The Libyan government has announced that it will pay $2.7
billion in compensation to the families of the 270 victims of the
1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing, including 189 Americans. The compensation offer
is expected to result in a UN Security Council resolution calling
for the lifting of sanctions against Tripoli, which have been in
place since 1992 (the sanctions were suspended in 1999 after Libya
surrendered two officials indicted for organizing the Lockerbie
bombing). The resolution is likely to be sponsored by Britain; the
Bush Administration has indicated that it may abstain rather than
The lifting of sanctions on Libya at this time
would be a grave mistake. Libya remains a growing threat to US
national interests and international security. This would be
appeasement of a brutal and dangerous regime, and would send
completely the wrong message to other rogue regimes across the
Qadhafi Denies Responsibility
Under the Libyan offer, each victim is to receive $10 million:
$4 million to be paid when UN sanctions are lifted; $4 million once
US sanctions are lifted; and $2 million when the United States
takes Libya off the State Department's list of state sponsors of
Despite the compensation offer, Libya's head
of state Colonel Muammar Qadhafi refuses to accept personal
responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, and continues to maintain
his own innocence and that of his regime. The Libyan leader has a
visceral hatred of the United States and as late as 1999 compared
America to Nazi Germany, claiming, "Libya is a victim of American
While Libya's offer of compensation is a step
in the right direction, it would be wrong for the Bush
Administration to accede to Libyan demands that this be linked to
the lifting of UN or US sanctions and the removal of Libya from the
State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. This would
be appeasement of a brutal and dangerous regime, and would send
completely the wrong message to other rogue regimes across the
world. It would undermine many of the steps taken by the United
States since September 11 to combat the threat posed by rogue
states. There should be no negotiation with terrorist regimes.
There are several key reasons why the United
States should oppose the UN lifting of sanctions against Libya, as
well as the lifting of US sanctions.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Despite growing international concern, Libya is attempting
to develop weapons of mass destruction. Undersecretary of State
for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton has
described Libya as a "rogue state" and a major potential threat to
In a 2002 speech
to the Heritage Foundation, Bolton warned that Libya was
continuing to build up its chemical and biological weapons
programs. The Libyans are also actively trying to develop their
ballistic missile program, with the assistance of North Korea,
China, Serbia and India. If Libya continues to receive
international assistance, it may achieve extended-range SCUD or
Medium Range Ballistic Missile capability. In addition, according
to Bolton, "Tripoli's nuclear infrastructure remains of concern",
although Tripoli would require significant international assistance
in order to acquire a nuclear weapon.
Support for International Terrorism
Libya is one of seven regimes listed by the State Department as
state sponsors of terrorism. The country has a long
history of support for terrorist groups in the Middle East and more
than thirty terrorist groups worldwide. Libya provided arms,
funding, and training for a wide variety of Palestinian terrorist
groups (Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Democratic Front
for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine-General Command, and the Abu Nidal group), as well as the
Kurdistan Workers Party, the Colombian terrorist group M19, the Red
Brigades in Italy, and assorted other terrorist groups in Japan,
Turkey, Northern Ireland, Thailand and elsewhere.
Libya was caught red-handed sponsoring a
terrorist attack against Americans in 1986, when it bombed a German
discotheque frequented by American servicemen, killing two
Americans. The Reagan Administration retaliated by bombing Libyan
targets on April 15, 1986, narrowly missing Qadhafi himself.
Although Libya has not been caught red-handed in launching
terrorist attacks in recent years, it has not closed down all of
its terrorist training camps and could resume its terrorist
activities as soon as it finds it convenient to do so.
In addition to its involvement in the
Lockerbie bombing, Libya is also responsible for the 1989 bombing
of a French passenger jet in Niger, which killed 170 people. A
French court convicted in absentia six Libyans, including the
brother in law of Colonel Qadhafi, for carrying out the bombing.
Libya offered to pay a paltry $33 million in compensation to the
Support for African Dictators
Colonel Qadhafi has for many years suffered from delusions of
grandeur regarding his position on the international stage, and
sees himself as the natural leader of a future United States of
Africa. In order to advance this goal he has played an important
role in propping up some of the continent's worst dictators, whom
he sees as his natural allies.
Tripoli played a prominent role for example in
arming and training former President Charles Taylor of Liberia. As
recently as July, Taylor is reported to have visited Libya in order
to restock on arms and ammunition.
Appalling Human Rights Record
Despite its ludicrous chairmanship of the UN Commission on
Human Rights, Libya remains one of the most repressive regimes in
the world, along with North Korea and Iran.
Since coming to power in 1969, Colonel Gadaffi
has built up a reputation as one of Africa's most brutal and
thuggish dictators. As the State Department's annual report on
'Human Rights Practices' points out, the Libyan regime suppresses
domestic opposition, tortures prisoners, arbitrarily arrests and
detains its citizens, and refuses detainees a fair public trial. It
also greatly restricts freedom of speech, press, assembly and
religion, and is even accused of trafficking in human slavery.
Libya's record on economic freedom is equally
poor. According to the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal
Index of Economic Freedom, Libya's quasi-Marxist economy is
the fifth most repressive in the world, and the least free in the
whole of Africa with the exception of Zimbabwe.
Don't Lift Sanctions
- The Bush Administration should oppose both
the lifting of United Nations sanctions and US sanctions against
Libya. The lifting of either would not serve the US national
interest, and would set a dangerous precedent.
- Libya should remain on the State Department
list of state supporters of terrorism until it has closed its
terrorist training camps, punished the officials involved in
supporting terrorism, and cooperated in dismantling the terrorist
groups that it formerly supported.
- Colonel Qadhafi should continue to be held
accountable for the Lockerbie bombing and other terrorist
- The US should not restore diplomatic
relations with Tripoli until it has satisfactorily proven that it
has permanently halted its support of terrorism.
- Washington must increase pressure on Libya to
sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and Biological Weapons
Convention (BWC) and open its biological and chemical facilities to
- The US should pressure China, India, Serbia
and North Korea to halt nuclear cooperation with Libya.
- The United States must reserve the right to
use military force against the Libyan regime if it continues to act
as a state sponsor of terrorism or poses a threat to US and
The lifting of sanctions on Libya at this time would be a grave
mistake. Libya remains a growing threat to US national interests
and international security. The suspension of UN sanctions against
Tripoli has enabled Libya to step up its biological, chemical and
ballistic missile programs. A total lifting of UN and US sanctions
could have disastrous results and would send entirely the wrong
message to other rogue regimes.
Nile Gardiner Ph.D. is Jay Kingham
Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs, James Phillips is
Research Fellow in Middle Eastern Affairs, and Peter Brookes is
Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs, at the Heritage
agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was found guilty of carrying out
the bombing by a Scottish court in 2001, and sentenced to life
Quoted by Lady Margaret
Thatcher, in Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World
(London: HarperCollins, 2002), p.233.
US sanctions against
Libya began in 1982, and were expanded in 1986. The Iran-Libya
Sanctions Act was passed in 1996 and amended in 2001.
See the CIA
Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology
Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional
, 1 January through 30 June 2002. http://www.cia.gov/cia/reports/721_reports/jan_jun2002.html
'Beyond the Axis of
Evil: Additional Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction', Lecture
by the Honorable John Bolton to the Heritage Foundation, Washington
DC, May 6, 2002. http://www.heritage.org/Research/MissileDefense/HL743.cfm
The State Department's
list of state sponsors of terrorism includes Cuba, Iran, North
Korea, Syria, and Sudan.
See Brett Schaefer,
Libyan Fox in the Human Rights Henhouse
Foundation, August 22, 2002.