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Before Libyan Revolt, U.S. Was Planning To Sell Gaddafi Military Equipment

No, really, we had a contract and everything:

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the months before Libyans revolted and President Barack Obama told leader Moammar Gadhafi to go, the U.S. government was moving to do business with his regime on an increasing scale by quietly approving a $77 million dollar deal to deliver at least 50 refurbished armored troop carriers to the dictator’s military.

Congress balked, concerned the deal would improve Libyan army mobility and questioning the Obama administration’s support for the agreement, which would have benefited British defense company BAE. The congressional concerns effectively stalled the deal until the turmoil in the country scuttled the sale. Earlier last week, after all military exports to the Gadhafi regime were suspended, the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls informed Capitol Hill that the deal had been returned without action — effectively off the table, according to U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the deal’s sensitive details.

State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said the proposed license was suspended along with the rest of “what limited defense trade we had with Libya.”

The Gadhafi regime’s desire to upgrade its troop carriers was so intense that a Libyan official told U.S. diplomats in Tripoli in 2009 that the dictator’s sons, Khamis and Saif, both were demanding swift action. Khamis, a commander whose army brigade reportedly attacked the opposition-held town of Zawiya with armored units and pickup trucks, expressed a “personal interest” in modernizing the armored transports, according to a December 2009 diplomatic message disclosed by WikiLeaks, the whistleblower website.

The administration’s own interest in the deal amounted to a first cautious step toward allowing a major arms purchase by Gadhafi’s regime even as U.S. officials waved off other Libyan approaches for weapons systems and military aid.

I guess it’s a good thing they didn’t end up attacking the rebels using our transports, huh?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ammochief says:

    Actually it was George W. who started this in 2006.

    This picture of the U.S.-Libyan trade relationship is overly simplistic. Beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2009, the United States began to relax direct commercial sales rules for transfers to Libya of controlled items on the U.S. Munitions List. The 2007 changes to the embargo included an exemption for “non-lethal defense articles and defense services, and nonlethal safety-of-use defense articles… as spare parts for lethal end-items.”

    The Department of Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) publishes a Historical Facts Book on its website that was last updated in September, 2009. According to this document, controlled goods worth $33,000 were shipped to Libya in 2006, followed by $350,000 in 2007, and $842,000 in 2008. No figures are available for 2009 or 2010 yet.

    The State Department posts annual breakdowns of licenses granted for Direct Commercial Sales on its website in a publication known as the ’655 report’, after the section of the Foreign Assistance Act that mandates this transparency measure. The reports for 2006, 2007, and 2008 show that licenses worth roughly $54 million were approved for the sale of aircraft components, parts, or equipment. Also issued were licenses for explosives worth $1,141,160, military electronics worth $56,018, and fire control, range finding, optical and guidance and control equipment worth $27,715. Not all licenses result in transfers, making it difficult to know exactly how much of this equipment made its way to Libya.

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  2. Drew says:

    Unless you are Colby Goodman or Xiadon Liang, ammochief, it is good form to provide proper attribution: http://armscontrolnow.org/2011/03/04/update-u-s-libya-arms-trade/

    Inspection of the 665 and other arms trade reports shows that the sales to Libya by the US are trivial, in comparison to sales to allies, and by European countries to Libya. Further, historical sales (approvals, actually) appear to be completely dominated by non-lethal application spare parts.

    It would appear that the gist of Doug’s post is correct (and of Congressional concern): armed troop carriers are of a different nature and in sufficient dollar magnitude to be a security concern, and should not have been entertained by the current Administration.

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