Libya: Sanctions Removal Done Right? A Review of the Libyan Sanctions Experience, 1980-2006

Lead PI: Richard Nephew

Unit Affiliation: Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP)

March 2018 - Ongoing
Africa ; Libya
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: The diplomacy associated with Libya’s 2003 decision to abandon its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs and support for terrorism has been rightly held up as a model. After years of isolation and international sanctions, Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi decided to change course. He agreed to dismantle and repatriate most of his nuclear infrastructure, to eliminate his chemical weapon stocks and ballistic missiles, and to abandon the use of terrorism as a foreign policy instrument. Libya wanted to be largely normalized and was prepared to pay a price to achieve this end but also wanted to receive the benefits of this normalization.

In this, Libya represents a useful test case for not only how sanctions can be imposed but also for how they can be relieved. Though often ignored as a component of the sanctions story, relief from sanctions once imposed is as important as the manner of their imposition. This is because sanctions are not just about denial of resources or access to an adversary; they are also intended to serve as an object lesson for other potential sanctions targets. For this reason, it is important that sanctions imposition is seen as aggressive and thorough but also that sanctions relief is seen as tangible and useful to those that may—one day—find themselves on the receiving end of a future sanctions effort. If sanctions are to serve their purpose for diplomatic leverage by inflicting consequences for misbehavior, then those who are made subject to them must also be able to articulate to audiences both at home and abroad that relief has its benefits.

This paper reviews first the history of sanctions imposition against Libya from 1980–2000 and then sanctions relief from 2000–2011. In it, I offer an assessment first of the effects of sanctions and then the effects of sanctions relief, seeking to pin down the degree to which sanctions—rather than other economic factors or policy choices—were responsible for Libyan economic development. The paper then concludes with an analysis of the sanctions relief that Libya enjoyed and potential lessons for future sanctions imposition and relief projects.