This article examines Libyan–US relations through the historical lenses of decolonization, international law, the Cold War, and the international political economy. The Libyan government exercised its newfound sovereignty in the postwar era through the negotiation of ‘base rights’ for the US government and ‘oil rights’ for corporations owned by US nationals. They did so in conjunction with other petrostates and through international organizations such as the United Nations, the Arab League, and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Libyan leaders’ strategy of using sovereignty to promote corporate competition relied on connections with similarly situated nations, and it was through global circuits of knowledge that they pressed the outer limits of economic sovereignty. At the same time, the US government consistently accommodated Libyan policies through Cold War arguments that linked the alliance with Libya to US national security. Those deep foundations of sovereignty and security created the conditions for the transformation of the global oil industry after Libya’s 1969 revolution.