Three years after the massive eight-month bombing campaign against Libya was carried out by the Pentagon and NATO, divisions within the rebel forces that served as ground troops for the imperialist war of regime change are prompting greater foreign intervention. The seizure of an oil tanker, the Morning Glory, off the coast of Cyprus, by United States commandos and naval forces illustrates what is at stake for Washington in its efforts to remake the North African state.
The Mediterranean waters around Libya are heavily patrolled by Pentagon and NATO warships.
Rebels who are in opposition to the neocolonial, General National Congress regime in Tripoli are holding three ports where oil is exported from Libya. A dispute over economic and political control of the oil-rich eastern region of the country has brought the production and export of oil from Libya to a virtual standstill.
During the era of the Jamahiriya government under the leadership of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day. With unrest escalating over the control of the ports, official figures for exports have declined to approximately 200,000 barrels per day.
Militias which control the ports in the east of the country are threatening to export oil in contravention to the wishes of the GNC in Tripoli. The GNC is weak politically and militarily, as represented by the recent coup against Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, who was forced out of his position and fled to Europe after his fledging military failed to prevent the Morning Glory from leaving the port of Es Sider.
On March 24, international press agencies were allowed to board the Morning Glory, now docked at Tripoli. A crew of 21 people was removed and may face prosecution for what is claimed to be an illegal purchase of oil from the country.
“The crew of the oil tanker is now under my authority and is being investigated,” said the neocolonial Libyan state prosecutor, Abdelqadir Radwan. (Reuters, March 23) Yet without the intervention of the U.S., the vessel would never have been returned.
GNC plans for the creation of a new national army in Libya are unfolding at a slow pace. The soldiers are being trained by the U.S. and the European Union.
Consequently, the proposed army will be an outpost of the U.S. Africa Command and NATO, the forces responsible for the overthrow of the Gadhafi government and the destruction of the Libyan society and economy. Plans have also been floated for a more aggressive training program by NATO and the deployment of troops on the southern border of Libya, where pro-Gadhafi forces are in control of numerous towns and cities.
Libya’s oil and instability
The destruction of the previous political and economic system in Libya has had a devastating impact on the 6 million people there. Prior to the 2011 war, Libya enjoyed the highest standard of living in Africa.
Lacking a coherent system of governance and economic production, the overall quality of life inside the country has deteriorated sharply. The constant fighting between the various militia factions has created a highly precarious security situation, which consequently impacts production within the major industries.
Libya’s oil and natural gas production provides supplies of these critical resources to Europe. With the decline in these industries, the price of crude oil has gone up in recent weeks.
The Associated Press reported on March 24 that “the price of oil edged above $100 a barrel Monday as Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Libya’s continued difficulties to stabilize its oil industry worried investors. Russia is a key supplier of crude oil and natural gas to Europe while Libya’s production of crude, valued by refiners for its high quality, has yet to recover fully since the 2011 civil war which ousted Muammar Gadhafi.”
U.S. foreign policy in various geopolitical regions of the world is deepening the existing world capitalist crisis. Resources utilized to maintain these hostile actions towards sovereign states in Africa, Eurasia, the Middle East and Latin America could be rechanneled to rebuild the cities inside the U.S., which are suffering from massive unemployment, pension losses, increasing poverty and declining public services.
Instability within the international petroleum markets inevitably results in higher energy prices in the U.S. A continuing decline in consumer spending in the Western industrialized states creates more joblessness and declining wages.
The AP report noted, “The supply risks should still lend support to the oil prices, for there is no sign as yet of Libyan production recovering,” an expert at Commerzbank in Frankfurt told clients. “Furthermore, if the West were to impose additional sanctions on Russia, this could — at least theoretically — curb Russian oil exports and justify a certain price premium.”
In another illustration of the tense Libyan security situation even in the capital of Tripoli, a bomb exploded on the runway at the international airport on March 21. Although there were no reported injuries, the incident reveals that the military and security elements around the GNC are incapable of maintaining order at key installations.