28. Telegram 1257 From the Embassy in Libya to the Department of State1

1257. Subj: Future of Embassy Tripoli. Ref: State 194228.

1. Following are my best answers at this time, formulated after discussion with my four officers.

A) No, Libyan actions to date do not suggest a LARG determination to force us out, either in the sense of breaking relations or in terms of closing this Mission. Had LARG determined to achieve either of those objectives, believe they would have seized several opportunities to force the issue. (Suspect, without having proof, that RCC debated this point after Libyan airliner shot down in Sinai on February 21, and that its decision was to take full revenge against either U.S. or Israel [Page 89] whatever the consequences, i.e., to accept any consequent USG decision to close this Mission, but not to force it to close by direct pressure. Reasons for this last proviso, which might be called the plateglass aspect of the post, would have been a fear of U.S. countermeasures against Libyan security or economic interests. Doubt that Libyan diplomatic interests in U.S. per se figured much—except possibly the thought that, so long as Soviets represented in Tripoli, some U.S. presence here helps preserve LAR’s non-aligned image. LARG is not much interested in its Mission at Washington, partly because its Mission at NY opens a barn door to our country anyway.)

B) Yes, agreeing to put Arabic in passports probably would allow us to continue to operate this Embassy. To say “would assure us” is too strong, as we are talking about both the future and someone else’s intentions. My estimate is that we could continue to operate, barring another disaster at Israeli hands like the LAA incident, or a U.S./Libyan military confrontation involving loss of life, or of course a new Arab/Israeli war. The effectiveness of our operations is another matter, and for Dept to judge, but I doubt if they could be much improved in quality, given the political environment here. The very fact of our acceptance of Arabic, if it comes to that, will reveal the hostage aspect of the post and not make its mission easier. For other reasons too I would in fact expect increasing operating difficulties—but not to the point, whatever it is, where we consider operations impossible or completely ineffectual. LARG harassment is just that, and we can continue to “operate” so long as we get fresh blood.

2. As reftel received today, have not obtained latest reading from any DPL colleagues on their estimates of LARG intentions toward continued presence of U.S. and other foreign missions. Can say from recent conversations, however, that general estimate is that unity with Egypt is off, so we are all stuck here, regrettably. On passport issue, our closest allies, if they can be called that in this context, all tend to think we have put up a magnificent but quixotic fight against the inevitable. Their present worry is that rumors come true and the next slice of the salami will be a deadline for printing foreign passports in Arabic. Few doubt that this will happen before long, in which case the USG will look less quixotic—but no more than an example to be followed than before (unless we start printing in Arabic).

  1. Summary: The Embassy responded to a request from the Department for information on the future of the Embassy in Tripoli.

    Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 739, Country Files, Africa, Libya, Volume II. Secret; Priority; Exdis. The Department asked for the Embassy’s opinion on the future of the diplomatic mission in Libya in telegram 194228 to Tripoli, September 28. (Ibid.)