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The briefest post, but also the most responsible and concise one to date:


In 1775, the Shot Heard ‘Round the World was fired when General Gage was marching on the armory at Concord to confiscate all weapons from the militia in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

What is interesting about Genearl Gage’s move, is not that it was a British General confiscating American weapons, but that it was a British General confiscating weapons of British subjects. Even after the rise and domination of the citizen in politics, the example holds true to this present day.

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The National Socialist German Workers Party and the Kingdom of Italy/Italian Social Republic in the early 20th century sought to limit gun ownership, little by little, until owning a gun became illegal. What were their programs for governance and society?

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Given the result of both examples and how they were to eventually meet on the battle field of posterity decades and decades later, only begs the question, which is the right course of action? What would you rather see? A citizenry that is armed and knowledgeable of their past, or an ignorant, and fickle mass of people to be disregarded once more?

The Euro: Not Short on Friends, Yet Homeless

An old dog may not be taught new tricks, but the European Union [EU] can be further economically and politically domesticated by enacting necessary reforms. Economists have identified the EU as the second largest economy to that of the United States, yet if the global economy needed to collaborate with Europe, whom do they call? Many European governments and banks managed to emerge unscathed after the 2008 financial crisis largely from avoiding the American credit markets[i], however the euro zone is not short of its own domestically manufactured financial concerns. The problem for the seventeen “euro zone” countries is managing their sovereign debt; and more importantly, the group’s ability to collectively respond to the realities of each euro zone member’s respective financial needs. There is serious concern as to whether the euro zone members have the necessary political as well as economically integrated and unified organizational capabilities to reconcile the Euro’s current instability.

Greece was the first euro zone member to shock the euro financial world as a result of their burdensome sovereign debt mixed with reckless levels of government spending. The economically biggest and strongest of the euro zone members, Germany, France, Italy, as well as the IMF responded quickly by creating a financial “bail-out” package to avert a Greek default on its debt payments.[ii] As of today, the “Greece problem” persists due to its failure to implement the terms agreed upon for the bailout, and is now asking for either another bailout or simply a means to “orderly default”. Disagreement on how to handle the “Greek question” has become so apparent within the euro zone that the head of the [German-based] European Central Bank [ECB] has resigned due to “personal reasons” [and yet the ECB is the most responsive actor in this crisis thus far, which is not very reassuring at this point]. After Greece came Ireland’s troubles, Spain and Portugal were also feared to be next in line and in need of some form of propping up. The major areas of concern is mostly centered on the smaller periphery states, however this changed in July 2011 when Italy began to lose market confidence [rumors circulated that Italy would be forced to default] in managing its sovereign debt [120% of its GDP], seeing bond yields rise by almost 1% in two trading days.[iii] Great Britain, who has always championed the cause of splendid isolation, warned Europe that is has six weeks to solve this crisis of confidence or risk another global recession[iv]; a sound piece of advice to a squabbling Europe, and music to our ears on this side of the pond.

The problems have continued to mount for the euro zone members largely as a result of two weaknesses: first, the euro zone leaders are unable to collectively agree as to what is the current next best step, or where to even begin [the EU suffers from “dispersed sovereign authority syndrome”, or “prideful decentralized name-calling”]. The euro currency was created without the necessary institutions such as a treasury, the ability to raise taxes, and a centralized, coherent decision-making body.[v] So even if the euro zone members were in agreement there is no formal mechanism or procedure on which to follow and therefore would have to “make up the rules as they go along,” not exactly the ideal framework to instill market confidence. Secondly, euro zone leaders continue to fail to recognize key fundamental issues confronting their task of stabilizing the Euro currency. Now is the time to “get serious”, even if it costs euro zone leaders an election at home. For example, the various euro leaders still have yet to admit that Greece’s financial situation is nothing other than insolvent. German officials are divided on how much they should use of their own money [or the ‘taxpayers money’] to put towards bailing out Greece for a second time who is singing a song, or rather kicking and screaming the cries of “orderly default”.[vi] Therefore various measures must be implemented in order to salvage a unified Europe, to stabilize the euro, and regain market confidence in the European financial institutions.

There is No Third Way

The euro zone members must do five things without delay. First, the philosophy of Jean Monnet, the “godfather of the EU” and his improvised, technocratic approach to establishing the EU framework must be abandoned. It is not a responsible approach to the more concrete issues Europe faces today. Second, euro zone members need to lose the pretense and realistically assess the financial realities of each euro zone member. Third, all relative European banks should be bolstered in dealing with sovereign defaults of various euro zone members. Fourth, there needs to be serious macroeconomic integration within the member economies or risk future collapse. Lastly, the fifth concern should be the overall vision of Europe itself. In other words, Europe must establish protocol and enact various reforms to ensure that a crisis like this will not happen ever again. I would go so far as to suggest entertaining Joschka Fischer’s call for a United States of Europe, something France would not support in its constant efforts to seek parity with Germany.

Méthode Monnet No More: Jean Monnet once said that, “Europe will not be built all at once, or as a single whole: it will be built by concrete achievements which first create de facto solidarity.”[vii] Yet this improvised philosophy of European unification has met its breaking point: either Europe must seek a more centralized structure or risk losing everything altogether. This méthode has created two problems that the euro members are currently grappling with at the moment: (1) it alienates voters of each member country in the affairs of the central European government, and; (2) it creates a “democratic deficit” within the system, derived from member countries ensuring their “sovereign rights” are not trampled on.[viii] For problem one, the concern is that there is no accountability or potential for European voters in each country to “vote out” the members who have invited this crisis in the first place. The second problem, begs the question as to whether this “maximization of sovereignty” is the proper course to pursue toward creating a strong and unified Europe. This maintenance of sovereignty works fine in times of relative calm, but in a crisis that same quality enables inaction to run rampant through the system, thus paralyzing any essential leadership.

Realistic Assessment: euro zone leaders, the most influential being Germany and France, need to buckle down and make the difficult assessment that Greece is no longer solvent. Greece is aware it is unable to actually pay off all its sovereign debt and therefore the country has started the request of finding a way to “orderly default”[ix], against the wishes of some euro zone members. Ultimately, the euro members have to realistically determine which countries are solvent and which are not. By ignoring the reality of the situation, they are setting up the certain failure of their own response to “fix” the situation. Like any effective problem-solving venture, one must outline the problem to be tackled; to paint a prettier picture is only ensuring imminent failure.

Keep Banks Strong: The European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) is a centralized fund that offers capital to banks that need shoring up. Euro zone members must strengthen the capabilities of the fund in order to meet the financial needs of each country’s financial institutions. To further strengthen these institutions there needs to be a recapitalization effort for banks, only after a more thorough stress test is conducted which should include the possibility of a Greek default, among other related scenarios. This process is especially important in relation to French banks, which have lent substantial sums of capital to periphery states such as Greece and Spain.[x] Ensuring this process will enable a more responsive EFSF to European financial institutions, as well as sufficiently prop up European banks to deal with any potentialities that would otherwise deepen the crisis if left unattended.

Macroeconomic Integration: The ECB needs to play a stronger role that it has already been playing within this crisis. The German-based bank is unelectable and independent and many of its leaders fear that purchasing more of Spanish and Italian bonds could damage the credibility of the still young institution.[xi] What should be done to further integrate the macroeconomic functions of the euro zone members, as well as stave off deep concerns of financial instability within the region, is to have the ECB back all solvent countries. There is fear that Italy would be forced to default on its sovereign debt, not because the debt itself in insolvent, but rather due to loss of confidence, primarily as a result from political turmoil at home.[xii] Italy, for example, has more capital on hand than Germany, and easily relies on domestic lending to gain market stability and confidence; and the country has been known to raise taxes when necessary. Therefore when it comes to solvent countries such as Italy and Spain, and given their relatively “smooth” capabilities to domestically reconcile market concerns,[xiii] the ECB should publicly guarantee any financial assistance to these countries; for example, purchasing their government bonds, thus ensuring a boost in market confidence.

The United States of Europe: the fundamental issue concerning the entire euro crisis is, confidence. The vicious cycle witnessed thus far in the euro zone is the result of a non-unified approach to solving this crisis, as well as pursuing collective measures that do little to solve the problem, just prolong it to a later date [Europe has refined the art of claiming grandiose achievements only to pay the more burdensome price at a later date]. Italy’s sovereign debt would have never come into question if there was a more cohesive, well-defined central body that instilled confidence in markets and investors; and French banks would never have suffered as much as they have the last two months if the Greek and Spanish questions were initially solved. There are two visions that roughly emerge from this lack of a unified front between euro zone members: first, the concept of an “economic government” where countries retain political sovereignty but are more economically interdependent of one another. This is especially popular with the French who wish to maintain a level of influence on par with Germany.[xiv] The second is “Joint Eurobonds” that would pool together euro zone members’ resources to back up the issuing of bonds from a central European entity. This is not too popular with the budget-efficient, and economic power-house of Germany who believes such an idea would “reduce borrowing costs to profligate;”[xv] an assessment not too wide of the mark given Europe’s financial track record.

What we need to see in the coming months is the conceptualization and operationalization of a framework that draws Europe closer together economically, if not politically. Maintaining each euro zone members’ sovereignty sounds comfortable and even feasible in times of economic prosperity, but this crisis has been prolonged to an extent that threatens the very existence of the European Union and the euro currency altogether. Euro zone members need to strengthen and increase the influence of central European mechanism such as the EFSF, the ECB as well as institute new powers and organs such as a reasonable tax-raising power and a treasury for starters. There needs to be less emphasis on national sovereignty and more on a cohesive and central response; especially when the issue at hand involves a single currency. Even with a more economically interdependent Europe, [which already arguably exists], there needs to be further political integration that enables and thus guarantees that when a problem of this magnitude occurs, euro zone members can and will act in a single front to tackle the problem, and reduce the potentialities of losing market confidence. This will take the longest of all to realize, and would involve countless new treaties and agreements between the euro zone nations. If the euro zone and its single currency are to be taken seriously, and ultimately strengthened within the global economy, this old dog known as Europe must reform itself or be lost forever.


[i] “Fears over French Banks: Panic in Paris | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 20 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21526382&gt;.

[ii] “Europe’s Economies: Strong Core, Pain on the Periphery | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 25 July 2011. Web. 18 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/europes_economies&gt;.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Giles, Christ, and Alan Beattie. “Global Economy Pushed to the Brink.” Www.ft.com. Pearson PLC, 23 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Sept. 2011. <http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/9bedaa82-e603-11e0-960c-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1Yt78CfRG&gt;.

[v] “Charlemagne: The End of Monnet | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 3 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21528269&gt;.

[vi] “Europe’s Currency Crisis: How to save the Euro | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 17 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21529049&gt;.

[vii] “Charlemagne: The End of Monnet | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 3 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21528269&gt;.

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] “Europe’s Currency Crisis: How to save the Euro | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 17 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21529049&gt;.

[x] “Fears over French Banks: Panic in Paris | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 20 Aug. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21526382&gt;.

[xi] “Europe’s Currency Crisis: How to save the Euro | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 17 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21529049&gt;.

[xii] “Italy: Trashing the Lifeboat | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 3 Sept. 2011. Web. 20 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21528316&gt;.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] “Charlemagne: The End of Monnet | The Economist.” The Economist – World News, Politics, Economics, Business & Finance. 3 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <http://www.economist.com/node/21528269&gt;.

[xv] Ibid.

The Laydown

As the fires of revolution and insurrection were sparked by the desperate fruit vendor in Tunisia and pushed across the Middle East, the world witnessed Ben Ali being swept from power in Tunisia, Mubarak from Egypt, popular demand in Bahrain and Yemen calling for the resignation of their established elite while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia scrambled to manage stability; yet one contentious area of conflict protrudes from the chaos, Kaddafi’s Libya. Observations of the current unrest across the region of North Africa and the Middle East indicate a few noticeable trends, either that leaders and the governments they represent are being toppled, or a restless, disunited, underemployed and ill-treated citizenry demands for meaningful reform. A scenario that the Western powers and the Obama administration cautioned to pursue was any sort of intervention within these domestic upheavals, given the sensitive nature of Middle Eastern fears of Western imperial interference with the sovereignty of Arab nations. Therefore two questions emerge regarding the upheaval in the region; why has Kaddafi’s Libya been the only country to witness Western military intervention within its domestic affairs? And further, why has Kaddafi been able to maintain his hold on power amidst foreign military intervention, civil war and armed insurrection across the country?

To responsibly address these questions two major occurrences must come into focus for the Libyan picture to have meaning and for these answers to be potentially reconciled. First, the domestic affairs of Libya must be outlined and defined regarding the history of the nation’s governance; further, the domestic politics and the struggle for power over the broader region as well as the tribes and their structure that participate in the in Libyan domestic affairs are to be additionally addressed to answer these questions. To understand the domestic conflict there needs to be serious attention paid to how Kaddafi has been able to maintain power and control over the country even as the situation has plummeted into fighting and chaos. Tribal influence in Libya is extremely important today as it was in previous centuries, yet particularly since the 1970s.[i] For example, tribal affiliation is vital in regards to finding employment in Libya’s General People’s Committees, as well as in the country’s security apparatus.[ii] Secondly, the economic and foreign policies of the Kaddafi regime must be outlined in order to bring attention to the phenomenon as to why Libya is the only nation to be militarily addressed by European entities regarding their domestic unrest. Outlining the societal and tribal structure of Libya will offer a glimpse into the nature of Libyan domestic politics and Kaddafi’s unique hold to power, and establish a path to understand why the regime’s policies have created an environment a domestic and international environment which resulted in Western intervention.

Libyan Historiography, Society and Tribal Structure

For most of Libya’s classical, modern and contemporary history the nation has been dominated or influenced greatly by foreign powers, whether from local or distant lands. The ancient Carthaginian Empire, ruled by the city of Carthage in present day Tunisia[iii] once controlled the Libyan shores, the Phoenicians before them set up and controlled trading ports, the Ottomans established control of the region in 1511 and maintained their rule for four hundred years until the Italo-Turkish wars of 1911 resulting in the thirty-year colonization period by Italian Fascism[iv], and within recent history the monarch King Idris I put in place after World War II, was largely influenced by the persuasion of British politics[v]. Only until recently, with the coup d’état of Muammar Kaddafi in 1969, has Libya began to promote an ideology based upon ridding the country of direct foreign control over its internal affairs and sought to create a perception of national government for the benefit of the Libyan people. The various ethnic tribes and cultures located in Libya however, have never fully integrated into the various political constructs of a unified society. Without a historical record of a collective or class memory that could be transformed into a political energy, accompanied by the inability to define national interests with the lack of cohesion of a Libyan military force to defend those interests, a unified Libya has continued to be a vision of dreams.[vi] For example, Iran was able to unify their extremely diversified people of Persians, Azeris, Kurds (arguable), among many others under the flag of Shi’ism[vii], yet in Libya even with general conception of Sunni Islam as the widely accepted religion, it has not been a strong enough force to unify the people under the concept of “Libya”.[viii]

If the current nation of Libya were to be divided up according to tribes and political power structures, a very different picture than many other Middle Eastern and North African Arab countries would come to focus; and from here is where the difference between Libya and the rest of the nations in the Middle East are made visible in regards to the current domestic upheaval against the Kaddafi regime.

There are three main divisions within the country of Libya, to the Northwest is Tripolitania, to the Southwest is the area of Fezzan and all the land remaining to the East is traditionally called Cyrenaica.[ix] It is crucial to address the tribal structure, and their power centers within the domestic political structure in order to create an accurate picture of the current insurrection; this will offer insight into how Kaddafi managed to retain his hold on power against immense pressure that would have quickly toppled other regimes. In total there are about 140 different tribes within Libya, and yet only 30 of those tribes are viewed with having any significance to the political process and governance in general.[x] The central and southern areas of the country are less inhabited due to the harsh Saharan terrain and are comprised of various different tribal ethnicities; therefore Libyan tribes are usually defined into two major categories, the coastal mixed Arab-Berber tribes of northern Tripolitania and Cyrenaica regions and the southern Arab-African tribes of Fezzan.[xi] Regardless of the similarity present among the ethnicities of northern Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, there are variations of culture, language, historical narratives and tribal loyalties that divide the tribes within their regions creating two further categories based on political influence stemming from severe ideological differences between the rival tribes.[xii] The tribes in the region of Tripolitania identify mostly with the Western area of North African culture of the Islamic Maghreb, the tribes of Cyrenaica with that of the Islamic-Arab east toward Egypt, and the south consists of tribes in Fezzan that identify and look towards the south to black African nations such as Niger and Chad.[xiii]

The Banu Hilal and the Banu Salim Arabs settled around the 11th century in their respective East and Western regions of Libya, now Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and have always struggled against one another for political power and domination, as well as cultural and tribal ideals.[xiv] For the intent of this paper, and in order to reasonably demonstrate the current separation and insurrection of Libyan society, I will focus on the most immediate examples of the Banu Hilal and Banu Salim groups; addressing King Idris I from the Sanussi group and region of Cyrenaica, as well as Kaddafi’s 1969 coup supported by the Maghreb oriented tribes of Tripolitania. In 1945, at the Potsdam Conference[1], the Allied powers of Word War II declared the Italian colonies, established in 1911 as a result of the Italo-Turkish wars, were to be seized and not returned to Italian control.[xv] After a very contentious deliberation among the Allied powers, the UN passed a resolution calling for the establishment of the United Kingdom of Libya as a sovereign state no later than 1 January 1952, and was enacted by forty-eight votes to one, with nine abstentions.[xvi]

Libya’s Independence, King Idris I and the Senussi

The country’s first general elections took place in February 1952, the previous Libyan federation of the three established provinces was weak, therefore the nation was faced with great difficulty in maintaining a unified grasp over the various people under the British-prescribed federal formula. Under the newly adopted constitution, a bicameral legislature was established but formulated in a manner that allowed it to be easily manipulated by the monarch.[xvii] Additionally, after the adoption of the constitution and the general elections, political parties were abolished, and the monarch selected individuals from the tribal groups of Cyrenaica, his home region to fill government positions. King Idris I, heavily reliant upon the British government, had the authority to appoint half the members of the upper house (the Senate) and also to dissolve the lower house (Chamber of Deputies), as well as to veto legislation; in other words, his power was relatively close to being absolute, regardless of the king’s continual condemnation of the favoritism and corruption his government would soon come to embody.[xviii]

The monarch came from the Senussi movement or school of thought created in the city of Mecca in 1837 by the Grand Senussi, thus reasserting its Eastern Arab Islamic tendencies to that of the Western Maghreb culture of the nation.[xix]  The members from this school of Islamic thought desired to bring about a revival of Islamic spirituality and were major components to the rebellions against the French and Italians in the early 20th century.[xx] Cyrenaica was greatly strengthened overall by Italian Fascist colonial policy that undermined Libyans in Tripolitania, fighting against each other for the idea of a Tripolitania Republic, which allowed Cyrenaica to grow in regional autonomy.[xxi] The government of the monarch was full of “Italian resistance fighters” which emerged during the upheaval against French and Italian forces such as Mohammad Fekini to name one.[xxii] Regardless of the school of Islamic thought the Senussi dynasty adhered to, it was vastly transformed upon the group’s control of the monarchy and essentially all matters related to the country’s governance. Given the weak and economically difficult terrain of the nation, the country’s monarchy was heavily reliant on nations with available capital and therefore created a twenty-year treaty of friendship and cooperation with Great Britain.[xxiii] This agreement allowed for an “opening” of relations to Western officials and resources that greatly affected the various peoples and tribes across the country, especially those in Tripolitania who did not benefit from the treaty in the same manner as those in Cyrenaica.[xxiv]

The provisions within the agreement allowed rights for Great Britain to construct military bases, and later in 1954 the monarch signed another treaty with the United States to construct the Wheelus Air Force base; a complex that Kaddafi would later cite to stir Pan-Arab sentiments.[xxv] What further exacerbated the tension between the rival tribal powers of the Northern parts of the country were the continued policies of the monarch that relied more upon Western aid to maintain the Libyan economy which usually was administered to favor the monarch’s loyal tribes.[xxvi] Since the overall terrain and climate of the country is arid, hot and consists mostly of the Sahara desert, it was difficult to produce enough crops and other needed goods to independently sustain the economy without substantial capital investments and subsidies (as was the case with Italian agriculture initiatives pre-WWII).[xxvii] Despite the agreements that allowed for a substantial influx of technical, agricultural, and educational services and goods provided by the UN, the United States and Great Britain, the nation remained relatively poor after the succeeding years from independence.[xxviii] Further, the manipulated bicameral legislatures of the king were filled with powerful tribal elites from his own tribe and its allies. In 1959, the American petroleum company Esso, later to become Exxon, discovered large oil reserves at Zaltan in the region of Cyrenaica.[xxix] As the years progressed and Libyan petroleum production expanded with the help of American and British companies, a major consequence was the relative increase in political freedom of the government as the nation became more able to independently sustain itself on petroleum revenue.[xxx] Meanwhile, throughout the Middle East the region began to witness the rise of Arab nationalism and therefore the monarch quickly sought to implement policies that would eradicate the Western military bases from the country altogether in fear such policies would greatly threaten the general stability of the nation.[xxxi]

The Senussi monarch meanwhile and his tribal allies began to take advantage of the newly established petroleum revenue and was accused of corruption and misuse of those funds by distributing and utilizing the wealth from the generated revenue more to the advantage of the king’s home region of Cyrenaica.[xxxii] Further, as a result of the increased revenue, the government began to expand its influence and hold on power by creating various new institutions (Petroleum Commission of 1955) to handle the influx in petroleum wealth and therefore resulted in a good deal of overlapping bureaucracy that upset the people who were not directly benefited from the government’s favoritism-type policies to its loyal tribes.[xxxiii] Needless to say, the king’s policy to eradicate Libya of Western military bases, a contributing factor to the discontent found within the overall population was by this point deeply rooted by his absolutist and political-favoritism and had been set in motion with great fervor.

As the rise of Arab nationalism grew during the fifties and early sixties with the emergence of the Egyptian leader Gamal Nasser, one of Kaddafi’s revolutionary heros, a substantial group of the Libyan people agreed that the pro-Western stance maintained by the monarch, especially during the 1956 Suez Canal crisis between Israel and Egypt was simply intolerable and an insult to the Arab people collectively.[xxxiv] Of the eighteen years as ruler, King Idris was able to create a marginal cohesive societal structure for six years, and yet the society continued to remain destitute, illiterate, and a traditional society with few interests that went beyond the ideals of family, the tribe or province; further, many of the political forces were dictated by influential ideological regional currents and not a national consensus which only resulted in persisting uncertainty and overall instability.[xxxv] As the king’s health began to deteriorate and the crown prince began to look as the new de facto ruler, senior members of the army, business professionals and even elements of the royal entourage began to put in motion a coup that would overthrow and exile the king and his family in 1969.[xxxvi]

Kaddafi’s Coup and Rise to Power

After the pro-Western and absolutist policies of the monarch, the national sentiment of the country was to bring about a more purist Arab form of culture and government. In fact, upon declaring the Libyan republic on September 1, 1969 Kaddafi announced that his new government’s objective was to undo the actions taken by the fallen monarch that had “shattered our honor.”[xxxvii] The major initiative that the former monarch had failed to achieve was the unification of the tribes and various ethnicities within the newly created state.[xxxviii]As Kaddafi began to cement his power over the nation he captured the emotion of the Libyan people and his tribal regions discontent with the former monarch when he stated, “How can a soldier remain passive and salute a king who has filled the country with foreign forces? How can you accept being stopped on the street by an American? That happened to me personally. When I wanted to enter Wheelus base, I was turned away.”[xxxix]It is important to keep in mind two things regarding Kaddafi and the personnel of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) established to maintain order and the rule of law after the revolution; first, they represented a dramatic change from the conservative generations of leaders before them and secondly, had few credentials of any kind, lacking political and economic skills which questioned their initial legitimacy of rule.[xl]

Regardless of the revolutionary shift in power, governmental structure, and the new hard-line pro-Arab nationalistic stance of the Kaddafi regime; one dominant political tribe in power (King Idris I of Senussi Cyrenaica) of the country was traded for another (the Kaddafi regime of Maghreb Tripolitania).[xli] In other words, while the rhetoric of national unification and pro-Arab policies was what propelled the Kaddafi regime into power, the personnel that comprised the RCC were from tribes that never identified with the cultural, religious and national vision of the former tribes that supported the monarchy.[xlii] This was noticeable by the RCC’s members being distinctly from middle class families and not from the more prosperous and elite tribal members of the Senussi people from Cyrenaica whom were mostly the beneficiaries of politic favoritism.[xliii] In addition, Kaddafi understood this fragile co-existence in regards to maintaining political balance between Libya’s two rival tribes and so therefore sought quickly to manipulate the overall population to ensure that his rule would go uncontested indefinitely; the two major differences however between Kaddafi and the former monarch were,

(a)   Kaddafi had the ability of hindsight to learn from the monarch’s political mistakes of his (Kaddafi’s) own coup, and,

(b)  Large oil reserves were already established upon taking power, helping to expedite political and economic activity of the nation.[xliv]

The Kaddafi regime sought domestic policies regarding the nationalization of the oil industries (nearly half of the oil companies were private and foreign at this time)[xlv], as well as initiatives to address regional redistricting for the country in which greatly reduced the tribal power structures within Cyrenaica in order to legitimize and ensure his regime’s power.[xlvi]

What is highly important is how the Kaddafi regime sought after initial policies that dismantled the former monarchy’s power base in the attempt to take decentralize as well as undermine all aspects of the once favored tribes of Cyrenaica; then followed with policies that in affect established the same favoritism-like initiatives of the former monarch, except this time toward the loyal tribes in the Tripolitania in support of the Kaddafi regime.[xlvii] Instead of the Arab nationalist rhetoric exploited by the Kaddafi regime bringing meaningful reform in this regard, it enacted fundamentally the same favoritism except this time for the previously underprivileged tribal groups.[xlviii] Lastly, and most importantly, Kaddafi began a series of military reforms to ensure no military coup could be used against debasing his power hold by maintaining a fractured Libyan military system. How the system was kept weak was by utilizing numerous battalions which then pledged allegiance to their respective generals (mostly people from Kaddafi’s own or allied tribes, or even mercenaries from black-African nations) then followed by the generals swearing allegiance to Kaddafi.[xlix]

When the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) issued their resolution 1973 to the Kaddafi regime in March 2011, the document specifically identified individuals of the Libyan military, there were eleven military/security personnel targeted whom mostly came either from Kaddafi’s own tribe or the other various tribes allied with his own, these people were: Dr. Abdulqader Mohammed Al-Baghdadi, Abu Zayd Umar Dorda, Major General Abu Bakr Yunis Jabir, Mutassim Gaddafi, Saadi Gaddafi, Abdulqader Yusef Dibri, Matuq Mohammed Matuq, Sayyid Mohammed Qadhaf Al-dam, Khamis Muammar Gaddafi, Colonel Abdullah Al-Senussi.[l] This command structure of the military allowed for it to remain relatively weak, decentralized and secure from either outside plots or ones from the various rival tribes within Cyrenaica.

There exist two additional visible components as to why Kaddafi’s RCC outlasted the former monarchy regardless of the lack of a meaningful shift in the pursuit of Arab and Libyan nationalist policies. First, Kaddafi’s policies were founded on pro-Arab rather than cooperative Western policies, in addition to his nationalization and diversification of Libyan natural resources such as the oil, natural gas and construction sectors of the economy. Second, his detailed oriented decentralization of the military command, and the placement of familiar individuals to positions such as his sons or loyal tribesmen from the local area. This therefore asserts that without these two major components Kaddafi would have succumb to the same level of domestic opposition as did the former monarch in 1969. Overall experts generally agree that part of Kaddafi’s strategy for retaining power has been to keep members of his tribe in important positions.[li] Noman Benotman, a former dissident familiar with official thinking of the Libyan elites stated, “Instead, power is largely vested in a series of paramilitary formations, bolstered by groups of foreign African mercenaries, that have largely remained loyal to the Gaddafi family.”[lii] Therefore, if this is to hold true why did the insurrection against the Kaddafi regime take flight, and why did it further result in Western military support against the personnel of the Kaddafi regime?

The Libyan Insurrection, Civil War and UNSC Resolution 1973

            From the very onset of the upheaval across the Middle East the events in Libya have been distinctly unique. There have been cases of Arab nations firing upon and sometimes killing peaceful and unarmed protestors however, in the case of Libya the dissidents are armed, and predominantly belong to the various tribes located in the region of Cyrenaica. In fact, most of the rebel forces that are fighting the Kaddafi regime are waving the former flag of the Libyan monarchy and therefore potentially demonstrate the underlying principle or vision of their cause.[liii] Further, due to the effective redistricting policies of the current Libyan government, the various tribes of Cyrenaica have had a difficult time in regaining an organized and cohesive foothold amongst their region’s tribes. In addition, due to the national policies of the Kaddafi government and the unequal wealth distribution between populations and regions from the structure of those policies, the tribes of Cyrenaica are in a similar position to the tribes of Tripolitania found themselves in the years preceding the 1969 coup. In Libya, it will be the tribal system that will hold the balance of power rather than the military.[liv]

The spark that initiated the insurrection between the two rival regions is speculated to have begun when peaceful protests cemented in Benghazi, a current rebel strong hold, which Kaddafi responded to with force, resulting in the first bloodshed of the ongoing conflict.[lv] As the tensions escalated and as the pro-Kaddafi forces raised the ante toward repressing and censoring the insurrection, the tribes of the East established the Transitional National Council based in Benghazi on the Eastern Libyan coast. As the Eastern tribal forces continued their attack upon pro-government forces and the deaths continued to mount, the International Criminal Court warned Kaddafi that his aggressive stance against the insurrection constituted as crimes against humanity due to the nature of his regime’s targeting policy which frequently resulted in civilian casualties.[lvi] The initial reaction from various Western nations was uncertainty in determining the potential outcome of the conflict. On the outside there was concern that the Kaddafi regime would remain in power by utilization of such horrific and illegitimate means of brute force, while the Transitional National Council forces were poorly organized and armed.[lvii] What’s more is that there were also concerns that the rebel forces were linked to Al Qaeda, however NATO has been unable to confirm such assertions and have been most likely circulated from the Kaddafi regime; however it is probable at this point that it has been the attempt of the regime to undermine the Eastern forces’ cause by claiming such actions.[lviii]

As the death total of rebel and civilian personnel reached close to 1,000 people the Western powers decided that proper action was needed on their part in order to ensure the safeguard of innocent lives during the conflict.[lix] The protection of innocent civilian life from the aggressive assault of the Kaddafi forces was the overarching policy goal of Resolution 1973 of the UNSC powers, plus Germany, however there is reason to speculate that there were potentially ulterior motives at work that most likely resulted in the action undertaken by NATO forces. There exist two major variables as to why the UNSC Resolution 1973 was simply a mechanism to oust Kaddafi from power; (1) the recent declaration of the three major NATO participants Mr. Obama, British Prime Minister Cameron and French President Sarkozy stated that their military forces will not stop bombing until Kaddafi is removed from power[lx]; and (2) the major European and American powers that called for military intervention have major financial and economic agreements and investments with the Libyan nation that were at risk of being jeopardized and so therefore intervened as necessary in order to ensure no losses from these major investments occurred.

Libyan Economic Policy and Europe

            The current economic policies of Libya are direct concerns for many European nations. For example, the top five trading partners with Libya are all European or Western countries, Italy (37.65%), Germany (10.11%), France (8.44%), Spain (7.94%), Switzerland (5.93%) and the US (5.27%) respectively.[lxi] Libya has been most heavily invested and economically involved with the Republic of Italy and sees two-way trade totaling around $12 billion annually.[lxii] In 2009, after Italy formally apologized for the Italian colonization period placed upon Libya, the two nations signed the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement.[lxiii] This agreement established further economic cooperation between the two countries clearing a path for more investment and economic growth for both Italy and Libya.[lxiv]

To outline a few of the provisions the agreement set forth are the following: Eni, an Italian oil company plans to invest a further $25 billion in Libya to upgrade and increase petroleum extraction, Impregilo Astaldi a major Italian construction company plans to build a highway within Libya estimated to cost around $7.29 billion, Finmeccanica has established a joint venture to assist and supply potential Libyan and Arab aerospace and defense initiatives; as well as companies such as Fiat, Unicredit Bank, the soccer team Juventus, and Olcese essentially all have Libyan investments, some which have helped ensure the continuance of these Italian commercial entities.[lxv] For example, a subsidiary bank of Unicredit, a leading Italian financial institution, has more than 65% of its assets propped up by Libyan investment as well as offers a total 5% share of the bank to the Central Bank of Libya and the Libyan Investment Authority.[lxvi] In addition to other European economic interests within the region are France and Britain’s need for more oil supplies, which Libya’s main exports consist of petroleum products.[lxvii] Further, British oil company BP as of 2007 signed an exploratory agreement worth $900 million with Libya to discover additional oil reserves that have recently been confirmed off the coast.[lxviii]

With all of the Libyan’s investment in various European commercial entities, the most crucial investments that Libya is allowing to be initiated are ones by European oil companies. The BP oil deal and the numerous contracts and pipelines with the Eni oil company are vital assets not only to European economic interests but also to the primary source of revenue for Libya. What should be the important focus of the oil production within Libya is to where exactly most of the oil is concentrated, and that would be within the areas of Cyrenaica, while some of the natural gas production occurs within the tribal regions of Tripolitania.[lxix] As figure 1.1 demonstrates, much of the petroleum offshore reserves are located in Eastern Libya as well as the necessary infrastructure to extract, refine, store and then potentially ship the oil,

Figure 1.1[lxx]

Therefore, after establishing a general, but clear picture of the level of Libyan financial involvement with various other European countries, most especially the ones currently involved in the NATO military operation against the Kaddafi regime; responsible speculation of motives and historical trends between the Libyan nation and its European partners must be addressed. First, as previously mentioned, if NATO’s sole motive was to assist in the protection of the Libyan civilian population affected by the aggressive Kaddafi regime’s assault of the Eastern tribal forces, then the Western powers would have committed to actions that ensure only that; however the coalition has currently altered their stated goal from UNSC resolution 1973 from protecting civilian life to a position of regime change (however Western powers still ensure limited civilian loss of life).[lxxi] From this altered position of the UNSC NATO member states currently conducting military operations on behalf of the Eastern tribal forces in Libya, it can be reasonable to suspect one of their main motivations in this military intervention is to seek a regime change.

To address the second point in regards to the highly evolved economic agreements and initiatives between Libya and NATO European nations, one must take into account two notions; (1) the historical trend of cooperation and economic compatibility between Eastern tribes from Cyrenaica within Libya’s past to that of European nations such as Britain as well as America, and (2) the location of most of the essential trading goods Europe and Libya depend on such as oil being found predominantly within the Eastern side of the nation.[lxxii] The Senussi monarchy was in a difficult initial decision to build a newly independent nation’s economy from scratch with a highly defined tribal division; yet what was true was that the Senussi tribal leaders were cooperative and willing to work with Western powers in regards to trade and construction of infrastructure post-Libyan independence.[lxxiii] What few people know is that the Transitional National Council of the tribes of Cyrenaica on 30 March 2011 established their own Central Bank and Oil Company that was given the nod by European and American powers to invest and sell without the expressed consent of the Kaddafi regime.[lxxiv] Additionally, while this new central bank and oil company was being established the Kaddafi governor of the regime’s state-owned central bank fled the country to Istanbul and was replaced by the Finance Minister; causing speculation that the regime and its once loyal adherents are starting to abandon the government.[lxxv]

The Current Conflict and Libya’s Future

Most of the struggle found within the newly independent state of Libya has been based upon extreme tribal division far more pronounced than many other Arab tribal societies. Addressing the tribal ideologies, culture, language and historical narratives offers a picture where three major regions all identify with different neighborly areas and peoples and cannot find a consensus on how to resolve the issue in regards to national unification. The tribes home to the Kaddafi regime from Tripolitania relate more towards the Islamic Maghreb North African peoples, while the tribes of Cyrenaica adhere to a culture and ideology closer to that of the Eastern Arab peoples from the Gulf of Arabia.

Kaddafi has managed to hold on to power to date because of his ability to initiate policies that undermine rival tribes, reduce their power and decentralize the military’s capabilities, utilizing family members and foreign mercenaries to control the various battalions. The former Senussi monarchy did not last long but utilized similar national policies as that of the current Kaddafi regime, yet did not have the luxury of an already established oil revenue that enabled the RCC to have a much stronger and influential command over the effectuation of their policies. As protests swept across the Middle East, Libyan citizens from Cyrenaica took to the streets in the city of Benghazi to peacefully protest the Kaddafi regime, but ended up lying in a pool of blood. As the Kaddafi regime escalated their assaults of Eastern cities and people, the tribes took to the streets to fight head on until the Western powers thought it appropriate to intervene on their behalf. As the NATO military operation took shape so did the objectives and stated goals of the European and American powers, ultimately demonstrating their commitment to a greater vision of Libya under the guidance of the traditional ruling tribes of Cyrenaica.

While the situation still unfolds, and as the military operations continue to rain down upon the Kaddafi regime only time will tell what the outcome of this civil war will be. Libya started out as the United Kingdom of Libya that was administered and overseen by a monarch, in 1969 Muammar Kaddafi replaced that government by a coup, ultimately demonstrating that the Eastern tribes that suffered from the loss of the Libyan monarchy view the current government as an entity that took something they fought hard for. What’s more is that the United States, Great Britain and France as well as other NATO participants all have placed themselves willingly into the middle of a strongly divided civil war that has yet to be meaningfully resolved amidst a the actions of a regime that commits little enthusiasm to the progress of the Libyan people.


[1] The Potsdam Conference was a meeting of Stalin, Churchill and Truman to discuss the establishment of post-war order, peace treaties issues, and countering the effects of war.


[i] Hatitah, Abdulsattar. “Libyan Tribal Map: Network of loyalties that will determine Gaddafi’s fate Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English).” Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=3&id=24257&gt;.

[ii]  Ibid.

[iii] Lancel, Serge. Carthage: a history. Oxford: Blackwell, 19991997. Print.

[iv] Boca, Angelo. Mohamed Fekini and the fight to free Libya . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

[v] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[vi] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[vii]  Crane, Keith, Rollie Lal, and Jeffrey Martini. Iran’s political, demographic, and economic vulnerabilities . Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., 2008. Print.

[viii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] ” Libya tribes: Who’s who? – CSMonitor.com .” The Christian Science Monitor – CSMonitor.com . N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Backchannels/2011/0224/Libya-tribes-Who-s-who&gt;.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xiii] Hatitah, Abdulsattar. “Libyan Tribal Map: Network of loyalties that will determine Gaddafi’s fate Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English).” Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English). N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2011. <http://www.asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=3&id=24257&gt;.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xviii] Ibid.

[xix] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[xx] Boca, Angelo. Mohamed Fekini and the fight to free Libya . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

[xxi] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[xxii] Boca, Angelo. Mohamed Fekini and the fight to free Libya . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

[xxiii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xxiv] Ibid.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[xxvii] Lawless, Richard I.. Libya . Oxford, England: Clio Press, 1987. Print.

[xxviii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xxix] Ibid.

[xxx] Boca, Angelo. Mohamed Fekini and the fight to free Libya . Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Print.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Ibid.

[xxxiv] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Ibid.

[xxxvii] Ibid.

[xxxviii] Ibid.

[xxxix] Ibid.

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Ibid.

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[xlv] Vandewalle, Dirk J.. A history of modern Libya . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print.

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] Ibid.

[xlviii] Ibid.

[xlix] Coker, Margaret. “Gadhafi Battles to Hang On – WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. Web. 24 Mar. 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703498804576157460505874944.html&gt;.

[l] Interpol Document

[li] “Tribal system holds balance of power in Libya.” National Post | Canadian News, Financial News and Opinion. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <http://www.nationalpost.com/todays-paper/Tribal+system+holds+balan

[lii] Ibid.

[liii] ARTICLE ON LIBYAN MONARCHY FLAG OF REBELS

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] Barker, Middle East correspondent Anne, and wires. “Time running out for cornered Gaddafi – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).” ABC.net.au. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <http://www.abc.net.au/news/stor

[lvi] Kranjc, Svebor. ” Libyan attacks could be crime vs humanity: ICC | Top News | Reuters .” Reuters.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <http://af.reuters.com/article/topNe

[lvii] Golovnina, Maria. ” Upbeat Gaddafi fires trademark blast at West and Qaeda | Reuters .” Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | Reuters.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/02/us-libya-gaddafi-idUSTRE7213FX20110302&gt;.

[lviii] Ibid.

[lix] UNSC Resolution 1973, 16 March 2011.

[lx] “Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy on Libya: ‘We won’t stop bombing until Gaddafi’s gone’ | Mail Online.” Home | Mail Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377124/Cameron-Obama-Sarkozy-Libya-We-wont-stop-bombing-Gaddafis-gone.html&gt;.

[lxii] “John Brown’s Notes and Essays: Europe and Libya.” John Brown’s Notes and Essays. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <http://johnbrownnotesandessays.blogspot.com/2011/03/europe-and-libya.html&gt;.

[lxiv] ” Italy and Libya: investment ties under spotlight – Economy – Business – Ahram Online .” Ahram Online – News, Business, Culture, Sports & Multimedia from Egypt . N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2011. <http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/6064/Business/Economy/Italy-and-Libya-investment-ties-under-spotlight.aspx&gt;.

[lxv] Ibid.

[lxvi] “Shareholding Structure – UniCredit.” UniCredit – Corporate Website. Web. 02 Apr. 2011. <http://www.unicreditgroup.eu/en/Investors/Shareholder_structure.htm&gt;.

[lxviii] “Libya Announce $900 Million Oil Deal With BP” The Libyan Daily News, 18 April 2011. <http://www.libyaonline.net/archive/libya_news.php?page=page&pageNo=149&Info=2312&gt;

[lxix] ” Libya’s Tribal Dyanmics.” Red Stomp Forums. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <http://redstomp.org/forums/showthread.php?1109-Libya-s-Tribal-Dyanmics&gt;.

[lxx] Ibid.

[lxxi] Cameron, Obama and Sarkozy on Libya: ‘We won’t stop bombing until Gaddafi’s gone’ | Mail Online.” Home | Mail Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1377124/Cameron-Obama-Sarkozy-Libya-We-wont-stop-bombing-Gaddafis-gone.html&gt;.

[lxxii] ” Libya’s Tribal Dyanmics.” Red Stomp Forums. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2011. <http://redstomp.org/forums/showthread.php?1109-Libya-s-Tribal-Dyanmics&gt;.

[lxxii] Ibid.

[lxxiii] Harris, Lillian Craig. Libya: Qadhafi’s revolution and the modern state. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press ;, 1986. Print.

[lxxiv] “Libyan Rebels” Create Central Bank, Oil Company.” The New American. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://www.thenewamerican.com/world-mainmenu-26/africa-mainmenu-27/6915-libyan-rebels-create-central-bank-oil-company&gt;.

[lxxv] ISTANBUL, MARC CHAMPION IN, and TAHANI KARRAR-LEWSLEY IN DUBAI. “Libyan Central-Bank Governor Is Replaced – WSJ.com.” Business News & Financial News – The Wall Street Journal – Wsj.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2011. <http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704132204576190212954583594.html&gt;.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

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