Thursday, March 10, 2011

Libya's Pre-1996 History Revisited: Part 8

A Wall Street Journal editorial recently proposed that the Democratic Obama-Clinton Administration consider the option of some kind of “humanitarian military intervention” in Libya in 2011 in response to the recent deadly attacks on demonstrators inside Libya by the current Libyan regime’s security forces. Yet most people in the United States know very little about the hidden history of Libya. Guy Arnold’s 1996 book, The Maverick State: Gaddafi and the New World Order, for example, observed:

“…Libya has had a long colonial history and a brief examination of it will clarify the Gaddafi story.

“Libya, or at least its Mediterranean littoral, came under the Ottoman Empire early in the sixteenth century, although for slightly more than a century (1711 to 1835) it enjoyed nominal autonomy under the Karamanli dynasty before the Ottomans re-established their full control to rule the territory once more through officials from Istanbul. Then occurred for Libya, the most significant event of the nineteenth century: the rise of the Senussi sect. Sidi Muhammad ibn Ali as-Sanusi, an Islamic theologian, was born in 1787 in northern Libya and founded the Sanusiyah, a militant mystical sect which was both religious and nationalist in its teaching and impact…He founded his new order in the Hejaz (of what later became Saudi Arabia) but was expelled by the Ottoman rulers in 1841 and so moved to Cyrenaica in Libya where, basing his support upon tribalism, he used his new order to challenge the authority of the Ottoman Turks…Sanusi died in 1859 but his movement, whose main strength lay in Cyrenaica, was to act as the Libyan nationalist spearhead in the twentieth century while his grandson would become the first ruler of an independent Libya as King Idris I…For a hundred years the sect had been the center of nationalist opposition, first to continuing Ottoman rule and then to Italian colonialism.

“At the tail end of the `Scramble for Africa’ the Italians…invaded Libya in 1911, allying themselves with elements in the country who saw them as a welcome alternative to the Turks. Although Italy soon knocked the Turks out—they sued for peace in 1912—the war to make Italian occupation effective continued throughout World War I…On 26 April 1915, it [Italy] entered into an agreement with Britain, France and Russia under which Italy would be allowed to claim extra territory in Africa, adjacent to its existing colonies, should Britain and France increase their African colonial possessions at the expense of Germany as a result of the war. In the case of Libya this meant expanding its territories in relation to the borders with neighboring French Tunisia and British-controlled Egypt. France yielded a strip of Tunisian territory to Italian Libya in 1919 while negotiations with Egypt resulted in the movement of the Libyan border to include the oasis of Jaghbub in Libyan territory in 1925…”

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