44. Memorandum From Robert Behr and Harold Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2
- Paper on Possible Alternative Pressures on the Present Libyan Regime—Summary and Critique
The question the President asked was whether there is any way we could create penalties that might deter the Libyan government from its leftward course.
The paper covers this ground:
- It characterizes (page 1) the new Libyan government as insecure, inexperienced, zenophobic, perhaps divided but as yet without visible opposition.
- It details US economic interests (page 1 and Annex A) in terms of the $5 billion (replacement value) private oil investment, $500 million in annual profits to US corporations and 25% of Western Europe’s oil consumption which could not all be replaced from other sources until 1971. It concludes that Western Europe is too dependent on Libyan crude to refuse to buy. Only 8% of Libyan production comes to the US.
- It describes (bottom of p. 2) our choice in developing a strategy
toward the new Libyan government as between:
- “policy of confrontation” and
- “a policy which would involve some give on our part with a view to developing longer-term relationships with the new and still insecure regime.” [State prefers this.]
- It examines—and this is the bulk of the paper (pp. 3–9)—a collection of possible alternative pressures. [The paper concludes that most are unsatisfactory because the leverage is not predominantly on the US side.]
Summary of the Alternatives: We recommend that you scan pages 3–9 but for the sake of simplifying these options fall into the following categories:
Presence of US-UK bases. These options boil down to a series
of delaying tactics and, hopefully, some NATO European (Turkey, West
Germany) pressures on Libya to honor its base agreements. They
culminate with the US requesting the support of European friends in
breaking diplomatic relations with Libya if the regime refuses.
- The argument for this approach is to see whether such pressures would widen splits within the regime.
- The arguments against are that the regime in its present mood is unlikely to respond to this kind of pressure—especially NATO pressure—and that it is doubtful that West Germany and others would risk their economic interests to support us.
Economic pressures range through
requesting US companies to curtail their offtake, advising US
technicians to leave, cutting off US oil imports from Libya,
restricting additional US investment, and freezing Libyan reserves
in the US. There are specific arguments on each one of these in the
paper (pp. 4–6) but in general they boil down to these:
- The argument for is that oil income is the Libyan government’s main source of income. Any move that effectively cut into this would cause Libyan concern, although Libya now has more income than it can use so it has some cushion.
- The argument against is essentially that US companies would suffer more than the Libyan government. European companies are ready to replace American in marketing Libyan oil. The Libyan government could cause some disruption in foreign exchange markets by shifting its reserves suddenly.
Military actions range through a Sixth
Fleet show of force off the Libyan coast and movement of troops
(hopefully in concert with the UK) to
hold training areas [text not declassified]
- The argument for would be to make the regime uncertain about our intentions toward it [text not declassified]
- The argument against is that we would have to prepare for longer term occupation if we intended a show of force beyond mere evacuation of Americans. This would provoke a sharp reaction in the Arab world and, within Libya, would not protect the farflung installations of US oil companies.
- [text not declassified]
- [text not declassified]
- [text not declassified]
- It seems to us that the base-related and [text not declassified] political pressures would probably not work, and the leverage is on the wrong side for the economic pressures.
- A landing of forces at Wheelus seems an option worth considering, but the longer they stayed the less able they would be to maintain the cover of evacuating Americans and the more vulnerable private oil installations would become.
- We suggest an NSC briefing
covering these points:
- The character of the Libyan regime.
- The US policy choice—confront or play along.
- The options available in a policy of confrontation and their risks.
- What we would have to do if we play along and the risks.
- Dave Newsom seems the logical one to do the briefing. He knows Libya. He is the responsible Assistant Secretary. He is a good briefer.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H—71, WSAG Meeting, Libya and Lebanon, 11/24/69. Top Secret. Sent for information. Attached but not printed are the annexes to the NSC paper.↩
- The memorandum summarized the attached NSC paper, titled “Possible Alternative Pressures on Present Libyan Regime.” The 9 page paper detailed U.S. economic interests in private oil investment; outlines possible strategies to employ in discussions with the new regime; and analyzes options both for and against those strategies.↩