Press Release

Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State
September 24, 2007

The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1969–1976, Volume E–5, Part 2, Documents on North Africa, 1969–1972. This electronic-only volume is available on the Department of State’s website. Part of the ongoing official documentary history of U.S. foreign policy, this is the promised second portion of an electronic-only volume that in two parts covers Sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, 1969–1972. The first part on Sub-Saharan African has been on the Department’s website since October 2005. The portion released today presents the record of U.S. policies towards North Africa. Documentation on U.S. policy towards Southern Africa, 1969–1976, is scheduled for later publication in Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XXVIII.

The volume has a chapter on general U.S. policy towards the region, which demonstrates that U.S. analysts concluded that North Africa would remain politically stable, with the possible exception of Libya, where a successful coup by young military officers overthrew the monarchy. Still, the analysts assured the Nixon administration that by actively engaging the countries of North Africa and by encouraging the United States European allies to do the same, the area could be kept free of Soviet domination.

The documents on Algeria reflect the role of U.S. influence, rather than active diplomacy, since the radical government of Algeria had earlier broken relations with the United States over its Middle East and Vietnam polices. While U.S. political relations with Algeria were limited, commercial relations saw steady improvement. Algeria’s willingness to give safe haven to terrorist and dissident groups, like the Black Panthers, did nothing to improve U.S.-Algerian diplomatic relations.

Libya was the country with the most potential for problems, but the new military government moved slowly. Eventually it negotiated with Washington the termination of the Wheelus Air Force Base agreement. The primary issue for Tripoli was the delivery of U.S. jet aircraft, which the United States had contracted to sell to the previous Libyan Government. The chapter covers deliberations in Washington over this issue: would the sale of aircraft antagonize Israel and result in more arms requests from them? Could the sale prevent potential Libyan nationalization of American and European oil companies? In the end, the Nixon administration concluded that the sale would neither appreciably worsen, nor improve, relations with Tripoli, and denied delivery. The Libyan reaction was sharp, with threats to go to the Soviet Union for weapons; however, U.S.-Libyan relations continued on a reduced, but still workable level.

Morocco under King Hassan was a strong ally of the United States and a moderate voice in the Arab-Israeli dispute; however, the documents in this chapter demonstrate that nonetheless there were still tensions. Unsuccessful coups and calls in Morocco for political reform of the royal government caused both Hassan and the Nixon administration to look again at their relationship. Hassan agreed to broaden his government, but warned that this could have repercussions for the United States. In order to continue friendly relations with Morocco and to support Hassan, the United States agreed to be more responsive to his needs and to reduce the U.S. military presence in Morocco. Far from U.S. disengagement, this measure was designed to preserve relations.

Tunisia under President Bourguiba was perhaps America’s closest ally in North Africa, but Bourguiba was ill and nearing retirement. The sale of Soviet arms to Algeria and the Libyan coup increased Tunisia’s sense of insecurity, but the United States was only prepared to provide a modest increase in military assistance and rhetorical support in the form of assurances from President Nixon. Even Tunisia clashed verbally with U.S. officials over U.S. support for Israel; however, the overall relationship between the two countries remained strong.

This volume relies on documentation generated by the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, the NSC staff, and the records of the Department of State. It also includes documentation from the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Kissinger papers.

The text of the volume, the summary, and this press release are available on the Department of State’s website ( For further information, contact Edward C. Keefer, General Editor of the Foreign Relations series at (202) 663-1131, or by email at