69. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to Robert W. Komer of the National Security Council Staff1


Wheelus roundup for London. We’ve just been through another three weeks of Muntasir’s maneuvering to get some political mileage from Wheelus.

On 25 February Idris told Lightner he wanted Wheelus to stay. He suggested we just let “negotiations” drift while he’d contain opposition. He even said the government might support our staying through 1971.

Then Muntasir got to him and persuaded him that such blunt tactics wouldn’t work. Presumably with the King’s OK, Muntasir has now proposed we convene one showcase negotiating session in May and then step up the work of the committee on Libyanizing Wheelus. He wants a note from Lightner to this effect.

State has agreed generally with this scenario provided Lightner reaffirms our understanding of Libyan interest (as stated by Idris) in our staying on. Everybody realizes Muntasir may further undercut the King’s position. However, we’ve gained a year by our stalling and May would be 3 months after we thought we’d have to talk again anyway, so we’re not doing badly.

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Idris accepted the British plan for pulling their garrison out of Tripolitania by March 1966 while staying on in Cyrenaica for another 3–4 years. Muntasir has asked for a UK note too.

The attached paper2 (which Newsom gave the British several weeks ago) will be the framework for London discussion of broader Libyan problems. It’s the best description of the problem I’ve seen, but it’s still far from an action program. It still banks (probably rightly) on trying to put the CP on the throne. But I think you ought to come down hard on plans for a military government or republic if the CP flops. That’s where we ought to be putting our effort. We ought to press for a concrete plan within 3 months.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Robert W. Komer, Libya, 1965–March 1966. Secret.
  2. Not attached.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.