Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Leaked Cables on Arab/Islamic World: John McCain's Trip to Libya

(August 10, 2009)

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contain background information ahead of Senator John McCain's visit to Libya in which he met with dictator Muamar Ghaddafi. The cables show that the U.S. was looking to normalize relations with Libya in 2009.





TRIPOLI 00000648 001.2 OF 003

¶1. (SBU/NF) Summary: Embassy Tripoli warmly welcomes your visit and believes it will be an important occasion to advance the bilateral relationship in several key areas. Following the signature of the U.S.-Libya Comprehensive Claims Settlement Agreement in October 2008, the United States and Libya established full diplomatic relations, including the exchange of Ambassadors in January 2009 for the first time in 37 years. The normalization of relations has provided the United States and Libya with increasing opportunities to push for progress in areas of mutual concern, such as counterterrorism efforts, military-to-military cooperation, regional stability in greater Africa, and trade and investment. However, significant challenges remain, particularly in ensuring Libya meets its disarmament commitments and in encouraging the government to expand political space through a human rights dialogue. We believe it would be very helpful if you emphasized to your Libyan interlocutors the importance the U.S. places on progress in these key areas, and share your vision of how the relationship could develop once outstanding issues are resolved. End summary.

¶2. (SBU/NF) Your visit represents the highest-level visit by a U.S. Government delegation since former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's historic and well-received visit in September ¶2008. The Libyan Government is taking great pains to ensure that you have a positive experience as well, and will be listening for cues on the future direction of the relationship. Your visit comes just three weeks before the 40th anniversary of Qadhafi's coup on September 1, and falls within a year of unprecedented international prominence for Libya and for Muammar al-Qadhafi. Qadhafi, who sees himself as a man of particular historical importance, currently holds the chairmanship of the African Union (AU), and is expected to lead his country's delegation to New York this fall, as his country takes on the presidency of the 64th UN General Assembly. Qadhafi has leveraged his position as AU Chair to improve Libya's relations with European nations, paying recent state visits to France, Russia, and Italy, among other nations. As a sign that he has normalizedrelations with Libya's former colonial ruler, Qadhafi will host Silvio Berlusconi for a Libyan-Italian "Friendship Day" at the end of the month. A meeting with POTUS on the margins of UNGA would be the capstone of Qadhafi's historic year, but Embassy and high-level State Department officials have emphasized that Libya must take specific actions to move forward the bilateral relationship prior to a potential meeting.


¶3. (SBU/NF) Libya's decision to give up its WMD programs and to renounce its support for terrorism opened the door for a wide range of cooperation in areas of mutual concern. Libya has acted as a critical ally in U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and Libya is considered one of our primary partners in combating the flow of foreign fighters. Our strategic partnership in this field has been highly productive and beneficial to both nations. We have begun some successful training programs to assist Libya in improving its security capabilities, under the rubrics of anti-terrorism assistance and border security. However, the government has not wanted to commit to participate in the Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) due to an incorrect perception that TSCTP is a regional organization, designed to provide U.S. foreign assistance to countries in need. Libya is very sensitive to receiving foreign aid, insisting that it is not a needy country but rather a patron nation of others. We believe it would be helpful if you could clarify the importance of TSCTP for obtaining congressional funding for bilateral security programs in Libya.

¶4. (SBU/NF) Libya has stated its number one priority, in return for relinquishing WMD, is a security guarantee by the U.S. against foreign aggression. To that end, Libya has expressed an interest in purchasing lethal weapons from U.S. firms. It would be helpful if you could provide congressional perspectives on lethal sales to Libya and the security commitments that must be fulfilled prior to any U.S. consideration of lethal sales. The GOL has also expressed a desire to receive in operational order the eight C-130 planes that Libya purchased in the 1970's, which were never delivered to Libya. Although the USG views the case as a strictly commercial matter between Libya and Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the C-130s, the aircraft are stored at a U.S. airbase, and the U.S. Air Force is encouraging Lockheed Martin to propose a compromise. Notably, the GOL has
not yet agreed to end-use monitoring or security of U.S. technology agreements - two necessary steps for expanded TRIPOLI 00000648 002.2 OF 003 military-to-military cooperation, such as International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs.


¶5. (SBU/NF) Progress in other areas of the bilateral relationship will depend on Libya's continued progress toward fulfillment of its WMD-related commitments. The U.S. is ready to launch a civil-nuclear dialogue as a framework for discussing ways in which we can expand our nuclear cooperation in areas such as the establishment of a Regional Nuclear Medicine Center, cooperative threat reduction, scientist engagement and redirection programs, and civil-nuclear engagement. However, we are unable to consider expanded cooperation until Libya makes good-faith efforts to meet the following critical deadlines for destruction and/or disposal of its WMD and related materials:
-September 2009: Transfer of highly enriched uranium fuel to Russia, and beginning destruction of SCUD Bs;
-2010: Conversion of Rabta chemical site to a pharmaceutical plant, and destruction of precursor chemicals;
-2011: Destruction of mustard agent.

¶6. (SBU/NF) The most pressing issue remains Libya's signing of the agreement to transfer its highly enriched uranium to Russia for treatment and disposal, an action that must be taken prior to August 15, 2009, if Libya is going to meet the September deadline for disposal. The GOL is keenly interested in the establishment of the Regional Nuclear Medicine Center as an example of the success of the bilateral relationship. Your interlocutors may raise the issue of U.S. funding for the Regional Nuclear Medicine Center, which is a request that the Department of Energy is currently preparing for submission to Congress.


¶7. (SBU/NF) Libya's strategic geographical position and current role as chair of the African Union make it a significant player on the continent. Libya has thus far cooperated with U.S. efforts to foster peace in Darfur and a foundational effort to forge a ceasefire between Sudan and Chad. The USG continues to support Libya's efforts within the AU Peace and Security Commission to promote good governance and rule of law. Qadhafi has used his role as Chair of the African Union to attempt to mediate conflicts in the sub-Saharan region, to include Sudan-Chad, Somalia, and Eritrea-Ethiopia. Libya hosted an African Union Summit in July, during which it advocated to strengthen the AU, and it is preparing to host another summit on regional peace and security on August 31.

¶8. (SBU/NF) As Qadhafi has broadened his engagement as an African leader, he has notably minimized his efforts to affect policy in the Arab world. Nevertheless, he continues to tout his vision for a one-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians: "Isratine." The Libyans will appreciate any information you would like to share regarding how Congress views Africa, the Arab world in general and the Middle East peace process in particular.


¶9. (SBU/NF) Human rights remains a sensitive topic in the bilateral relationship, particularly in the wake of Fathi el-Jahmi's death in May. The Libyan Government has agreed to host an interagency team of USG officials August 17-19 to launch a bilateral Human Rights Dialogue. This first meeting will set the agenda for the dialogue, which will include general discussion on a broad range of issues, such as international conventions to which both the U.S. and Libya are party; refugees and migration; prisons and detention facilities; international bodies and international NGOs; as well as specific cases of concern from both sides. The USG delegation will be led by the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and will include representatives from the NSC, OVP, and State Department. The Embassy views this dialogue as an important step forward in our relationship. It would be very helpful if you could share your views on the importance of human rights to bilateral engagement.

¶10. (SBU/NF) The Government of Libya has not officially raised the case of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi with the Embassy at any level. We do not expect the issue to be raised during your visit, but if it is, we believe the most helpful response would be to note that this is an issue for the Scottish Executive and that it would not be constructive to discuss the case as a bilateral issue. Libya requested compassionate release for Megrahi on July 24, but the Scottish courts have not yet issued a decision on granting his release.


¶11. (SBU/NF) As part of our effort to expand relations and facilitate greater people-to-people exchanges, Embassy Tripoli began full non-immigrant visa services in April 2009.
Unfortunately, we have not seen reciprocal movement on the Libyan side. The Embassy is coordinating a bilateral working group with GOL counterparts to discuss visa issues, including non-issuance of visas to U.S. diplomats and official visitors, business travelers, and tourists. It would be helpful if you could underscore with Libyan officials the importance of a fully normalized visa regime to the implementation of fully normalized relations with the United States.

¶12. (SBU/NF) Libyan officials may complain about Department of Homeland Security regulations and practices governing the way that they are received at U.S. ports-of-entry. Libyan travelers - including senior Government officials, in contravention of DHS procedures - are routinely pulled into secondary questioning due to Libya's status as an NSEERS country. DHS regulations dating back to 1983 also prohibit the travel to the U.S. of Libyan nuclear scientists and aircraft pilots and mechanics. Libyan officials may not be aware of these latter regulations, but they must be changed in order to move forward on the full range of civil-nuclear and security cooperation that we envision.


¶13. (SBU/NF) The Embassy has received positive signs from the Libyan Government regarding your requested meeting with Qadhafi. Your visit will be seen as an important opportunity for Libya to prove that it is worthy of respect as a bilateral partner. Qadhafi will be looking to you for insight into how Congress views Libya and the future of the bilateral relationship. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide in pushing forward our strategic agenda. We look forward to welcoming you in the Libyan Jamahiriya.

Sources: Wikileaks