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Libya almost Imploding, Status Quo Unsustainable

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By Nicola Nasser*

More than two years on since the "revolution" of Feb. 2011, the security crisis is exacerbating by the day threatening Libya with an implosion charged with potential realistic risks to the geopolitical unity of the Arab north African country, turning this crisis into a national existential one. Obviously the status quo is unsustainable.

"Libya is imploding two years after the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi" was captured and killed on October 20," Patrick Cockburn wrote in British The Independent on last Oct. 10.

Libya 's oil industry has become the target of violent attacks and civil protests, closing export terminals in east and west or/and creating an oil black market. "Security guards" at the country's main ports are on strike and selling oil independently in spite of a 67% in pay for employees of the state oil sector on last Oct. 31. Libyan oil minister, Abdulbari Ali al-Arousi, told the Financial Times on last April 29 that disruptions to production and export cost the country about $1bn over the previous five months only.

On this Nov. 11 Reuters reported that Protesters shut Libya's gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, in the Mellitah complex, some 100 km west of Tripoli, after shutting down oil exports from there as well. A day earlier, Reuters reported that the separatist self-declared autonomous Cyrenaica government set up a regional firm called " Libya Oil and Gas Corp" to sell oil independently after seizing several ports i n the east of the country, where Libya's two most important oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, were blockaded by protestors.

Libya is Europe's single largest oil supplier. Cutting the Libyan oil and gas supplies to Europe on the eve of a winter that weather forecasts predict to be a very cold one would be an excellent pretext for inviting a European military intervention in the country, which seems the only option left for the transitional government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan that ran out of options for its survival.


Libyan PM Ali Zeidan
(image by Google)
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It is noteworthy here that while the U.N. Support Mission in Libya can obviously "support" nothing, France ,   Italy , the UK and the U.S., who spearheaded the NATO campaign to topple the former ruling regime, in a joint statement on this Nov. 8, expressed their concern "at the instability in   Libya   and the threat that (it) poses to the successful achievement of the democratic transition" and reiterated their "support to the elected political institutions," i.e. to Zeidan's government.

Ironically, Zeidan on this Nov. 10 warned his compatriots of a possible "intervention of foreign occupation forces"   in order to protect civilians under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter because "the international community cannot tolerate a state in the middle of the Mediterranean that is a source of violence, terrorism and murder," which was the same pretext for the NATO military intervention that contributed mainly, if not created, the security crisis in the first place by destroying the military and police infrastructure of the central government and turned the country practically into a sponsor of regional terrorism in general and an exporter of arms and "Jihadists" to Syria in particular.

Zeidan's warning of foreign "intervention" could also be interpreted as an implicit threat to ask for it to help rein in the security crisis lest it boils to an implosion of the country.

Forbes on last Aug. 30 reported that Libya's "energy protection" was failing and quoted PM Zeidan as saying that his government would impose "order by force" when it came to protecting the oil and gas industry and expanded the Petroleum Facility Guards (PFG) to 18,000 members .

Months on, his efforts and threats failed to deter targeting pipelines, refineries and export terminals. His renewed threats since early last September to " bomb from the air and the sea" any oil tanker entering Libya's territorial waters illegally and trying to pick up illicit Libyan oil have proved hollow and without teeth.

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Libya is the second largest oil producer in Africa and the continent's fourth largest natural gas supplier and already dominates the Southern Mediterranean's petroleum sector. According to the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC), more than 50 international oil companies were already present in the Libya on the eve of the "revolution." The country's potential is more promising; Austria 's OMV said on last Oct. 21 it had struck oil in Libya in its first new discovery since 2011.

On last Oct. 18, CNBC.com quoted Paolo Scaroni, the CEO of the Italian oil and gas firm ENI, which is Libya's largest foreign partner, as saying: " Everyone is going to be wealthy" in Libya, citing statistics of what could be: "Five million people and 2 million barrels of oil (per day), which means that this country can be a paradise, and I am doubtful that Libyans will not catch this opportunity of becoming the new Abu Dhabi, or the new Qatar or the new Kuwait."

Libyan Copy of Iraq's "Green Zone"

 

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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