Socialist Worker

The West's history of intervention in Libya

Issue No. 2244

The shadow of imperialism has dominated Libya’s recent history.

As part of the “Scramble for Africa” an Italian occupation took over the area from 1911.

In 1934 Italy adopted the name Libya as the official name of the colony, which it ruled with brutal force. Following its colonial ruler’s defeat in the Second World War, Britain and France took over running the country.

Libya became independent under the pro-British and pro-US King Idris in 1951. Later in the decade significant oil reserves were discovered.

Muammar Gaddafi took power after the overthrow of King Idris in 1969. He closed US and British bases, and partly nationalised foreign oil and commercial interests.

The West saw him as an enemy. US president Ronald Reagan sent warplanes to assassinate Gaddafi in 1986. The missiles missed and hit a residential area of Tripoli, killing some 100 innocent people.

Two years later, Pan Am Flight 103 was bombed over Lockerbie,claiming 270 lives. Libya was blamed for the bombing in the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War.

After years of considering Libya a pariah state, the West lifted the sanctions against it in 2004. Firms have their eyes fixed on the country’s oil. In 2007 BP signed its exploration deal with Libya’s National Oil Corporation, with Tony Blair looking on.

In 2008, Britain’s imports of Libyan oil increased by 66 percent. Exports to Libya increased by 50 percent.

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Tue 22 Mar 2011, 17:18 GMT
Issue No. 2244
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