Thursday, April 17, 2008

CRS Congressional Report on Libya US Relations


Appendix A: Libya’s Pre-Qadhafi History

Libya’s Colonial Experience

The Ottoman Empire and Qaramanli Dynasty

Ottoman forces first occupied the coastal regions of the territory that now constitutes Libya in the mid-16th

century. However, Ottoman administrators faced stiff and near constant resistance from tribal confederations and a rival independent state in the Fezzan region, all of which limited the Ottomans’ political influence. Beginning in 1711, a semiindependent state under Turkish official Ahmed Qaramanli emerged in Tripoli and established control over the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, with Fezzan remaining contested. The Qaramanli family maintained its power and independent rule until the early 19th century through naval privateers and pirates under its control who were used to collect tribute and ransom from merchant vessels seized in the Mediterranean Sea.

“The Shores of Tripoli”. The Qaramanli naval forces of Tripoli formed one component of a regional grouping commonly referred to as “the Barbary pirates,” which played a pivotal role in shaping the foreign and military policies of the young United States. Beginning in the late 1780s, a series of confrontations between U.S. merchant ships and naval raiding parties from Tripoli and other neighboring citystates such as Algiers and Tunis led to the destruction of U.S. maritime cargo and the seizure of U.S. hostages. Subsequent negotiations between the United States and the governments of the Barbary states concluded with the signing of some of the first bilateral treaties in U.S. history, including U.S. agreements to pay tribute to Tripoli in exchange for the safe passage of U.S. vessels off what is now the Libyan coast.

Disputes over the terms of this bilateral agreement and continuing attacks on U.S. merchant ships impressed upon the U.S. government the need for a naval protection force to safeguard U.S. commercial activity in the Mediterranean. This need eventually was satisfied by the creation of the United States Navy by Congress in April 1798. An attack on the U.S. consulate in Tripoli in 1801 and further attacks on U.S. ships sparked open hostilities between the newly commissioned light naval forces of the United States and the privateers of Tripoli. Frequent naval engagements from 1801 to 1805 were often won by U.S. forces, but one skirmish in 1804 ended with the grounding of the U.S.S. Philadelphia and the capture of her crew. The conflict culminated in the overland seizure of the eastern Libyan city of Darnah by U.S. Marines and a team of recruited indigenous forces in 1805 - the basis for the reference to “the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps hymn. The fall of Darnah compelled the Qaramanli leadership in Tripoli to relent to demands to ransom the U.S. prisoners and sign a “treaty of peace and friendship.” Efforts to repatriate the remains of U.S. personnel killed in these early 19th century military engagements with Tripoli are ongoing.71.


See Veterans of Foreign Wars Magazine, “Return Oldest U.S. MIAs,” Volume 94, Issue 1, September 1, 2006; and the Somers Point Historical Society, information available at [].

No comments: