Libya’s history with the acquisition of a Nuclear weapon was a matter of confusion. The desire of such an acquisition by the former leader of Libya Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was one fraught with contradictions. Qaddafi shortly after the military coup in 1969 that overthrew King Idris I, began a period of sweeping social reform. The most prominent coup figure, Muammar Qaddafi was able to consolidate political power fully under his direction during the Libyan Cultural Revolution, remaining in power until the Libyan Civil War of 2011. during this time frame, Qaddafi had noble intentions, as believed by a large group of political historians and the consensus of his inner circle at the time. Qaddafi proclaimed that his government would pursue the development of any nuclear capabilities for civilian and especially military use. The development by Israel of nuclear technology had alarmed Qaddafi according to one report, Qaddafi sent, a high-ranking official to Beijing in an unsuccessful attempt to purchase tactical nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, by 1975 Qaddafi reaffirmed his commitment to the 1968 Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed originally by the monarchy in 1968. Qadhafi also stated in interviews in 1981 and 1984 that Libya was only interested in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, and he scoffed at the idea of “an Islamic bomb.” This type of miss-leading actions and statements lead to an uncertain status of nuclear power and weapons on Libyan soil.
Qaddafi’s rule began to show signs of autocratic rule. his secret police would round up any form of resistance to the “brother leader.” All political parties that were not part of the Free Officers Movement were outlawed. This suppressive regime lead to a lack of qualified individuals that could catapult the Libyan nuclear program or any type of infrastructure necessary for such ambitious development project. Despite the lack of these resources and the signing of the non-proliferation treaty in the mid- and late 1970s, Qaddafi repeatedly proclaimed his country’s determination to acquire nuclear weapons. This was primarily in response reports that his arch-enemy Israel, had achieved such a military capability.
Nonetheless, by 1980 Libya began to build its nuclear infrastructure from various nuclear black market sources. The nuclear materials and expertise were provided by Swiss National, Friedrich Tinner. Tinner’s work on centrifuges took place at the Tajura Nuclear Research Facility (TNRF) aimed at producing nuclear material for uranium enrichment. This work was facilitated by Qaddafi’s oil revenue. However, Sanctions emplaced by the United States brought setbacks and Israeli intelligence services mounted a campaign of covert operations that further destabilized the program. The most successful weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs were those that involved chemical, and biological capabilities. however, even those programs saw limited development and usage, confined to terrorist organizations that were sponsored by Libya.
In conclusion, I have learned that Muammar Qaddafi was a walking contradiction. His wish for WMD’s catapulted him into a program that did not see total fruition. The Lack of qualified personnel and proper infrastructure within Libya as a result of the brutal practices of Qaddafi, lead to a touch and go outcome with all his projects, especially those involving WMD. I learned that his quest for the “bomb” as with all other WMD’s was not entirely because of regional supremacy but for inner control of his own country. Of course, his status as a regional power would have increased if he would have ever developed such a “tool” for political gain. Qaddafi’s chemical arsenal became a better tool for suppression of any internal or external threat. However, there is no proof that he ever used such weapons against his own people (from what I know). Nevertheless, Qaddafi fits in the same category as Saddam and his quest for the “bomb,” nuclear capabilities have become part of any regime that searches for legitimacy and to maintain control over its population within the middle-east.