News / Middle East

Strikes And Political Instability Threaten Libya

The Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi, Libya, is one of several that has been closed down by labor strife.
The Zueitina oil terminal, about 120 km west of Benghazi, Libya, is one of several that has been closed down by labor strife.
New clashes at key oil terminals in Libya this week and a daring robbery of the European Union ambassador in Tripoli are raising new concerns about economic and political chaos in the North African nation.
 
The government had hoped to re-open several key oil terminals this week that had been closed by striking guards from the recently formed Petroleum Facilities Guard, or PFG. The group is largely made up of militia fighters who helped to topple Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, but have been operating largely outside government control. 
 
But clashes at the ports of Brega and Zueitina, where PFG forces fired on protestors, made it clear that the on-going labor dispute is far from over.  Another issue that came up during the labor dispute was that the striking port workers were apparently selling Libyan oil illegally. This came to light when the Libyan Coast Guard prevented a tanker from entering the terminal at Es Sider, where it was believed to be heading to pick up an illegal shipment of oil.
  
The biggest export terminals at Ras Lanuf and Es Sider, which has an export capacity of 350,000 barrels a day, remain closed. The leader of the strike – a former PFG commander – is based at Es Sider.
 
Libyan oil officials such as Mohammed Hattab of Waha Oil say some terminals have reopened.  “The Brega port is open, one tanker there is loading” said Hattab, who added that the terminal at Hariga is also back on line. 
 
Oil issue leads to political instability
 
Even so, pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to do something about the strike. He had warned earlier that oil exports had plunged by 70 percent, a devastating setback for Libya, which relies on oil exports for nearly all of its foreign revenues. 
 
Resumption of shipments from the Brega terminal will only add 90,000 barrels a day to the roughly 500,000 barrels a day Libya is currently exporting, well under half of what the country was exporting before the rebellion that ousted Gadhafi.
 Libya exports its oil in a partnership agreement between the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and oil companies such as Occidental Petroleum, which has a major stake in Libya.
  
That partnership appears to be fraying.  On August 18th, the National Oil Corporation invoked force majeure clauses on export contracts of crude and refined products, legally excusing itself from contractual deliveries because of events beyond its control.  
 
Libyan oil official Ibrahim Al Awami told Bloomberg News that the NOC hoped to cancel the force majeure declaration soon, but sources say that would be unlikely as long as the country’s two major terminals, Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, remain closed.  NOC officials were meeting with some of their long-term oil company partners in Istanbul in a bid resolve the issue.
 
Libya’s Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi says the disruption so far has cost the country $1.6 billion in lost revenue. He warned that not all customers “who have gone to other markets for their oil” will come back.  Industry sources say Nigeria has been the biggest beneficiary of disruption of deliveries from Libya.
 
The Es Sider incident this week, in which the coast guard stopped a tanker suspected of trying to illegally export oil, has raised fears that some strikers will speed up moves to sell oil themselves.  Those fears, led Prime Minister Zeidan to threaten that any unauthorized tankers trying to ship illicit shipments “will be bombed from the air and the sea.”
 
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
x
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zdidan, shown here shaking hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry March 13, 2013, is under pressure to stop the crippling oil industry strikes.
With the export terminals’ storage capacity filled up, oilfields have had to shut down their wells, cutting exports and production to their lowest levels since the civil war in 2011.
 
The oil standoff has added to the woes of the fragile Zeidan government, which is built on an uneasy coalition of Islamists, Gadhafi-era holdovers and some longtime Gadhafi opponents. It has teetered from one crisis to another and has been unable to persuade revolutionary militias to disband and help build up an effective national army.
 
To make matters worse, some of the national military units are dominated by militiamen from the towns of Misrata and Zintan and heed their commanders’ orders rather than instructions from the central government.

Lawlessness spreads
 
The resulting lack of a truly national military has allowed lawlessness to take hold in parts of the country.
 
On Monday (August 19), a group of gunmen attacked a convoy carrying the EU ambassador to Libya, Nataliya Apostolova. The assault outside the Corinthia Hotel in central Tripoli was not far from the prime minister’s main office. The gunmen robbed the EU delegation at gunpoint before shooting at passing cars and making their escape. Policemen outside the hotel did not intervene, according to the EU diplomats.
 
There has also been a series of targeted killings in the eastern city of Benghazi in recent days. The Associated Press reported that a senior security investigator was shot and killed Friday, a day after street clashes by rival factions in the city.
 
But the Tripoli government’s problems go well beyond street crime and lawlessness. Political leaders in the east of the country have been agitating for less centralized governing structure since the overthrow of Gadhafi. Now these leaders, known in Libya as federalists, are threatening to break away from Tripoli.
 
The federalists have close ties to the striking oil industry guards in the area and are accusing the central government of having overly close links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Increasingly, they are trying to portray their cause to break away from Tripoli as similar to the struggle between secularists and Islamists in neighboring Egypt.
 
But analysts say the current factionalism in Libya is more complex than simply a struggle between secularists and Islamists.
 
“What we are seeing are shifting coalitions involving militias and different political groupings jostling as much over short-term economic interests as anything to do with political ideology,” says a political risk analyst who advises international oil companies and who asked not to be named.
 
Another risk analyst, Henry Smith of the Control Risks consultancy group, told Reuters the troubles may be too deep and widespread for the government to control.
“Libya is essentially beholden to local and regional interests groups,” Smith told the news agency. “The government doesn’t really have the coercive capacity to be able to stop them.”

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Christmas Gains Popularity in Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jane Monheit Christmas Speciali
X
December 22, 2014 8:15 PM
Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.

All About America

AppleAndroid