Archive for the ‘Libya’ Category

Qaddafi Wants to Abolish Switzerland

September 8, 2009

Later this month, Libya will introduce a proposal at the UN calling for the abolition of Switzerland as a nation-state.  Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi wants the Central European country to be divided between France, Italy and Germany, with the French-speaking region going to France, the Italian speaking region going to Italy and the German-speaking region going to Germany.  Qaddafi’s proposal is believed to be an angry response to the actions of Swiss authorities, who arrested his son, Hannibal, last year and charged him with assault (Hannibal was later released on bail).

This is not the first time that Mr. Qaddafi has tried to redraw the political map.  At various times he has called for the political unification of all Arab nations and all African nations, and the creation of a confederacy of Islamic states.  In this vein, he has referred to himself as “dean of the Arab rulers”, “king of kings of Africa”, and the “imam of Muslims”.  He is now the chairman of the African Union, a position held by African leaders on a rotating basis, and in this capacity he reiterated his desire to create the “United States of Africa”.  Naturally, other countries have resisted Mr. Qaddafi’s attempts to subsume them under his leadership.

Libya and the West

August 27, 2009

Many in the West were outraged by the boisterous welcome that convicted terrorist Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi received when he returned to his native Libya, an event that received wide media coverage.  Megrahi is considered a hero by many Libyans who believe his conviction and imprisonment in Scotland constituted a miscarriage of justice. 

Some may be surprised that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, who heads an authoritarian regime, would risk alienating the international community  by allowing such a celebration.  During the past decade, Libya has tried to reengage with the West after many years of being a pariah state.

Tensions between Libya and the West began shortly after Qaddafi came to power in 1969 following a military coup.  Qaddafi kicked Western oil workers out of his country, and he evoked further ire when he sponsored a terrorist attack on a Pan Am passenger jet in 1986.

But in recent years Qaddafi has apoligized for the Pan Am incident and financially compensated victims’ families.  He also abandoned Libya’s nuclear weapons program and opened up his country to Western businesses. 

Although Western officials criticized the public celebration of Megrahi’s release, it is unlikely that European governments will punish Libya by imposing significant economic sanctions because they want access to Libya’s oil and other sectors of its economy.  Some observers believe that Megrahi’s release was part of a financially-motivated deal between the British government and Qaddafi’s regime, and that belief is supported by Saif al Islam el-Qaddafi, the dictator’s son, who suggested that such a deal was made.

Qaddafi is therefore free to pander to a domestic audience and other African countries that have suffered from European colonialism.  He is a self-described revolutionary socialist who has tried to use his current position as head of the African Union to promote pan-Africanism as a means of increasing Africa’s influence in international affairs vis-a-vis the West.  In this light, it is understandable why Qaddafi allowed such an ostentatious celebreation of Megrahi’s release.

Libyan Terrorist Released

August 20, 2009

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was convicted of plotting the bombing of a Pan Am jet that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, has been released from prison by Scottish authorites.  Megrahi was released on humanitarian grounds because he is dying of cancer.  He is returning to his native Libya.

The release of Megrahi was strongly opposed by the US, which lost 188 citizens in the terrorist attack.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several prominent senators, including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, officially protested the move.

The Megrahi issue highlights the different views taken by the US and European countries about how to treat convicted terrorists.  The US tends to adopt a “lock them up and throw away the key approach,” putting convicts in prison for the rest of their lives, whether they be foreigners or American citizens.  European nations have often pursued a different approach, believing that many terrorists can be rehabilitated and should receive shorter sentences.  Germany released most Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhoffterrorists whose goal was to spark a communist revolution and overthrow the government.  Spain has freed members of ETA, a Basque separatist group that killed civilians as well as members of the security forces.  Italy did the same thing with people in the Red Brigades, a Marxist organization.  Some countries outside of Europe also attempt to rehabilitate terrorists, including Saudi Arabia, which has released militants closely linked to Al Qaeda after they participated in rehabilitation programs. 

It should be noted that the US has sent some Guantanamo detainees to their home countries to be dealt with by foreign governments, but none of the men released had been convicted of crimes.

Analysts such as Douglas Fraser have suggested that the British government was motivated by economic interests when it decided to release Megrahi.  There are major opportunities for British firms in the financial services, oil, construction and health sectors of the Libyan economy.  Libya is also a large supplier of oil and natural gas, and European leaders undoubtedly see the African nation as an alternative energy source vis-a-vis Russia, which is viewed as an unreliable supplier.  However, it is impossible to know if Fraser’s claims are true.