is a country more than twice the size of Spain on the north coast of the great land mass of Africa, bounded by Tunisia and Algeria to the west, Niger and Chad to the south, and Egypt to the east. The only truly arable part is near the coast at Tripolitania, where the climate is Mediterranean. Inland the ground rises to a desert of limestone rock. The north-west region dominated by Cyrenaica is high tableland, lightly-wooded. To the south, the grown is low and mostly sand, though oases can be found. The south of the country lies within the Sahara Desert: to the west, however in the Fezzan region, there are large oases in otherwise naked, stony plains and scrub-covered hills.
Libya’s economy is, as everone knows, dominated by crude oil. There have been attempts made to diversify development, such as the ambitious effort made to bring water from the Mediterranean to the south, but the brave attempt was extinguished by dire political problems which themselves reduced the previously high flow of oil revenues. As a result industry is principally connected to petroleum by-products. Agriculture is restricted by the aridity of most of the country. In 1989 Libya joined the Maghreb Union, a trading agreement based in the north-west African states.
Libya has been inhabited during most of its history by Arab and Berber nomads. Both Greek and Roman settlements existed on the coast deep into antiquity. Under Arab dominance the cultivated area changed into desert. The Turks administered Libya from the 16th century until annexation by Italy following a brief war in 1911/12. But the Italians, like the Turks, never succeeded in asserting their authority over the nomadic Sannussi tribesmen of the interior desert.
During the Second World War Libya was bloodily fought over by the Axis powers and the Allies. It became an independent monarchy in 1951 under Emir Sayyid Idris al-Sanussi, who in turn gave the USA military and air bases in 1954. Radical Islamic officers included a young Sandhurst-trained soldier called Muammar Quaddafi (or Gaddafi) who overturned Idris in a military coup during which the Emir and his family died.
Gaddafi emerged as Dictator of Libya and promptly began using the extraordinary wealth produced by oil revenues to strengthen the country’s military might, and interfere in the affairs of other states. It is said that Libya proceeded to finance terrorism in Ireland, Spain and South America. It is certain that Libya seized the Aouzou Strip in the north of Chad in 1973, and no peace existed in either country until 1994 – twenty-one years of unrest.
Gaddafi and Libya’s interference in foreign matters spoiled their foreign relations with Western states. Libyans were encouraged to hate the Demon West. Armed confrontations with US forces were inevitable and in April 1986 US airstrikes against Tripoli and Benghazi occurred.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, however, Gaddafi condemned his fellow Arab state, though he maintained neutrality. Again Libya clashed with the United States (and Britain) in 1992 when Gaddafi refused the extradition of two Libyans accused of organising the blowing-up of an American PanAm airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, which killed many, including Scottish people who died as a result of the crash.
In April, 1992 the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions, which were tightened a year later, an act which affected the oil economy of Libya. The Colonel began to behave, according to the West, like a dangerous mad dog, but he was still carismatic and popular, at that time, with the people of Libya.
Recent history has shown that dictators can usually survive if they control, but do not kill their fellow countrymen. When Colonel Gaddafi became known after the year 2000 as a money-crazed fanatic who dressed peculiarly, educated his many children in British and US private schools and military academies, regularly pronounced diatribes on his television channels against the West in general, advised fellow Arab states to declare war on the West, and ordered his soldiers to open a murderous fire on dissidents in the streets. It was decided by the US, Britain and France, not necessarily in collusion with the EU, to assist a growing revolutionary movement in Libya aimed at removing Gaddafi and his family from power.
After a protracted and sanguinary period of (nearly) civil war, the supporters of Gaddafi were defeated by the Libyan people aided by western powers. With most of his children killed or fled to friendly powers, Gaddafi was himself captured and horribly lynched by his own countrymen. Democratic elections are being arranged as part of ‘The Arab Spring’, an attempt to extinguish dicatorial rule in all the Arab states.
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