained certain facilities at Idris airport near Tripoli, small detachments at Benghazi, Tobruk and the RAF staging post of El Aden, to the south of

Tobruk. Discussions on the eventual withdrawal of the remaining British and American forces stationed in Libya were initiated after the Israeli aggression of 1967. Libya charged US with helping Israel in six-day war against Arab countries and asked for evacuation of the US Wheelus Air base by 1971.
The first crude oil moved in January 1967 through 320 mile pipeline from the Sarir oilfield to Tobruk, where it was loaded on British tankers. The flow was halted in June 1967, when Libya joined the Arab oil boycott of Britain and the US, but was soon resumed thereafter. The Libyan Government agreed to make annual contribution towards the economy of Egypt and Jordan totalling £ 30 million to alleviate the consequences of the war. In 1968 Libyan oil output increased by about 50 per cent and the country became, after only 71/2 years, the second largest oil producer in the Arab World.
On September 1, 1969 a military coup was staged in Tripoli while the king was in Turkey for medical treatment. Within a few days the new regime gained complete control of the entire country. The Revolutionary Command Council initially remained anonymous but was soon revealed as a group of young army officers, the leader, Muammar Qaddafi being only 27. The revolution was very soon completely accepted by the people of Libya. In January Col. Qaddafi himself became Prime Minister and several of his colleagues also joined the cabinet. The new regime, which had already been accepted by the people of Libya soon received recognition from the rest of the world.
The first confrontation between Libya and the United States (1801-5) resulted from the US refusal to increase payments of tribute to the pasha of Tripoli for the protection he offered against pirate raids. At that time the trade between Europe and North Africa (the Barbary states) was flourishing: stones were obtained from Leptis Magna for the building of Versailles and St Germain des Pres. The Barbary states derived a substantial income from their pirate ships as well as from the wide-ranging commerce that served as an extension of Turkish naval strategy in the region. The activities of the pirates were supported by local rulers, such as Yusuf Karamanli of Tripoli, who provided political support and an effective market for the pirate loot. The rulers in turn benefited from the acts of piracy, acquiring treasure and produce from the seized European and American ships, and obtaining slaves and hostages for their own purposes: erstwhile crews could be forced into labour or sold as hostages. It was difficult to defeat the pirates in naval confrontation since they were relatively close to their own bases and in any case enjoyed the support of the local tribal leaders. The other option was for traders (or their governments) to pay protection money: in 1799 the administration of President John Adams began the practice of paying annual tribute to the local rulers in North Africa to guarantee immunity for US merchant ships. At that time Yusuf Karamanli was receiving $18,000 a year for that purpose.
In September 1800 the frigate George Washington was sent by Adams to Algiers with tribute for the dey, the Ottoman sultan s representative. Captain William Bainbridge was then ordered by the dey of Algiers to carry an ambassador and tribute to the sultan in Constantinople. Bainbridge refused, whereupon the dey declared: You pay me tribute, by which you become my slaves. I have a right to order you as I may think proper. Bainbridge, under threat of death, was forced to accept the mission, a prelude to further demands that would be made by the local potentates. Early in 1801 Karamanli increased the annual tribute to $250,000, which, quite apart from representing a considerable burden on the US treasury, began to dent American pride. President Thomas Jefferson objected to having to pay protection money to distant pashas and pirates, and so decided to result to the type of military means that had worked well elsewhere in settling disputes with foreigners.
In 1804 Jefferson sent a fleet of US ships to punish the Barbary pirates and their protectors, but efforts to blockade Tripoli and the rest of the Libyan coast were generally seen as unsuccessful. The US frigate Philadelphia was trapped outside Tripoli when the ship hit a shoal whereupon the crew and vessel were captured by the Libyans. In February a commando raid led by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur succeeded in infiltrating the harbour and blowing up the Philadelphia, so rendering it unusable by the Libyans as a gunship guarding the harbour. This early raid by the US Marine Corp inspired the words from the shores of Tripoli in their celebrated hymn. The raid, successful in its mission, stimulated resistance by the Libyans and prolonged fighting began. The American ships subjected Tripoli to a massive bombardment with Karamanli, supported by the Ottomans and the Knights of St John, well protected by thick walls. The crew of the Philadelphia were set the task of reinforcing the ramparts while the fighting continued.
The US government then sent reinforcements. The former US consul in Tunis, Cyrus Eaton, was asked to carry out a plan for the overthrow of Yusuf Karamanli and to put his older brother Hamed in his place (Hamed was ambitious and prepared to accept help from any quarter). In 1805 Eaton, Hamed and a bunch of mercenaries marched with the US marines from Alexandria westwards across six hundred miles of desert. The US ships continued to bombard the coast, and in due course the mixed military force managed to capture the Cyrenaican port of Derna. Karamanli then perceived the wisdom of negotiations, dropping his demand for regular tribute payments but asking $60,000, half his original demand, for the ransom of the Philadelphia crew. The United States, though denied outright victory, decided to accept the deal and brought to an end the American support for Hamed (puppets could always be abandoned with shifts in US policy). A qualified success had been achieved, though the Libyans had managed to secure some further bounty. The pirates continued to operate off the Barbary coast; and US operations against the corsairs were staged until 1815.
For well over a century the United States had little further interest in the area. It was not until the Second World War, when the Allied armies fought against the Axis forces in North Africa, that Americans would again confront Libyans, this time the collaborators with Benito Mussolini. This in turn led to the US acquisition of the Italian airbase that was to be renamed Wheelus Field, a secure site until the collapse of the pro-West Idris monarchy.
When Gaddafi assumed power in Libya in 1969 he moved quickly to attack what he saw as the nation s colonial inheritance. In 1970 the property of Italians and non-resident Jews was appropriated; the Italian Foreign Minister Aldo Moro - later assassinated by the Red Brigades supported, some say, by the Libyans - protested but the expropriations went ahead and much of the 13,000-strong Italian community left the country in the summer of 1970. At the same time Gaddafi was snubbing the West by insisting on an improved price for oil, and urging the colonial powers to vacate their military bases in Libya. In September 1970 Gaddafi broke off diplomatic relations with the pro-West King Hussein of Jordan after Jordanian troops had attacked Palestinian guerrillas in Jordan. By 1971 Gaddafi had nationalized foreign banks and imposed various regulations on other foreign companies operating within the country. Diplomatic ties with another pro-West government, that of King Hassan in Morocco, were broken off after Gaddafi gave premature support to an anti-monarchy coup attempt. However, the Western policy had not yet settled down into its resolute anti-Gaddafi mode. The United States was prepared to tolerate and even support the new Libyan regime: Gaddafi was, after all, just the sort of authoritarian anti-communist that Washington tended to welcome on the world stage. For a time Gaddafi enjoyed some US support, being allowed to purchase western weapons and even being warned against coup attempts. The honeymoon did not last long.
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