By Janet Ekstract
ISTANBUL (TURKISH JOURNAL) – Warlord and renegade Khalifa Haftar is playing a dangerous oil game in Libya by continuing to implement an oil blockade. Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) pointed the finger at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for being responsible in reimposing an oil export blockade. Haftar’s major backers include the UAE, Russia and Egypt who have been supplying him with advanced weapons and drones in his bid to control Libya. On Saturday, Haftar’s spokesman reiterated the blockade is ongoing.
Libya has Africa’s largest crude oil reserves which are being used as a pawn in Haftar’s game of ‘who’s on first’ in the long-running Libyan conflict. The warlord is not about to give up, largely due to his backers propping him up. The self-styled Libya National Army (LNA) that Haftar and his backers command are involved in the oil blockade. On Sunday, NOC made a statement: “NOC has been informed that the instructions to shut down production were given to (the LNA) by the United Arab Emirates.” So far, the LNA and the UAE have not commented on the claim. The NOC said that Haftar’s blockade has so far cost Libya $6.5 billion in lost revenues.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, LNA spokesman, Ahmed Mismari in an online statement said Libya’s oil fields and ports are “closed until the orders of the Libyan people are implemented.” The conditions that Mismari laid out are not from the Libyan people but solely serve Haftar and his backers since they are moving to get their lion’s share of the oil in Libya. Interestingly, Mismari stated that the oil money should not fund what he termed as “terrorists and mercenaries.”
Mismari’s statement is ironic since Haftar and his militia have committed terrorist atrocities as the mass graves in Tarhuna demonstrate. As for the mercenaries – they make up the bulk of the militia and Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries are present. Who else does anyone think would receive this money? Certainly not the Libyan people, who Haftar and his backers are playing with. In January this year, Libyans took to the streets in protest of Haftar and the LNA, thanking Turkey for its support of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli.
What astute experts on Libya know for sure is that these seemingly ‘benovolent’ statements from Mismari are nothing but that – just statements with empty words that will surely turn into broken promises. The question one must ask is how can the international community trust Haftar and those who do his bidding? The obvious answer is they can’t. Mismari’s statement is simply a ploy for Haftar to maintain control at any and all costs.
In actuality, the NOC produces and exports oil under arrangements supported by the U.N. with those revenues going directly into the Central Bank of Libya. This oil money funds public sector institutions and state employee salaries in all regions of Libya. The sole goal of Haftar and his backers are to interrupt democracy in Libya under the guise of ‘saving’ the Libyan people while using underhanded tactics. The LNA describes pro-GNA forces as “terrorists” and claims Turkish forces that support the internationally recognized Tripoli government are mercenaries.
Nothing could be further from the truth, when in fact, the LNA consists of mercenaries and terrorists who committed war crimes in Tarhuna as well as extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances in regions they controlled. The GNA has patiently given Haftar his chance at the negotiation table months ago but the warlord violated every single ceasefire he agreed to. The site of the oil standoff is in Sirte, a strategic port city that is key to accessing the oil fields.
It is clear that Haftar’s backers have upped the ante in their very dangerous oil game where the stakes are extremely high since neither Egypt, Russia or the UAE plan to give up their fight to the finish for control of Libya’s oil. In the meantime, the victims of this oil game are the Libyan people who have suffered atrocities and injustice at the hands of Haftar’s militia for far too long. The Libyan people have already spoken – they don’t want Haftar. They do not want another dictator like Gaddafi which is what Haftar’s ultimate plan is. The warlord speaks under the guise of ‘the Libyan people’ claiming ‘freedom for the Libyans’ which is a false narrative as most who are knowledgeable on Libya, well know.
Some analysts and experts view Haftar’s days as numbered and that he will ultimately be the loser in Libya. That scenario is unclear at the moment since Haftar’s backers appear to be maintaining their stance of defiance and keep supplying the unpredictable warlord with weaponry. It would seem that the final outcome in Sirte will heavily depend on what the U.S., the UN and the EU decide to do. The situation has gone from bad to worse where it appears that a full scale war may be the end game. What is particularly worrying is the continued silence from the U.S. on Libya while Russia continues to impede any advances on Sirte. It is clear that EU leaders must decide to act in tandem or risk losing a stable Libya which would have dangerous consequences for NATO and Europe’s security.