Mansour El-Kikhia: Gadhafi's Deals Tempting To Bush|
Mansour El-Kikhia: Gadhafi's deals tempting to Bush
San Antonio Express-News
Web Posted : 01/16/2004 12:00 AM
Libyans are suffering under Moammar Gadhafi's tyranny, and nothing distresses them more than seeing Western society claiming high ideals yet simultaneously succumbing to their oppressor's charms.
The Libyan dictator has made President Bush an offer few policymakers can afford to refuse. Bush is fighting the urge to follow Europe's enthusiasm for Gadhafi's peace overtures. That includes billions of dollars in compensation for his terror victims, the renunciation of terrorism and the destruction of his nonexistent weapons of mass destruction.
However, as far Bush is concerned, perhaps the best offer is the use of the Libyan dictator's overtures as proof that his war against terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is succeeding.
Libya is a major supplier of energy to Europe, where it controls the fuel cycle from Libya's oil fields to the gas tanks. Europeans have been working hard to bring Libya fully within their influence. Today their major goal is to commit Libya to the Mediterranean Action Plan, or MAP, and the Barcelona Protocol dealing with regional environmental and economic issues.
Bush can take solace that Gadhafi is interested in the United States and not Europe. The European governments, including Britain, have never suspended economic ties with the Libyan dictator.
Hence, the fuss the European Union is making about "a new chapter in the relationship with the Colonel" emanates from the desire to ensure Libya deepens its European links. The European Union is concerned by America's attempts at coercing Egypt and Morocco to choose between a free trade agreement with the United States or the European Union. It cannot afford to lose the economies of the southern half of the Mediterranean. Gadhafi has flirted continuously with the Europeans but has never taken them seriously. He is aware that they need him much more than he needs them.
America is the only nation capable of threatening his dynasty and opposing his grandiose plans for the domination of Africa, which is not as silly as it might sound. Africa is in such desperate economic and political conditions, along with world neglect, that whatever Gadhafi is willing to spend will go a long way in creating either peace or war on the continent.
Bush is still a political novice, but he is learning. He took credit for Gadhafi's "rehabilitation" but has not removed the sanctions. It is highly doubtful that he can resist re-establishing relations with the dictator for too long. The pressures on him are too strong from too many sources.
Among those pressures:
Gadhafi has structured the Pan Am compensation package to extract concessions from the United States. Each victim's family gets $10 million ($4 million when U.N. sanctions are lifted, $4 million when U.S. sanctions are lifted and $2 million when Libya is removed from America's list of terrorist-supporting nations). He informed the families and the U.S. government that his offer is valid only to May 8.
U.S. oil companies claim to have lost $70 billion since 1986 and are itching to get back in. Also, American giants such as Halliburton, Bechtel and Boeing want a slice of the Libyan pie. Gadhafi has tied concessions and re-entry into Libya to the lifting of U.S. sanctions.
Some policymakers and advisers maintain that America's national interest necessitates new links with the reformed dictator. That's the same argument they used in the past to justify relations with Saddam.
Spinmeisters of the administration exert pressure. One example is Richard Perle, who advocated last week in an interview carried by Arab media that Gadhafi's son take over leadership. Why he superciliously assumes that Iraqis want to be free of dictatorship but not Libyans is a mystery.
Whether Bush re-establishes relations with the dictator will depend on whether Bush's "blindness" is in the eyes or the heart.
Mansour El-Kikhia, a Libyan who fled the Gadhafi dictatorship, can be reached at: