Libya is a large country in North Africa. It has a very ancient history and various dynasties ruled this area. At the beginning of the twentieth century Libya was part of the Turkish Empire. However the Europeans were in a colonization spree and there was competition between them to carve as many colonies for themselves as possible. This resulted in the Italian Turkish war of 1911-1912. The war ended with Italy seizing control of Libya.
Italian rule continued for 3 decades till the defeat of Italy during the Second World War, when the area was administered by the British. In 1951 King Idris who had been leading the fight against the Italians returned from exile in Cairo and the United Nations gave a mandate for an independent Libya. King Idris became the first and only Monarch of this desert land.
Military Coup of Muammar Gaddafi
During the intervening period oil was struck in Libya and wealth began to seep into the country. But a dis- satisfied group of officers led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized power in a coup and King Idris was removed. Gaddafi took over the reins of government and headed a revolutionary council. This was in 1967.
The period for the next 44 years is a landmark period in Libyan history.Muammar Gaddafi soon seized absolute power and many members of the revolutionary council were executed and Gaddafi became the omnipotent ruler of Libya. He however had meglomaniacal tendencies as well as a cruel streak in his character. Perhaps it was something akin to Hitler as he executed many people who opposed him as ‘enemies of the state’. There are reports that he himself witnessed many of the executions thus displaying sadistic streaks.
Muammar Gaddafi and Terror
Muammar Gaddafi now turned his attention to the USA and the west. He started terror groups whose sole aim was to spread terror among the western powers by bomb blasts and hijackings. He also gave arms and ammunitions to groups fighting the USA and UK, like the Irish liberation Army (IRA).Probably Gaddafi thought that by these acts he would be able to foment a world Islamic revolution. At this time the USA under Reagan and later under Clinton treated Gaddafi with kid gloves and no strong military action was taken against him. Gaddafi continued to thrive and his dreams of grandeur increased. At the same time he let loose a reign of terror in Libya and all opposition was stifled and the leaders summarily hanged, sometimes with Gaddafi as a witness.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Gaddafi had a change of heart and decided to dismantle his terror apparatus in return for millions of dollars. The USA and the west again acquiesced and one wonders why?
Downfall of Muammar Gaddafi
But the Arab world was passing through a turbulent period and the people fed up of despotic regimes and loss of civil rights and liberties revolted. The movement became mass based and spread like wild-fire. The dictators including Gaddafi ordered a crackdown and many protestors were shot dead. But the people’s anger became uncontrollable and many dictators like Mubarak of Egypt and Tunisia had to bite the dust. The situation became volatile in Libya, but Gaddafi refused to resign as done by Hosni Mubarak. His intransigence led to a civil war with his opponent uniting against him.
The NATO powers led by the USA now decided to intervene on the side of the opponents of Muammar Gaddafi. They used the Air Force and the naval warships to back the opponents of Gaddafi. From that time on the clock began to tick for Gaddafi and ended with his murder.
Muammar Gaddafi may very well be dead but his exit will stir a hornet’s nest. For the last 44 years Gaddafi had ruled with an iron hand and the result is that he also kept in check the Islamic jihad as well. Most opponents including Islamic opponents were summarily shot. Thus the Islamic jihad movement in Libya remained dead. But with Gaddafi gone the flood gates for these Islamic hardliners may open and they will have a free hand. There is every chance that these hard liners may infiltrate into the movement for democracy and the end result may not be a happy one for the USA.
We should not forget that Saddam Hussain was ousted in a military operation by the USA, but Iraq has become a hotbed of terrorist strikes. The USA is helpless as it engineered the fall of Saddam. Similarly the exit of Muammar Gaddafi may unleash forces that may be inimical to the USA. That is a dangerous possibility and the West has to take this into consideration in their future planning.