World

Is Obama ignoring signs that Gaddafi is desperate to make a deal to leave Libya?

Jonathan Strong Contributor
Font Size:

Libyan strong man Moammar Gaddafi appears ready to negotiate an exit from power. Why is President Obama ignoring the signs?

A June 23 letter obtained by The Daily Caller from the Libyan prime minister in Tripoli offers to start up negotiations on releasing $4 billion in frozen Libyan assets for humanitarian purposes.

The money could absolve the need for American money for humanitarian needs. The U.S. has spent $715 million already on the war, which began after a March 19th vote at the United Nations, and humanitarian operations.

But, more importantly, it could bring an end to the war itself.

Many foreign diplomats believe the gesture highlights Gaddafi’s desperation to make a deal on his exit. They say the U.S. and its partners in NATO could quickly and peacefully bring an end to the conflict, as long as they were willing to concede things like Gaddafi’s immunity from international criminal court.

But Obama won’t even recognize the letter, nor an earlier June 9th letter from Gaddafi himself that says the strong man is “ready [to] sit at the table” sent to the White House and congressional leaders. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesman for Obama said, “we’re not publicly commenting on these letters.”

Instead, Obama continues to demand that Gaddafi step down, putting it on the Libyan people to figure out a settlement. (US pursuing limited contacts with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood)

At his press conference Wednesday, Obama said: “there is no doubt that Gaddafi stepping down from power is — from the international community’s perspective — going to be the primary way that we can assure that the overall mission of Libya’s people being protected is accomplished.”

Obama said any agreement is up to the Libyans. “Whether there’s the possibility of Libyans arriving at some sort of political settlement, that I think is something that ultimately the Libyan people are going to have to make a decision about,” the president explained.

So the U.S. is bombing, but not talking.

At issue in the June 23 letter is how the U.S. can access Libyan funds frozen in U.S. banks.

A bill introduced by Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota, S. 1180, would give the federal government the authority to seize $4 billion in Libyan assets from U.S. banks and use it for humanitarian purposes.

The letter, from Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi to Obama, says, essentially, you can have the money, lets talk about the details.

“The Government of Libya, hereby will work jointly with the United States administration to utilize certain agreed upon property and/or other assets, not to exceed $4 billion, of the Government of Libya to provide humanitarian relief to and for the benefit of the Libyan people in all cities and towns and through the agreed chain of supplies,” the letter says.

Negotiations are required because of complicated issues like who manages the money, what the money goes for, and so on.

The one thing Obama spokesman Hayden did tell TheDC is that Obama supports Johnson’s bill. “We also welcome the bipartisan legislation by Senators Johnson and Shelby that will allow us to provide critical humanitarian relief to the Libyan people by redistributing frozen Gaddafi assets,” she said.

It would be much quicker to just get Libya’s approval than pass a law. The money could  be relieving U.S. taxpayers from costs of humanitarian relief in Libya.

A spokeswoman for the State Department, like Hayden, wouldn’t comment on the letters or otherwise about the signs that Libya is ready to make a deal.

The spokeswoman did say Obama’s goal in the conflict was, “we want the people of Libya to be safe and we want them to be able to choose their own future.”

Documents:

June 9: Gaddafi writes Congress and the White House seeking cease fire

June 12: al-Mahmoudi urges House Speaker John Boehner to put Gaddafi’s letter in the congressional record after a Boehner spokesman dissed the June 9 letter as “incoherent” to ABC News

June 23: al-Mahmoudi writes to Obama, releasing $4 billion in frozen Libyan assets, pursuant to negotiation. He includes these conditions

June 29: al-Mahmoudi writes to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. The message is barely coherent but appears to be objecting to where NATO forces are bombing