WASHINGTON, Sept 3—The United States should use its limited but growing influence in Libya to support growth in non-governmental sectors rather than implicitly endorsing the regime’s status quo, urges a new commentary on the eve of Secretary Rice’s visit to Libya. The regime remains opaque, unpredictable, and, buoyed by its petroleum wealth, is increasingly assertive in international negotiations.

Middle East expert Michele Dunne warns that, following recent diplomatic success in settling long-standing disputes, the United States risks falling into business-as-usual relations with Libya. The United States should set clear, strategic objectives aimed at helping the Libyan people and avoid merely putting more resources into the hands of regime insiders and crony capitalists.

U.S. Policy Recommendations

  • Be persistent in addressing human rights cases;
  • Utilize institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy or the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative to promote the development of civil society organizations and a free press;
  • Inspire Libya to undertake educational reform efforts similar to recent Gulf State initiatives in which American educational institutions have played major roles; and
  • Encourage U.S. NGO-supported discussions with Libyan society on a written constitution.

Dunne advises:

“Although there have been clear changes in foreign policy, there is a great deal of uncertainty in Libya about where domestic policies are headed. Muammar al-Qaddafi and son Saif al-Islam have hinted recently at extensive new economic reforms, but such promises have proved disappointing in the past. The United States should think beyond the immediate business of reestablishing normal relations to explore how it can help Libya—and in particular the Libyan people as distinct from the government—to rejoin the world from which they have long been cut off and to reorient the country in a constructive direction.”


  • Direct link to the PDF: www.carnegieendowment.org/files/dunne_libya.pdf

  • Michele Dunne is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment and the editor of the Arab Reform Bulletin, was formerly a specialist on Middle East affairs at the State Department and the White House. Dunne’s research interests include Arab politics, reform in Arab countries, and U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

  • The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, socio-political, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key cross-cutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The Carnegie Middle East Program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics throughout the region.

  • The Carnegie Middle East Center is a public policy think tank and research center based in Beirut, Lebanon. Bringing together senior researchers from the region, the Carnegie Middle East Center aims to better inform the process of political change in the Middle East and deepen understanding of the issues the region and its people face.

  • The Arab Reform Bulletin addresses political reform in the Middle East. Sent monthly, it offers analysis from U.S.-based and Middle Eastern political experts in English and Arabic, as well as news synopses and resource guides.

  • Press Contact: Trent Perrotto, 202/939-2372, tperrotto@ceip.org