Libya’s unpredictable ruler Muammar Qaddafi has set his heart on a state visit to Washington in early 2007. He is holding out a basketful of tempting assets for the privilege. Revealing this, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington and African sources divulge some of the jewels he is offering to win hearts at the White House:
Support for US war on terror, oil policy: He promises the visit will be the platform for an eloquent and powerful vote of support for his host US President George W. Bush’s global war on terror and his campaign against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (especially after the North Korean nuclear test.)
He is willing to open the door wide for American investment in the development of new oil fields in Libya and the overhauling of its oil industry. Qaddafi will also champion Washington’s position on OPEC’s price and production strategy.
Lavish military purchases: The White House and Pentagon have been informed about Qaddafi’s plans for a shopping spree in America for weapons systems to replace his armed forces’ Russian and European equipment from top to bottom.
He is talking in terms of thousands of Abrams and Bradley tanks, hundreds of bombers, fighters, spy planes, sea planes, helicopters and drones for his air force; miscellaneous naval craft, as well as missiles and radar and electronic systems – all made in America.
The figures he cites are astronomical, running into dozens of billions of dollars. Qaddafi is willing to sign plummy contracts on camera at the White House.
African assets: The Libyan ruler is offering to make available to Washington his considerable influence in Africa. He says he can draw Mali president Amadou Toumani Toure and Niger President Mamadou Tanja out of the Francophone bloc of nations and ease them into a closer rapport with Washington.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Africa report he has begun telling his African neighbors: Stop listening to Paris, paid heed to Washington. Paris is using your dependence on the French currency to exploit you economically and your natural resources.
The Elysee Palace, according to our Washington sources, is not taking the poaching on French preserves lying down. President Jacques Chirac has asked the White House to call Qaddafi off. The Americans shrugged and advised him to address his complaints to Tripoli as they had neither initiated nor encouraged Qaddafi’s anti-French campaign.
But the Libyan ruler is pushing on.
The immediate entourages of the two African rulers are riddled with his agents, as are the military and security services of many other African regimes. By now, Qaddafi can claim a deeper penetration and greater influence in African power centers than the French government.
The Bush administration appreciates the Libyan ruler’s potential usefulness in helping out on some the most agonizing African issues and in promoting American interests on the Dark Continent. The Darfur conflict in Sudan is one example; curbing Iran’s thrust into Sudan and other parts of Africa is another.
Libyan agents are everywhere; they are deeply penetrated in the ruling, military and intelligence apparatuses of many African countries; they are also very close to the Arab tribal leaders of Darfur on the Sudanese and Chadian sides of the border. Libyan influence is also strong in Sudan’s military and intelligence elite.
While the Bush administration does not exactly approve of Qaddafi’s methods of gaining influence, the Darfur calamity has spun out of United Nations and Western control and there is no denying that the Libyan ruler’s offer to tackle Khartoum as a last resort in a desperate situation cannot be refused.
Arab-Muslim assets: DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources reveal that early September, Tripoli suddenly shut down the stipendiums, allocations and subsidies which for many years were the main source of subsistence for thousands of institutions, think tanks, media, periodicals, newspapers and associations across the Arab and Muslim world.
Hundreds of salaries were lost overnight.
The most prominent feature of Qaddafi’s list of disqualified beneficiaries was their radical anti-Americanism.
Since he cut off funding, he, his family and his regime, have been the objects of bitter broadsides and veiled threats from Muslim extremist groups and Nasserite and nationalist organizations in the Arab world, which Libyan cash kept afloat for decades during Qaddafi’s own radical past.
This backlash was precisely what the Libyan ruler was after. He needed corroboration of his claim to have switched sides from his former terrorist and extremist allegiances to the pro-American bloc of the Arab and Muslim world.
To further back up his pro-Western credentials, he handpicked the guests invited to the 37th anniversary of the officers’ coup d’etat which brought him to power; the hundreds of journalists, big shot officials and heads of organizations, whom he considered “shapers of Arab-Muslim opinion,” hailed to the last man and woman from countries with pro-American regimes, Egypt, Oman, Qatar and Morocco.
The inspirational message Qaddafi and his henchmen dinned into his guests was that a new modern Libya had been born, which had broken with its radical-terrorist past and graduated into a fitting model for all Arab-Muslim states to emulate if they wanted to get ahead.
He had his son Al-Saaadi Qaddafi, 33, present a plan for a multi-billion dollar, hi-tech enterprise city designed to be the Middle Eastern version of Hong Kong.
Al Saadi explained that this “semi-autonomous city” would be a magnet for foreign investment. It would act as a spur for the development of oil-rich Libya and fuel its quest for a bigger role on the world stage.
How to stop an unstoppable force
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Washington sources report that the White House and State Department are not sure in these dog days of hard dilemmas in Iraq, North Korea and Iran, how to fend off the overtures of the ebullient Libyan ruler.
They are trying to break the news diplomatically that if the trip goes ahead – which is not yet decided – it must follow the format set by the United States – not dictated by Libya.
First, he was told, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, must pay an official trip to Tripoli.
This qualified response to Qaddafi’s wooing was conveyed by Rice to Libyan foreign minister Abdurahman Shalgam when they met in New York on Sept. 23.
To make it clear that certain hurdles need to be overcome before the visit is approved the US Secretary raised the question of compensation to the families of the 1988 Pan-American air hijacking that was engineered by Libyan agents. To this day, Tripoli has not completed the payments due to the families of the victims.
But the Libyans were not put off.
The next day, the state-controlled Libyan press ran exuberant accounts about the rapid development of relations between Libya and the United States.
“The American president sends his warm wishes to our Brother Leader,” said the headline of the Green March. Bush “expressed his satisfaction with the improvement of relations between America and the Great Jamahiriya (Libya) and said his country is keen to strengthen these relations and develop them in all fields.”
The Green March adorned its front-page account with a photo of the US president – a rare honor in a Libyan journal.
The penny is beginning to drop in Washington: What Qaddafi wants, Qaddafi gets. There may no way to stop him arriving in the White House with full trappings and panoply.