Oil returns to the forefront of the conflict as a political pressure card, which has proven useless in the past except when used as a means of extortion for money or certain political gains. Demands for distributive justice or for preventing a political party from benefiting from revenues were mere slogans of consumption.
This time, the oil shutdown occurs in a different international context, due to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the resulting turmoil in the international energy market. Therefore, Western countries called, about two weeks before the shutdown, in more than one statement, to neutralize the oil sector, and not to use it as a card in the political conflict.
The demand this time is clear, according to the statements of the groups that adopted the closure: to allow the Bashagha government to resume its functions and the Dbeibeh government to step down, even if this demand was wrapped in the same slogan as the previous closures: the equitable distribution of wealth.
Ahead of the recent wave of shutdowns, Bashagha said he did not support the shutdown and oil should not be used in political disputes. After work was suspended in some fields and ports, UN adviser Stephanie Williams said in a telephone conversation with Bashagha she underlined “the need to refrain from using Libyan oil production as a weapon for political purposes, while calling for an end to oilfield closures. Bashagha, as well as some of his ministers, communicated with the individuals who claimed responsibility for the closure in the Oil Crescent region, but he failed to dissuade them from their position, merely supporting them in its management income and its distribution. fairly to all Libyans, which means his government is powerless and basically has no cards to play in the political game.
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It is actually Haftar, who is an ally of the Oil Installations Guard, who controls the land most of the time and owns most of the fields and ports. The production and export of oil will not be disrupted without the orders issued by him, and Russian influence cannot be ruled out, as it will play the Libyan oil card in the context of its conflict with Western countries, using his influence from his support for Haftar and the Parliament of Tobruk.
There is an international will to freeze the situation in Libya, and to prevent it from breaking out with the obstruction of the political process, after the disruption of the elections and the conflict of legitimacy between the government of national unity and the government proposed by Parliament. Europe is not prepared for a new warm front on its southern border but, contrary to what it hoped, half of oil exports have been disrupted. It should be noted that his reaction was different this time, as he did not issue statements condemning and threatening sanctions with the call for an immediate return to export at the same previous rates, which indicates the possibility of plan unconventional solutions for treatment, led by Britain. If a new war does not break out to remove port and oilfield maps from the grip of Russia and its allies, it will at least be concerned that its positions in Libya may come under likely military pressure. to divert some of them from his center of interest in Ukraine.
The article which was published in the name of the proposed Prime Minister, Fathi Bashagha, in the British newspaper, The temperature, contained an explicit statement of his government’s willingness to ally with Britain to expel Wagner’s mercenaries from Libya and end Russian influence, in return for his support in his confrontation with the Prime Minister of national unity government and its allies. This statement is a great risk that could destroy its alliance with Haftar and Aguila Saleh, since they are two allies to whom Russia has given political, military and diplomatic support in recent years, in exchange for obtaining a foothold. in Libya, to occupy Europe and extend to Central Africa. Does Bashagha have any assurances about the inevitability of an Anglo-Russian confrontation in Libya? Is that why he offered to ally with Britain to expel Wagner’s mercenaries, thus cutting off any possibility of pursuing a futile alliance with Aqila and Haftar? Haftar and Aguila are unlikely to abandon Russia, their most important ally in the world.
The whole scene blurs and there is no sign of a political movement on the horizon that could make progress towards ending the conflict through elections. The ongoing dispute in the Security Council between the major powers has prevented the appointment of a new envoy, to succeed the resigning former envoy, Jan Kubis, and the UN mission has been extended for only three months , which is not enough to lay the groundwork. for a new consensus under the aegis of the United Nations. Moreover, without excluding the possibility of a resumption of armed conflict around the oil regions, the crisis tends to freeze the situation until the picture becomes clearer in the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine.
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Translated from Arabi21, May 5, 2021
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