168. Telegram From the Embassy in Libya to the Department of State1
634. Ambassador Richards visit here great personal success. Both GOL officials and Embassy staff knew immediately they were dealing with kind, just and wise man, shrewd bargainer and devoted servant of international good will. GOL subscribed without reservation to Eisenhower Doctrine both prior to and after detailed discussions economic aid segment of program. King Idris has twice in last week added final punctuation with statement to me that doctrine was “clearly well-intentioned and typical of champion of world peace, President Eisenhower.” (Department has text joint communiqué,2 which reinforced Prime Minister’s policy statement in speech at dinner for Vice President.)3
However, GOL dismayed, disappointed and perhaps even disheartened at magnitude aid offered, especially in view fanfare which preceded Ambassador Richards’ trip. This Embassy conscientiously and aggressively carried out Department’s instruction in sincere effort blunt Libyan over-optimism concerning amount of aid, but unable prevent senior Libyan officials, especially Prime Minister, from avidly consuming US newspapers and periodicals. Furthermore, this Embassy completely in dark concerning aid levels until receipt basic paper marked “Libya Number One” dated January 30.4 This paper arrived (presumably by “fast three-day pouch service”) under cover March 5 letter from Jernegan to me. It reached this Embassy March 16 and my desk morning Sunday, March 17, coincident with arrival Ambassador Richards that afternoon.
In all fairness and with full awareness that we may be accused of having developed bad case “localitis”, I must state that entire country team almost as surprised as Libyans. We hold grave apprehension lest dismay, disappointment and disheartenment develop into disillusionment. Arabs also have our proverb concerning “mountain that labored and brought forth mouse.” To mix metaphors further, Libyans feel they have been good children and cannot understand why Santa Claus came with instruction to leave scooter when they needed and had asked for bicycle. Embassy likewise feels that Libyans relatively speaking have moved further in our direction [Page 478]during past year than any other Arab country, in face massive, Egypto-Soviet offensive and aggressive subversion.
Prime Minister’s view, magnitude aid offered presents highly explosive political issue. If acceptance revealed, he convinced (and I agree) his government, which firmly and publicly committed pro-US policy, will be accused of selling out for pittance and that internal and external propaganda machine of Soviet-Egyptian axis, which is already blasting him for speech to Nixon, will hold him up as example prize sucker whose policies clearly not in best interests Libya. Therefore, while accepting practically verbatim political portion joint communiqué as drafted by Richards mission, Prime Minister asked that language on economic aid be vague and that Richards mission consider Libyan needs and deserts again at end of trip with view possible increase aid offer.5 Ambassador Richards agreed and both he and I were impressed with sincerity Ben Halim’s attitude. Prime Minister said he believes next few months critical period his government, since fight with anti-Western clique and their Egyptian supporters clearly not yet finally won, and he can not afford give enemies new ammunition.
I agree thoroughly GOL risking collective neck. Fall Ben Halim Government after recent pro-US alignment would negate all political successes of US and this Embassy in Libya over past few years. Ben Halim has now been persuaded to go so far out on limb in our direction that I feel we may safely assume he has made basic objective decision on both material and ideological grounds to continue adhere pro-US policy as long as he retains control. His domestic enemies are prepared use any weapon undermine him and if they should be allowed ride to power on wave disillusionment with US aid, consequences for our position here would be serious indeed. At this point wish underline fact Ben Halim at no time even hinted at possibility obtaining better offer from other sources but to contrary put himself at mercy good judgment and understanding Libya’s needs by US Government as personified in Ambassador Richards.
In light above, I consider $10 million or so now would do more good for US in Libya and throughout Middle East than $100 million elsewhere or here too late. Obviously, absolutely fatal blow would be offer aid of any magnitude to any country not supporting Eisenhower doctrine in practical terms as well as by lip service. As purely practical matter, substantial offer to Libya now would be real contribution to our attempts persuade GOL move toward complete [Page 479]elimination Soviet presence here. Libya can be put solidly in US camp now. Opportunity too good to miss.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 120.1580/3–2257. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Tehran, Karachi, Wiesbaden for General Tunner, and Paris for Knight and Wallner.↩
- See footnote 3, supra.↩
- See footnote 2, Document 166.↩
- Not printed.↩
- Richards met with Bin Halim on May 4 and agreed to an increase in the aid package of $2.5 million for a total of $7.02 million. (Telegram 605 from Tunis, May 4; Department of State, Central Files, 120.1580/5–457)↩