Non-Wikileaks Revelations on Libya


For those of you who can never get enough leaked U.S. government documents but are tired of Wikileaks, The Atlantic’s Max Fisher had a must-read scoop from this weekend about a once-secret deal to remove highly enriched uranium that very nearly went sour. He details the never-before-released news that the U.S. government had negotiated a highly sensitive deal with Libya last November to remove the uranium to Russia, but that Libya stopped the deal at the last moment, leaving several casks of the materials under light guard for a month while American and Russian negotiators frantically worked to get the shipment back on track while securing the uranium. While the story itself is illustrative not only of the risks of transporting these materials but also of dealing with autocratic, closed regimes, the most interesting part of the article is the role played by Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam, in the negotiations, as detailed by U.S. State Department cables:

In November of last year, when officials without notice halted the dismantling process, the Libyans were down to their last 5.2 kilograms–still enough to make a bomb. A few days later, the U.S. embassy was contacted by Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi. The son of Muammar al-Qaddafi, Saif is widely seen as Libya’s great hope for reform should he win out against his more conservative brother, Mutassim, and succeed their father. But on that day, Saif told the U.S. ambassador to Libya that he was “fed up” with the U.S. He warned, “Slowly, slowly, we are moving backward rather than forward.”
Saif, according to the State Department cables reviewed by The Atlantic, told U.S. representatives that he could “fix” the nuclear crisis–if the U.S. met his demands. His list included military equipment, assistance in building a nuclear medical facility, relaxation of trade embargoes against Libya, and a sum of money that he implied would be in the tens of millions of dollars. But Saif made clear that what he sought most was respect. He suggested that the United States and Libya end their decades of enmity with a grand gesture of d


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