- By Sylvie SteinSylvie Stein is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
Even from over 2000 miles away, Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi was able to fan the flames of sectarian conflict in 1970’s Ireland. A staunch supporter of anti-imperialist, anti-West rebel movements, Qaddafi sympathized with the campaign of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Qaddafi acted as the group’s arms supplier, smuggling over the explosives and weapons the paramilitary forces needed to escalate the struggle into all-out terror.
One year ago, Qaddafi expressly refused to accept liability for the Irish Republican Army (IRA) attacks of the 1980’s, instead telling victims to "go to the court." Though he had already compensated the families of passengers aboard Pan Am Flight 103, victims of many other attacks executed with weaponry and explosives Qaddafi had supplied the IRA — such as the Harrods bombing of 1983 and the Enniskillen atrocity of 1987 — had yet to recieve any kind of consolation or apology. But yesterday, after nine months of negotiations between officials in London and Tripoli, the dictator made an unexpected concession: he announced that he would shell out up to 3.5 billion dollars in reparations to victims of IRA terrorism. The deviation from his previous response accompanies renewed bilateral relations with Switzerland, against whom Qaddafi had declared a holy war in February. Qaddafi has both released Swiss businessman, Max Goeldi — detained in Libya for defying a travel ban put into effect after Switzerland authorities arrested Qaddafi’s son on charges of assault — and established an arbitration tribunal to settle the diplomatic dispute with Libya’s former adversary.
These recent developments are productive, but they doubtfully signify that Qaddafi — the principal financier of a laundry list of horrific terrorist attacks and rebel movements — will now make a habit of letting reconciliation or reform govern his agenda.