29. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Newsom) to Secretary of State Kissinger 1

Libya: Possible Pressure Points

The evolution of US-Libyan relations over the past four years has left us with very little leverage in that country. We have no aid programs of any kind and there are no diplomatic actions which we could take which would have any significant effect on Libyan policy. Some economic or military sanctions might hurt Libya but they would be unlikely to change Libya’s basic attitude or actions toward the USG or on the Middle East.


1. Break diplomatic relations

The United States might break diplomatic relations with Libya and close our Embassy in that country. This would be a clear sign of our displeasure with Libyan policy but would have little effect on the present Libyan leadership. Qadhafi sets little store by diplomatic relations. Libya has been without a Foreign Minister for nearly a year. The Libyan Embassy in Washington has been headed by a junior first secretary for more than six months and high level diplomatic contacts with the Libyan regime in Tripoli are rare.

2. Political action against Qadhafi

There is considerable evidence that the majority of the Libyan population and at least some members of the RCC are opposed to Qadhafi’s extremist views on a number of matters. It might be possible to work with these elements to attempt to replace him. However, there is no identifiable focus of dissidence in Libya around which any political action program could be developed. Moreover, Qadhafi’s Middle East policy and his nationalist policy at home enjoy substantial support among the generally apathetic Libyan masses. A successor regime would find it difficult to change those policies.

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1. Deny export licenses

The Libyan government has been seeking to purchase significant quantities of military and sophisticated electronics equipment from the US (Lockheed C–130’s, Northrop Page air defense system, spare parts for F–5 aircraft, etc.). By denying export licenses for such material we could weaken but not cripple Libya’s military capability since Libya can acquire the same or comparable equipment from European countries.


1. Freeze Libyan assets in the US

Libya is now reportedly shifting some of its reserves out of dollars but they probably still hold sizeable amounts in US banks. Any such action on our part, however, might lead the Libyans to nationalize the remaining US oil holdings in Libya which are valued at substantially more than those assets.

2. Discourage US technicians from working in Libya

There are now approximately 2,000 American citizens in Libya, most of them oil company employees and their dependents. The Libyan oil industry is operated primarily by these American technicians. The USG could discourage these men from remaining in or going to Libya. However, the USG lacks legal authority to prevent Americans from going to Libya if they insist, and European experts could probably replace them without major disruptions to Libya’s oil industry.

3. Ban export of oil country goods to Libya

Libya’s clout rests on the financial strength generated by its oil industry. If the US were to ban the export of spare parts and other equipment used by the Libyan oil industry, the operating efficiency of the latter would be diminished but not necessarily damaged to an excessive extent. To the extent that oil output would be reduced by such US action, the consumers of Libyan oil—chiefly Western Europe—would be affected adversely. A ban of this character could lead to complete nationalization of the remaining US oil company assets in Libya and would not necessarily diminish Libya’s financial strength since the LARG could charge more for its reduced—and hence more valuable—output per barrel.


1. Training of Libyans

The Libyan government now sends a number of its employees to the US for specialized training with private companies, such as United [Page 92] Airlines, and with the Federal Aviation Administration. There are also approximately seven hundred Libyan students in the United States doing both graduate and undergraduate work. The USG could take steps to prevent Libyans from attending government-sponsored training courses and discourage private universities from accepting Libyan students. Neither of these actions, however, is likely to have much effect on the policy of the present Libyan government.

  1. Summary: Newsom provided Kissinger with possible options for dealing with the Government of Libya.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL Libya-U.S. Secret; Exdis. Drafted by Blake and Lane.