August 25, 2011

TSG IntelBrief: Libya: Peace, Politics, and Oil




Even before the dust has settled on the Bab al-Aziziya - where fighting continues despite the apparent flight of Ghaddafi to an uncertain future - the entrepreneurial nations are circling.

Both Turkey and Italy have made their intentions plain in the last 24 hours, and we have noticed China rapidly recalibrating its language now it is clear that the fighters of the National Transitional Council paid no attention whatsoever to the calls to resolve the crisis through dialogue.

The post-Ghaddafi era will see significant changes and rebalancing of relationships - both economic, political and military - and we start here to examine some potential outcomes, as well as identify possible winners and losers as a result of the conflict.

International Responses: A Selected Summary

China:  On August 24, Beijing was forced, by the speed of advance of the NTC fighters, to abandon its glacial approach to diplomacy and issue a statement - posted on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website - which addressed the new tactical realities as follows:

"The Chinese side has closely followed the major changes in Libya's political situation, respects the will of the Libyan people, and hopes Libya will realize a smooth transition of political power.

We have consistently attached importance to the significant role of the 'National Transitional Council' in solving Libya's problems, and maintained relations with it. We hope in the future the new regime takes effective measures to consolidate the power of all factions, and to resume normal social order as soon as possible, to help begin political and economic reconstruction, and enable the Libyan people to quickly resume happy and stable lives."

However, the above statement does not yet formally acknowledge the NTC as the new legal government in Libya, but they are being forced by events closer to that recognition.

If China does recognize the NTC, it will because of the need for Libyan oil to feed the Chinese energy maw, and also to provide jobs for the oil sector - the Chinese remain terrified at the prospect of an Arab Spring occurring in China, and Beijing is acutely aware of the drivers of unemployment and disaffection driving, in part, the revolutions seen across the Middle East.
However, and unsurprisingly, there is by no means a universal acceptance of the emerging new reality on the ground:

•  Algeria:   Originally opposed the Arab League resolution to back NATO air strikes.  Very concerned of migration of conflict into Algeria where Algiers continues to struggle against Al Qa'ida in the Maghreb (AQIM)

•  Angola:  Condemned NATO air strikes.  Still believes negotiations are the way ahead between Ghaddafi and the NTC.

•  Bolivia: Evo Morales, Bolivia's president, called for "an immediate halt to the invasion and armed assault to Libya" and for the creation of an international commission to seek a diplomatic solution to the 'civil war'.  "You can not defend human rights by violating human rights," Morales said, regarding the authorization of UN intervention and the alleged subsequent bombing of homes and hospitals by the United States, the UK and France.

•  Cuba: Fidel Castro published on the CubaDebate website between February 21 and March 3 that: "NATO's plan is to occupy Libya."  According to the paper, "Not even the fascist leaders of Germany and Italy were so supremely shameless immediately following the Spanish Civil War unleashed in 1936, an episode that many people have possibly recalled in recent days" and has warned the U.S. is seeking Libya's oil and to undo its revolution.

•  Ecuador: President Rafael Correa compared Libya with the start of the invasion of Iraq. "Remember that it was false reports which led to the United Nation's approval. As in the case of Libya, the only thing the United Nations adopted was the no-fly zone," he said.  In addition, the president was ironic about the U.S. response to certain Arab countries. "In Saudi Arabia there are no elections, but a hard monarchy. They say that Iran does not respect human rights under Islamic law, but in Saudi Arabia it is three times stronger, we shall see when they bomb Saudi Arabia," he said.

•  Nicaragua: President Daniel Ortega telephoned the Libyan leader to express his solidarity - this was in February however, any use of Ghaddafi's cell phone now is likely to attract the attention of SIGINT agencies worldwide.  An adviser to Ortega said his government would consider giving asylum to Ghaddafi if he asked for it, but acknowledged it would be difficult to arrange.

•  Russia: It has criticized NATO for overstepping its mandate and as yet does not  recognize the rebels as the sole legitimate representative of Libya.

•  South Africa:  South Africa still has not recognized the NTC, and its diplomats continue to advocate a peaceful, negotiated transition, condemning NATO strikes.  South Africa is a possible safe haven for Ghaddafi.

•  Syria: Bashir al-Assad stated that NATO airstrikes are a violation of Libya's sovereignty (he is concerned that he could be next.)
•  Uruguay: President of Uruguay José Mujica said of the NATO airstrikes, "saving lives with bombings  are an inexplicable contradiction.  The cure is worse than the disease".

•  Venezuela: President Hugo Chávez said: "European 'democratic' governments, not all of them, one knows who is who, are virtually demolishing Tripoli with their shelling and the allegedly US democratic government does it, because it feels like doing it. It is an excuse for meddling."  On Tuesday, Chavez said "We recognize only one government: the one led by Muammar Ghaddafi."  He condemned the roles of Nato and the US government in Libya's conflict.  "Without a doubt, we're facing imperial madness," he said.

•  Zimbabwe: President Robert Mugabe, a close ally of Ghaddafi for many years, and the recipient of much Libyan cash, said the West interpreted the UN resolution "in their own hypocritical way" to mean they had permission to bomb Libya. Mugabe said the resolutions was meant to ground Ghaddafi's planes and save civilians not disarm him, and wage a Western-led campaign against his regime, that has butchered innocent civilians.

Broadly speaking therefore countries ruled by despots, dictators or autocrats have roundly condemned NATO's actions; and traditional international antagonisms between powerful nations highlight disquiet over the use of force to resolve internal political problems.

Most of the Arab countries continue to sit uncomfortably on the fence and have made neither a substantive contribution or comment on the actions of the NTC - with the very obvious exceptions of Qatar and the UAE, the former of which has led from the front in the Arab world, and is likely to reap the benefits of such commitment.


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