On Oct. 20, 2011, the leader of the North African state of Libya was brutally assassinated in the city of Sirte. Colonel Moammar Gadhafi had been leading a struggle to defend his country from a war of regime-change coordinated and financed by the United States and NATO.
Three years after the overthrow of his Jamahiriya system of government in Libya, social conditions inside the country are by no means stable. Various factions, most of whom were utilized as ground troops by the Pentagon and NATO to supplement their aerial war against the country, remain locked in mortal conflict for control over the oil-rich state.
Competing sources of political power backed up by armed militias exist in the two largest cities: Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi in the east where the counterrevolution against Gadhafi began. Areas in the south of the country, often in sympathy with the previous Jamahiriya system, have armed themselves against the U.S.-installed regimes in Tripoli and Benghazi.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two regional states that participated in the imperialist-engineered war against Libya, have been carrying out periodic airstrikes against alleged “Islamist” strongholds in various locations in the east and west. Also, the former renegade general and longtime CIA asset, Khalifa Haftar, has mounted a bid for power utilizing sophisticated weapons and air strikes.
Oil production affected by conflict
For several months earlier this year, oil production in Libya was down considerably. Conflicts between various labor organizations, in addition to clashes among the militias, resulted in the decline of barrels-per-day extraction to almost nil.
A dispute over who could actually sell Libyan oil on the international market was eventually addressed by the U.S. It sent a naval warship to reclaim cargo traded by entities in the country that had not been endorsed by Washington. Subsequent efforts aimed at resolving the disagreements have still not cleared the way for a consistent boost in production.
Unrest has recently erupted again over which political group claiming authority in Libya will control the proceeds from oil sales. The two parties that control the capital of Tripoli and are often labelled “Islamists,” as well as a “government in exile” in the eastern city of Tobruk, all say they are entitled to the revenue generated from the oil trade.
With a decline in global oil prices during October, the struggle over the control of oil in Libya has prompted the attention of the Wall Street Journal. Efforts by five Western countries designated by the United Nations to reach a political settlement in the Libyan quagmire have failed. Consequently, the major imperialist powers are concerned about the supply of oil and the role of Libya in the process.
“In a joint statement late Saturday, France, Italy, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S. said they supported the U.N.-sponsored peace talks and a cessation of hostilities,” noted the Wall Street Journal on Oct. 19. “The five governments condemned the violence by Islamist group Ansar al-Shariah, voiced concern about the attacks of the renegade general and said they were ready to sanction those threatening Libya’s security.”
The newspaper went on to point out, “Libya is normally one of Europe’s largest oil suppliers, but disruptions since the fall of strongman Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 have reduced its contribution to the continent’s oil supply.” Even the main organ of international finance capital has to openly acknowledge that the Pentagon-NATO policy of regime-change in Libya has disrupted oil supplies to the European continent.
The so-called moderate group based in Tobruk, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani, sent its own oil minister, Mashallah al-Zawie, to Turkey to participate in an industry conference held in Istanbul. Al-Thani dismissed Central Bank director Sadiq Kabir and claims to have control of the revenue from oil sales. But the rival Libya Dawn group, which took over Tripoli in August, is contesting al-Thani’s control of the state.
Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reported that “officials at NOC [the state-owned National Oil Co.] and at the central bank subsidiary which receives payments from oil buyers said revenues had continued to flow to its Tripoli-based accounts. Mr. al-Kabir also remains in office, they said.”
Such confusion over which entity controls Libyan oil could very well hamper the country’s future production and exports projections. Libyan oil officials say production is now 850,000 barrels a day, an increase of 40,000 barrels over earlier in October. This suggests that some facilities have boosted their output. In contrast, operations at oil fields in eastern Libya have been interrupted by labor unrest, led by workers seeking jobs at the facilities.
The present situation in Libya is the direct result of the 2011 war of regime-change led by the CIA, the Pentagon and NATO. U.S. policy is designed to overthrow all the sovereign and anti-imperialist governments throughout Africa and the Middle East.
Consequently, the outcome of the current situation in North Africa and the Middle East will be critical in the future course of imperialist militarism worldwide. Obviously, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Syria and Libya have prompted massive destabilization of these societies, including a vast increase in internally displaced persons and refugees.
During the years of Jamahiriya-Gadhafi rule, Libya was the most prosperous state in Africa. Now it is a major source of instability in the region. Aerial bombardments by Egypt and the UAE will only further the generalized sense of lawlessness and terror.
Only the Libyan people themselves, united around a political program of national unity and genuine sovereignty, will be able to reverse the current malaise. Plans being discussed to intervene in Libya with thousands of NATO troops under the rubric of the United Nations would heighten anti-Western sentiments already prevalent throughout the country.
Washington and Wall Street are driven by an insatiable hunger for profits in shaping their policy toward Africa and the Middle East. Their interventions will only breed more anti-U.S. consciousness and mass resistance to imperialist control.