Posts tagged ‘Muammar al-Gaddafi’

September 8, 2011

War for oil?

TERRY MACALISTER: So, was this a war for oil?

OIL POLITICS: Smoke rises from an oil terminal in the town of Brega, Libya, on August 15. Most of the town has been liberated from Qadhafi's forces.

The dust in Libya has not yet settled, but already the struggle has begun over who gets what.

The Libyan conflict has been a war about oil if not “for” oil. The country’s economy is almost totally dependent on hydrocarbons and a key objective for the transitional government will be to get the wells up and running again as soon as possible. [READ THE REST]

Jaffar Al-Rikabi: In Arab Protests, Oil Role Defies Simple Explanations

Oil is perhaps the most commonly cited factor in explaining the course of the various Arab revolutions in train since the Spring, but compared across countries its influence proves less decisive than generally suggested, argues Jaffar Al-Rikabi.

With the European Union announcing last Friday an oil embargo on Syria, denounced by some as ‘ too little too late,’ and by others as leading to ‘ nothing good,’ the impact of oil on the fate of the Arab protests has come to the fore of public attention.

In Libya, The National Transitional Council is scrambling to revive oil production, with new oil minister  Ali Tarhouni declaring last Saturday that production at the Misla and Sarir oil fields would be restarting in ten days time. During the preceding months of fighting between Gaddafi and rebel forces, Qatar had come to the rescue of the opposition, providing towns in eastern Libya with petrol, diesel and cooking gas to stave off a fuel crisis in rebel areas.  [READ THE REST]

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August 26, 2011

Free Libya

Juan Cole explores ten myths about the Libya war. The tenth myth is that the war was all about oil. Here’s Cole’s response:

That is daft. Libya was already integrated into the international oil markets, and had done billions of deals with BP, ENI, etc., etc. None of those companies would have wanted to endanger their contracts by getting rid of the ruler who had signed them. They had often already had the trauma of having to compete for post-war Iraqi contracts, a process in which many did less well than they would have liked. ENI’s profits were hurt by the Libyan revolution, as were those of Total SA. andRepsol. Moreover, taking Libyan oil off the market through a NATO military intervention could have been foreseen to put up oil prices, which no Western elected leader would have wanted to see, especially Barack Obama, with the danger that a spike in energy prices could prolong the economic doldrums. An economic argument for imperialism is fine if it makes sense, but this one does not, and there is no good evidence for it (that Qaddafi was erratic is not enough), and is therefore just a conspiracy theory.

April 8, 2011

War in the Middle East: follow the money

From Der Spiegel:

Weapons Sales to the Arab World under Scrutiny

By Benjamin Bidder and Clemens Höges

Bernhard Zand/ DER SPIEGEL

In recent years, Western countries have made a bundle selling arms to Arab despots. But, as with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, some of yesterday’s buyers have become today’s enemies. Now major weapons exporters must seek a new balance between arms profits and human rights.

The revolutions in the Arab world caught British Prime Minister David Cameron off guard. For some time, diplomats had been planning a trip for Cameron that would take him to several countries in the Middle East. In fact, it was meant to be more of a trade mission, with Cameron’s delegation consisting largely of high-level executives from Great Britain’s weapons industry.

But then came the revolutions in Arab countries and the fighting in Libya. Ignoring them was impossible, and Cameron added a six hour stopover in Cairo to his already tight schedule. It was almost exactly a month ago that he visited Tahrir Square in the center of the city, the focal point of mass demonstration which ultimately forced Egypt’s aging leader, Hosni Mubarak, out of office.

“Meeting the young people and the representatives of the groups in Tahrir Square was genuinely inspiring,” Cameron said. “These are people who have risked a huge amount for what they believe in.”

From Egypt, Cameron flew on to Kuwait, where he got down to the real purpose of his trip: selling weapons to Arab autocrats. When members of parliament back home attacked him for this lack of tact, the prime minister insisted there was nothing wrong with such business transactions and that, in any case, his government made weapons buyers pledge to not use them to violate human rights under any circumstances. Great Britain, he said, has “nothing to be ashamed of.”

Britain, though, has exported over €100 million ($142 million) in weapons to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in the last two years alone. Included in those shipments are sniper rifles that may currently be in use against the Libyan opposition. Furthermore, Gadhafi’s terror police are British-trained. Indeed, British officials were forced to hastily revoke 50 arms export licenses to Libya and Bahrain.

Friends of Convenience

Cameron now finds himself in a tight spot shared by many Western politicians. Policies that seemed fine prior to the revolutions are now questionable. Regional paradigms are shifting and, at a time when populations are throwing off the yoke of oppression, Realpolitik is a poor guide to Western policy.

Until recently, the West had been arming despots in the Arab world with a series of ever-larger, billion-dollar deals that served to stabilize their regimes. Some are close allies when it comes to Iran and al-Qaida, making questions about human rights and democracy secondary.

In addition, many of the region’s potentates were convenient partners for the West: They had their people more or less under control, and some provided oil. Even Gadhafi proved useful by keeping poor African refugees out of Europe. Likewise, many of the rulers bought whatever the West’s defense industry put up for sale.

The Ascent of German Arms

This was certainly also the case with Germany’s defense industry. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), though it still lags far behind the United States and Russia, Germany has become the world’s third-largest weapons exporter in recent years.

Indeed, SIPRI statistics show that, over the last decade, the German defense industry’s share of the global arms market has doubled to 11 percent. In 2008, the total value of these arms sales amounted to just under €6 billion. Germany primarily supplies high-tech items, such as submarines and military electronics. German defense corporations — such as EADS, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Koch — together employ roughly 80,000 people.

German military wares are so good that even Russia has become a reliable customer. Although Russia’s own products are perfectly suited for guerilla warfare in Africa, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov admits that they no longer meet “modern requirements.”

For this reason, Russia plans to order military hardware worth nearly €500 billion by 2020, including many items from the West. The Russian army would like to replace its T-90 tanks for the German Leopard 2, and Rheinmetall is to provide armored plating for other Russian vehicles. Even Russia’s mobile military camps will soon be “made in Germany.” Kärcher Futuretech, a company based in Winnenden, near Stuttgart, manufactures the finest in field kitchens and water purification systems.[…]

From Le Monde Diplo:

by Samir Aita
[…] Monarchies in the Arab world have been absolute, and life-long presidents (with hereditary office) ruled the republics, because they created a supreme power above both state and post-independence institutions (1). They set up and controlled their own security services to ensure that their powers would endure; the services escaped parliamentary or government supervision, and their members could reprimand a minister and impose decisions. It costs money to run such services, and the clientelist networks of one-party states. The funds derive not from public budgets, as do those for the police and the army, but from different sources of revenue. (The New York Times recently reported that Muammar Gaddafi had demanded in 2009 that oil firms operating in Libya should contribute to the $1.5bn he had promised to pay in compensation for the Lockerbie terrorist murders – or lose their licences. Many paid. And Gaddafi’s immediate cash holdings of billions of dollars are thought to be funding his mercenaries and supporters to defend him.)

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March 24, 2011

Who sold Libya its supermissiles?

From Wired.com:

The U.S. government calls it the “one of the most lethal” weapons of its kind — an advanced, portable missile, designed to knock planes out of the sky. A variant of it just showed up in Moammar Gadhafi’s army and nobody seems to know how exactly it got there. But diplomatic cables, unearthed by WikiLeaks, suggest one potential culprit: the Chavez regime in Venezuela.

Aviation Week’s eagle-eyed reporter David Fulghum spotted a Russian SA-24 Grinchsurface-to-air missile mounted on a Libyan army truck in recent cable news footage. And that’s a cause for concern: The SA-24 is more accurate, longer-flying, and more lethal than than earlier models of surface-to-air missiles. It also has a dual-band infrared seeker and is more difficult to jam than older systems.

The missiles “reportedly have counter-countermeasures that may be difficult for planes with just flares to counter,” Matthew Schroeder, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Arms Sales Monitoring Project, tells Danger Room. ”Overall it’s just a much more capable system.”[…]

So how did the missile get there and where did it come from? Thanks to a shaky system of international arms-sale monitoring, its hard to say.

Russia has shown a willingness to sell Libya other sophisticated air defense systems in the recent past. In 2010, Moscow announced a deal to sell Tripoli a $1.8 billion package of arms that included two batteries of its big, bleeding-edge S-300 air defense missiles, in addition to Sukhoi fighter jets and T-90 tanks. But the deal was never finalized.

Schroeder says he can’t find any other Russian missile sales in the last seven years. But countries aren’t always keen to be candid about their arms deals.

[…]Russia has sold Venezuela a shoulder-fired version of the SA-24, which is a bit different from the truck-mounted model found by Aviation Week. In classified cables released by WikiLeaksAmerican diplomats expressed alarm at Russia’s deal with Venezuela, writing that the missile, “considered one of the most lethal portable air defense systems ever made,” was at risk of falling into other hands.[…] Gadhafi is reportedly close to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who has blasted the coalition attacks on Libya.[…]

So, did Chavez sell Gadafi the SA-24?

Notes:

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March 16, 2011

Libya and the politics of oil

Gene, in an aptly titled post ,”The anti-imperialism of boneheads“, writes:

At his 21stcenturymanifesto blog, the Communist Party of Britain’s Nick Wright has posted this devastating graphic argument against a no-fly zone in Libya.

A classic example of boneheaded anti-imperialism in purest form: Companies like BP lust after Libyan oil; therefore they must be pushing to overthrow the government which is supposedly blocking their access to it.

In fact, reports BloggingStocks:

The political turmoil in Libya must be chilling for BP as it could bring into limbo the future of the $900 million exploration and production agreement BP had signed with the Libya’s National Oil Company in 2007. The deal was BP’s single biggest exploration commitment at that time and gave BP the rights to explore 21,000 square miles onshore and offshore of Libya.

That is to say: the last damn thing BP wanted was a rebellion against a regime with which it signed a $900 million deal. And now that the rebellion is underway, the last damn thing BP wants is for it to succeed.

It would be bad for business.

March 8, 2011

The World’s Top Ten Gaddafi Toads

I missed this, by Walter Russell Mead, yesterday.

The Mead List: World’s Top Ten Gaddafi Toads

Gaddafi Toad Number Four: Nicholas Sarkozy

After a meeting with French President Nicholas Sarkozy in 2007, the Great Loon explained that no difficult subjects came up.  “President Sarkozy and I did not discuss [human rights].  We are quite close friends.  We cooperate.”

True enough; France has a long history of self-abasement before self-important African dictators who slaughter their citizens while bribing important French political families and giving sweetheart deals to French companies.  This is, I am told, somehow connected to French glory and prestige — although the precise connection eludes me.  As recently as January 20 of this year, Libya was boasting about $27 billion of French corporate activity in the country; clearly, as long as Gaddafi’s goon squads could intimidate the domestic opposition, Sarkozy would have continued to flatter Gaddafi, sweeping all unpleasant subjects under the rug.

Gaddafi Toad Number Seven: Silvio Berlusconi

The embattled Italian prime minister is a truly rare bird among the Gaddafi suck-ups. Most of Gaddafi’s hangers-on at least got paid; Berlusconi and Italian taxpayers are paying for the privilege of stroking the Loon. In 2008 Berlusconi pledged $5 billion in “reparations” for Italy’s sins while it kept Libya under colonial rule for much of the 20th century; the next year he sent the Italian air force to put on a special show for Gaddafi’s birthday. Bunga! Bunga! Bunga!

Nine: The London School of Economics

Lots of universities take money from lots of unsavory donors; as a university professor, I sympathize. The emperor Vespasian levied a tax on the urine collected from Rome’s main sewer (and used as a source of chemicals for bleaching and other processes). His son complained about the disgusting and stinky revenue source: his father held up a gold coin and said “Pecunia non olet,” the money doesn’t stink. There are plenty of Non Olet chairs for professors of this and that around the world today, and there are worse uses for money than to keep academics out of the cold.

But there are limits, and the London School of Economics went well beyond these when it accepted a gift of $2.4 million from distinguished alum (and mad-dog son of Gaddafi) Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to establish a program on “civil society issues” in North Africa. Next up at LSE: the Herman Goering Chair in Judaic Studies.

UPDATE Since the original post went up earlier today, I’ve seenthis from an article by David Corn and Siddhartha Mahanta inMother Jones, thanks to the diligence of crack research associate Peter Mellgard.  According to Corn and Mahanta, Walt, Barber and a number of other well known Americans were sent to Libya as part of a PR offensive by a company hired by Libya to clean up Gaddafi’s sordid image.  The story is worth reading; some of the figures mentioned in it, like Robert Putnam, come away looking good.  Others do not.

I’ll post another time about the ethics of intellectuals and dictators; I’ve been to places like North Korea, Cuba and the Soviet Union back when it was still the Evil Empire, and it’s not always easy to know what to do.  But it does seem that if you are paid a consulting fee by a for-profit PR firm hired by the dictator’s government, that is something you should disclose when and if you write about what you saw.

I wish I believed there were some lessons from all this that we could learn and move on. The reality is that nothing much is likely to change. Gaddafi will, one hopes, fall — and soon. But power doesn’t just corrupt those who hold it. It corrupts those who behold it: there will always be people around who are ready and willing to praise the emperor’s new clothes.

February 28, 2011

Dirty money: Britain, Libya and the arms trade

This is NOT OK

CAAT say:

The UK has sold tear gas, crowd control ammunition and fire arms to Bahrain and Libya in the last year. While UK weapons are used against civilians, a UK government departmentand David Cameron are promoting weapons sales in the Middle East. This is NOT OK.

Can you be more on top of the events than this, a mere several weeks after the revolution began in Libya:

Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has said Britain’s arms sales policy is under review following the Libyan regime’s violence against its own people.

Fox said that Muammar Gaddafi was “a liability” and that all pressure possible should be applied to ensure the Libyan leader goes, as David Cameron called on him to do on Sunday.

Carl Packman on William Hague:

First he made the government look foolish by repeating the unsubstantiable claim that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

Then amid all the media attention on Cameron’s trip to the Middle East with arms dealers, and the Mirror story that the wife of an ex-Middle East arms dealer, old chum of Jonathan Aitken, had donated £300,000 to the Tories, David Cameron has to get up and apologise for the delays to the Government’s efforts to rescue British nationals stranded in Libya.

James Forsyth for the Mail has today said the “Government has resembled little more than a budget airline”.

EUObserver write:

As dead bodies pile up on the streets of Tripoli and blocked phone lines hamper the EU evacuation effort, the latest EU figures show that EU countries just two years ago granted over €160 million of export licences to Libya for small arms and electronic jamming equipment.

The Union’s latest report on arms exports, out in January and covering 2009, says that EU countries granted €343.7 million worth of Libya licences two years before the massacre. Figures for actual shipments are incomplete.

With the UK’s Associated Press agency reporting on Tuesday (22 February) that the streets of Tripoli “are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces,” the EU report notes that Malta in 2009 granted licences and actually shipped €79.7 million of small arms to the regime. Belgium granted €18 million of licences and Bulgaria €3.7 million.

On electronic jamming, Germany led with €43.2 million of permits. The UK granted €20.7 million worth and Italy €1 million.

EU officials on Monday told this website that Libyan jamming of mobile phone, internet and GPS services is hampering attempts to get the 5,000 or so EU citizens still in Libya to safety. The EU’s ambassador in Tunis, who is also responsible for Libya, is trying to co-ordinate evacuations by calling EU embassies in Tripoli on landlines. But many of these are also down.

Amid widespread reports that the Libyan airforce is bombing and shooting opposition activists, Italy led the sale of what the arms industry calls “big ticket items.”

Italy granted €107.7 million of licences for military aircraft, including assault craft, and associated equipment. France granted €17.5 million worth and Portugal €14.5 million. Portugal also granted €4.6 million of permits for drones.

[…] Paul Holtom, an arms control expert with the Swedish NGO Sipri said that Russia is Libya’s main arms supplier. The EU gold rush began after the UN lifted its arms embargo in 2003, with senior British, French and Italian officials jetting in and out of Tripoli in delegations with arms and oil industry executives.

[…] Belgium in 2009 in response to NGO complaints overturned a licence for FN Herstal to supply €11.5 million of small arms – including 367 rifles, 367 handguns, 50 “luxury” pistols and 22,000 grenades – for Gaddafi’s elite army and police units.

The UK in 2008 blocked York Guns from shipping 130,000 Kalashnikovs to Libya because it feared they would be resold to warlords in Sudan.

The same year Romania gave the green light to sell Gaddafi 100,000 of the guns, however. And UK premier David Cameron on his current Middle East tour opted to bring Ian King, the CEO of top British arms firm BAe Systems, as part of his delegation, as well as executives from UK weapons firms Rolls Royce and Thales.

Here is Russia’s role in the trade:

Russia could lose almost $4.0 billion in arms export contracts to Libya after Moscow joined other world powers in slapping an arms embargo on Moamer Kadhafi’s regime, a report said on Sunday.

The Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying that Russia had a swelling order book for contracts from Libya worth $2.0 billion while negotiations had been in progress for deals worth $1.8 billion more.

Here is some information about British arming of the un-democratic government of Bahrain:

Alistair Burt went on to detail some of the licenses granted in recent months.

“In the last nine months we have approved a range of licences for Bahrain. These include two single export licences for 250 tear gas cartridges to the Bahrain Defence Force and National Security Agency that were for trial/evaluation purposes.

“In addition there are a number of open individual export licences that have been approved. One of these includes equipment that can be used for riot control. The approval of these applications were judged to be consistent with the criteria at the time and followed precedents set by previous governments. As with all export licences for Bahrain, these are being urgently reviewed.”

Oddly enough, the defence industry says: “Anarchy in the Middle East benefits no-one”.

More from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade:

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