|King Idris, leader of the Sanusi, and his British handlers|
His full name was Sidi Muhammad Idris Al-Mahdi As-sanusi (1889-1983). The first and only king of Libya, he reigned as Idris I from 1950 to 1969. Hisconservatism finally brought about his overthrow in a military coup under the direction of the controversial leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi.
Libya's future king was born on March 13, 1890, in Jaghbub, an oasis in the eastern province of Cyrenaica. At the time, Libya was part of the Ottoman Empire. Idris I died in exile in Cairo, Egypt, in 1983.
Leader in Exile
When his father died in 1902, Idris became head of the Sanusiyah, anIslamic brotherhood. Still a minor, he did not assume active leadership until 1916. His main problem over the next few years was how to deal with the Italians, who had invaded Libya in 1922 in an effort to build a North African empire. Italy never established its rule much beyond the coast, and in 1917, Idris was able to secure a ceasefire and confirm his own authority in Cyrenaica while acknowledging Italian supremacy in the area.
Given the title of emir, Idris established a parliament and secured financial grants from Italy. But when he proved unable or unwilling to disarm his tribal supporters, Italy invaded in the spring of 1922. Idris saw little point in resisting and went into exile in Egypt.
The War Years
Idris continued to direct his followers while in exile. Through the years, the Sanusiyah brotherhood had been changing into a much more political organization. Idris's support came from conservative tribesmen who weremainly concerned with restoring his rule to the province of Cyrenaica. But ayounger faction in this area wanted a union of the Libyan provinces ofCyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan.
Libya was the scene of heavy fighting in World War II, and Idris recruited guerrillas and scouts to aid the British, who eventually occupied Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. Fezzan came under control of the French.
During World War II, Italy was Britain's enemy and Idris and the Sanusi becametools of the British.
Idris returned to his homeland in 1947, but the issue of a Libyan union was not solved until two years later. In November 1949, the United Nationsresolved that representatives of the three provinces in question should meet in a national assembly to decide their future. The assembly decided on a constitutional monarchy and offered the throne to Idris.
Under Idris the throne had a preponderance of influence over the parliament and absolute control over the army. The government was anoligarchy of wealthy townsmen and powerful tribal leaders who divided theimportant administrative positions among themselves and supported the king. This situation, along with the external support of Western powers and the internal military support of his loyal tribesmen, enabled Idris to control the affairs of the central government.
Independence and Exile
Libya declared its independence in December 1951, with Idris I as king.Two capitals were established, one in Tripoli (Tripolitania), home of the parliament, and one in Bangasi, meeting place of the king and his cabinet.
As the reigning monarch, Idris had complete control of the army and a good deal of influence over the parliament, which was mainly composed of powerful tribal leaders. In addition Libya, an arid, impoverished country with crop production limited to the narrow coastline, could not flourish without heavy "aid" from Western powers. In time, younger citizens, especially the military,grew tied of the king's conservative policies and extreme dependence on the West.
Many of the younger army officers and members of the growing urban middle class, however, resented Idris's socially conservative policies and hisaloofness from the growing currents of Arab nationalism. In September 1969, while Idris was at a Turkish spa for medical treatment, the army, led by Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, overthrew the government. Idris went first to Greece and then was given political asylum in Egypt.
In 1974 he was tried in absentia on charges of corruption and found guilty. He remained in exile in Cairo until his death.
Immediately following the 1969 coup, Idris I and his family fled to Greece. They then asked for and received political asylum in Cairo, Egypt. Idris had married his cousin in 1933 and, according to Islamic law, was allowed to take another wife. In 1955, Idris married the daughter of an Egyptian landowner. He remained in exile in Cairo until his death on May 25, 1983. 
Who si Gaddafi?
|Colonel Qadhafi with people of Libya|
On September 1, 1969 the pro-western regime that had ruled in Libya wasoverthrown by Colonel Muamar Gaddafi and his officers. At the time, Libya was home to the largest US Air Base (Wheelus Air Base) in North Africa. Agreements between the USA and Libya signed in 1951 and 1954 granted the USAF the use of Wheelus Air Base and its El Watia gunnery range for gunnery and bombing training and for transport and bombing stopovers until 1971. During the Cold War the base was pivotal to expanding US military power under the Strategic Air Command, and an essential base for fighter and reconnaissance missions. The Pentagon also used the base -- and the remote Libyan desert -- for missile launch testing: the launch area was located 15 miles east of Tripoli. Considered a 'little America on the shores of the Mediteranean', the base housed some 4600 US military personnel until its evacuation in 1970.
With the discovery of oil in Libya in 1959, a very poor desert country became a very rich little western protectorate. Oil was discovered in Libya in 1959, but King ldris of the Senussi tribe allowed most of the oil profits to be siphoned into the coffers of the oil companies.
US and European companies had huge stakes in the extremely lucrative petroleum and banking sectors, but these were soon nationalized by Gaddafi. Thus Libya overnight joined the list of US 'enemy' or 'rogue' states that sought autonomy and self-determination outside the expanding sphere of western Empire. Further cementing western hatred of the new regime, Libya played a leading role of the 1973 oil embargo against the US and maintainedcooperative relations with the Soviet Union. Gaddafi also reportedly channeled early oil wealth into national free health care and education.
Libya has a tolerable human rights record and stands at 61 on the International Incarceration Index, comparable with countries in central Europe (the lower the rating, the lower the standing - the USA occupies the no.1 spot!). There is hardly any crime and only rebels and traitors are dealt with harshly.