15. Memorandum From Director of Central Intelligence Schlesinger to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1

Apropos of current concern over Libya, attached is a paper [less than 1 line not declassified] which discusses the problem of Qadhafi.

With Qadhafi setting Libya on a collision course with many U.S. interests, [12 lines not declassified]

James R. Schlesinger


Paper Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency

Washington, undated.

[less than 1 line not declassified] LIBYA


Qadhafi is well entrenched in Libya, and no successor is in sight. His headstrong pursuit of the Arab cause puts him in direct conflict with U.S. interests in much of the Middle East. Rivalries among Arab leaders may thwart some of his aspirations to lead the “Arab Nation.” [8 lines not declassified]


Significant elements in the Qadhafi problem are:

Qadhafi is firmly in charge in Libya and there is no successor in sight. He dominates the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) which makes all important decisions. The army is his power base and he uses the trappings of various political organizations—such as the Arab Socialist Union—to conceal his direct rule and defuse dissent.

Qadhafi’s regime is not, however, popular. There is grumbling at home, and the march toward merger with Egypt has been resented [Page 31] by the Libyan people. But the population is by no means mutinous. Qadhafi makes the most of his leadership qualities and may, if pressed, back off the merger issue.

—One cannot ignore the possibility that Qadhafi may eventually be overthrown by the military, particularly if pressure builds up over his tendency to one-man rule or plans for merger with Egypt. Differences no doubt exist within the RCC, but Qadhafi thus far has managed them shrewdly. He now seems capable of asserting even greater personal rule at the expense of a collegiate decision by the RCC. But, if Qadhafi could no longer control the RCC or should another group of military officers seize power, a popular reaction against his ouster would be unlikely—especially if the new leadership immediately declared Qadhafi’s merger plans null and void.

—The American oil companies are still operating their concessions. Although Qadhafi has advocated the use of oil money to strike at Israel and its supporters, he has thus far not convinced his neighbors, Sadat and Boumediene, to pursue such an all-out plan. And Libya’s need for American oil technology has delayed Qadhafi in the unilateral resort to oil as a weapon. The long-term prospects of the American oil producing companies in Libya are not good, but they still contribute 300 million dollars per year to our balance of payments. The power to nationalize them remains a credible threat in Qadhafi’s hands.

Qadhafi, in recent months, frustrated in his efforts to get the fedayeen to carry out a successful national liberation struggle within Israel, has turned to advocacy of acts of terrorism outside of Palestine and to the subversion of regimes which do not agree with him. This has brought him into direct conflict with American interests.

Qadhafi can invoke and manipulate ideas with strong emotional appeal to most Arabs. In any direct confrontation with the U.S., Qadhafi could probably mobilize considerable sympathy among the Arabs, including those in the oil-rich Arabian Peninsula.

Qadhafi remains relatively insensitive to outside economic and political pressures.

—The Arab world remains divided, with many of its leaders—Sadat, Boumediene and Faysal—keeping a wary eye on Qadhafi. They are suspicious of his apparent bid to leadership of the “Arab Nation.”

—The British and French have adjusted their policies to try to reach an accommodation with Qadhafi.

—[less than 1 line not declassified] proposals of hit-and-run raids to punish Qadhafi would not bring him down, but would evoke an angry reaction and the closing of Arab ranks behind Qadhafi.

—With many Egyptians at all levels of the Libyan army and bureaucracy and three Egyptian commando battalions in Libya, Sadat [Page 32] possesses considerable influence in Libya. Both Sadat and Boumediene seek to keep the other from gaining the upper hand in Libya.

—[1 paragraph (3½ lines) not declassified]

[3 pages not declassified]

  1. Summary: Schlesinger summarized an Agency report of Qadhafi’s impact on U.S. interests, the Arab world and Africa. [text not declassified]

    Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of Central Intelligence, Job 80M01066A, OPI 10, Box 13, Folder 8. Secret, [text not declassified].