Archeological evidence indicates that as early as 8,000 BC, the coastal plain of Ancient Libya was populated by people called the Berbers, who were proficient at the domestication of cattle and cultivation of crops. Since then, other people including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Persian Empire, Romans, Vandals, Arabs, Turks, and Byzantines have also inhabited all or part of modern-day Libya. The modern borders of Libya were drawn by Italy, which superseded the Ottoman Turks in the area around Tripoli in 1911. Italy did not renounce their control until 1943 after their defeat in World War II. Libya was passed to UN administration and gained independence in 1951. Since a military coup in 1969, Colonel Mummar al-Gadaffi has ruled the country.
Lay of the Land: The People’s Great Socialist Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (mass of people) is located on the north central coast of Africa. About 95% of Libya’s terrain consists of barren, rock-strewn plains and sandy deserts. A feature of the Libyan climate is the ghibli, a hot, dry, dust-laden southern wind which usually comes in the spring and fall and lasts for one to four days.
The term “Libya” was first used by the ancient Egyptians to refer to a single Berber tribe. The Greeks used the name for most of North Africa. However, the term was not used for an actual political entity until well into the 20th century. For most of its history, the story of Libya was really the history of three separate regions: Cyrenaica, nearest to Egypt; Tripolitania, where most of the population lives; and the Fezzan, a desert area dotted with oases.
Al-Fajral Al-Jadeed [In English]
The United States’ stormy history with Libya got off to a violent beginning during the Barbary Wars. While America was a British colony, American ships were protected by the British navy, but when the United States won its independence, it lost British protection, and American merchant ships fell prey to the Barbary pirates along the coast of North Africa under the control of Yusuf ibn Ali Karamanli. The pirates captured the ships and enslaved their American sailors. In 1803, US President Thomas Jefferson sent the Sixth Fleet to blockade the harbor of Tripoli. Unfortunately, the USS Philadelphia ran aground. Its 308 sailors were forced to surrender and they were held hostage for 19 months until the US finally agreed to pay off Yusuf. These engagements eventually were immortalized in the Marine Corps hymn: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.”
US-Libyan trade has soared since Libya came off the US terrorism list and the last economic sanctions were lifted in 2006. Only three years earlier, the US imported absolutely nothing from Libya. By 2006, trade imports from Libya totaled about $2.5 billion; in 2007 they rose to $3.4 billion, in 2008 total imports jumped to $4.1 billion, before falling in 2009 to $1.9 billion.
Gaddafi Insists on Tent on New Jersey Real Estate
As much as the Bush administration tried to portray a new Libya to justify closer relations, the State Department continues to report that Gaddafi’s government has a poor human rights record. Citizens do not have the right to change their government. Reported torture and arbitrary arrest remained problems. The government restricted civil liberties and freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association. The government did not fully protect the rights of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other problems included poor prison conditions; impunity for government officials; lengthy political detention; denial of fair public trial; infringement of privacy rights; restrictions of freedom of religion; corruption and lack of transparency; societal discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and foreign workers; trafficking in persons; and restriction of labor rights.
A native of California, Chris Stevens arrived in Tripoli in June 2007 as Deputy Chief of Mission and became Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., in January 2008.
Ali Aujali was named chief of the Libyan Interests Section in Washington, DC, in the spring of 2004 after serving as the chargé d’affaires to Canada from 2001 until 2004. He was then appointed as Libya’s Ambassador to the US on January 6, 2009.
In the wake of the tragic murder of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens during a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have turned to a retired senior diplomat to serve as Washington’s man in Tripoli. Former ambassador to Chad Laurence E. Pope will serve as chargé d’affairs to Libya, an appointment that does not require Senate confirmation, until a new ambassador can be nominated and installed next year. Pope arrived in Libya on October 11, 2012.
Born September 24, 1945, in New Haven, Connecticut, Pope grew up in Braintree, Massachusetts. He is the eldest son of Medal of Honor recipient Major Everett P. Pope, and Eleanor Pope. He earned a B.A. at Bowdoin College in 1967, where he was a self-described “mediocre student.” Pope spent his junior year in France, returning “angry about the world, angry about the state of things,” and wanting to avoid being drafted and sent to fight in Vietnam. He joined the Peace Corps and spent two years as a volunteer.
Pope joined the Foreign Service in late 1969, serving his first foreign posting, ironically, as a consular officer at the embassy in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), South Vietnam. After that assignment he returned stateside, studied Arabic, and has spent most of his career dealing with issues involving the Middle East.
Career highlights include service as deputy chief of mission and chargé d’affaires in Manama, Bahrain, from 1985 to 1987, director for Northern Gulf Affairs from 1987 to 1990, associate director for Counter-Terrorism from 1991 to 1993, U.S. ambassador to Chad from 1993 to 1996, and political advisor to General Anthony Zinni, who was commander of U.S. Central Command, from 1997 to 2000.
In 2000, President Bill Clinton nominated Pope as ambassador to Kuwait, but his nomination was derailed by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) and other conservative Republicans because Gen. Zinni had criticized their support of Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi politician opposed to dictator Saddam Hussein. According to Pope, Helms’s aide Danielle Pletka told him he would not even get a hearing unless he agreed to testify on his advice to Zinni regarding Chalabi. Pope retired from the State Department on October 2, 2000, after 31 years of service rather than expose his confidential advice.
Two years later, during the ramp-up to the U.S. War on Iraq, Chalabi was responsible for supplying the George W. Bush administration much of the false information alleging that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
In 2001, Pope served several months as the staff director in Jerusalem for the International Committee on Middle East Peace led by former senator George Mitchell, until conflicts with the Israeli government prompted him to resign. After the attacks of September 11, 2001, he was appointed as a senior advisor for Arab affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Pope speaks Arabic and French, and, when not serving abroad, resides in Portland, Maine, with his wife Betsy.
Advice & Contempt (by Laurence Pope, Foreign Service Journal)
Interview with Larry Pope (by Andrea L’Hommedieu, George J. Mitchell Oral History Project)
François de Callières: A Political Life (by Laurence Pope)more
Gene A. Cretz is a career diplomat who was nominated in July of 2007 by President W. Bush as the first US Ambassador to Libya since 1972. He is from Albany, New York, and he attended the University of Rochester, graduating in 1972 with a degree in English Literature. He then received a Masters of Science Degree in Linguistics from the State University College at Buffalo in 1975.