Libya: A War as Long as a Pipeline

Since 2011 Libya has been living with a continual war between internal factions, tribal struggles and the arrogant presence of all, or almost all, of the greatest imperialist powers in Europe and beyond. Gaddafi was removed from power basically for two reasons:

1) He threatened to stop selling Libyan oil and gas in dollars but instead through a basket of currencies including the rouble, the renminbi and the euro. The US – which survives with the enormous mass of debt that surrounds it, thanks to the role of the dollar as a means of payment for all strategic raw materials, including oil, and the military force that supports them – decided that the Gaddafi regime had, like that of Saddam Hussein, to go.

2) Libyan oil and the new gas fields that the Libyan NOC (National Oil Company) was about to contract out along the lines of its new strategic alliances, triggered first, the bombing of the country, and then the subsequent death of Gaddafi himself. The subsequent attempt to administer the consequent political chaos to suit the needs of the imperialist powers made them the instigators of the umpteenth barbaric war. With no international legal cover, the USA, France and the UK intervened militarily; the first to meet the financial needs of the dollar, the second, with Gaddafi out of the way, to impose a different distribution structure for oil extraction, or rather a new division of black gold among the large oil companies operating in the Mediterranean.

The result was that the post-Gaddafi set-up not only did not solve anything regarding the voracious needs of any of the imperialist powers, but produced a complete economic and political debacle, which is still going on and promises only to get worse. It could even lead Libya into a civil war similar to that in Syria.

Meanwhile, there is a war of all against all. There are two "official" governments. The first, that of al-Sarraj [1], supported internally by the jihadist forces, as well as the Misurata and Zintan brigades. In addition he is supported by an unspecified number of local tribes, who have decided to take to the warpath thanks to the generous financial "aid" of the central government in Tripoli. Internationally, the Tripoli Government enjoys the support of Europe, the USA and international bodies like the UN. The government in Tobruk, dominated by the figure of General Haftar, is also supported by some tribes in Cyrenaica, while internationally it can count on the interested support of Egypt, the UAE [2], Russia and France. Shortly before the opening of the recent G7, which was due to deal with the "Libyan affair", the latter deliberated over whether to reach an agreement with General Haftar to launch a new deal with the usual aim of getting more oil. Libyan oil production, despite the fall in the price of crude, is booming.

In addition, important new discoveries of deposits with related projects of exploration and exploitation of the immense reserves would allow the NOC to produce 953,000 barrels a day by 2021.

In the Sirte basin, in Tripolitania, where 70% of the Italian company, ENI's interests are concentrated, test drilling identified a reservoir with an 8,500 barrels per day capacity and an unspecified quantity of cubic metres of gas. And here lies one of the problems. President Macron, like his predecessor Sarkozy who started the hostilities in 2011, wants to fight the usual war against ENI with Haftar's help to get a "fairer" redistribution of Libyan oil revenues. General Haftar, before launching his offensive against the capital, conquered the so-called Oil Crescent in the area of Fezzan, the southernmost region of Libya "by military might" with French endorsement. It is here that the most important and largest wells such as the al-Sharara field are located, managed by the NOC in collaboration with Spain’s Repsol, the French Total, the Austrian OMV, just as happens in the Elephant field, where the NOC is in close partnership with ENI.

At the same time, France is trying to obtain a 35% share of Libyan oil that has always been in the hands of Italy, as well as a redistribution of the booty. Haftar already claims at least 40% of the export proceeds from the NOC but would like to directly administer the oil terminals of Ras Lanuf and Sidra, which have long been under the control of his LNA (Libyan National Army) from Benghazi. Then there are the large deposits in Gadames that interest General Haftar and ENI, although there is interference from Algeria, which claims part of these territories, including its wells.

In conclusion, there seems to be room for everyone under the broad umbrella of oil, but on the sole condition that it involves yet another war with death, barbarism and misery inflicted on those who don’t even take part. Berbers versus Berbers, Bedouin tribes versus other Bedouin tribes, France versus Italy, Europe and the USA versus Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and France who were the first to rock the boat. The joint declaration of the governments of Paris and Rome, which hypocritically call for a negotiated solution, should not be taken at face value. In a period of perennial crisis that never ceases to bring worse conditions to workers, and which struggles to valorise capital, the barbarity of war is always around the corner. The stakes are high, the economic crisis is even deeper, there are no shortage of weapons (85% of the weapons in circulation in the world are produced and sold by the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council). The imperialism dictionary contains few words: war, destruction and death. Unless – and it will be difficult – an agreement can be reached between those hoping to get their hands on the post-Gaddafi oil revenue, it is not difficult to imagine that Libya, "mutatis mutandis", will end up the same way as Syria.


8 April 2019

[1] For more on the background to this appointment see

[2] Since this article was written it has emerged that Saudi Arabia also supports Haftar.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019