Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. Military Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Just What Is The Libyan Model

Can yesterday's terrorist (left, seen here with Pakistani PM Aziz earlier this year) become today's gas station owner, ahead of tomorrow's elder Statesman of Africa? Photo courtesy of AFP
by Mark N. Katz
Washington (UPI) May 22, 2006
Although once enemies, the rapprochement between the United States and Libya advanced further this week with the announcement that diplomatic relations between the two countries are being restored.

This rapprochement began in 2003 when Libya agreed to pay restitution to the families of 270 people who died aboard Pan Am Flight 103, which Libyan agents were responsible for bombing. Even more dramatically, Libya agreed that year to end its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction programs and allow America and Britain to verify this.

It was this in particular that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cited as "an important model" for how Iran and North Korea could improve their relations with the United States.

But how likely is it that Iran and North Korea will follow this "Libyan model"? Would they agree to verifiably give up their weapons of mass destruction programs in order to improve relations with the U.S.? In order to determine this, we first need to examine what the Libyan model consists of and then analyze to what extent the factors present in it are present in the Iranian and North Korean cases.

One important factor present in the Libyan case long before Libya-U.S. rapprochement took place was a desire on Libya's part to improve relations with Washington. Beginning in the 1990's, the Gadhafi government repeatedly tried to improve relations with the United States, but these efforts failed.

An important reason for this was that Gadhafi was not then willing to give up his weapons of mass destruction program or make other concessions that Washington insisted upon. Libya-U.S. rapprochement only began in 2003 when he was finally willing to give them up.

There is a resemblance between Libya in the 1990's and Iran and North Korea now. There are signs that Tehran and Pyongyang would like improved relations with the United States. One of North Korea's "demands," after all, is that Washington grant it diplomatic recognition.

Despite his fiery anti-American rhetoric, Iranian President Ahmadinejad's recent letter to President Bush is seen by many specialists as a genuine (albeit bizarre) attempt to improve relations. Indeed, it appears that many of Iran's conservative leaders are hoping to make some sort of "grand bargain" with Washington.

But to the extent that both Iran and North Korea want rapprochement with the Unites States, they definitely want this to occur on their terms, not America's. Neither is willing to give up its nuclear program as Washington insists on. Other factors will need to be present, then, for them to take this step the way Libya did. What might these be?

Many, including President Bush himself, claimed that the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein frightened Gadhafi into renouncing weapons of mass destruction in order to avoid a similar fate. Gadhafi and his associates hotly denied this, but Judith Miller's account of her interviews with high-level Libyans, which recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, indicated that this concern did indeed play some role in Gadhafi's calculations.

Yet even if fear for his regime's survival was an important factor in Gadhafi's decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction, it is doubtful that this will play a similar role in either the Iranian or North Korean cases. The U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein, who had ruled a population of over 28 million, may well have persuaded Gadhafi that the U.S. could easily invade his much less populous country of less than 6 million -- especially in 2003 when the U.S. appeared to be successful in Iraq.

But with the war in Iraq dragging on since then and becoming unpopular in the United States, the Iranians appear increasingly confident that even if the Pentagon launches strikes against Iranian nuclear targets, America does not have the stomach to invade and occupy their country of 70 million.

North Korea has a smaller population than Iraq, but its massive military arsenal -- along with its claim of possessing nuclear weapons already -- make it extremely unlikely that the United States will voluntarily pay the high costs that invading that country and overthrowing its regime would entail. Fear of being overthrown by the United States, then, does not appear to be great enough either in Iran or North Korea to induce their regimes to give up their weapons of mass destruction the way Gadhafi did -- assuming that this was an important motive for him.

There was, however, another factor definitely present in the Libyan case that contributed to Gadhafi's willingness to foreswear weapons of mass destruction and submit to outside verification: the ability to do this without fear of being overthrown.

Whether this was because the regime's personnel and the Libyan public generally were grateful for his decision, indifferent to it, too frightened of Gadhafi to protest it, or some combination of these is open to debate. What concerns us here, though, is whether Ahmadinejad in Iran or Kim Jong Il in North Korea could make the same decision as Gadhafi and expect to remain in power like he did.

After stoking Iranian public opinion about Tehran's right to pursue nuclear technology without outside interference, Ahmadinejad could well become discredited not just among fellow conservatives, but the public at large if he "did a Gadhafi."

The North Korean regime might fear that agreeing to give up weapons of mass destruction and submitting to outside verification could make it look weak, thus encouraging the sort of swift mass uprising that toppled other communist regimes.

It is hard to say whether scenarios like these would arise if Iran or North Korea sought to follow the Libyan model. More importantly, it is doubtful that either Ahmadinejad or the "Dear Leader" can be certain that they will not arise.

One thing, though, does seem clear: if either the Iranian or North Korean leaders have any suspicion that their decision to renounce weapons of mass destruction in order to improve relations with the United States could lead to their downfall, they will not give them up. Nor will they give them up if they suspect that Washington will seek their downfall afterward.

What this means is that an important incentive for dictators to renounce weapons of mass destruction is receiving assurance from Washington that it will not seek to overthrow them. This is the essence of the Libyan model.

(Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University.)

Source: United Press International

Related Links
Subscribe to SinoDaily Express - your China News Source

Israel's Olmert says Iran could obtain nuclear bomb in 'months'
Washington (AFP) May 21, 2006
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday that Iran could obtain a nuclear bomb in "months" and vowed that Israel would take the "necessary measures" to stop this occurring.

  • New Tests For Sino-Russian Ties
  • Germany's Merkel to push China to play larger international role
  • China denies US spying allegations
  • Growth of China, India is a benefit not a threat: Australian PM

  • EU offers reactors to Iran, threatens arms embargo
  • Will North Korea Take A Lead From Libya
  • Energy, Iran in focus as German FM begins Gulf tour
  • Israel's Olmert says Iran could obtain nuclear bomb in 'months'

  • Major concern if North Korea launches long-range missile: US
  • Russian Army Chief Warns Over Non-Nuclear ICBMs
  • Taiwan plans to produce supersonic anti-ship missiles: report
  • Ex-Israeli army chief warns of long-range Iran missiles

  • Harper's Next Move On BMD
  • LM To Upgrade ICBM Reentry System Upgrade
  • Hamilton Sundstrand's Thrust Vector Actuation System Demonstrated In THAAD Test
  • Kremlin Voices Concern At US Conventional Missile Plans

  • British Aerospace Production Up Strongly In First Quarter
  • Face Of Outdoor Advertising Changes With New Airship Design
  • NASA Denies Talks With Japan On Supersonic Jet
  • Test Pilot Crossfield Killed In Private Plane Crash

  • AFRL Awards ISIS Contracts To Northrop Grumman
  • Boeing ScanEagle Demonstrates New Maritime Capabilities
  • UK First For Royal Navy UAV Trials
  • BAE Proposes Skylynx UAV For Marine Corps Tier II Program

  • Iraqi Oil Output Up Says US In Upbeat Assessment
  • Assessing The Iraqi Militias
  • Iraq's Militia Problem
  • US forces cannot withdraw yet from any Iraqi province: general

  • DRS Tech Receives US Army Contract For Next-Gen Thermal Weapon Sights
  • General Dynamics Awarded Contract For Stryker-Related Contracts
  • Russian Army to get new weaponry in 2006
  • Armor Holdings Receives Award For Up-Armored HMMWVs

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement