- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Col. Moammar Gadhafi is a tyrant: an iron-fisted authoritarian whose regime is responsible for multiple acts of terrorism, including the 1988 attack on a commercial airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people. Despite the depravity of Libya’s past actions, however, Washington’s decision to remove its designation as a sponsor of terrorism and upgrade diplomatic relations with the country, the last step to full normalized relations, is clearly the right one.

The Libyan leader’s decision to give up his illicit weapons programs in 2003 — encouraged by the manifestation of the Bush administration’s convictions in Iraq, in addition to a renunciation of support for terrorism — led to a partial restoration of diplomatic ties and lifting of sanctions in 2004. The process of reopening U.S. diplomatic relations has, understandably, touched a sore nerve in those affected by barbarous acts of Libyan terrorism, but it’s important to remember that normalized relations are not a gift bestowed solely on America’s friends and allies, and only in direct response to extreme events should those ties be severed. In many ways, restoring diplomatic relations is a prerequisite to pushing greater reforms in Libya, which is still one of the most oppressive countries in the world.

Halting Libya’s WMD program should be considered one of the Bush administration’s most stellar nonproliferation achievements, and a success of the administration’s policies in the Middle East. Col. Gadhafi was deeply unsettled by U.S. commitment to action after September 11, and, fearful of being deposed, made frantic telephone calls to other leaders in the region, according to several reports of a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The interdiction in October 2003 of the Libya-bound cargo ship BBC China and discovery of centrifuge parts, which are used to enrich uranium, forced Col. Gadhafi to expedite his compliance with the United States and Great Britain.

The State Department’s announcement on Monday should be seen as neither a gesture of goodwill nor friendship, and Libya’s actions need to continue to be carefully monitored, scrutinized and treated with skepticism every step of the way. Libya’s decision to renounce its support for terrorism and to disband its WMD programs has been a milestone for Bush administration nonproliferation strategy, and Washington’s response should prove that compliance can bring a country out of isolation. The message to Tehran — and Pyongyang, for that matter — should be abundantly clear: abandon banned-weapons programs and terrorist activities and be admitted into the network of relations that countries traditionally have with each other.

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