174. Telegram From the Embassy in Libya to the Department of State1

203. Subsequent conversations between Gordon and Shaqluf and between Embassy officers and other Libyan officials tend confirm that situation is as presented Embtel 1952 rather than as in alarming version given by Pitt Hardacre reported in Embtel 197.3

Comment: Our best current evaluation is that any day now we will enter period of tough negotiating with Libyans. Hinge of issue is whether Libyans intend negotiate using bargaining tactics or whether they intend resort to blackmail. It is important to remember [Page 496] that difference between bargaining and blackmail is ethical question. Tactics adopted will be largely determined by composition of government at time negotiations begin. We have reason believe changes may be in offing but are withholding predictions until true situation becomes more apparent.

Massive Soviet-Egyptian presence and anti-US offensive are established facts and not possible future development. Admitting that Libyan inaction and past errors have brought about this dangerous situation, it nevertheless would be highly unreasonable to suppose that Libyans can negotiate with us at this juncture without some reference to Egypt-Soviet efforts to get them to accept aid from that source. If Libyan policy in future is dictated by anti-Western group within government who would seek align Libya with Moscow–Cairo axis or, in lesser sense, with Egyptian neutralism, then US decision will be simply whether we are prepared to buy time by submitting to blackmail or whether we are prepared to force issue now by flat refusal attempt outbid Egyptians and Soviets. If, however, Libyan policy in future is dictated by Libyan “nationalists” who seek extract best possible bargain from Libya’s Western friends, then we can assume that Libyan tactical approach will resemble that of past and be roughly as follows:

First, they will point to prestige which Soviets and Egyptians have built up with mass of Libyan population. Second, they will state that they continue anxious keep Libya out of Soviet-Egyptian orbit but need time to consolidate own position and educate own people on best Libyan interests. Third, they will declare that only course open to them is to beseech US to maintain high level of economic assistance for essential development of country.

If they use this latter approach, we have very strong case demonstrating proven good will of US towards Libya and certainly have no reason apologize for level of aid to Libya in past. In other words, [we would be] negotiating from strong position.

But facts of life remain that decision will depend upon who controls Libyan policy. It seems evident that we must be prepared to act as we have in many countries throughout world in past decade to place adequate support behind elements which would tie Libya to free world and be willing to negotiate frankly with them concerning country’s essential needs. Is it not clear that in Libya in 1957 threat of take-over by elements unfriendly to West, whether they represent straight Soviet Communism or Egyptian-style neutralism, is parallel to situation which existed in Germany, France and Italy in 1948? Was Marshall Plan result of blackmail or was it result of realistic fact-facing by USG?

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 773.00/9–2657. Secret; Priority. Repeated to London, Paris to pass to SHAPE for Knight and West, Bonn to pass to Wiesbaden for CINCUSAFE, Cairo, and Benghazi.
  2. Telegram 195 from Tripoli, September 23, indicated that Prime Minister Ku’bar and members of his Council of Ministers were dissatisfied with the level of U.S. aid and did not wish future assistance to be tied to specific projects. Though the Soviets had made an offer of aid, which they publicized, the Libyan Government had not yet accepted it. (Ibid., 773.00/9–2357)
  3. Telegram 197 from Tripoli, September 23, presented the views of Pitt-Hardacre, who had been compelled to resign his position. He predicted that the Libyan Government would tell the United States to take back its base and dollar aid. He asserted that the nation was in the hands of a clique which intended to swing Libya toward Egypt. Moreover, the Soviets had offered substantial economic and military help. Tappin held that the most positive interpretation was that Libya was using this as leverage to compel more favorable concessions out of the United States. (Ibid., 711.56373/9-2357)