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Libya - Government


SWEEPING AND FUNDAMENTAL changes were introduced in Libya after Colonel Muammar al Qadhafi and his Free Officers Movement overthrew the Sanusi monarchy on September 1, 1969, and proclaimed the "Green Revolution." Because of the many radical and experimental policies that Qadhafi has tried to implement in Libya, he has been described frequently as a mercurial and quixotic leader. But while Qadhafi's policy making has been unpredictable, it has not been random or capricious. Rather, Qadhafi's political behavior has been dictated by his own elaborate and evolving normative political ideology, which he set forth in his three-volume The Green Book.

The essence of Qadhafi's philosophy is the Third Universal Theory, so-called because it is intended to be an alternative to capitalism and Marxism. The theory calls for the institution in Libya of what Qadhafi calls "direct democracy." In a direct democracy, as envisaged by Qadhafi, citizens govern themselves through grass-roots activism without the mediation or intervention of state institutions or other organizational hierarchies in the military, tribes, ulama, or intelligentsia. In an effort to implement direct democracy, Qadhafi altered or dismantled governmental and social structures. He launched a Cultural Revolution in 1973, instituted "people's power" in 1975, and proclaimed that Libya was a "state of the masses" in 1977. Finally, to emphasize his policy of decentralization, Qadhafi relinquished his own formal governmental position in 1979 and insisted he be referred to simply as "Leader of the Revolution."

The striking innovation in the Libyan political system since Qadhafi came to power resulted from his desire to replace subnational traditional leaders with administrators with the skills needed to modernize the country. The changes were also ostensibly intended to foster egalitarianism, mass mobilization, revolutionary commitment, public participation, and self-determination among Libyan citizens. From a pragmatic perspective, however, the changes served primarily to undermine the authority of traditional or alternate elite groups that posed a potential challenge to Qadhafi's leadership.

It is ironic, then, that the changes intended to enfranchise the citizenry have instead served primarily to bolster Qadhafi's personal power by diminishing governmental checks and balances on his executive power and eliminating all other power bases. In 1987 there was little doubt that Qadhafi remained the country's strongman, the fulcrum of power, and the single most important figure in Libya.

Although Qadhafi in theory advocated dismantling the structure of government, in reality Libya in 1987 had an elaborate and complex bureaucratic structure because the new organizations Qadhafi created had been superimposed upon existing institutions. In 1987 the primary formal instrument of government was the General People's Congress (GPC), both an executive and legislative body, which convened three times annually. The GPC was headed by a small General Secretariat composed primarily of members of the former Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), which was abolished in 1977. A General People's Committee performed the function of a cabinet, replacing the old Council of Ministers. Subnational representation and participation were accomplished through three roughly parallel and overlapping structures: people's committees that were organized at the basic (urban ward or rural village) and municipal levels, Arab Socialist Union (ASU), the only authorized political mass organization; Basic Popular Congress (BPC); and revolutionary committees organized both geographically and functionally. The lines of authority and responsibility among these four bodies were unclear, which occasionally caused intense competition and rivalry within the government. Moreover, in 1987 there were indications that Qadhafi intended to introduce a fifth similar organizational structure in the form of a new political party.

On the international level, Libya sought to foster pan-Arabism and Islamic and Third World solidarity. Initially, Libya advocated positive neutrality, but for pragmatic reasons, soon gravitated toward a close relationship with the Soviet Union. Concurrently, Libya's interpretation of the North-South dimension of global politics emphasized the division between industrialized, resourceconsuming nations and underdeveloped resource producers, a division that, in Qadhafi's view, overshadowed the East-West dichotomy. Libya under Qadhafi played a leading role in the efforts among producing countries to gain full control of petroleum production and to use that production for internal development and as a political weapon with which to reward friendly nations and punish opponents.

Qadhafi is hostile toward the United States and other Western countries because these countries generally support Israel. Because of its anti-Western stance, the Libyan regime gained a reputation for conducting unconventional, belligerent, and aggressive foreign relations. There were frequent and widespread allegations that Libya sponsored transnational terrorist activities, supported dozens of insurrectionary movements worldwide, and assassinated exiled opponents. Just as Libya's domestic policies had resulted in a situation contrary to what Qadhafi claimed he desired, so too had its foreign policy. Qadhafi's maverick foreign policy not only angered Western countries, but it also alienated many of Libya's erstwhile or potential allies in the Third World that were the intended audience of the Third Universal Theory.

Because of the precipitous decline of the oil revenues that had funded Qadhafi's foreign and domestic policies, the dizzying pace of internal change, and the country's image as an international pariah, the regime's viability and durability were questioned. Nevertheless, in late 1987, most foreign observers doubted that a coup d'état was imminent.





Until 1951 Libya was under foreign domination. In November 1949 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a sovereign Libyan state comprising three historically diverse regions: Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan. The UN commissioner for Libya, Adrian Pelt, suggested the formation of a preparatory committee of twenty-one Libyans (seven from each region) to initiate the framing of a constitution. The committee created the National Constituent Assembly, which first met in November 1950 and subsequently formed committees to draft a constitution. On October 7, 1951, the new constitution was promulgated, and on December 24, King Idris proclaimed Libya's sovereignty and independence.

The constitution established Libya as a monarchy; succession was to pass to Idris's designated heirs. Because of its historically distinct regions, the new country was organized as a federation, each region becoming a province and maintaining its own autonomous administration and legislature. Benghazi and Tripoli alternated as the federation's capital. As do many European parliamentary systems, the constitution provided for an executive branch--the Council of Ministers (or cabinet)--headed by a minister and responsible to the lower house, or Chamber of Deputies, of the bicameral legislature. The number of deputies was 55, later increased to 103. The upper house, or Senate, comprised twenty-four members, eight from each province. The king held considerable executive authority; he formally appointed the Council of Ministers and half of the senators and had the right to veto legislation and dissolve the lower house.

The king endorsed legislation, passed in April 1963, that produced a major constitutional revision; the federal form was replaced by a unitary structure that emphasized centralized national authority. Provincial boundaries were erased, and ten smaller governorates (muhafazat; sing., muhafazah) were created, each headed by a governor appointed by the central government. The constitution was also modified to provide for the extension of suffrage to women and for the royal appointment of all senators. Also, whereas the 1951 constitution had vested sovereignty in the nation and declared the nation to be the source of all power, the 1963 revision proclaimed that sovereignty belonged only to God (Allah) and that it was given as a sacred trust to the state, which was the source of all power.

The 1951 constitution, as amended in 1963, remained in effect until September 1, 1969. At that time a group of military officers and men headed by Captain (later Colonel) Qadhafi overthrew the monarchy and proclaimed a republic instead. The supreme organ of the revolutionary regime, the RCC, replaced the existing constitution with the Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969, which was to be superseded by a new constitution at some future, unspecified date. Meanwhile, existing laws, decrees, and regulations not in conflict with the December proclamation remained in effect. The proclamation confirmed the RCC as the supreme authority, officially renamed the country the Libyan Arab Republic, and provided for a system of government. It vested sovereignty in the people, made Islam the state religion, and declared Arabic the official language. Education and health care were specified as constitutional rights.

The December 1969 proclamation declared the Libyan people to be part of the Arab nation, dedicated to "the realization of socialism through the application of social justice which forbids any form of exploitation . . . [The state's] aim is to eliminate peacefully the disparities between social class[es]." Furthermore, the 1969 proclamation charged the state with endeavoring "to liberate the national economy from dependence and foreign influence." Public ownership was proclaimed the basis of social development and selfsufficient productivity, but nonexploitive private property would be protected, and inheritance would be governed by the Islamic sharia. Freedom of opinion was guaranteed "within the limits of public interest and the principles of the Revolution."

On the same day that the RCC issued the December 1969 proclamation, it also issued the Decision on the Protection of the Revolution. The decision established the death penalty for anyone attempting to overthrow the revolutionary regime and stipulated imprisonment for "anyone who commits an act of aggression" against the new government. Aggressive acts were defined as propagandizing against the regime, arousing class hatred among the people, spreading false rumors about political and economic conditions in the country, and demonstrating or striking against the government.

On March 2, 1977, in a novel approach to democratic government, Libya adopted a provision known as the Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority. The declaration changed the official name of the country to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (sometimes seen as Jamahiriyah). The word jamahiriya is derived from the Arabic word "jumhuriya," meaning "republic." Qadhafi coined the word Jamahiriya; it has no official translation but unofficially has been translated as a "state of the masses," "people's authority," or "people's power." According to Qadhafi, the jamahiriya system was to be "a state run by the people without a government," and it heralded the dawn of a new, more advanced stage in humanity's political evolution, just as the phase of republics represented an advancement over the age of monarchies.

<>The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)
<>The General People's Congress
<>Subnational Government and Administration
<>The Arab Socialist Union
<>The Cultural Revolution and People's Committees
<>The Basic People's Congress
<>The Revolutionary Committees


Libya - The Revolutionary Command Council (RCC)


The Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969, designated the RCC as the supreme executive and legislative authority in Libya. The RCC itself was a collegial body in which issues and policies were debated until enough consensus developed to establish a unified position. As the RCC's chairman, however, Qadhafi was the dominant figure in the revolutionary government. Although he lacked absolute authority to impose his will on his RCC colleagues, they generally deferred to him as the primary leader and spokesman.

The RCC appointed the members of the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers was responsible collectively to the RCC, which could dismiss the prime minister individually or accept the resignation of other ministers. The prime ministers's resignation automatically caused the resignation of the entire Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers also was charged with executing general policy in accordance with RCC decisions. When these decisions required new laws, the Council of Ministers drafted legislation for the RCC's consideration. Promulgation was by RCC decree.

After 1969 numerous cabinet shuffles occurred, sometimes in reaction to dissension within the Council of Ministers and threats against the RCC and at other times in attempts to balance or modify the mix of civilian and military members of the cabinet. Qadhafi became prime minister in January 1970, but by 1972 he increasingly left routine administrative tasks to another RCC member, Major Abdel Salam Jallud (also seen as Jalloud), in order to devote himself to revolutionary theory. In July 1972, Jallud assumed the position of prime minister. At the time there was speculation in the foreign press that the new Council of Ministers' composition indicated dissension within the RCC and the diminishing of Qadhafi's authority; these notions proved erroneous, however, at least regarding the latter point. Qadhafi retained the positions of chairman of the RCC, commander in chief of the armed forces, and president of the mass political organization, the ASU, and he personally administered the oath of office to Jallud.

Qadhafi's continuing dedication to revolutionary theorizing led to an April 1974 decree relieving him of his other political, administrative, and protocol duties so that he might devote all of his time to his primary interest. Jallud assumed the functions Qadhafi relinquished; he had already been performing many of them unofficially. Despite the fact that Qadhafi retained the position of commander in chief of the armed forces, speculation again arose that his power and authority were waning. Instead, the RCC decree appeared only to have formalized a division of labor between Qadhafi's theoretical interests and Jallud's practical political and administrative interests--a division that had existed informally for some time.


Libya - The General People's Congress


The executive system comprising the RCC and the Council of Ministers continued to operate into 1977, with occasional cabinet shuffles. In late 1976, Qadhafi emerged from relative isolation to resume leadership of the RCC. On the seventh anniversary of the Revolution, September 1, 1976, Qadhafi introduced a plan to reorganize the Libyan state. The plan's primary feature was a proposal that a new representative body (the GPC) replace the RCC as the supreme instrument of government. A five-member General Secretariat was created to stand at the apex of the GPC.

The details of the plan were included in the draft Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority, adopted by the GPC in extraordinary session on March 2, 1977. The declaration included several basic points: the change in the country's name to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the establishment of popular direct authority through a system culminating in the GPC, and the assignment of responsibility for defending the homeland to every man and woman through general military training.

The GPC also adopted resolutions that designated Qadhafi as its secretary general; created the General Secretariat of the GPC, which comprised the remaining members of the defunct RCC; and appointed the General People's Committee, which replaced the Council of Ministers, its members now called secretaries rather than ministers. For symbolic reasons, initially no secretary of defense was appointed within the General People's Committee, defense having become the responsibility of all citizens.

Since its formation the GPC has met in ordinary session annually, usually for about two weeks in November or December. Delegates numbered over 1,000, somewhat more than 60 percent of whom were leaders of the ASU basic and municipal popular congresses. Other delegates included the members of the General Secretariat of the GPC and the General People's Committee, leaders of the geographically based zone and municipal people's committees, and representatives from functionally based organizations.

With the RCC and the Council of Ministers abolished, all executive and legislative authority technically was vested in the GPC. The GPC, however, formally delegated most of its important authority to its general secretary and General Secretariat and to the General People's Committee. In its December 1978 session, the GPC authorized the General People's Committee to appoint ambassadors, and the secretary of foreign affairs was authorized to receive the credentials of foreign diplomats. The General People's Committee, in accordance with conditions established at the GPC's December 1978 session and on recommendation of the Secretariat of Interior, awards and cancels Libyan citizenship. The GPC retains the power to select the president and judges of the Supreme Court, the governor and deputy governor of the Central Bank of Libya, the attorney general, and other high officials. The suggestions and advice of the GPC General Secretariat and the General People's Committee probably are decisive regarding such appointments, however. The General Secretariat appoints the members of the General People's Committee.

The GPC has the formal power to declare war, ratify treaties with other countries, and consider general policy plans and their implementation. In these and other functions, however, it is again subject to the advice of the General People's Committee and the supervision of the general secretary and General Secretariat, which make the final decisions. Yet it would be inaccurate to dismiss the GPC as a mere rubber stamp. It has functioned as a clearinghouse and sounding board, receiving the views of the masses (through lower level representative congresses, committees, and functional organizations) and transmitting them to the General Secretariat and General People's Committee. Conversely, it transmits the decisions of the national leadership to the masses, encouraging mass participation in the political system and lending legitimacy to General Secretariat decisions and policies through advice and formal approval. Qadhafi served as secretary general of the GPC until March 1979, at which time he once again formally resigned from all his positions to devote himself to revolutionary action and, in his words, to ensure the "separation of the state from the Revolution."


Libya - Subnational Government and Administration


Because of continuing historical and tribal divisiveness, the federation was replaced with a unitary system in 1963, and the three subnational provinces were replaced by ten governorates. The governorates were subdivided into districts (mutasarrifiyat; sing., mutasarrifiyah), each of which was further subdivided into subdistricts (mudiriyat; sing., mudiriyah). Executive heads of these geographical units included the governor (muhaafiz), district chief (mutasarrif), and subdistrict chief (mudir), respectively. Large cities, such as Tripoli and Benghazi, were organized as municipalities, headed by mayors, and subdivided into wards.

All subnational executive administrators were appointed by royal authority on recommendation of the minister of interior and approved by the Council of Ministers. Their appointment frequently was based on tribal and subtribal considerations as well as family prestige derived from the family's historical importance, religious standing and leadership, and wealth. Thus, much of the historical divisiveness that the switch from a federal to a unitary system was designed to overcome was perpetuated in the frequent appointment of members of regional and local elite families as subnational administrators.

Interested in minimizing tribal and regional differences and in encouraging mass participation in the political system, the RCC began modifying the subnational government structure soon after the 1969 revolution. Laws implemented in 1970 and 1971 established the Ministry of Local Government (which assumed some of the duties formerly exercised by the Ministry of Interior), gave local authorities more power to implement policies of the central (national) government, and redesignated some of the names and boundaries of the ten governorates. Selection of chief executives in the governorates, districts, subdistricts, and municipalities remained within the purview of the central government, appointments being made by the RCC on the recommendation of the minister of interior. Lower level administrators were required to meet standardized civil service qualifications.

For the most part, subnational government continued to function as a hierarchical system of administrative links with the central government rather than as a vehicle for popular representation or participation. The RCC as a whole and Qadhafi in particular remained highly critical of inefficient bureaucracy, the lack of commitment to the Revolution displayed by many civil servants and other subnational government functionaries, and the reluctance or inability of the population to participate in the political system. Between 1971 and 1987, subnational government and administration were developed in five major stages in order to correct these deficiencies.


Libya - The Arab Socialist Union


The 1971 creation of the ASU, an imitation of the Egyptian counterpart of the same name, marked the first stage in the drive to modify subnational government. The ASU was envisioned as the direct link between the people and the government (and particularly the RCC). Its purpose was to provide the masses with a system that allowed for participation and representation (thus fostering national unity), commitment to the revolution, and loyalty to the RCC) but that could be carefully directed by the RCC. Resolutions passed by ASU organs required RCC decrees or orders for implementation, and the RCC could annul any ASU decision at any level and dissolve any ASU organ. As chairman of the RCC, Qadhafi became president of the ASU.

The ASU was organized on three tiers: at the basic (or local) level, the governorate level, and the national level. Membership was based on both geography (or residence) and function (workplaces, universities, and government bureaucracies). ASU units at both the basic and governorate level were composed of two elements, the conference and the committee. All local and functional ASU members within a basic area constituted the Basic Conference. The Basic Committee, which functioned as the conference's executive, comprised ten members elected by and from the conference. The committee in turn elected its own secretariat and appointed special subcommittees to investigate matters and suggest policies of local interest. The Governorate Conference consisted of two or more representatives elected from each basic unit, the number of representatives depending on the size of the basic unit's membership. The Governorate Committee consisted of twenty members elected by and from conference members. The committee also elected its secretariat and appointed research subcommittees. ASU university units were equivalent to, and organized in the same manner as, ASU governorate units.

The ASU unit at the national level was the National Congress (sometimes seen as National Conference), an early version of the GPC. It comprised ten, fourteen, or twenty representatives from each ASU governorate unit (depending on the size of the membership of that unit). The National Congress also included members of the RCC and Council of Ministers and delegates from functional organizations.

From its inception, Libyan officials stressed that the ASU was not a political party; rather, it was a mass organization that formed an activist alliance comprising members of various social forces within the population (laborers, farmers, soldiers, women, and so forth) that were committed to the principles of the revolution. Emphasis was placed on "toilers," or workers--initially farmers and laborers--who were to constitute at least half of the membership of all ASU units at all levels. The worker category was later expanded to include--along with farmers and laborers-- professionals, artisans, employees, traders, and students. Intellectuals and nonexploitive capitalists were considered workers at one time but were later excluded. Membership in the ASU was open to anyone from the worker categories who was over eighteen years of age, in good legal standing, of sound mental health, and not a member of the former royal family or associated with the defunct monarchical government. Exceptions in these cases could be granted by the RCC. By the time of the first ASU National Congress in 1972, membership was reported to include over 300,000 of some 1 million eligible persons.

A second stage in subnational government revision occurred with the passage of several laws in 1972. Through these laws the districts and subdistricts were abolished, reducing administrative subdivisions to the governorate and the municipality. (Municipalities could be subdivided into branches and other units, but these were secondary, created only when needed on a municipal council's recommendation to the prime minister.) Certain ministerial prerogatives in administration, finance, and local civil service matters were transferred to the governors and mayors. The functions of the Ministry of Municipalities were reabsorbed by the Ministry of Interior, and the prime minister supervised a system of representative's councils at the governorate and municipal levels, councils that were influenced significantly by the ASU.

Governorate and municipal councils were concerned primarily with implementing national policies and drafting plans and regulations pertaining to the provision of regular and emergency health, education, social welfare, and transportation services, as well as with undertaking development and agricultural improvement projects. A governorate had primary authority over these functions when they crossed municipal boundaries.

Governorate councils comprised both appointed and elected seats. The prime minister appointed ASU members, upon the governor's advice and the ASU's recommendation, to fill ten seats. The popular elections to fill the other seats were supervised by the ASU. The councils also included the area directors of health, education, and other services. Municipal councils were composed of six appointed ASU members, other members of the ASU who were elected through ASU-supervised popular elections, and municipal service administrators. All council decisions were sent to the prime minister, who could reject them. If the council persisted, the matter would be sent to the Council of Ministers for final review. The prime minister also was empowered to dissolve councils.


Libya - The Cultural Revolution and People's Committees


Bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of public participation continued to plague the subnational governmental system. Not only did the ASU organization appear too complex to foster public involvement by the politically unsophisticated masses, but there was the additional problem of poor coordination between the ASU and subnational administrators. In large part to correct these problems, Qadhafi proclaimed the Cultural Revolution on April 15, 1973. The institutional linchpin of the Cultural Revolution was the people's committee, which also was the primary component of the third stage in the development of subnational administration.

Similar in structure to the ASU, people's committees were both functionally and geographically based. Functionally based people's committees were established in universities, schools, private business firms (including foreign-owned oil companies), farms, public utilities, banks, government organs, the broadcast media, and at harbor and airport facilities. Geographically based people's committees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone levels (municipalities being composed of several zones). Direct popular elections filled the seats on the people's committees at the zone level. The zone-level committees selected representatives who collectively formed the Municipal People's Committee; municipal people's committees in turn selected representatives to form the governorate people's committees. Any citizen of at least nineteen years of age was permitted to vote and to run for committee membership, but there were no standardized rules governing the formation of the people's committees, at least at the beginning. This resulted in considerable confusion, particularly when multiple people's committees formed in the same place began denouncing each other. In such instances, new RCC-sanctioned elections had to be called. The deadline for the formation of people's committees was August 1973. Estimates of the number of committees in existence by that time vary from approximately 1,000 to more than 2,000.

According to Qadhafi, people's committees were to be the primary instrument of the revolution. They were to decide what and who conformed to the principles of the revolution, a task that included the purging of government officials (up to the rank of undersecretary) and private executives and managers. Thousands of functionaries were dismissed, demoted, or transferred. In rare cases, executives and other functionaries were promoted. Such actions severely disrupted the orderly operation of countless government offices and private enterprises, so much so that by the fall of 1973 the press and the RCC were publicly criticizing the zeal with which committees substituted unqualified replacements for experienced persons. At no time did the RCC lose control of the situation, however; on occasion it reversed people's committee actions, dismissed individual committee members, and even dissolved whole committees, sanctioning new elections in the process. In a positive sense, the people's committees provided the masses with still more opportunities to participate in the governmental system, and the purges resulted in the replacement of critics (both real and imagined) of the Qadhafi regime by militants who felt more closely linked to the RCC and the revolution.

The people's committees originally were seen as an experiment, but by October 1973 a new law had formalized their existence and set their term of membership at three years. More significantly, the law transferred the authority and functions of municipal and governorate councils to the people's committees at the same levels. The chairmen of the governorate people's committees became the governors; the chairmen of the municipal people's committees became mayors.

During 1974 doubts increased regarding the operation of the people's committees. The Libyan press warned of the danger inherent in the creation of a new bureaucratic class. In early September, an RCC spokesman publicly accused the committee system of degenerating into anarchy and rashness and of deviating from the path of true democracy. New elections for all levels of people's committees were held from September 14 to October 3; some of the existing committees were reelected.

At the 1974 National Congress, Qadhafi stated that the complexity of administrative machinery limited mass interest in political participation, and he called for the removal of obstacles between the people and the government. He believed that policy planning should be centralized but that execution should be decentralized. The congress responded by recommending the abolition of governorates. It also stressed the primacy of the people's committees in administrative affairs and the ASU's supervisory authority over the committees.

In February 1975, the RCC issued a law that abolished the governorates and their service directorates; twelve years later, however many sources continued to refer to the governorates as though they still existed. A separate Ministry of Municipalities reemerged from the Ministry of Interior. Direction of the services previously administered by the governorate directorates--education, health, housing, social services, labor, agricultural services, communications, financial services, and economy--was transferred to nine newly created control bureaus. Each control bureau was located in the appropriate ministry, and the ministry became responsible for delivery of the service to the country as a whole. Another RCC law, issued on April 7, formally established the municipality as the sole administrative and geographical subdivision within Libya. It further stipulated that each municipality would be subdivided into quarters, each quarter to have its own people's committee. The municipal people's committee would comprise representatives from the quarters' committees.


Libya - The Basic People's Congress


The blurred lines of responsibility dividing the ASU (as the organization charged with mobilizing the masses) and the people's committees (charged with being the primary administrative instrument of the revolution) led to minimal cooperation and even conflict between the two systems. Political participation by the population as a whole was lacking, and administration was inefficient. Qadhafi decided that if coordination and cooperation between the ASU and the people's committees were to be increased, and if organized functional groups (especially labor) were to be brought further into an integrated participatory system, still another innovation was required. The fourth stage in modifying subnational government and administration involved a reorganization of the ASU, announced by Qadhafi on April 28, 1975.

Membership in the reorganized ASU was open to all Libyans (except convicted criminals and the mentally ill) as well as to all Arabs living outside Libya. At the lowest geographic level, the submunicipal zone, the population formed the BPC, all citizens within the jurisdiction of a given BPC automatically becoming members of it. By 1987 over 2,000 BPCs had been created. The BPC was headed by an executive or leadership committee of ten members, directed by a secretary (sometimes referred to as a chairman). The leadership committee's function was strictly administrative-- announcing congress meetings, preparing minutes, and setting the agenda. Qadhafi noted that the leadership committees would be selected rather than elected, the results of elections not having been entirely satisfactory in the past. Press reports later announced, however, that ASU elections at all levels were held between November 9 and December 3, 1975 (the term "election" possibly having been used in the broadest sense to include some less direct selection process). Each municipal district was composed of several BPCs. The Tripoli ASU municipal district, for example, comprised forty-four BPCs in 1975. Members of the leadership committees of all BPCs within a given municipal district formed the Municipal Popular Congress. A leadership committee of twenty members was selected by that congress.

Leadership committee chairmen from the BPCs and the Municipal Popular Congress were delegates to the highest ASU organ, the National Congress, which met in 1972 and 1974. Also represented at the municipal congresses and the National Congress were delegates from professional groups and organized labor, a modification in the old form of ASU functional representation based on workplaces. The April 1975 ASU reorganization announcement stipulated that the national representative organ was to be called the National General Congress. A November 13 decree included formal provisions for the new congress, the first session of which was held in January 1976. By the time of its September 1976 session, the national representative body had become the GPC, which had transcended the old ASU National Congress in formal power and purpose.

With the 1975 reorganization of the ASU, the roles of the people's committees and the ASU's BPCs were demarcated, at least theoretically. People's committees were responsible for political matters, and they debated both domestic and foreign policies as presented by the national leadership in the form of a standard agenda. In terms of authority, the political organ was superior to the administrative, the ASU having been assigned supervisory and guidance functions over the people's committees. The GPC, embodying the will of the lower municipal and basic popular congresses, was the highest legislative and executive authority in the country.


Libya - The Revolutionary Committees


Appearance of revolutionary committees in late 1977 marked a further evolution of the political system. In response to Qadhafi's promptings, revolutionary committees sprang up in offices, schools, businesses, and in the armed forces. Carefully selected, they were estimated at 3,000 to 4,000 members in 1985. These supposedly spontaneous groups, made up of zealous, mostly youthful individuals with modest education, functioned as the watchdogs of the regime and guides for the people's committees and popular congresses. As such, their role was to raise popular awareness, to prevent deviation from officially sanctioned ideology, and to combat tribalism, regionalism, self-doubt, apathy, reactionaries, foreign ideologies, and counterrevolutionaries. The formation of the revolutionary committees was a consequence of Qadhafi's impatience with the progress of the revolution, his obsession with achieving direct popular democracy, and his antipathy toward bureaucracy.

The introduction of the revolutionary committees added still another layer to the political system, thus increasing its complexity. The revolutionary committees sent delegates to the GPC. Under Qadhafi's direct command and with his backing, they became so powerful that they frequently intimidated other GPC delegates. Reports of their heavy-handedness and extremism abound. In the 1980s, the "corruption trials" in revolutionary courts in which a defendant had no legal counsel and no right of appeal were widely criticized both at home and abroad. The infamous "hit squads," composed of elements of the revolutionary committees, pursued Qadhafi's opponents overseas, assassinating a number of them. Violent clashes occurred between revolutionary committees and the officially recognized or legitimate people's groups and the armed forces. It became clear by the mid-1980s that the revolutionary committees had frequently stifled freedom of expression. Regardless of Qadhafi's intentions, they had clearly "undermined any meaningful popular participation in the political process," as Lillian Craig Harris, an authority on Libya, observed.




During the period of the Ottoman Empire, a dual judicial system that distinguished between religious and secular matters developed in Libya and other subject countries. For Muslims, the majority of cases--those involving personal status, such as marriage and inheritance--fell within the jurisdiction of religious courts, which applied the Maliki interpretation of Islamic law--the sharia. The courts were organized into both original jurisdiction and appellate levels and each was directed by a qadi, an Islamic religious judge. Secular matters--those involving civil, criminal, and commercial law--were tried in a separate court system. Laws covering secular matters reflected Western influence in general and the Napoleonic Code in particular. Non-Muslims were not under sharia. For example, the Jewish minority was subject to its own religious courts. Europeans were subject to their national laws through consular courts, the European nations having secured capitulary rights from the Turks.

The colonial powers that ruled Libya after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire maintained the dual judicial structure. After Libya achieved independence, however, an attempt was made to merge the religious and secular legal systems. The merger, in 1954, involved the subordination of Islamic law to secular law. Popular opposition, however, caused the reestablishment of the separate religious and secular jurisdictions in 1958.

The 1969 constitutional proclamation provided little guidance for the postrevolutionary judiciary. Equality before the law and presumption of innocence were stipulated, and inheritance was made subject to sharia. The RCC was given the power to annul or reduce legal sentences by decree and to declare general amnesties. Also stipulated was the independence of judges in the exercise of their duties, subject to law and conscience. It was the RCC, however, that promulgated laws.

Judicial independence and the due process of law were respected during the first decade of the postrevolutionary regime, except when political crimes were involved. After 1979, however, the situation deteriorated in direct proportion to the growth of the revolutionary committees.

Qadhafi and other RCC members believed that the separation of state and religion, and thus of secular and religious law, was artificial--that it violated the Quran and relegated sharia to a secondary status. Two postrevolutionary bodies dealt with this situation. The Legislative Review and Amendment Committee, composed of Libyan legal experts, was created in October 1971 to make existing laws conform to sharia. The ultimate aim was for Islam to permeate the entire legal system, not only in personal matters, but also in civil, criminal, and commercial law. The Higher Council for National Guidance was created the next year. Among its philosophical and educational duties was the presentation of Islamic moral and spiritual values in such a way that they would be viable in contemporary Libyan society.

Application of Islamic legal tenets to contemporary law and society presented certain difficulties. There was, for example, the question of the proper contemporary meaning of traditional Islamic physical punishments, such as the severance of a hand for the crime of theft. Debates arose over whether severance should mean actual amputation or merely impeding the hand from future crime by removing need and temptation. The most literal interpretations were adopted, but their actual imposition as legal punishment was very much restricted by exemptions and qualifications, also based on Islamic tenets. A thief's hand would not be amputated, for example, if he truly repented of his crime or if he had committed the theft to feed a starving family. Indeed, numerous observers have reported that the more extreme physical punishments are rarely, if ever, performed.

Court Structure

With the acceptance of the primacy of Islamic law, the dual religious-secular court structure was no longer necessary. In November 1973, the religious judicial system of qadi courts was abolished. The secular court system was retained to administer justice, but its jurisdiction now included religious matters. Secular jurisprudence had to conform to sharia, which remained the basis for religious jurisprudence. In 1987 the court system had four levels: summary courts (sometimes referred to as partial courts), courts of first instance, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

Summary courts were located in most small towns. Each consisted of a single judge who heard cases involving misdemeanors. Misdemeanors were disputes involving amounts up to Libyan dinar (LD) 100. Most decisions were final, but in cases where the dispute involved more than LD20 the decision could be appealed.

The primary court was the court of first instance. One court of first instance was located in each area that formerly had constituted a governorate before the governorates as such were abolished in 1975. Courts of first instance heard appeals from summary courts and had original jurisdiction over all matters in which amounts of more than LD100 were involved. A panel of three judges, ruling by majority decision, heard civil, criminal, and commercial cases and applied sharia to personal or religious matters that were formerly handled by the qadi courts.

The three courts of appeals sat at Tripoli, Benghazi, and Sabha. A three-judge panel, again ruling by majority decision, served in each court and heard appeals from the courts of first instance. Original jurisdiction applied to cases involving felonies and high crimes. Sharia judges who formerly sat in the Sharia Court of Appeals were assigned to the regular courts of appeals and continue to specialize in sharia appellate cases.

The Supreme Court was located in Tripoli and comprised five chambers: civil and commercial, criminal, administrative, constitutional, and sharia. A five-judge panel sat in each chamber, the majority establishing the decision. The court was the final appellate body for cases emanating from lower courts. It could also interpret constitutional matters. However, it no longer had cassation or annulment power over the decisions of the lower courts, as it did before the 1969 revolution. Because there was a large pool of Supreme Court justices from which the panel was drawn at a given time, the total number of justices was unfixed. All justices and the president (also seen as chairman) of the court were appointed by the GPC; most likely the General Secretariat made the actual selections. Before its abolition, the RCC made Supreme Court appointments.

Other Juridical Organs

Some bodies involved in the administration or the enforcement of justice were situated outside the regular court system. For example, the Supreme Council of Judicial Authorities was an administrative body that coordinated and supervised the various courts. It also established the salaries and seniority rules for judges, whom it could transfer or retire. The Council of State, much like the French Conseil d'Etat, delivered advisory legal opinions for government bodies regarding draft legislation and other actions or regulations it was contemplating, as well as contract negotiations in which it might be involved. It also included an administrative court to provide relief in civil cases involving arbitrary or otherwise unfair administrative decisions.

The People's Court

In 1971 a people's court was established to try members of the former royal family, the prime ministers and other officials of the monarchical regime, people accused of rigging elections in behalf of that regime, and journalists and editors accused of corrupting public opinion before the revolution. A member of the RCC presided over the court, which also included one representative each from the armed forces, the Islamic University, the Supreme Court, and the police. Trials and retrials continued at least as late as 1975, when former King Idris was sentenced to death in absentia. An amnesty for some of those sentenced in 1971 was granted by the RCC in 1976.

With matters pertaining to the former monarchical regime having been resolved, it appeared that several people's courts were being used in the late 1970s to try crimes against the postrevolutionary state. In January 1977, a new people's court was formed to try political detainees. The Decision on the Protection of the Revolution, issued December 11, 1969, generally defined crimes against the state as those involving attempted forcible overthrow of the ruling regime or otherwise rallying opposition to it. Such crimes may be referred to a people's court, but plots and conspiracies against the state are usually referred to special military courts created on an ad hoc basis for that purpose. The military courts and the people's courts have been criticized for violating the legal rights of defendants in political cases.

The Revolutionary Courts

In the early 1980s, a separate and parallel judicial system emerged that abrogated many procedures and rights ensured by the traditional court system. With the regime's blessing and encouragement, revolutionary committee members established revolutionary courts that held public, often televised, trials of those charged with crimes against the revolution. A law promulgated in 1981 prohibited private legal practice and made all lawyers employees of the Secretariat of Justice. In these courts, the accepted norms--such as due process, the right to legal representation, and right of appeal--were frequently violated. According to Amnesty International, Libya held seventy-seven political prisoners in 1985, of whom about eighteen were held without trial or remained in detention after having been acquitted. Others allegedly died under torture while in the custody of members of the revolutionary committees. Libya also sanctioned murder of political opponents abroad, a policy reaffirmed on March 2, 1985, by the GPC.

Unions and Syndicates

Immediately after the revolution, the role that labor unions, professional syndicates, and other organized interest groups would play in the new society was in doubt. Regarding labor unions, for example, Qadhafi stated in a November 4, 1969, speech in Tripoli: "There will be no labor unions . . . . Laborers and the revolution are an indivisible entity. There may be certain labor organizations, but only for ordinary administrative duties." On November 30, however, Qadhafi stated in an interview that there was no thought of abolishing labor unions and student organizations, but they must "truly represent their groups with a revolutionary spirit. We do not accept intermediaries between the revolution and its working forces."

After the revolution, most prerevolutionary interest groups were abolished and new ones created. Functioning within the framework of the ASU at first, and the GPC after 1976, the new interest groups lacked autonomy and played an insignificant political role. In January 1976, the ASU National Congress emphasized that political activity was to be solely within the purview of popular congresses. After 1976 labor unions and other associations performed only administrative duties pertaining to the occupations or nonpolitical activities of their members. Strikes have been prohibited since 1972. In Qadhafi's ideology, workers should be transformed into partners; to work for wages is a form of slavery. Therefore, he urged workers to take over companies, factories, and schools and to set up people's committees to manage production and decide priorities. In theory, this system would make labor unions unnecessary.

In fact, however, unions continued to exist. In the mid-1980s, there were some 275,000 members belonging to 18 trade unions, which together formed the Tripoli-based National Trade Union Federation. In addition, separate syndicates existed for teachers, engineers, physicians, lawyers, and other professionals. Other groups represented women and students. The GPC included components of all these units. Although Libyan interest groups did not have a real political role similar to that such groups play in the Western tradition, their responsibilities included contributing to the cultural revolution, raising the revolutionary consciousness of their members, and mobilizing support for national leaders and their policies.

Before the Revolution of 1969, organized labor played a significant role in opposing the monarchy. Yet the union movement was too young to be established firmly, and it had no connection with the military group that overthrew the king. Consequently, unions and most other interest groups have not resisted the limitations imposed within the postrevolutionary framework and the concomitant lack of a real political role. Students have proved an exception, however. Early postrevolutionary enthusiasm for the RCC quickly changed to opposition as a significant number of students reacted against restrictions on the autonomy of student leaders.




It was not surprising that opposition arose to the rapid radical changes ushered in by the Qadhafi regime. The wealthy, the privileged, and the traditional tribal and religious elites resented their postrevolutionary loss of power. The ranks of the opposition also grew to include sections of the armed forces, university students, intellectuals and technocrats, and even some of the new political and tribal leaders who clashed with the core elite for one reason or another.

For its part, the revolutionary regime made it clear from the outset that it would brook no opposition. Opposition from political parties or other interest groups was viewed as harmful to national unity. Speaking in October 1969, Qadhafi stated that Libya needed "national unity free of party activities and division" and that "he who engages in party activities commits treason." The December 1969 Decision on the Protection of the Revolution, the Penal Code, and Law No. 71 of 1972 rendered political party activities a crime and formed a strict legal injunction against unauthorized political activity, particularly if such activity should physically threaten the state. Insulting the Constitution or popular authorities and joining a nonpolitical international society without permission were both punishable by imprisonment. Attempting to change the government or the Constitution through force, propagandizing theories or principles aimed at such action, and forming an illegal group were crimes punishable by death. One of the basic points of the cultural revolution, declared in April 1973, called for the repression of communism and conservatism. Also to be repressed were capitalism, atheism, and the secretive Muslim Brotherhood (see Glossary).

Despite legal strictures and physical attempts to nullify opposition, there has been resistance to the revolutionary regime. The discovery of a plot involving two cabinet ministers (lieutenant colonels who were not RCC members) was announced in December 1969. A second plot, allegedly based in Fezzan and involving a distant cousin of former King Idris, was discovered in July 1970. Participation of foreign mercenaries was alleged in both cases. Other resistance has been encountered from traditional tribal leaders who have not welcomed their own displacement by modernizing technocrats, government administrators, people's committees, and popular congresses. Numerous technocrats and other elements of the urban population opposed Qadhafi's emphasis on religion. Traditional Islamic religious leaders also opposed Qadhafi's approach to Islam because its uniquely personal and fundamentalist nature superseded their intermediary position and interpretive function. As in many other developing countries, aspects of the modernization process--such as education and mass communications-- also result in impatience and dissatisfaction with the ruling regime. Increased education and exposure to the mass media were intended to inculcate Libyan citizens with patriotism and loyalty to the regime; however, through education and the media, Libyans also were informed of standards of living and political freedoms enjoyed elsewhere in the world. Exposure to the media created rising expectations that probably increased demands on the government rather than increasing support for it through propaganda.

Student Opposition

As previously noted, students have been the source of the most visible opposition to the Qadhafi regime. They initially appeared to support the revolution. Friction soon developed, however, when it became clear that student organizations would lose their autonomy within the ASU or GPC framework. The revolution nonetheless continued to have student supporters, and many of the first people's committees formed in the wake of the 1973 cultural revolution were established at universities. Those committees radically altered curricula, dismissed professors and deans, and terminated the school term early so that students could join volunteer projects and receive military training. Seventeen years after the Qadhafi-led coup, students as a whole remained divided between supporters and critics of the revolutionary regime.

A particularly serious incident occurred in January 1976 when students at the University of Benghazi protested government interference in student union elections. Elected students who were not ASU members were considered officially unacceptable by the authorities. Security forces moved onto the campus, and violence resulted. Reports that several students were shot and killed in the incident were adamantly denied by the government. Nonetheless, sympathizers organized more protests. Qadhafi and Jallud, speaking on April 6 at Tripoli University, called on revolutionaries there to drive out the opposition. Some clashes occurred as the newly formed people's committee undertook the purging of nonrevolutionaries. The school was finally closed temporarily and then renamed Al Fatah University. Since that time, there have been intermittent reports of student rebelliousness. In April 1984, for instance, two students at Al Fatah University were publicly hanged. Apparently in revenge, two revolutionary committee members were found murdered on campus. According to Amnesty International, two more students died in 1985, allegedly under torture while in the custody of the revolutionary committees.

Military Opposition

The military remained the most serious threat to the Qadhafi regime. By March 1987, there were signs of disaffection among the officers. In part, this was the result of mounting casualties and setbacks in the Chad war. Such discontent was illustrated by the defection to Egypt in early March of six air force personnel, including a lieutenant colonel. Upon landing at Abu Simbel airfield in Upper Egypt, the airmen denounced Qadhafi's rule and requested asylum.

Qadhafi's calls for a people's army that would eventually replace the professional military evidently disturbed the armed forces. Furthermore, the revolutionary committees often increased their power at the military's expense. In addition, the military resented the revolutionary committees' interference in national security affairs. It was reported, for example, that brief armed clashes between the two groups took place when certain missile positions were unable to respond to the United States air attacks in April 1986 because revolutionary committee members who were supposed to man them could not be found.

That Qadhafi had entrusted the revolutionary committees with the vital mission of manning air defense positions underscored the extent to which he has deployed them to counterbalance the power of the armed forces. It indicated that Qadhafi had learned one vital lesson from the often-turbulent Middle East politics, namely that the military has masterminded most coups d'čtat. In measure to forestall possible coup attempts, military commanders were frequently rotated or forced into early retirement. In 1984, for example, about seventy senior officers were obliged to retire. Despite such precautions, the military had managed to stage most of the attempts against Qadhafi since 1976. Most experts believed that the military was the group most likely to topple Qadhafi.

Religious Opposition

In April 1973, Qadhafi launched the five-point Cultural Revolution. Among the points was the replacement of existing laws by sharia. In a speech on April 28, he asked University of Benghazi law students to help revise the legal codes and repeatedly emphasized the principle of the primacy of Islamic law over other jurisprudence. The traditional religious establishment gave initial support to Qadhafi's restoration of Islamic jurisprudence, but it soon started to oppose his actions, accusing him of pretensions.

First, Qadhafi challenged the traditional role of the ulama (Islamic jurists or scholars) as expert interpreters of the Quran. Because the Quran is written in Arabic, argued Qadhafi, anyone who knows Arabic can understand it. As did Martin Luther's Protestantism, Qadhafi's interpretation of Islam recognizes no need for intermediaries between God and humans.

Furthermore, Qadhafi in effect arrogated a new role to himself- -that of a mujtahid, a Muslim jurist who renders decisions based on the opinions of one of the four legal schools of Islam. In this case, Qadhafi sought to reinterpret the Quran in light of modern conditions and current needs. His insistence on the necessity to sweep aside virtually the entire body of Islamic commentary and learning, including the hadith (the Prophet Muhammad's sayings and precedents based on his behavior), and to limit the legitimate sources of legislation to the Quran alone has caused misgivings throughout the Islamic world.

Moreover, Qadhafi's interpretation of Islam was considered radical. He considered the Quran to be the only source of sharia and community. As did other Muslim reformers, Quran saw deviation from "true" Islamic teachings as the cause of the weakness of Islamic lands, including Libya. Like them, he also called for a return to the source, the Quran. But unlike most other reformers, Qadhafi excluded the hadith and the sunna (the lifestyle and deeds of the Prophet) as reliable sources of legislation. By questioning the authenticity of the hadith, Qadhafi has in effect dismissed the entire edifice of traditional fikh (Islamic jurisprudence). As one scholar, Ann Elizabeth Mayer, put it, "discrediting the hadith entails rejection of by far the greater part of Islamic law." In essence, Qadhafi rejected taqlid (obedience to received authority, i.e., the revelation of God to the Prophet Muhammad) in favor of ijtihad (the right to interpretation).

In 1977 Qadhafi took yet another unprecedented, no less controversial step, altering the Muslim calendar. Instead of starting from the date of the Prophet's migration to Medina, the year began with the date of the Prophet's death. Shocked by Qadhafi's radical reinterpretation of Islam, the ulama accused him of heresy. Characteristically, however, the Libyan leader was undaunted.

The confrontation with the ulama began in the mid-1970s, when they criticized some aspects of Qadhafi's increasingly idiosyncratic and radical ideology. In 1977, for example, the grand mufti (chief religious judge) of Libya criticized the sequestration of private property, which resulted from the new law prohibiting the ownership of more than one house.

The clergy were upset because, in effect, The Green Book was displacing sharia as the blueprint for Libya's political and social development. Furthermore, inasmuch as the Third Universal Theory is purportedly a relevant model for non-Muslim Third World countries, the theory's reliance on Islamic precepts had to be diluted.

Accusing the ulama of siding with the upper classes, in February 1978 Qadhafi warned them against interfering in the regime's socialist policies. A few months later, some mosques were seized and their imams (prayer leaders) replaced by more compliant ones. To undermine further the legitimacy of the religious leaders, Qadhafi blamed the grand mufti for failing to declare a jihad against the Italians during the 1930s. Qadhafi's relentless attacks on the traditional religious establishment succeeded in eroding it hitherto lofty status, thereby removing a powerful center of opposition to regime-sponsored changes.

Apart from conflicts with the traditional religious hierarchy, Qadhafi had a longstanding conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist groups, whose membership went into exile or underground during Qadhafi's tenure. In March 1987, it was reported that nine Muslim dissidents, members of a little-known group called Holy War, were executed for plotting to assassinate Soviet advisers. A revolutionary committee member was assassinated in Benghazi in October 1986 by the hitherto unknown Hizballah (Party of God). As a result, the revolutionary committees began to monitor more closely than before the activities of the mosques, the imams, and the fundamentalists. The country's forty-eight Islamic institutes reportedly were closed in late 1986, apparently to stem the tide of religious, particularly fundamentalist, opposition.

Exiled Opposition

Over twenty opposition groups exist outside Libya. The most important in 1987 was the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), formed in October 1981, and led by Muhammad Yusuf al Magariaf, formerly Libyan ambassador to India. The LNSF was based in Sudan until the fall of the Numayri regime in 1985, after which its operations were dispersed. The LNSF rejected military and dictatorial rule and called for a democratic regime with constitutional guarantees, free elections, free press, and separation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The group published a bimonthly newsletter, Al Inqadh (Salvation).

The LNSF claimed responsibility for the daring attack on Qadhafi's headquarters at Bab al Aziziyah on May 8, 1984. Although the coup attempt failed and Qadhafi escaped unscathed, dissident groups claimed that some eighty Libyans, Cubans, and East Germans perished. According to various sources, the United States Central Intelligence Agency trained and supported the LNSF before and after the May 8 operation. Domestically, some 2,000 people were arrested and 8 were hanged publicly. The LNSF also organized the April 1984 demonstration in London in which a British policewoman was killed by a Libyan diplomat, leading to the breaking of diplomatic relations between Tripoli and London.

Another opposition group, the Libyan Liberation Organization, based in Cairo, was formed in 1982. In 1987 it was led by Abdul Hamid Bakkush, a prime minister during the Idris monarchy. In midNovember 1984, Libyan officials were greatly embarrassed by their premature claims of responsibility for the assassination of Bakkush. In fact, the entire operation was elaborately stagemanaged by the Egyptian security forces, who produced a very much alive Bakkush on television along with members of the four-man hit squad, which reportedly consisted of two British citizens and two Maltese.

Al Burkan (The Volcano), a highly secretive and violent organization that emerged in 1984, has been responsible for the assassination of many Libyan officials overseas. For instance, it claimed responsibility for the death of the Libyan ambassador in Rome in January 1984, and, a year later, for the assassination of the Libyan Information Bureau chief, also in Rome. A Libyan businessman with close ties to Qadhafi was shot dead on June 21, 1984, in Athens during the visit of Abdul Salam Turayki, Libya's secretary of foreign liaison.

Less well-known opposition groups outside Libya were the Libyan Constitutional Union, the pro-Iraqi Libyan National Movement, the Libyan National Democratic Grouping led by Mahmud Sulaymon al Maghrabi, Libya's first postrevolutionary prime minister, and Al Haq, a rightist pro-monarchy group.

The opposition groups outside Libya remained disunited and largely ineffective. Divided ideologically into such groups as Baathists, socialists, monarchists, liberals, and Islamic fundamentalists, they agreed only on the necessity of overthrowing the Qadhafi regime. An initial step toward coordination was taken in January 1987 when eight opposition groups, including the Libyan National Movement, the Libyan National Struggle Movement, and the Libyan Liberation Organization, agreed to form a working group headed by Major Abd al Munim al Huni, a former RCC member who has been living in Cairo since the 1975 coup attempt that was led by another RCC member, Umar Muhayshi. Some observers speculated that because Huni appeared to be acceptable to all opposition groups and in view of his close ties to the military, he may well be the man most likely to succeed Qadhafi. If the Iranian experience offered any insights, the hallmark of the post-Qadhafi era would be a bloody power struggle between erstwhile coalition groups of diverse ideological beliefs. By early 1987, it was by no means clear which faction might emerge as the ultimate victor, should Qadhafi be toppled. It must be kept in mind, however, that the Libyan leader has outlasted many of his enemies, both foreign and domestic.

To deal with outside opposition, the Libyan regime continued its controversial policy of physical liquidation of opponents. On March 2, 1985, the GPC reiterated its approval of the policy of "the pursuit and physical liquidation of the stray dogs." During the 1985 wave of violence, a number of Libyans living abroad were killed or wounded. Among the casualties were former ambassador Ezzedin Ghadamsi, seriously wounded in Vienna on February 28; businessman Ahmad Barrani, killed in Cyprus on April 2; another businessman, Yusuf Agila, wounded in Athens on October 6; and Gibril Denali, a thirty-year-old student living in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) as a political refugee, assassinated in Bonn on April 6. The liquidation policy continued into 1987 when Muhammad Salim Fuhaymah, an executive committee member of the Libyan National Organization, was assassinated in Athens on January 7.

The physical liquidation policy has drawn universal condemnation. However, the impact of the policy, should not be exaggerated. During 1984, there were 4 assassinations of Libyans abroad and between 20 and 120 executions internally. Scholar Lillian Craig Harris, writing in late 1986, stated that since 1980 twenty anti-Qadhafi Libyans had been assassinated abroad.




In the late 1980s, Qadhafi continued to perceive himself as a revolutionary leader. Qadhafi has always claimed that the September 1969 overthrow of the monarchy was a popular revolution, not merely a military coup d'état. In fact, only a few military officers and enlisted men took part in the September revolution. Qadhafi reconciled the apparent inconsistency by stressing that the military--and more specifically the Free Officers Movement, whose members took part in the coup and subsequently formed the RCC--shared the humble origins of the people and represented their demands. Qadhafi depicted the military as the vanguard elite of the people, a concept adopted from Marxist-Leninist ideology. But although Qadhafi wanted to be recognized as a revolutionary leader and justified military domination of Libya with the concept of the vanguard elite, he excoriated communism as well as capitalism.

The wellsprings of Qadhafi's political thought are the Quran and Nasserism. As an ardent admirer of Egypt's Gamal Abdul Nasser, Qadhafi has never wavered in the conviction that he is Nasser's legitimate heir. As such, he felt compelled to advance Nasser's struggle for Arab unity and socialism. Qadhafi was influenced by Nasser's theory of the concentric Islamic, Arab, and African circles of influence. And Qadhafi, like Nasser, was also influenced by the ideology of the Syrian Baath Party, which advocated Arab unity and socialism.

Qadhafi expanded Nasser's political thought by emphasizing the Islamic bases of socialism in that the Quran condemns class domination and exploitation. Qadhafi stated that although Islam "cannot be described as socialism in its modern sense, it strives to a certain extent to dissolve the differences among classes." According to Qadhafi, "almsgiving is the nucleus of the socialist spirit in Islam." Socialism in Libya was to mean "social justice." Work, production, and resources were all to be shared fairly, and extreme disparities between rich and poor were to be eliminated. But social hierarchy, as provided for in the Quran, would remain, and class harmony, not class warfare, would be the result. Qadhafi stressed that this socialism, inherent in Islam, was not merely a stage toward communism, as the Marxist theorists would argue.

For Qadhafi as for Nasser, Arab nationalism took primacy over pan-Islamism. Both leaders can be described as secularists, although Qadhafi increasingly emphasized the Islamic roots of his ideology. Yet, his main interest undoubtedly lay in the secular rather than the sacred world. Revolution, the propagation of The Green Book, mass mobilization, and liberation remained his obsessions. "I love the people, all the people," he proclaimed in a 1986 interview with a French television newscaster published in Jeune Afrique. "I would like the people to vanquish the government, the armies, the police, the parties, and the parliaments," he said in explanation of his notion of direct democracy in which people rule themselves without the mediation of traditional governmental institutions. "I am the prophet of the revolution and not the prophet of Allah," Qadhafi declared in the same interview, "for what interests me in this century is that The Green Book become the bible of the modern world."

The secular basis of Qadhafi's philosophy was emphasized further by the Libyan adoption of the Baath Party slogan of unity, freedom, and socialism. These ideals were embodied in the first revolutionary pronouncement of September 1, 1969, and reiterated in the Constitutional Proclamation of December 11, 1969. They were afterward refined and modified in response to practical Libyan considerations. The ideal of freedom included the freedom of the nation and its citizens from foreign oppression. Freedom was considered to have been achieved by the revolution and the subsequent negotiations that quickly ended the existence of foreign military bases in Libya. The ideal of freedom also encompassed freedom from want of the basic necessities of life and freedom from poverty, disease, and ignorance. In this regard, the ideal of freedom called for the ideal of socialism.

Libyan socialism has succeeded to the extent that social welfare programs have been subsidized by oil revenues. By all accounts, the Qadhafi regime has succeeded to an impressive degree in fulfilling basic human material needs. Libya has also been relatively successful in achieving economic egalitarianism. To Qadhafi, such equality entails abolishing the conventional employer-employee relationship. Wage labor is regarded as a form of slavery. Similarly, to prevent landlord-tenant relationships, no person may own more than one house. Furthermore, because domestic servants are considered "a type of slave," the residents of a house should perform their own household work. To achieve economic justice, the slogans of "partners, not wage-earners" and "those who produce, consume" have been proclaimed and, to a significant degree, established.

The Libyan revolutionary ideal of unity was Arab unity, the cause for which Qadhafi was the undisputed champion after the death of Nasser. Qadhafi believed that, through unity, Arabs had achieved greatness during the Middle Ages, when Arab accomplishments in the arts and sciences had overshadowed European counterparts. He further believed that foreign oppression and colonial domination ended Arab unity; until it was restored, the Arab world would suffer injustice and humiliation, as it had when Palestine was lost. Qadhafi believed that the ideal of unity should be realized through practical steps, initial combinations of Arab states providing the nucleus for some form of ultimate unity. Toward this end he initiated unity schemes between Libya and several other countries, but, as of 1987, none of the schemes had been successful. At the 1972 National Congress, Qadhafi likened the role of Libya in unifying the Arab nation to that of Prussia in unifying Germany and to that of Piedmont in unifying Italy.

Although most Arab leaders share or sympathize with Qadhafi's ideology of Arab unity, most consider as naive his ardent conviction that unity can be accomplished. Despite his transnational orientation, Qadhafi is parochial in his outlook. His beduin background, obviously a critical factor shaping his personality, inculcated a set of values and modes of behavior often at odds with prevailing international norms. Therefore, he has been awkward at diplomatic give-and-take in comparison to other Arab leaders. For Qadhafi, nomadic life is preferable to urban ways because of its simplicity, pervasive sense of egalitarianism, and puritanism unpolluted by modern, largely alien, cultural influences.

<>Third Universal Theory
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Libya - Third Universal Theory


In the early 1970s, Qadhafi began to synthesize and expand his ideas of Arab unity, independence, economic egalitarianism, and cultural authenticity into the Third Universal Theory. The importance of this new theory to the regime was shown by the creation of the Higher Council for National Guidance on September 10, 1972. The council comprised the RCC chairman; the ASU secretary general; the minister of education; the minister of information and culture; the minister of youth and social affairs; the minister of planning, the University of Libya's president; the administrative chairmen of religious endowments; the Muslim Call Society chairman, and the ASU secretary of thought and culture.

The Higher Council for National Guidance was created to disseminate and implement Qadhafi's Third Universal Theory (also seen as the Third International Theory or simply the Third Theory). The Third Universal Theory was predicated on the belief that the two dominant socio-politico-economic ideologies--capitalism and communism--had been proved invalid. According to the theory, capitalism placed the good of a few individuals ahead of that of the community as a whole; communism so emphasized the community that individual development was stifled. Nations constituting what is commonly referred to as the Third World were caught between proponents of the two ideologies: the United States and the Soviet Union, both of which, according to Qadhafi, were "imperialist states which seek to achieve their ambitions by extending their zones of influence."

Qadhafi proclaimed that the Third Universal Theory, because it was based on the Quran, predated capitalism and communism. Furthermore, it offered an alternative. It rejected the class exploitation of capitalism and the class warfare of communism, finding that, in practice at least, systems based on both ideologies were dominated by a small elite. According to the Third Universal Theory, classes were an artificial colonial import. Far from building a system that rested on some form of class relations, the theory sought to eliminate class differences. It embodied the Islamic principle of consultation (shura), by which community or even national affairs would be conducted through mutual consultation in which the views of all citizens were exchanged. This principle was manifested later in Libya in the creation of people's committees and popular congresses.

The Third Universal Theory was an attempt to establish a philosophical grounding, based on Islam, for positive neutrality on the part of Third World nations. Under the theory, Third World states could coexist with the United States and the Soviet Union, and they could enter into agreements with them for their own purposes. But Third World states in general and Arab states in particular should not fall under the dominance of either of the two ideological, imperialist superpowers. In dividing the world between the two superpowers and their supposed prey, the Third Universaal Theory anticipated much of what has come to be called the North-South interpretation of international relations, whereby the world is divided into natural-resource-consuming nations (the industrialized North) and the natural-resource-producing nations (the underdeveloped South). Indeed, Qadhafi has championed this interpretation of international relations. Guided by this viewpoint, Libya has been a strong supporter of national liberation movements against colonial regimes, even though the terrorist tactics used by some groups have tarnished Libya's international reputation and led to economic sanctions and to military attacks in mid-1986.

Central to the Third Universal Theory are the concepts of religion and nationalism as embodied in Islam. Qadhafi believes that religion and nationalism have been the "two paramount drives that moved forward the evolutionary process. They constitute man's history as they have formed nations, peoples, wars." In short, Qadhafi believes that religion determines human actions and interactions.

The atheism of the communists is another reason Qadhafi finds their ideology invalid. According to Qadhafi, communists cannot be trusted because they fear no ultimate judgment and thus may break their word if they consider it beneficial in any particular case. Islam, as the essence of monotheism, is the true religion that encompasses Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of whom followed God's prophets. The differences among these religions exist not because of the prophets' teachings but because of differences among their followers.

According to Qadhafi, if religion is basic to the individual, nationalism is basic to the society. The Quran refers to tribes and nations that are inherent in the universe. A person belongs to a nationality upon birth. Only later does he or she become a conscious member of a religion. Thus, Qadhafi faults those who deny the validity of nationality. His concept of nationality, therefore, relates to his concept of Arab unity.

In this regard, Qadhafi adheres to the traditional, secularly based view of Arab nationalism propounded by such thinkers as Michel Aflaq, a founder and key political philosopher of the Baath Party, and Nasser. For Qadhafi, nationalism takes precedence over religion. In a wide-ranging speech before the GPC meeting in Sabha on March 2, 1987, Qadhafi denounced Islamic fundamentalism as "nonsense" and stated that "no banner should be hoisted over the Arab homeland except the banner of pan-Arabism."


Libya - The Cultural Revolution


Qadhafi was evidently disappointed with the failure of the Libyan populace to embrace and practice the principles of the Third Universal Theory. Characteristically impatient, by 1973 Qadhafi had grown critical of the people's lack of revolutionary commitment. He complained of the general refusal to fill positions in the military or to take jobs in the countryside (for which foreign workers had to be recruited), of students who wished to study only in the United States, and of an increase in the crime rate. Perhaps worst of all to Qadhafi was the apathy and reluctance with which a significant portion of the Libyan people greeted the impending Libyan merger with Egypt scheduled for September of 1973. He contended that such attitudes threatened the revolutionary advances anticipated when the monarchy was overthrown. That action had changed the form of government, but if other fundamental social, economic, and political changes were to be accomplished, the people would have to be rededicated to the Revolution. Thus in an April 15, 1973, speech at Zuwarah, Qadhafi proclaimed the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution comprised five points: the annulment of all existing laws promulgated by the previous monarchical regime and their replacement by laws based on sharia; the repression of communism and conservatism by purging all political deviates--those who opposed or resisted the revolution, such as communists, atheists, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, advocates of capitalism, and agents of Western propaganda; the distribution of arms to the people so that a popular resistance would protect the revolution; administrative reform to end excessive bureaucracy, dereliction of duty, and bribery; and the promotion of Islamic thought by rejecting any ideas that were not in keeping with it, especially ideas imported from other countries and cultures. People's committees were established nationwide to enforce these policies and to control the revolution from below. If the people refused to participate in the popular revolution, Qadhafi threatened to resign, a tactic he had used on several occasions.

In May 1973, Qadhafi discussed the cultural revolution with foreign reporters and tried to stress its dissimilarity from the Chinese Cultural Revolution. According to Qadhafi, the Libyan Cultural Revolution--unlike the Chinese Cultural Revolution--did not introduce something new, but rather marked the return to the Arab and Islamic heritage. It represented a quest for authenticity in that it tried to forge or unearth linkages to the religiocultural foundations of society.

Several experts agree that Libya's Cultural Revolution struck a responsive chord in the Libyan psyche, similar to that struck by the rejection of Westernization in Iran. To a significant extent, Qadhafi's insistence on a foreign policy independent of either superpower, his hostility toward Israel and its supporters, his search for an alternate model based on indigenous Muslim values, and his criticism of bureaucracy and consumerism were shared by the Libyan people. Qadhafi did not appear odd in the Libyan context, despite his image in the foreign media. Instead, as expert Lisa Anderson stated, he was "an uncanny reflection of the average Libyan."


Libya - The Green Book


Qadhafi spelled out his prescriptions for the Libyan Cultural Revolution in his The Green Book, which grew eventually to comprise three slim volumes. Many foreign observers who had compared Libya's Cultural Revolution to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, naturally compared The Green Book to Mao's Red Book. Like Mao's Red Book, The Green Book has been widely distributed both inside and outside the country. Both are written in a simple, understandable style with many memorable slogans. In size, both are rather modest, but their impact cannot be exaggerated. In a sense, The Green Book has vied with the Quran as the basis for Libya's development, much as The Red Book attempted to supplant the Confucian system of thought.

The Green Book, Part I

In April 1974, Qadhafi relinquished his governmental duties to devote full time to ideological concerns and mass organization. A year later, he announced the reorganization of the ASU to include popular congresses, topped by the GPC. In March 1977, the GPC became, at least formally, the primary instrument of government in Libya. The reorganization of the ASU and the elevation of the GPC were carried out in conjunction with Qadhafi's political theories found in his work, The Green Book, Part I: The Solution of the Problem of Democracy.

The Green Book begins with the premise that all contemporary political systems are merely the result of the struggle for power between instruments of governing. Those instruments of governing--parliaments, electoral systems, referenda, party government--are all undemocratic, divisive, or both. Parliaments are based on indirect democracy or representation. Representation is based on separate constituencies; deputies represent their constituencies, often against the interests of other constituencies. Thus, the total national interest is never represented, and the problem of indirect (and consequently unrepresentative) democracy is compounded by the problem of divisiveness. Moreover, an electoral system in which the majority vote wins all representation means that as much as 49 percent of the electorate is unrepresented. (A win by a plurality can have the result that an even greater percentage of the electorate is unrepresented; electoral schemes to promote proportional representation increase the overall representative nature of the system, but small minorities are still left unrepresented.) Qadhafi also believes referenda are undemocratic because they force the electorate to answer simply yes or no to complex issues without being able to express fully their will. He says that because parties represent specific interests or classes, multiparty political systems are inherently factionalized. In contrast, a single-party political system has the disadvantage of institutionalizing the dominance of a single interest or class.

Qadhafi believes that political systems have used these kinds of indirect or representative instruments because direct democracy, in which all participate in the study and debate of issues and policies confronting the nation, ordinarily is impossible to implement in contemporary times. Populations have grown too large for direct democracy, which remained only an ideal until the formulation of the concepts of people's committees and popular congresses.

Most observers would conclude that these organizations, like congresses or parliaments in other nations, obviously involve some degree of delegation and representation. Qadhafi, however, believes that with their creation contemporary direct democracy has been achieved in Libya. Qadhafi bases this conviction on the fact that the people's committees and popular congresses are theoretically responsible not only for the creation of legislation, but also its implementation at the grass-roots level. Moreover, they have a much larger total membership as a percentage of the national population than legislative bodies in other countries.

In many ways, Qadhafi's political ideology is part of the radical strain of Western democratic thought associated primarily with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For, as scholar Sami Hajjar noted, Qadhafi's notions of popular sovereignty are quite similar to the Rousseauian concept of general will. Both hold that sovereignty is inalienable, indivisible, and infallible. Both believe in equality and in direct popular rule. Thus, concludes Qadhafi, "the outdated definition of democracy--democracy is the supervision of the government by the people--becomes obsolete. It will be replaced by the true definition: democracy is the supervision of the people by the people."

The Green Book, Part II

Qadhafi begins The Green Book, Part II: The Solution of the Economic Problem: "Socialism," published in early 1978, with a brief examination of the relationship between workers (producers) and employers (owners). He recognizes that the lot of the worker has been improved dramatically since the Industrial Revolution. The worker has gained fixed working hours, overtime pay, different kinds of leave, profit sharing, participation in management, job security, and the right to strike. Drastic changes have also occurred in ownership, including the transference of private ownership to the state.

Despite these significant changes, however, the basic relationship between the producer, who is a wage earner, and the owner, who pays the wages, is still one of slavery. Even where the state owns the enterprise and the income derived from it reverts to the community, the plight of the wage earner, who contributes to the productive process for someone else's benefit, remains the same. Qadhafi's solution to the problem is to abolish the wage system. Rather than contributing to the productive process for the owner's benefit, or profit, the actual producer should be a partner in the process, sharing equally in what is produced or in the income derived from what is produced.

Qadhafi believes that a person cannot be free "if somebody else controls what he needs" to lead a comfortable life. Thus, each person must fully possess a house, a vehicle, and an income. Individuals cannot be wage earners because someone else would then control their income. They cannot have an extra house to rent, for in renting property they would be controlling a primary need of someone else. According to Qadhafi, "The legitimate purpose of the individual's economic activity is solely to satisfy his [material] needs"; it is not to create a surplus in order to gain a profit. Qadhafi maintains that profit and money will eventually disappear as basic human needs are met. The only provision for a differentiation in wealth is social reward, in which the society allocates to an individual a certain share of its wealth equivalent to the value of some special service rendered.

The 1969 constitutional proclamation recognized both public ownership ("the basis of the development of society") and private ownership (so long as it was nonexploitive). The application of Qadhafi's new views on ownership began a few months after publication of Part II of The Green Book. In May 1978, a law was passed giving each citizen the right to own one house or a piece of land on which to build a house. Ownership of more than one house was prohibited, as was the collection of rent. On September 1, the ninth anniversary of the September revolution, Qadhafi called on workers to "free the wage earners from slavery" and to become partners in the productive process by taking over "the public and private means of production." The takeover of scores of firms followed; presumably the firms were to be controlled by the new people's committees. Still another aspect of the drive against exploitation was Qadhafi's late-autumn ban on commercial retail activity. The Libyan leader advised retailers to enter productive occupations in agriculture or construction. However, the immediate practical result of these changes, was economic chaos and a significant decrease in production.

With regard to land, Qadhafi rejects the idea of private ownership. Drawing a distinction between ownership and use, he argues that land is the collective property of all the people. Every person and his heirs have the right to use the land to satisfy their basic needs. The land belongs to those who till it. To hire farm hands is forbidden because it would be exploitive.

The Green Book, Part III

In The Green Book, Part III: The Social Basis of the Third Universal Theory, published in 1980, Qadhafi reiterates and elaborates his view of nationalism and briefly discusses a few other subjects. Qadhafi argues that whereas Marx maintained that class struggle is the crucial variable accounting for change, it is nationalism that is "the real constant dynamic force of history." Qadhafi draws a sharp distinction between a state and a nation or nation-state. A state "embraces several nationalisms," and sooner or later will disintegrate as various national movements clamor for independence or self-determination. A nation-state, consists of a group of people with a prolonged shared history, a common heritage, and "a sense of belonging to a common destiny." Ideally, "Each nation should have one religion," Qadhafi writes, to avoid the potential for conflicts. He believes that national unity is threatened by the resurgence of tribal or sectarian identities. Qadhafi points to the Lebanese civil war as an illustration of the triumph of sectarianism over nationalism.

Part III of The Green Book also contains a discussion of such topics as the role of women, minorities, and education. "There is no difference in human rights between men and women," Qadhafi declares. But a woman has "a natural role" that is different from the male's, namely motherhood. Children should be raised by their mothers, not sent to nurseries. Furthermore, a woman, who "is created beautiful and gentle," should not be forced by economic necessity or by a misguided call for equality to do a man's work, such as "carrying heavy weights."

With regard to minorities, Qadhafi distinguishes between two types. One type belongs to a nation that provides it with a social framework, but also threatens to encroach on its social rights; the other type has no nation, forms its own social framework, and is destined eventually to constitute a nation by virtue of a sense of solidarity.

Qadhafi also gives his radical views of education. Qadhafi condemns formal education as "an act of dictatorship destructive to freedom because it deprives people of their free choice, creativity, and brilliance." He proposes that "all methods of education prevailing in the world should be destroyed" and replaced with a system where "knowledge about everything is available to each person in the manner that suits them."




Paralleling the swift and fundamental domestic transformations Qadhafi initiated upon coming to power in 1969 were equally radical and controversial foreign policy changes. King Idris had been proWestern , quiescent if not passive, and scarcely interested in panArab issues. Qadhafi, in contrast, was markedly anti-Western, highly activist, and a strong advocate of Arab unity. Although Qadhafi's internal policies could be ignored or tolerated by the rest of the world, regardless of their radicalism, his foreign policies elicited strong resentment and widespread condemnation from many quarters. Even the so-called "progressive" or revolutionary regimes in Algeria, Iraq, and Syria that supported some of Qadhafi's policies opposed his maladroit diplomacy, rhetorical excess, and provocative tactics.

Allegations of Qadhafi's involvement in subversive activities were numerous. Over the years, Libya has been accused of subversion by several Arab countries, including Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. For example, Libyan agents reportedly planned on several occasions to disrupt the pilgrimage at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And for many years Libya supported the mostly Christian rebels in southern Sudan, who are led by John Garang, as against the central government in Khartoum. Many observers linked Libya's lack of restraint in foreign affairs with its oil wealth, which paid for foreign adventures while keeping the domestic population content.

By disregarding the rules of the international political game, Libya became so ostracized and isolated that when the United States bombed Libyan cities in April 1986, only a few countries condemned the action strongly. Potential friends in the Arab world were already alienated by the constantly changing pattern of Libyan alliances.

Nevertheless, Libya was subject to certain practical limitations. Its oil revenues were dependent on the world market and subject to inflationary pressures. Although well armed, Libya's military was undermanned, unable in most cases to support foreign policy initiatives by force. Libyan foreign policy was not so erratic and disjointed as it appeared, however. Instead, it was consistent with, and in large part based on, the initially proclaimed ideals of the Revolution and the developments that followed.

Libyan foreign policy grew from the historical legacy of colonial domination, Nasser's philosophy, and most important, the creation of Israel. Qadhafi's concept of foreign relations has been determined to a large extent by his implacable hatred of Israel and his desire to destroy it. The policy of eradicating Israel either shapes or takes precedence over his ideology. For example, Qadhafi advocates Arab unity not only for ideological reasons, but because of his conviction that a unified Arab nation would be capable of defeating Israel militarily.

Qadhafi's worldwide support of revolutionary and insurgent movements evolved in part from the sponsorship and funding he provided to Palestinian organizations that fought against Israel. Moreover, Qadhafi's antipathy toward imperialism derives less from Libya's struggle against Italian colonialism than from the perceived creation of Israel by the United States and European powers. And, although Qadhafi espouses nonalignment, he has advocated a close Arab relationship with the Soviet Union as a means of obtaining arms to defeat Israel and excoriated the United States because of its support of Israel.

Libyan foreign policy is not, however, dictated entirely by opposition to Israel. Libya's activism in Africa and the Mediterranean basin is motivated by a desire to be a regional power. In the 1980s, Libya's reckless and adventurous intervention in the Third World was driven by QQadhafi's desire to disseminate his Third Universal Theory and his personal aspirations for worldwide recognition.

<>Arab Relations
<>Mediterranean Relations
<>Maghrib Relations
<>Sub-Saharan Africa
<>Western Europe and the United States
<>United States
<>The United Nations


Libya - Arab Relations


Qadhafi has been a leading proponent of Arab unity (qawmiya), calling for a union that would stretch from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. He believes that the members of such a union would have complementary resources: oil and other minerals, manpower, and space for population expansion. Apparently, Qadhafi views this union as taking the form of a strong federation, similar to those of the United States and the Soviet Union, rather than as a unitary state. Qadhafi has said that "it is ironic to see that Americans and Soviets, who are not of the same origin, have come together to create united federations, while the Arabs, who are of the same race and religion, have so far failed to realize the most cherished goal of the present Arab generation." Whether each Arab country's borders are considered sacrosanct or "natural" in some historical sense, over time, particularistic nationalisms have proved too powerful to be superseded by Arab unity.

Pursuing unity on a step-by-step basis, Qadhafi has sponsored or joined ill-fated mergers with Egypt, Syria, and, most recently, Morocco. He also has called on Sudan, Algeria, and other countries to participate in unity schemes. Since 1969 there have been seven unity attempts, all except one initiated by Libya. Less than four months after Qadhafi's coup d'état, Libya joined Egypt and Sudan in signing on December 27, 1969, the Tripoli Charter, which called for the formation of a "flexible federation." On January 1, 1972, the Federation of Arab Republics, consisting of Egypt, Syria, and Libya came into existence. Yet another merger, accepted in principle in August 1972, between Egypt and Libya theoretically took effect on September 1, 1973. The union failed, however, because of disagreements over the timing and objectives of war and diplomatic alternatives to the conflict with Israel. In early 1974, a merger of Libya and Tunisia was proclaimed, only to be repudiated two days later by President Habib Bourguiba of Tunisia. Looking once again toward the Mashriq, Qadhafi and President Hafiz al Assad of Syria proclaimed a unity of their two countries on September 10, 1980. In 1987, however, the unity provisions existed only on paper because neither side was willing to surrender its sovereignty.

Turning his attention to his weak neighbor to the south, Qadhafi in 1981 proposed a merger plan with Chad. Goukouni Oueddei, then in power in N'Djamena, rejected the proposal and this merger plan, like all previous plans, failed to materialize. Since then, Libya's involvement in the Chadian civil war has deepened.

Obsessed by the goal of pan-Arab unity, Qadhafi tirelessly, albeit thus far ineffectively, continued to seek partners. On August 13, 1984, a marriage of convenience between Libya and Morocco was consummated with the signing of the Oujda treaty. At the time of the treaty, Qadhafi was at odds with all the Arab states except Syria and the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen (South Yemen), so the agreement signaled an end to Libyan isolation and revived Qadhafi's ambitions of pan-Arab leadership. The treaty also restored Qadhafi's hope of extending the union to include Algeria and Tunisia as well as Syria. Such a scheme, he thought, could be the nucleus of a more complete pan-Arab union. Not surprisingly, dissolution of this union came as abruptly as its formation. The visit of Shimon Peres, Israel's prime minister, to Morocco in July 1986 provided the main reason for the estrangement.

Despite the failure of unification attempts, Qadhafi condemn Arab leaders who for various reasons opposed such schemes. Because they worked against his purported goal of achieving unity, Qadhafi's resorts to subversion, threats, and meddling in the internal affairs of others proved unsuccessful and costly. Qadhafi's methods have alienated potential cooperators, frightened possible Arab union candidates, and, in the last analysis, isolated Libya in regional affairs. With ambitions of their own, and with differing agendas and priorities, Arab governments have learned, at best, to tolerate the Libyan leader. Many resent his self-appointed role as philosopher-leader of all Arabs. Few, if any, are by temperament given to impetuousness; therefore, they oppose Qadhafi's sudden radical policy shifts. Nevertheless, the pan-Arab thesis championed by Qadhafi, that strength increases with unity, is still valid. It is also widely shared as a goal among Arabs, notwithstanding the aforementioned difficulties.


Libya - Mediterranean Relations


The Mediterranean basin is an area of major importance to Libyan military and political policy. Soon after the revolution, Libya called for the conversion of the Mediterranean Sea into a neutral "sea of peace" through the removal from the area of all foreign naval fleets and military installations, particularly North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bases. Libya repeated the call at the 1973 Algiers conference of the Nonaligned Movement, and other countries, including neighboring Tunisia and Algeria, have supported the idea.

The keystone to Libya's Mediterranean neutralization policy is Malta. During the Anglo-Maltese negotiations in 1972 covering British bases on the island, Libya offered economic assistance to Malta if it would exact a pledge that the bases would not be used again to fly supply missions to Israel (as they had been used during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis and the June 1967 War). The ruling Labour Party government of Maltese Prime Minister Dom Mintoff negotiated such an agreement, and Libyan-Maltese economic relations began to expand. Libya encouraged immigration by Maltese workers, and Malta provided technical training for Libyans.

Libyan-Maltese relations, on the whole, have been cordial. In the 1980s, Libya generally perceived Malta's foreign policy as positive and friendly. Nevertheless, the issue of maritime boundaries between the two countries remained an irritant. It was finally resolved in mid-1985 when the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in favor of Libya. As a result of this decision, Malta lost eighteen nautical miles to its southern neighbor.

While pursuing relations with Malta, Libya continued to develop its overall Mediterranean policy. In mid-1975, Libya and Turkey concluded several cooperative agreements and decided to establish a joint ministerial committee. Plans were formulated to increase the number of Turkish workers in Libya from 6,000 to 60,000 by the end of 1976. The wave of expulsions of foreign workers in the fall of 1985, was evidently politically motivated as some 130,000 people--primarily Egyptians, Tunisians, and Mauritanians--were expelled. Some 50,000 Turkish workers remained in Libya, however, alongside 15,000 workers from the Democratic Republic of Korea (South Korea) despite the obvious closeness of those two countries to the West generally and the United States in particular.

Libyan relations with Cyprus and Greece have been largely harmonious. Late in 1973, Libya established diplomatic relations with Cyprus. Archbishop Makarios, then president of Cyprus, visited Libya in June 1975, where he recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian Arabs. In early 1976 and again in mid-1977, Greece and Libya signed economic and technical cooperation pacts. They also agreed to establish a joint ministerial committee.


Libya - Maghrib Relations


Although some analysts classify Libya as part of the Maghrib, only the province of Tripolitania shares a common history and culture with other Maghribi countries. The lack of a Maghribi heritage, together with the revolutionary government's predilection for Mashriq affairs, has caused the Maghribi area to be of secondary interest to Libya since 1969. In 1970 Libya withdrew from the Permanent Maghrib Consultative Committee, an organization founded by the Maghribi states to foster the eventual development of an economic community. Nonetheless, Libya pursued an active foreign policy toward the Maghrib, a policy that usually revolved around the issues of Arab unity and the Western Sahara dispute.

During a December 1972 visit to Tunisia, Qadhafi publicly called for its merger with Libya. Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba rejected the idea and chided Qadhafi for his youthful naiveté. In January 1974, only a few months after the failure of the Libyan-Egyptian merger, Qadhafi pursued a new unification plan during a meeting with Bourguiba at Jerba. Bourguiba first accepted the proposed Arab Islamic Republic, but then reversed his decision. He later stated that he had agreed only to the concept of eventual Maghribi unification, not to any specific bilateral union at the time. Relations subsequently deteriorated and became more strained in 1975, when Tunisia supported the partition of the Western Sahara territory by Morocco and Mauritania.

In March 1976, Libya began expelling several thousand Tunisian workers. Later the same month, Tunisian authorities announced the discovery of a plot aimed at high government officials (perhaps even Bourguiba) and alleged that Libya was involved, despite Qadhafi's denials. Tunisia later accused Libya of providing military training to opponents of the Bourguiba regime. Now and then, Tunisia (as well as other neighboring countries) has protested against alleged Libyan subversion attempts. In 1976, for instance, Tunisia charged Libya with attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Hadi Nouira. And in February 1980, Libya was accused of instigating the abortive uprising by Tunisian insurgents in the town of Gafsa in central Tunisia, a charge that Libya promptly denied. Nevertheless, diplomatic relations between the two countries were severed.

As Tunisia's economic and political difficulties grew in the 1980s, dissent became more vocal, particularly in the poorer southern region, paving the way for increasing the links between the Jamahiriya and the Tunisian dissidents. Two issues caused problems for the Libyan-Tunisian relationship. The first, concerning maritime boundaries between the two North African countries, was settled by an International Court of Justice ruling in favor of Libya in 1982. The Court reaffirmed its ruling in 1985, at which time it rejected Tunisia's appeal for reconsideration. The second problem resulted from the expulsion from Libya in August 1985, of 40,000 Tunisian workers, partly as a result of the downturn in the Libyan economy as a result of shrinking oil revenues. The expulsions were also partially based on political considerations because Qadhafi has considered expulsions a political weapon with which to threaten uncooperative governments. In retaliation, Tunisia expelled 300 Libyans, including 30 diplomats.

In the early months of 1987, there were signs of improvement in Libyan-Tunisian relations. In March, Major Khuwayldi al Hamadi spent three days in Tunisia as official guest of the government and met with President Habib Bourguiba, Prime Minister Rachid Sjar, and other high-ranking officials.

Libya's closest Maghribi bilateral relationship has been with neighboring Algeria. Both countries share similar revolutionary Arab ideologies, state-controlled economic systems, and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil policies, and both have undertaken Third World leadership initiatives. Furthermore, both countries have comparable relations with the United States and the Soviet Union. Algeria has concentrated on internal development, however, whereas Libya has pursued internal development and external activities almost equally. The two countries' bilateral ties were strained by Libya's 1974 attempt to merge with Tunisia, Algeria preferring to have its borders shared by relatively weak states rather than by states that have been strengthened and enlarged through unification.

Although Libya and Algeria have been allies on the Western Sahara issue, differences in their positions became increasingly pronounced in late 1978. Both countries originally had pressed for Spanish evacuation from the area and supported the local independence group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro (Frente Popular por la Liberacion de Saguia el Hamra y Rio de Oro--Polisario) toward this end. Algeria wanted the area to become an independent state. Libya felt Arab unity would be better served if the area merged with a larger state, preferably Mauritania, with which it had close relations at the time (Libya had been the first country to recognize independent Mauritania; Mauritania was the first country to recognize Libya's revolutionary regime.) Libya opposed the forceful repression of Western Saharan nationalism, however, and when Morocco and Mauritania decided to partition the area by force (Morocco obtaining the larger share), Libya joined Algeria in supporting Polisario's struggle against the two partitioning countries. Together with Algeria and thirty-six other countries, Libya has recognized the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), formed in Algeria in 1976. Libya also supported the SADR's bid for membership in the Organization of African Unity (OAU), along with twenty-five other African states.

Libyan-Moroccan relations have, on the whole, been unfriendly. A wide gulf separates moderate, monarchist, pro-Western Morocco from the revolutionary, pro-Soviet Jamahariya. Rabat has often protested Tripoli's attempts at subversion, for example, during the 1971 military coup attempt. Morocco's foreign policy goals have usually been at odds with those of Libya. Qadhafi, for instance, denounced Moroccan assistance to the government of Zaire when rebels staged an invasion from neighboring Angola. In an abrupt about-face, however, Morocco signed the Oujda treaty in August 1984, which called for unity with Libya.

For Morocco's King Hassan II, the union restored the regional Maghribi balance of power, which had tilted in favor of Algeria, Morocco's main rival and the primary supporter of the Polisario. Algeria consistently supported the right of Western Saharan to self-determination in the SADR. The SADR was proclaimed on February 27, 1976, one day after the Spanish withdrawal. King Hassan put forward his country's claims over the former Spanish-ruled territory, led 350,000 of his citizens in 1975 on a peaceful "Green March" to key areas in the Saharan territory, and subsequently occupied the former Spanish colony.

In view of their sharp ideological differences, the accord between Qadhafi and King Hassan was evidently the result of expediency. The king expected to persuade the Libyan leader to cease supporting the Polisario and wanted access to Libyan oil. For his part, Qadhafi regarded Morocco as a source of human resources and support. Apparently, Qadhafi stopped his support of the Polisario, albeit only temporarily.


Libya - Sub-Saharan Africa


Libya's very active interest in sub-Saharan Africa has been directed toward isolating Israel diplomatically, liberating African countries under colonial or apartheid regimes, providing economic aid to developing African countries, and propagating Islam. During 1972 and 1973, through bilateral relations and membership in the OAU, Libya and other Arab states successfully reversed Israel's formerly strong diplomatic position in Africa. Qadhafi drew a parallel between Israeli occupation of Arab territory and colonialism in Africa and frequently offered significant economic assistance to countries that would sever ties with Israel. By November 1973, twenty-seven African governments had broken relations with Israel, many declaring their support for the PLO in the process.

Libya also has supported numerous black African independence movements, although the extent and nature of the support have not always been clear. Libyan support apparently was significant for Angola (where aid was first extended to Holden Roberto's National Front for the Liberation of Angola, and only later to Agostinho Neto's Movement for the Liberation of Angola, which defeated Roberto's group in a civil war), Guinea-Bissau, and Mozambique in their struggles against Portuguese colonialism. Libya continued to contribute funds to liberation efforts throughout 1978. Some sources report that nationalist guerrillas of both Zimbabwe and Namibia have received direct Libyan aid.

For some time, Libya has had a special, if not always smooth, relationship with Uganda. Libya supported the government of Idi Amin in exchange for Uganda's severance of relations with Israel. (A particularly close bilateral relationship had existed between Israel and the Ugandan regime Amin overthrew in 1971.) Libya came to Uganda's assistance in 1972, and again in 1978, when it airlifted troops and supplies, thus demonstrating a certain degree of logistical capability. The aid proved militarily futile, however, as Libyan troops were routed quickly. For a brief period, the deposed Idi Amin found asylum in Tripoli.


Libya's relations with Sudan, like relations with virtually all other Arab and African countries, fluctuated. Initially, Libya supported Sudanese President Jaafar an Numayri against an unsuccessful leftist coup attempt in 1971. Libya turned over two of the top communist plotters to the Sudanese authorities, who executed them shortly afterward. However, a year later Sudan accused Libya of involvement in three successive coup attempts and severed diplomatic relations. Relations began improving by the fall of 1977, as Numayri and Sudanese opposition leaders began a reconciliation. In February 1978, Libya and Sudan agreed to resume relations but relations soon became strained after Qadhafi condemned Sudanese support for President Anwar al Sadat of Egypt and for the Camp David accords of September 1978.

Libya was particularly annoyed by the steadily improving relations between Sudan and Egypt during the closing years of the Numayri regime, which culminated eventually in an Egyptian-Sudanese integration charter that provided Egypt with an air base in Sudan that could serve as a counterweight to Libyan regional power. Feeling threatened by the Cairo-Khartoum alliance and its alignment with the West, in August 1981 Qadhafi formed the Tripartite Alliance with Ethiopia and South Yemen PDRY, each of which was aligned closely with the Soviet Union.

After Numayri's fall from power in April 1985, Sudanese-Libyan relations improved. Qadhafi ended his aid to the Christian and animist, southern-based, Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) led by Garang and welcomed the incoming government of General Sawar Dhahab. In July 1985, a military protocol was signed between the two countries, and Qadhafi was the first head of state to visit the new Khartoum government. Qadhafi then strongly supported Sudanese opposition leader Sadiq al Mahdi, who became prime minister on May 6, 1986. Nonetheless, the initial euphoria was subsequently replaced by Sudan's search for a truly neutral regional and global stance. With regard to the Chadian conflict, for instance, Mahdi's government declared its neutrality and asked that Libyan forces be withdrawn from Sudanese territory. Prime Minister Mahdi's attempts to mediate the Libyan-Chadian conflict have so far proved unsuccessful, although delegations from the warring factions have met several times during 1986 and 1987, under Sudanese aegis.


In 1975 Libya occupied and subsequently annexed the Aouzou Strip a 70,000-square-kilometer area of northern Chad adjacent to the southern Libyan border. Qadhafi's move was motivated by personal and territorial ambitions, tribal and ethnic affinities between the people of northern Chad and those of southern Libya, and, most important, the presence in the area of uranium deposits needed for atomic energy development.

Libyan claims to the area were based on a 1935 border dispute and settlement between France (which then controlled Chad) and Italy (which then controlled Libya). The French parliament never ratified the settlement, however, and both France and Chad recognized the boundary that was proclaimed upon Chadian independence.

Qadhafi became entangled in factional rivalries among the various Chadian groups. In the late 1970s, it appeared as though Libyan ambitions were being achieved. Goukouni Oueddei, a member of the Tebu Muslim tribe in northern Chad, was installed as president in April 1979 with Libyan support. In January 1981, the two countries announced their intention to unite.

Goukouni's overthrow in 1983 led to further Libyan involvement in Chad. From his Libyan exile, Goukouni reorganized his forces and occupied the strategic northern town of Faya Largeau. As the conflict drew in other players, particularly France, Chad was in effect a partitioned country. With French help, the N'Djamena government of Hissein Habré controlled the southern part of Chad. The area north of the sixteenth parallel, however, was controlled by Goukouni and his Libyan backers. According to the terms of a September 1984 treaty, France withdrew its forces from Chad. Libya, however, decided to keep its troops there, and skirmishes and fighting continued intermittently.

The stalemate in Chad ended in early 1987 when the Habré forces inflicted a series of military defeats on the Libyans and their Chadian allies, at Fada, Ouadi Doum, and Faya Largeau. The press engaged in considerable speculation on the repercussions of these humiliations on Qadhafi and his regime. It was reported that Goukouni was being kept forcibly in Tripoli, and that, as a result of some disagreements with the Libyan leader, he was wounded by a Libyan soldier. Qadhafi's position had clearly been weakened by these developments, and the long-term fighting in Chad aroused discontent in the Libyan army as well.


Libya - Relations with Western Europe and the United States


During the 1980s, Libyan relations with Western Europe and the United States have been generally strained. In the preceding decade, however, relations were relatively cooperative. Although the new regime required the closing of British and American military bases in Libya in 1970, its strident anticommunism pleased the Western powers. This policy orientation was confirmed in 1971 when Libya supported Sudanese President Numayri against an unsuccessful leftist coup attempt. And at the 1973 conference of the Nonaligned Movement in Algiers, Qadhafi challenged the validity of Fidel Castro's credentials as a nonaligned leader.

Qadhafi believed that most West European nations had repudiated their imperialist legacy by the 1970s, a conviction that paved the way for increased trade, if not for cordial political relations. Libyan ties with Western Europe were for the most part commercial. The Federal Repubic of Germany, for example, was a major purchaser of Libya's petroleum exports. Libya also purchased some military equipment from Western Europe, notably from France. Libya developed extensive commercial relationships with Italy and Great Britain. Commercial ties prospered for pragmatic reasons even as Qadhafi denounced the European Economic Community's trade relations with Israel and with NATO bases in the Mediterranean. On only several occasions have Libyan political considerations overridden the economic imperative, as in 1973 when Libya joined the Arab oil boycott that adversely affected several West European nations. For their part, the West European nations have likewise continued to trade with Libya despite proved Libyan involvement in terrorism on the continent.


Libya - France


Libya developed particularly close relations with France after the June 1967 War, when France relaxed its arms embargo on nonfront -line Middle East combatants and agreed to sell weapons to the Libyans. In 1974 Libya and France signed an agreement whereby Libya exchanged a guaranteed oil supply for technical assistance and financial cooperation. By 1976, however, Libya began criticizing France as an "arms merchant" because of its willingness to sell weapons to both sides in the Middle East conflict. Libya later criticized France for its willingness to sell arms to Egypt. Far more serious was Libya's dissatisfaction with French military intervention in the Western Sahara, Chad, and Zaire. In 1978 Qadhafi noted that although economic relations were good, political relations were not, and he accused France of having reverted to a colonialist policy that former French president Charles de Gaulle had earlier abandoned.

In the 1980s, Libyan-French discord centered on the situation in Chad. As mentioned, the two countries found themselves supporting opposite sides in the Chadian civil war. In late 1987, there were some French troops in Chad, but French policy did not permit its forces to cross the sixteenth parallel. Thus, direct clashes with Libyan soldiers seemed unlikely.


Libya - Italy


Italy was one of Libya's major trading partners in the late 1970s. Relations with Italy, however, have been somewhat mercurial. In 1973 Libyan aircraft strafed an Italian combat vessel patrolling an area in the Mediterranean where an earlier dispute had led to the detention of Italian fishing trawlers. Libya officially apologized for the strafing incident and relations improved in 1974 with Jallud's visit to Italy and the conclusion of several commercial and technical agreements. However, there were three more incidents involving Italian fishing boats operating near the Libyan coast in December 1975. Earlier that year, British press reports alleged that Libya was funding radical Italian political groups.

Despite these frictions, relations improved in 1975 because agreement was reached regarding compensation for property lost when Italians left Libya under pressure after the 1969 revolution. A major commercial transaction was completed in December 1976; Libya purchased more than 9 percent of the stock of the Fiat Company, placing 2 representatives on Fiat's 15-member board of directors in the process. Increasing pressures were brought on Fiat, Italy's largest privately owned firm, by the Italian government and Western interests to buy back Libyan-owned stock shares, which by 1986 amounted to a 15.2-percent share in the firm. The Libyan government-owned Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company agreed to divest itself of the stock in September 1986, presumably to generate revenue of over US $3 billion to compensate for lower Libyan oil revenues.


Libya - Britain


Britain's relations with postrevolutionary Libya were strained because of the close political, economic, and military relationship the British had cultivated with King Idris. After Qadhafi came to power, Britain suspended sales of military equipment, and Libya nationalized British Petroleum's interests, ostensibly in retribution for perceived British complicity in the Iranian occupation of three Persian Gulf islands. Libya supported Malta during that country's negotiations regarding British military base leases. Libya also allegedly supported the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Nevertheless, in an October 1978 address in Tripoli, Qadhafi stated that there were no differences so severe as to preclude the establishment of good relations with Britain.

However, British-Libyan relations deteriorated markedly during the 1980s. A critical point was reached in 1984 when a British policewoman was killed by a gunman inside the Libyan People's Bureau (embassy) in London. This incident led to the breaking of diplomatic relations. Further discord followed the arrest of six British citizens in Libya, evidently in retaliation for the arrest of four Libyans in <"http://worldfacts.us/UK-Manchester.htm"> Manchester on charges stemming from March 1984 bombings in London and Manchester. Relations plummeted when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher permitted United States aircraft to use British bases on April 15, 1986, for a strike on Libyan cities.


Libya - United States


In the 1980s, Qadhafi came to regard the United States as the leader of Western imperialism and capitalism. He vigorously condemned several United States policies--including military and economic support for Israel and support for a political settlement in the Middle East; resistance to the establishment of a new world economic order between resource producers and consumers; and support for relatively conservative, Western-oriented countries of the Third World, particularly Arab and African states. Since the Revolution, United States-Libyan relations have been limited to relatively modest commercial and trade agreements.

Libya has attempted to influence the United States through American oil companies operating within Libyan boundaries. Constant pressure on the companies concerning pricing and government participation eventually resulted in the Libyan state's assumption of a controlling interest in some firms and nationalizing others. The United States was the primary target of the oil boycott that Libya and other Arab states invoked after the October 1973 ArabIsraeli War.

In addition to conflicts caused by Libyan oil policies, the United States and Libya have disagreements over Libyan claims to territorial waters. Since 1973 Libya has considered the Gulf of Sidra as territorial waters. Beyond that, Libya claimed another twelve nautical miles (approximately twenty kilometers) of territorial waters. The United States refused to recognize Libya's claim, and this refusal became a recurrent cause for contention between the two countries. Under President Jimmy Carter, the United States armed forces were ordered not to challenge Libyan claims by penetrating into the claimed territory, even though relations deteriorated when, on December 2, 1979, the United States embassy in Tripoli was burned by demonstrators apparently influenced by the takeover of the United States embassy in Tehran. President Ronald Reagan's administration, however, was determined to assert the principle of free passage in international waters.

In 1981 President Reagan began taking action against Libya. On May 6, 1981, the Reagan administration ordered the closing of the Libyan People's Bureau in Washington, and twenty-seven Libyan diplomats were expelled from the United States for supporting international terrorism. Then, on August 19, 1981, two Libyan SU-22 fighters were shot down by United States F-14 jets during naval maneuvers in the Gulf of Sidra. In December President Reagan called on the approximately 1,500 American citizens still living in Libya to leave or face legal action. In March 1982, oil imports from Libya were embargoed and technology transfer banned. In January 1986, Libyan assets in the United States were frozen as part of a series of economic sanctions against Libya.

United States-Libyan tensions erupted in April 1986. On April 5, Libyan agents planted a bomb in a Berlin nightclub frequented by United States service personnel. The explosion killed 2 people, 1 an American serviceman, and injured 204 others. In retaliation, on April 15, the United States launched air strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi. As a result, a number of Libyan civilians, including Qadhafi's adopted infant daughter, were killed. Observers speculated that the attack was intended to kill the Libyan leader himself.

The air strikes were certainly intended to encourage the Libyan military to overthrow Qadhafi. However, the air strikes were opposed by virtually all segments of the population, who rallied behind their leader. Moreover, not only did Qadhafi thrive on the public attention but his determination to stand up to a superpower threat appeared to have enhanced his stature. Even the major opposition group abroad, the LNSF, denounced the use of force by foreign powers in dealing with Libya, as did the London-based Libyan Constitutional Union. In 1987, a year after the raid, it was still unclear whether the raids had succeeded in countering terrorism. Observers were not certain whether Libya had actually adopted a new policy with regard to supporting terrorism, which seemed to have diminished considerably, or merely learned how to avoid leaving fingerprints.


Libya - The United Nations


Libya actively used regional and international organizations in pursuit of its foreign policies. Indeed, independent Libya was established in large part by UN actions. A member of the UN and most of its specialized agencies, Libya frequently brought such matters as colonialism and racism in Africa, Western imperialism, and North-South economic relations before the General Assembly. Libya also used the UN as a forum in which to attack Zionism and the state of Israel. Libyan pressure was a primary factor in the acceptance of the PLO's representation of the Palestinian Arabs at the UN. Libya took an active part in UN affairs. For example, in November 1975, Qadhafi called for the abolition of the veto right held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The following year, the Libyan press singled out United States' use of the veto for special criticism. Also in November 1975, the Libyan agriculture minister demanded the expulsion of the United States and Israel from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. In March 1978, Libya took strong exception to the posting of UN peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon after the Israeli invasion of that area. The Libyan position, according to a GPC communique, was that "any acceptance of UN forces in the land adjacent to our occupied Palestinian land...[would mean] acceptance of the Zionist presence and the bestowing of legitimacy on it."


CITATION: Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. The Country Studies Series. Published 1988-1999.

Please note: This text comes from the Country Studies Program, formerly the Army Area Handbook Program. The Country Studies Series presents a description and analysis of the historical setting and the social, economic, political, and national security systems and institutions of countries throughout the world.

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