MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Andrei Murtazin) - Muammar Gaddafi has ruled Libya for 40 years and is well-known both in and outside the Arab world. Gaddafi is the last of a waning generation of Arab nationalist revolutionaries who came to power as the result of military coups in the 1950s and 1960s. On September 1, 1969, a group of young officers under his command deposed King Idris al-Senussi and proclaimed a Libyan republic.
In the latter half of the 1970s, Gaddafi renamed his country. It is now called the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The word Jamahiriya is a neologism introduced by Gaddafi that means "government of the masses" in literal translation from Arabic.
The ideological basis for Gaddafi's politics is his own "Third World Theory," building a just society as described in his "Green Book." Gaddafi's theory promulgates a "true government of the people without a parliament and its elected officials." Libya has no political parties, because according to Gaddafi's theory, the "party system is an abortion of democracy." There is no hired labor, because this is a "form of slavery," but there are partner relations for remuneration. There is no administration, but there are people's committees similar to the people's commissariats in the USSR. Quotes from the Green Book can be found not only in school textbooks and government institutions, but also on practically every fence in Tripoli.
Only 10 years ago, Gaddafi was looked upon in the West as nothing more than a tyrant, a necessary evil, someone that had to be dealt with. Today, while he cannot exactly be called a friend, at the very least, he is a partner of Paris, Rome, London, Moscow and even Washington. Gaddafi's political metamorphosis is understandable.
In 1970s and the first half of the 1980s, Muammar Gaddafi was advantageously selling Libya's oil, which allowed a carefree life not only for himself, but for 3.5 million Libyans. However, Gaddafi, ever the fiery revolutionary, decided to fight< like Trotsky and Che Guevara, "imperialism" all over the world, and so began financing this struggle. The Libyan intelligence services organized major terrorist attacks that literally shook the Western world. One was a bomb in one of the favorite haunts of American servicemen - the La Bella disco in West Berlin. As a result of the explosion there on April 5, 1986, three people died and more than 250 were wounded. The German police immediately discovered the Libyan connection. The U.S. reaction was swift. Ten days later, on the night of April 15, on orders from President Ronald Reagan, American warplanes bombed the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. The list of targets included Gaddafi's residence. Gaddafi was unharmed, but 40 Libyans died, including Gaddafi's adopted daughter.
Gaddafi's revenge was even crueler. On December 21, 1988, a Pan Am 747 exploded over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland, resulting in the deaths of 270 people, including 189 Americans. U.S. intelligence services investigating the incident identified the two direct perpetrators of the attack - Libyans Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Amin Fahim. Al-Megrahi was found guilty in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, but extradited to Scotland only in 1998. He spent 11 years in jail, and returned to Tripoli a few days ago. He was greeted as a national hero there.
In 1992, the UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions against Libya, and the country was forced to endure diplomatic isolation. There was only one way out - seek compromise with the West, but Gaddafi was not ready to compromise...
The Lessons of Iraq
The war in Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime "sobered up" many Arab leaders, who subsequently understood that any one of them could be next. Muammar Gaddafi quickly learned the lessons of Iraq and fundamentally changed his foreign policy. He announced that Libya was abandoning its nuclear weapons program and invited IAEA inspectors to visit the country's nuclear center in Tadjoura. In addition, without admitting Libya's guilt, Gaddafi agreed to pay compensation to the Lockerbie victims' families - $10 million for each of the 270 casualties.
Washington replied in kind. In 2004, the U.S. removed the economic embargo from Libya, and in 2006, the White House removed Libya from the list of countries that sponsor international terrorism.
In 2007, Gaddafi made another "good will gesture." He released the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian medical intern who were held for more than seven years in Libyan prisons for the monstrous and absurd allegation that they had infected Libyan children with AIDS. The West responded accordingly. Gaddafi was invited to Spain and France, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Libya. Consequently, Gaddafi opened a window to Europe and Europe was once again granted access to Libyan oil under lucrative contracts. Russia was not left out either. In April 2008, Vladimir Putin visited Tripoli and in November, Gaddafi's Bedouin tent was pitched in the Kremlin. Moscow was once again an important trading partner for Libya.
Partners, but not Close Friends
Thus, Muammar Gaddafi returned to the global political arena as a full partner; however, it is premature to speak of close relations with Europe, the U.S. or Russia. The Europeans, Americans and Russians are in no hurry to go to Libya without a good reason. One example of this was French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi declining to attend the 40 year anniversary of the Libyan revolution. Russian leadership - President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - was also invited. Almost simultaneously, a source from the Kremlin and another from the Russian government announced that the travel plans of the president and the prime minister were already set, and neither of them would visit Tripoli. Of course, like other countries, Russia will send a delegation, but it will not include its chief executives. Nevertheless, Moscow has prepared its very own surprise for Gaddafi. A company of the Moscow garrison's honor guard will visit the Libyan capital. Russian soldiers, like some of their western colleagues, will participate in the military parade in Tripoli on September 1.
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