The Libyan makeover

There is still surprisingly little in-depth reporting about what led to Libya's makeover -- but plenty of reaction Some on the left are complaining that Bush and Blair are embracing a crackpot dictator. Others on the right are rejoicing that this makes the Bush policies look good. Those in the middle tend to be more worried about the fact that Libya remains in the hand of a crackpot dictator.

There is something a little fishy with the effusive praise Qadhafi is getting:

"He needs to be applauded in unqualified terms for what he has done. I believe it is very statesmanlike and courageous," British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told BBC radio on Saturday.

"If Saddam had come to us a year ago or more...then the situation in Iraq would have been a very different one."


Does this mean that if Saddam had given up his weapons, the war would not have happened? But isn't getting rid of Saddam the new point of the war, and didn't he get rid of his WMD program since we can't find any?

Qadhafi's son and probable heir Seif Al Islam Al Qadhafi says Iraq had nothing to do with it whatsoever:

Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, said the Iraq war had nothing to do with the timing of Libya's negotiations. "We started the cooperation before even the invasion of Iraq," he told CNN.

But he added: "It's a critical deal for Libya, because first of all we will get access to defensive weapons and no sanctions on Libyan arms imports any more. We will get access to the know-how and technology in sectors which were banned."


For background, Plastic.com has a nice little analysis and quite a few links.

Update: The BBC has news that talks between the Libyan government and the International Atomic Energy Agency have already begun and details of a recent inspection which showed evidence that Libya was "close" to developing a nuclear bomb. (Close here could mean many things here, but I would guess that it would be 2-5 years.) The article also ends with a note on how Israel is receiving this news:

The BBC's Jill McGivering in Jerusalem says Israel will be hoping that this deal will set a precedent, adding to the pressure on other countries in the region like Iran and Syria to comply with international obligations.

But she says Israel, too, may face increased pressure about its own weapons programme - a subject it refuses to discuss.


I wonder whether the Libyans will even bother to bring up the issue of Israel's WMDs, a Egypt among others has for the past several years.

Update 2: The Independent comes through with a behind-the-scenes look at yesterday's announcement and a nice little historical overview.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.