[What follows is a short excerpt from an article with the above title by Oxford-based researcher Jason Pack published yesterday on the US National Public Radio website.]
On flimsy evidence, Libya was found guilty of the devastating 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Europe was finally on board for comprehensive UN sanctions of Libya, which endured from 1992 to 1999.
In 1999, feeling the pinch caused by his decaying oil infrastructure and declining revenues, Gadhafi turned over the two suspected Lockerbie bombers for trial in the Netherlands (only one, Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi, was later convicted). This action caused UN sanctions to be suspended. As more countries began trading with Libya, the US policy dating back to Reagan of actively containing Gadhafi and hoping for his ouster was no longer feasible.
In the new millennium, US and British negotiators intensified their covert dealings with Libyan diplomats, and in 2003, Gadhafi made his first payment of compensation to the Lockerbie victims' families. At the same time, the colonel declared his desire to voluntarily give up his weapons of mass destruction program. (...)
From 2004 to 2010, US diplomats and businessman embarked on the long and hard road of normalization. Erratic Libyan behavior and electorally motivated grandstanding by US congressmen — generally on third-tier issues like Gadhafi's desire to pitch a tent in Central Park or Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison for health reasons — frequently derailed progress.