The Gadhafi Cables US Diplomats Struggle with an Eccentric Despot

For American diplomats, Libya is a notorious hardship post. With his quirky habits, hard bargaining, whiny sons and Ukrainian nurses, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is far from easy to deal with -- and a master of political extortion.


By Juliane von Mittelstaedt

The "Great Leader" likes to wear jogging pants along with well-worn slippers and a shirt bearing a silhouette of Africa. He often fasts on Mondays and Thursdays, and he usually lives in a simple house rather than the kind of Bedouin-style tent often associated with him.

The floors in this house are creaky, the white walls are bare, and the household servants wear street clothes. Indeed, in private, 68-year-old Moammar Gadhafi -- the colonel, the leader of the Libyan revolution and the author of the literary debut entitled "The Village, the Village, the Earth, the Earth and the Suicide of the Astronauts" -- is a very unassuming fellow.

Still -- at least as the Americans see him -- Gadhafi is also a man plagued by paranoia, anxiety and neuroses, a man who only trusts his closest advisers, a man whose pride is easily wounded and a man who will suffer no criticism. Indeed, for the Americans, Gadhafi is a despot who lost touch with reality long ago and whose only information about the broader world comes from what his aides tell him.

Whenever he feels like it, Gadhafi opens or closes his country's oil spigot, be it to penalize countries for insubordinate behavior or to cover special expenses. In 2009, for example, he let 100,000 extra barrels of oil flow in order to pay for the party he held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the "revolution" -- a luxurious gala complete with Spanish flamenco dancers and bands from New Zealand.

Photo Gallery

10  Photos
Photo Gallery: Gadhafi' s Anniversary Celebrations Sweep Tripoli
This is the picture that emerges from 599 reports sent from the US Embassy and liaison office in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, to Washington between December 2004 and February 2010. And most of them have something to do with the "Great Leader" himself.

In one dispatch, Ambassador Gene Cretz comments: "While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Qadhafi* is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods."

The American diplomats in Tripoli monitoring Gadhafi and his clan are occasionally amused, but more often their mood is one of concern. They have to tread a fine line between wanting to protect the interests of American oil companies and being expected to pressure the Libyan regime to observe human rights. But, as was shown by the attempted "human rights dialogue" in September 2009, the latter of these appears to be somewhat of a compulsory but vain exercise in the domain of diplomacy with despots. When the talks concluded, the Libyans simply declared that the country had no need for a civil society, anyway.

Americans dispatched to Libya report in great detail on Gadhafi's peculiarities, the airs and graces of his sons and the degree to which his advisers fear his wrath. For example, they closely monitored how wounded pride led him to take two Swiss citizens hostage and humiliate the Swiss government, how he almost forced Canada to its knees by threatening to nationalize the assets of PetroCanada and how he more or less compelled the British to extradite Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people, most of them Americans.

As one dispatch explained: "The British ambassador expressed relief that Megrahi likely would be returned to Libya under the compassionate release program. He noted that a refusal of Megrahi's request could have had disastrous implications for British interests in Libya. 'They could have cut us off at the knees, just like the Swiss.'"

A Shrewd Negotiator

Indeed, when it comes to the business of political extortion, Gadhafi is a master. One of the best examples of this comes from the fall of 2009, when a highly secretive US mission went bust. The plan involved transporting 5.2 kilograms (11.5 pounds) of highly enriched uranium from Libya's Tajura nuclear research center to Russia in accordance with Libya's commitment to abandon its atomic program.

The Libyan government initially agreed to have the uranium taken away, but Gadhafi abruptly pulled the emergency brake after the Russian plane had already landed. After waiting it out for a few days, the team from Rosatom, Russia's state-run nuclear company, chose to fly back empty-handed on November 25.

In one report on the affair, the Americans wrote: "The 5.2 kilograms of of HEU (highly enriched uranium) are stored in seven five-ton casks, which Department of Energy experts said are 'highly transportable'."

The report went on to say that the problem needed to be solved within one month's time because, after that, the uranium's temperature "could reach such a level to cause cracking on the casks and release of radioactive material." The report then warned officials back in Washington that: "Given the highly transportable nature of the highly enriched uranium and the shoddy security at Tajoura, any mention of this issue in the press could pose serious security concerns."

ORIGINALS: The Key Libyan Cables
Click on the headlines below to read the full texts...
Sept. 17, 2009, Tripolis: "human rights dialogue rebounds after difficult..."
XXXXXX: Redacted by the editors. Important note on the dispatches...


C o n f i d e n t i a l section 01 of 05 tripoli 000748


Dept for nea/mag, l (bob harris), drl (kari johnstone). Dept please pass to nsc (scott busby) and ovp (herro mustafa).

E.o. 12958: decl: 9/17/2019 Tags: prel, pgov, phum, ly Subject: human rights dialogue rebounds after difficult start

Ref: tripoli 677

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CLASSIFIED BY: Gene A. Cretz, Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d) 1. (C) Summary: An interagency team led by Acting A/S for DRL Karen Stewart, and comprised of State, NSC, and OVP representatives, launched with Libyan counterparts a bilateral Human Rights Dialogue August 18 in Tripoli. Although a bizarre, last-minute Libyan delegation and agenda switch nearly scuttled the talks, FM Musa Kusa intervened to restore the original delegation and agenda, and personally launched the talks. In his opening remarks, Kusa acknowledged the GOL's need for U.S. technical assistance in a range of areas, including illegal immigration and upgrading the capacity of Libya's detention centers and prisons. Kusa and other GOL officials protested the critical comments about Libya contained within the annual Human Rights Report and noted their interest in setting the record straight on Libya's human rights situation within the context of the Human Rights Dialogue. Kusa stressed that the GOL viewed the human rights dialogue as part of a larger group of bilateral dialogues with the United States on a number of topics, including security, civil-nuclear cooperation, and political-military engagement; his emphasis on this point, coupled with last-minute Libyan changes to the joint statement (which resulted in agreement for no statement) hinted at a deal struck with hardliners to put the talks back on track only if they had a broader -- or no -- public focus. While we will not know how serious the Libyans are about these talks until we receive their feedback on the action plans in mid-October, we are hopeful that they could lead to some positive engagement in the areas of immigration, refugee issues, and prison conditions. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The U.S. delegation included xxxxxxxxxxxx

Dialogue begins with a false start

3. (C) The U.S. interagency team led by Acting A/S for DRL Karen Stewart met with Libyan officials at 1030 local time August 18 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tripoli to initiate a bilateral Human Rights Dialogue. While the Libyan side initially responded positively to the concept of the dialogue and provided on August 17 a list of participants and an agenda that paralleled our proposed agenda, the actual GOL team for the morning session was led by a philosophy professor, a judge, and the Foreign Minister's interpreter, none of whom was included among the original delegation. [Note: The GOL told us originally that their delegation would be led by the Justice Minister but told us August 17 that the A/S-equivalent for consular issues would be the lead. End Note.]

4. (C) After introducing himself as "a professor, not a politician," noting that "politics is the art of tricks," philosophy professor Rajab Boudabbous attempted to open the bilateral Human Rights Dialogue with a lecture on human rights and the Libyan concept of democracy -- direct rule by the people or "jamahiriya." The U.S. delegation interrupted Boudabbous' lecture, halted the talks, and sought information about the

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whereabouts of the named GOL delegation. Boudabbous refused to clarify what had happened and continued with his lecture as if he had been uninterrupted. The U.S. team withdrew from the lecture, and taking a few moments to regroup, the Charge discussed the situation with xxxxxxxxxxxx [Note: Charge attempted to contact A/S-equivalent for the xxxxxxxxxxxx, who did not answer his phone throughout the morning. End note.] xxxxxxxxxxxx told the Charge that he would inform Foreign Minister Musa Kusa of the U.S. side's objections to the delegation and format of the dialogue. Charge conveyed the importance of the initiation of the dialogue, as previously agreed, to the bilateral relationship and future engagement, including at the upcoming UN General Assembly session.

5. (C) As the U.S. delegation was in the process of departing the MFA, FM Kusa arrived but deliberately ignored the Charge's attempt to discuss the issue with him. Shortly thereafter, xxxxxxxxxxxx called to inform the Charge that FM Kusa would lead the dialogue himself at 1830 hours and that he would like to host a dinner for the team at 2100 hours, as previously scheduled. Kusa's staff later revised the schedule to begin at 1730 local time, "to ensure sufficient time for substantive discussions."

Take two: the dialogue finally commences

6. (C) At 1730 local time, the U.S. delegation met an appropriate GOL interagency team, led by the Foreign Minister, at Libya's Foreign Ministry. Kusa opened the meeting by stressing the need for bilateral dialogue. He noted that he had heard about the U.S. delegation's response to the professor's viewpoint during the morning meeting, calling it an example of the "bad chemistry" that had plagued the relationship. Kusa portrayed the Libyan government as ready to continue a results-driven human rights dialogue based on mutual respect. He acknowledged that the GOL needs U.S. assistance to improve the human rights situation. Specifically, Kusa requested U.S. assistance to combat illegal immigration and trafficking-in-persons, to upgrade and build capacity in Libyan prisons, and to train police. Kusa said that he had requested EU assistance to tackle the illegal immigration problem, specifying that in a country of six million people, Libya had three million immigrants, most of whom were illegal. However, he said that the European governments did not agree to assist in combating the problem. With borders 6,000 km long, mostly along the desert, and poor neighboring countries, Libya "can do nothing" according to Kusa, to combat illegal immigration unilaterally. He described a dire situation in Libya, with increasing crime, disease, and other problems, as the result of illegal immigration. He said that one human rights organization (not specifying which one) had brought to his attention the existence of a trafficking-in-persons problem in Libya, which Kusa noted could only be identified and combated with foreign assistance.

7. (C) Kusa further noted that Libya needed to take advantage of U.S. experience to upgrade Libya's prisons and detention facilities. He said Libya needed training for police officers and wardens on how to deal with prisoners in a way that respects their human rights. Referring to a UK project to upgrade Libyan prisons and train police officers, Kusa explained that the UK had sent experts to work on the issue areas he specified but that Libya needed even more assistance than what the UK was able to provide.

8. (C) Kusa went on to discuss the method for evaluating human rights issues on both sides. He asked that the annual State Department Human Rights Report be a subject of discussion within the framework of the dialogue. Kusa referred to "fallacies" in the 2008 Human Rights Report on Libya, specifically recalling a section on the rights of women and the existence of political prisoners. On the first issue, he pointed to various facts proving that women are empowered in Libya - "at least 150 women work in the Foreign Ministry." Regarding political prisoners, he insisted that the "political prisoners" to which the report referred were actually fundamentalists with links to Al Qaeda, whom the GOL was trying to rehabilitate. He explained that the Libyan government was "stretching its hands" and "opening its heart" to dialogue and discussion for the sake of transparency and to correct the wrong information that the USG was reporting on the human rights situation in Libya.

9. (C) Acting A/S Stewart thanked Kusa for taking a personal interest in launching the dialogue, noting that the dialogue would be integral to broader bilateral efforts to expand

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cooperation across several spheres, including political-military, economic, education, and culture. She noted that the USG was engaged in human rights dialogues with many countries throughout the world, as the U.S. Congress and American people expect, and that the U.S. delegation would welcome the opportunity to address Libya's needs for technical assistance in the areas outlined by Kusa. She explained that the human rights dialogue could be a model for engagement in other subject areas. NEA/MAG Office Director Maggie Nardi suggested that issue-specific working groups be designated to tackle each issue. Kusa expressed his agreement with the suggestions and emphasized the need for direct political dialogue in order to address "significant issues." He highlighted positive bilateral coordination on Darfur with USSES Gration, as well as the security and military engagement, which CODEL McCain had recently discussed with Muatassim and Muammar al-Qadhafi (reftel). Kusa went on to discuss his interest in broadening the framework for U.S.-Libyan relations in a number of areas, including combating fundamentalism. Acting A/S Stewart outlined our proposed framework for the dialogue with twice yearly senior-level meetings and working groups to advance progress in the interim on priority topics, including joint polices and projects involving multilateral institutions, prison conditions and management, migration and refugees, and specific human rights cases as they arise. FM Kusa declared his agreement with this general framework and asked the U.S. delegation to propose a work plan and timetable for discussing agenda items and actively addressing them.

Libyan delegation addresses illegal immigration, prisons, u.s. Human rights report

10. (C) Turning the floor to his delegation, Kusa said that a group of specialists had been gathered on the Libyan side for the purpose of the dialogue. Stating "I do not even know all of their names," Kusa introduced the delegates he recognized and excused himself from the meeting. During the remaining two hours of discussion, the Libyan delegates would not admit their government needed assistance in the areas outlined by Musa Kusa -- illegal immigration, trafficking in persons, prison upgrades, or police training. Instead they parsed terms and argued over definitions. Arguing that Libyan society and culture is misunderstood by the USG, Abdussalam el-Tumi, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission at the Ministry of Justice, maintained that neither "prisoners" nor "prisons" existed in Libya; rather, Libya has "detention facilities" designed to rehabilitate those "sons and brothers" who have gone astray. Tumi described a Libya-UK prison program by which the UK provides technical assistance and training to Libyan police officers and prison guards. He said that UK representatives had visited Libya's criminal detention facilities, photographed, and reported that detainees were treated in accordance with international human rights conventions. Tumi described the judicial process by which detainees are tried and sentenced, laws stipulating detainee rights, and the treatment of detainees in detention centers. Tumi eventually admitted that the GOL required assistance in the care of detainees -- specifically in the provision of medical care, vocational training, and social reintegration programs -- as well as in training police officers and upgrading and building capacity of prison facilities.

11. (C) Tumi asserted that trafficking-in-persons did not exist in Libya. Regarding the Human Rights Report, Tumi charged that it was not based on facts, was distanced from reality, and contained sections that were "laughable." He said that the Libyan government responded to individual charges of human rights abuse and that the issue areas outlined by Kusa - involving women's empowerment and female circumcision - were misconceived. He insisted that "human rights as a complete concept" does not exist anywhere in the world, and he expressed his hope that the dialogue would continue in order to eliminate all misunderstandings regarding the human rights situation of each nation.

12. (C) Dr. Mohamed Salah al-Saghir, Head of the Department of International Law and Agreements at the MFA, also expressed his support for the dialogue and highlighted the international conventions and agreements to which Libya was a party. As Libya was a party to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Saghir said that the Human Rights Report must be wrong in its assertion that women in Libya face discrimination. He insisted that international conventions have supremacy over local law and are embodied within local laws as soon as the GOL signs them.

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13. (C) AA/S Stewart assured the Libyan team that the Embassy would work with them to discuss their objections to the Human Rights Report over the next few months. NSC representative Scott Busby encouraged the GOL to become party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and to sign a Memorandum of Agreement with the UN High Commission on Refugees as important steps to address Libya's illegal immigration problem. Busby outlined areas where the U.S. might be able to provide assistance if Libya would provide assurance that it was complying with the international treaties and conventions it had signed involving refugees. Murad Hamim from Libya's International Organizations Department at the MFA responded that the GOL did not need to sign the 1951 Convention, as it was already a party to the 1969 Organization of African Union (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, which embodies many of the same principles as the 1951 and 1967 Convention and Protocol. He noted the GOL's surprise that the USG is not a party to the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Briefly addressing the issue of prisons, Harris noted that the United States and Libya both had responsibilities under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other treaties to provide proper treatment for persons under detention and that the United States looked forward to working with Libya in the context of the Human Rights Dialogue to share our experiences in efficient and humane management of detention facilities. In the time before the next meeting we looked forward to discussing next steps for progress and cooperation on this issue.

14. (C) Hamid Ahmed Hdhiri of Libya's NSC noted that the problem of illegal immigration flows into Libya require dramatic solutions to the root causes of the problem -- solutions that go beyond security. He called for U.S. assistance to combat the flow of illegal immigration from both security and economic perspectives. Hdhiri recognized the value of the 1951 and 1967 UN Refugee Conventions, but he expressed Libya's concern that the treaty could inflict harm on the country by encouraging additional immigrants to flow across the borders. He characterized Libya as a transit, rather than a source country, for illegal immigrants and called it a "burden" to the nation. He said that Libya was providing a humanitarian service by accepting protective responsibility for illegal immigrants who had been returned from European sea ports. Hdhiri noted that Muammar al-Qadhafi had suggested that an international conference convene to address the root causes of immigration from Sub-Saharan Africa, namely poverty and lack of opportunities for economic development.

15. (C) Finally, the Libyan delegation asserted that civil society does not exist in Libya because it is unnecessary. Representatives justified their statements by claiming that Libya is a homogenous, unified society in which one group does not dominate the other, and described civil society organizations as designed solely to address the needs of groups which are disadvantaged or discriminated against within a society. In response to the U.S. delegation's concern about the registration process for NGOs, one delegate explained that individuals could form issue-focused "charity groups" to address specific "causes," such as anti-smoking or environmental awareness campaigns. The U.S. delegation tried to explain that "charity groups" might count as "civil society" if only they were unrelated to the government (although currently no charity group can be formed outside of the umbrella of a quasi-governmental organization) and that contacts with similar groups in the United States and elsewhere would represent the kind of international communication and links we hope other civil society groups could enjoy, but the Libyan side did not appear to grasp our understanding of civil society.

16. (C) Both sides ended the discussion by agreeing that the U.S. would develop work plans on the agenda items and timelines for addressing them. They agreed that the next session of the dialogue would take place after six months and that the U.S. side would host. Although both sides had agreed before the dialogue began to the wording for a joint press statement announcing that the dialogue had been launched, the Libyan side changed the wording at the last minute to inaccurately describe the discussions as covering also security, military issues, and political issues and downplaying the human rights focus, and was unable to compromise with the U.S. delegation on a mutually-acceptable statement. Likewise the Libyan side reneged on a commitment to state publicly that the dialogue had been initiated, without explanation of its reasoning. Immediately after the meeting, the Libyan side hosted a dinner for the U.S.

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delegation, during which substantive issues were not formally discussed. Musa Kusa was unable to attend, although two members of the original delegation identified by the GOL, Dr. Ali al-Rishi, the Secretary of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs at the MFA, xxxxxxxxxxxx did.

What really happened?

17. (C) xxxxxxxxxxxx told us that he had been called to a meeting xxxxxxxxxxxx to discuss the Human Rights Dialogue. Rolling his eyes skyward, xxxxxxxxxxxx said that "someone" had gotten to the Leader and portrayed the talks as an effort by the U.S. to embarrass Libya. xxxxxxxxxxxx declined to identify who in the GOL had scuttled the talks, but hinted broadly that a decision had been made at the highest levels to switch the delegation at the last minute. The GOL's last-minute change to the proposed joint statement -- portraying the talks as more general in nature and focused on security and military issues as well as political issues -- likely was the deal struck by FM Kusa to get the talks back on track after our delegation walked out of the morning session. The GOL's readiness to drop the statement on the condition that both sides keep the talks quiet seems to indicate that Kusa and more Western-leaning officials needed to mollify hardliners who were concerned about the public perception of the talks. The GOL has kept its word and never publicized any aspect of the talks, although they had plenty of footage and still pictures from the meeting.

18. (C) Comment: In spite of the bizarre, fitful start, FM Kusa made it clear that he personally values the dialogue. His direct, personal involvement will be essential to the dialogue's successful continuation. And while the substance of the dialogue may have exposed some very wide gaps in our two countries' understanding of some key human rights concepts, it also revealed some common ground and seemingly genuine desire for engagement, particularly in the areas of refugees and migration, and prison conditions. We look forward to working with the interagency and the GOL to develop work plans and timelines for meaningful action on the agenda items. End Comment.

Next steps

19. (SBU) As agreed with the Libyan delegation, State DRL will take the lead to draft and clear work plans and suggested action timelines for each of the specific human rights areas identified during the talks for submission to the Libyan MFA by mid-October. Cretz
Sept. 29, 2009, Tripolis: "a glimpse into libyan leader qadhafi's eccentricities"
XXXXXX: Redacted by the editors. Important note on the dispatches...

<<227491>> 9/29/2009 17:21 09TRIPOLI771 Embassy Tripoli SECRET//NOFORN


S e c r e t section 01 of 02 tripoli 000771

Noforn sipdis

State for nea/mag and inr.

E.o. 12958: decl: 9/29/2019 Tags: prel, pgov, ly, pinr Subject: a glimpse into libyan leader qadhafi's eccentricities

CLASSIFIED BY: xxxxxxxxxxxx Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Department of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)

1. (S/NF) Summary: Recent first-hand experiences with Libyan Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi and his staff, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, provided rare insights into Qadhafi's inner circle and personal proclivities. Qadhafi appears to rely xxxxxxxxxxxx and reportedly cannot travel with his senior Ukrainian nurse, Galyna xxxxxxxxxxxx. He also appears to have an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, reportedly prefers not to fly over water, and seems to enjoy horse racing and flamenco dancing. His recent travel may also suggest a diminished dependence on his legendary female guard force, as only one woman bodyguard accompanied him to New York. End Summary.

Qadhafi's personality reflected in his phobias

2. (S/NF) Muammar al-Qadhafi has been described as both mercurial and eccentric, and our recent first-hand experiences with him and his office, primarily in preparation for his UNGA trip, demonstrated the truth of both characterizations. From the moment Qadhafi's staff began to prepare for his travel to the United States, xxxxxxxxxxxx various proclivities and phobias began to reveal themselves in every logistical detail. When applying for Qadhafi's visa, protocol staff asked whether it was necessary for the Leader to submit a portrait of himself that fit consular application regulations, noting that his photo was displayed throughout the city and that anyone of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the application's criteria. When the rule was enforced, protocol staff reluctantly conceded to take a portrait of the Leader specifically for the visa application.

3. (S/NF) When protocol began to search for proper accommodations for Qadhafi, xxxxxxxxxxxx the Leader must stay on the first floor of any facility that was rented for him. xxxxxxxxxxxx told U.S. officials in Washington that Qadhafi could not climb more than 35 steps.) xxxxxxxxxxxx cited this requirement as the primary reason that the Libyan residence in New Jersey was selected as the preferred accommodation site rather than the Libyan PermRep's residence in New York City. xxxxxxxxxxxx room to pitch Qadhafi's Bedouin tent, Qadhafi's traditional site for receiving visitors and conducting meetings, as it offers him a non-verbal way of communicating that he is a man close to his cultural roots.

4. (S/NF) Qadhafi's dislike of long flights and apparent fear of flying over water also caused logistical headaches for his staff. When discussing flight clearances xxxxxxxxxxxx Qadhafi "cannot fly more than eight hours" and would need to overnight in Europe prior to continuing his journey to New York. xxxxxxxxxxxx in the same conversation that Qadhafi does not like to fly over water. Presumably for similar reasons, Qadhafi's staff also requested a stop in Newfoundland to break his travel from Venezuela to Libya on September 29. [Note: The Government of Canada recently confirmed that the Libyan delegation canceled plans to stop in Newfoundland. End Note.]

Dependencies: reliance on a selective group of individuals

5. (S/NF) Qadhafi appears to be almost obsessively dependent on a small core of trusted personnel. xxxxxxxxxxxx Long-time Qadhafi xxxxxxxxxxxx appears to play an equally important role in Qadhafi's personal retinue, xxxxxxxxxxxx We constantly hear that xxxxxxxxxxxx also plays a key role xxxxxxxxxxxx also seems to have been tasked with insuring that the Leader's image is well-preserved through the full array of carefully-planned media events.

6. (S/NF) Finally, Qadhafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, xxxxxxxxxxxx, who has been described as a "voluptuous blonde." Of the rumored staff of four Ukrainian nurses that cater to the Leader's health and well-being, Libyan protocol staff emphasized to multiple Emboffs that Qadhafi cannot travel without xxxxxxxxxxxx as she alone "knows his routine." When xxxxxxxxxxxx late visa application resulted in her Security Advisory Opinion being received on the day Qadhafi's party planned to travel to the U.S., the Libyan Government sent a private jet to ferry her from Libya to Portugal to meet up with the Leader during his rest-stop. Some embassy contacts have claimed that Qadhafi and the 38 year-old xxxxxxxxxxxx have a romantic relationship. While he did not comment on such rumors, a xxxxxxxxxxxx recently confirmed that the Ukrainian nurses "travel everywhere with the Leader."

Preferences - from dancing to horseman

7. (S/NF) In addition to the personality quirks revealed through Qadhafi's travel to New York, the Qadhafi's preferences for dancing and cultural performances were displayed over the last month. The three-day spectacle of his 40th anniversary in power included performances by dance troupes from Ukraine, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Morocco, as well as musical performances by bands from Mexico, Russia, New Zealand, and a number of other nations. Qadhafi appeared particularly enthralled by Tuareg horse racing during two of the events, clapping and smiling throughout the races. The flamenco dancers that participated in his celebratory events appeared to spark a similar interest, as Qadhafi decided to stop in Seville (for a "personal trip" according to the Spanish Ambassador here) on his way back to Libya from Venezuela specifically to attend a flamenco dance performance. [Note: That stop has reportedly been scrapped for unknown reasons. End note.]

No new york photo ops - qadhafi leaves female guards at home

8. (S/NF) While Qadhafi's reported female guard force has become legendary, it played no role in his travels to New York. Only one female guard was included among the approximately 350-person strong Libyan delegation to New York. This is the same female bodyguard who sticks close to Qadhafi in his domestic and international public appearances and may, in fact, play some sort of formal security role. Observers in Tripoli speculate that the female guard force is beginning to play a diminished role among the Leader's personal security staff.

9. (S/NF) Comment: Qadhafi's state visits and appearances at various conferences and summits, both at home and abroad, have revealed greater details about his personality and character. While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods. Continued engagement with Qadhafi and his inner circle is important not only to learn the motives and interests that drive the world's longest serving dictator, but also to help overcome the misperceptions that inevitably accumulated during Qadhafi's decades of isolation. xxxxxxxxxxxx told us, pointing to a larger-than-life portrait of Qadhafi, "When you have been isolated for so long, it is important to communicate." End comment.

When it came to the negotiating table, having poorly safeguarded barrels of uranium just standing around put Libya in a position of strength over the Americans. After a couple days, Saif al-Islam, one Gadhafi's several sons, spilled the beans on why the mission had been aborted. As he put it, Libya prevented the uranium from being carted away because, in short, it was "fed up" with the slow pace of bilateral engagement.

According to the American diplomatic documents, however, the longer version goes something more like this: "Saif claimed that Libya had not received the 'compensation' it was promised in exchange for an end to its weapons of mass destruction programs. … Libya sought a high-level reaffirmation of the United States' commitment to the bilateral relationship, in the form of a message to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, in order to move forward on the highly enriched uranium shipment. … He said the that the fact that the centrifuges were sent to the United States and are still there, rather than under IAEA (the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency) surveillance and control was a 'big insult to the Leader.'"

But the centrifuges that Libya had handed over in exchange for being taken off America's list of state sponsors of terrorism had already been scrapped long ago.

What then followed was a kind of diplomatic horse-trading: On Dec. 3, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Libyan Foreign Minister Mousa Kousa and promised that steps would be taken to improve their cooperation. Less than two weeks later, on Dec. 14, Saif al-Islam handed the Americans a wish list of military hardware, including helicopters, "Tiger" all-terrain armored vehicles and upgrades for M113 armored personnel carriers. What's more, he asked for the US government to "bless the sale" to purchase "SCALP" cruise missiles from the French. On Dec. 21, the green light was finally given to transport the uranium out of Libya.

Protocol Headaches

Diplomacy in Libya is extremely challenging work. The Libyans only rarely carry out the Americans' wishes -- and only half-heartedly so. It often happens that they make promises to do something and then suddenly renege on that deal. For example, the Americans ask the Libyans to sign trade and investment agreements as well as to engage in a dialogue about human rights while trying to sweeten the deal by offering a possible meeting with Barack Obama. But, time and again, Gadhafi's quirks have torpedoed their attempts.

One diplomatic dispatch described the situation in these terms: "Kusa* noted that the U.S. must treat Libya differently from other Arab nations specifying that we could not treat Colonel Qadhafi the same way we treat Ben Ali in Tunisia or Mubarak in Egypt, given his unique background and experience. He commented that a man of Qadhafi's 'caliber' could not be placed on equal footing with the King of Jordan or other traditional Arab rulers. ... Kusa advised that a deep, correct understanding of Qadhafi's visions and aspirations would be of more benefit to the U.S. regionally than would be engagement with other Arab statesmen."


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