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97. Memorandum From Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff to President Kennedy1

Crown Prince Hasan of Libya is here as part of our effort to build him up as an effective successor to 72-year-old King Idris.2 The UAR is very active in Libya; there are also a number of contending domestic factions. We fear that Idris' death may lead either to chaos or a coup endangering our hold on Wheelus Base and our growing oil interests.

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[1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] Backing Hasan is a gamble. We [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] have been pleasantly surprised by the way he has handled himself as Regent in the King's few absences. But we want to prod him toward further initiatives on his own behalf—developing a progressive program to carry out when he becomes king and building his own political base.

[1 paragraph (5-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

As to your formal meeting, I suggest you press three points (the Prince is normally a bit recessive, so you'll have to steer the talk for him):

1. We support the Crown Prince's succession. Although a republican government might be more compatible with our interests in North Africa, the Crown Prince's broad political support from the Sanusi sect makes him a better bet to hold Libya together than even any of the better potential republican leaders. You can put this diplomatically in terms of our continued support for the Libyan constitution and for the arrangements the Libyans themselves have worked out for an orderly transfer of power. It won't do any harm for Libyan officials with the Crown Prince to hear this so the word can get around among potential opposition leaders.

2. Libya should move faster in planning effective use of its new oil revenues. The King finally sacked his incompetent development chief and created a new Ministry of Development Affairs in June. The new crew looks pretty good, but the country's finances are a mess. Unless order is brought out of chaos, increasing oil revenues ($40 million expected this year and $200 million within five years) will become an invitation to waste and corruption which could destroy public confidence in the government. AID has offered to help staff the Development Ministry, but we can't go any faster than the Libyans. The Crown Prince can convey our concern to Idris, and this is a problem he should get involved in himself. His reputation for scrupulous honesty is a major asset.

3. We want to hold on to Wheelus. The Libyans really just want to be left alone to enjoy their oil money, and their government has habitually justified Wheelus to opponents solely in terms of economic benefits derived. But oil revenues will soon deprive us of our economic leverage. So we want to convince the Prince at least that there are other reasons for staying “neutral with the West.” We can't ram down his throat that his own future lies with us, but in addition to our other reassurances we can point out that Wheelus contributes to Free World defense on which Libya's security depends.

We can also get some mileage out of a bit more MAP. We'll have to rely on it more heavily as our “rent” for Wheelus because increasing Libyan oil revenues will make economic aid unjustifiable. The trouble is that the Libyans presented some wildly inflated requests to McNamara last spring. Since then USAF and Army survey teams have drawn up more modest plans (Tab III. C) costing around $13 million over five years. JCS[Page 144]is still reviewing this package, but you could say we plan some aid for expansion of the Libyan army and will help develop the nucleus of an air force with both fighter and transport capability. Ambassador Jones will discuss details of these two programs shortly in Libya.

As a token of our past aid you can present a new topographic map of Libya—the first of its kind—which the US Geological Survey has just finished.3

R.W. Komer
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Libya, 9/62-12/62. Top Secret. Briefing papers cited in this memorandum are ibid., Crown Prince Hasan Briefing Book, 10/6/62-10/24/62.
  2. Crown Prince Hasan visited the United States October 16-24, 1962. A collection of briefing papers is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 533, Visit of Libyan Crown Prince.
  3. Komer sent a follow-up memorandum to the President on October 15 saying that the Department of State was now urging the President to take the Crown Prince aside for a few minutes and give him the few words of encouragement as proposed. He added that this would do more than anything else to make the visit a success. (Ibid.) On October 16, Komer sent another memorandum to Kennedy, noting that, although the President had taken the Crown Prince aside for a few moments, there had not been any opportunity to tell the Crown Prince privately that the United States was interested in facilitating his succession against possible threats to it after King Idris died. Komer said that the Prince would be grateful for such words. (Ibid.)