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Karayam, Hasan
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation examines Libyan-American relations from 1951 until 1969, the period from independence until the rise of the regime of Muammar Qaddafi. It draws on research in archival collections at the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, in addition to oral histories conducted specifically for this study. Using these collections as well as secondary sources in both English and Arabic, the dissertation examines a time period that has been purposefully ignored in Libya and a subject that has received little academic attention. It argues that as Libya emerged from colonial rule under Italy, it faced great difficulties in attaining its diplomatic goals of attaining independence and improving the lives of its citizens. Ultimately, under the overall leadership of King Idris Sanusi, Libya did gain its independence, but that independence required advance concessions to both the United States and the United Kingdom to maintain military bases in the country that had been established during the Second World War. Once independent, Libya continued to struggle to define itself and its place in the world. As negotiations about permanent base agreements dragged in the early independence period, Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Muntasir skillfully used concerns about national sovereignty voiced by the Libyan parliament to delay and improve the base deal. He, and his successor—Mustafa Bin Halim—also sought to play British and American interests off one another as well as to use Cold War anxieties about the Soviet Union to improve the level of aid provided to the new nation. In these ways, the Libyan government, despite its real weaknesses, played its hand well in the international arena. The discovery of oil began to fundamentally shift the calculus of the relations between Libya and the United States in the late 1950s, but those who have characterized the Sanusi regime as puppets of the Western states have fundamentally misunderstood the very real constraints and the excellent statecraft displayed by this new government. Ultimately, it is my hope that learning this history will empower the Libyan people, which is the focus chapter five.