The big oil grab in Libya

16-cultureBefore the US and NATO launched their “humanitarian” war against Libya, that country’s oil production was 1.6 million barrels a day. That’s 2 percent of the world’s total, unquestionably a prize worth grabbing.

The world’s big oil companies – the so-called “seven sisters” – were very interested in securing major stakes in Libya’s oil industry. So too were oil importers outside the orbit of the seven sisters: Russian, Chinese and Brazilian oil firms were rivals of the big Western oil giants.

However, Muammar Gaddafi’s government, despite the claims of corruption, was committed to using the country’s oil income to finance major public works projects, health care, etc. Giving a free rein to foreign oil companies did not fit in with the Gaddafi government’s agenda. And that was a major impediment to big oil’s agenda, which echoes the ideas of John D Rockefeller: the really big profits come when you control all of the production and supply.

Gaddafi, like Saddam, was too much of a loose cannon, and certainly wanted too much of Libya’s oil income to stay in the country. Until regime change could be arranged however, big oil co-operated with Libya’s government.

BP committed itself to spend more than US$1bn on further oil exploration and was about to drill its first well when the NATO war began; other trans-national corporations also active in the country prior to the war were Shell (originally Royal Dutch Shell but today basically a British TNC – Shell had been employed to upgrade a liquefied natural gas terminal) and the French TNC Total which operated the al-Jurf field in the Mediterranean.

Fighting was still going on when the UK Guardian reported that Alain Juppé, the French Foreign Minister, had staked a claim for a share of Libya’s oil, saying it was “fair and logical” for French companies to benefit. He was referring to the blatant involvement of French military and “special forces” in arming, supplying and reinforcing the so-called “rebels”.

On September 1, the French daily newspaper Libération published a letter dated April 3 from the National Transitional Council (the NATO-backed Libyan opposition government) and addressed to the government of Qatar acting as intermediaries between the opposition “rebels” and France. The rebels and the French have both been quick to either denounce the letter as a forgery or to deny any knowledge of it. Why?

Because it authorises Mahmoud Shammam, the interim government’s information minister, to sign a deal with France that would reserve “35 percent of total crude oil in exchange for the total and permanent support for our council”. A secret deal by which French companies would control more than a third of Libya’s oil production in return for Paris’s support for overthrowing the Gaddafi government must have seemed like a good idea at the time but was never going to sit well with France’s NATO allies.

Hence the denunciation of the “forgery”, I assume. A strait-faced Shammam joined in, telling Reuters: “It’s a joke. It’s false.”

However, no one has attempted to deny that, as the UK Guardian reports, “Rebel leaders had already made clear that countries active in supporting their insurrection – notably Britain and France – should expect to be treated favourably once the dust of war had settled”.

That must surely be one of the great understatements of our time, mustn’t it?

So keen were the players in this grotesque farce called “Bringing Democracy to Libya” to make sure the right people got the oil, that “rebel” oil companies were set up while the fighting still raged. Chinese and Russian companies had a significant presence in the country under Gaddafi, but as the UK Guardian so demurely put it, they “could face difficulties after being equivocal early on about the rebel plan to unseat Gaddafi”.

Abdeljalil Mayouf, identified as “an executive at Libyan rebel oil firm Agoco”, told Reuters: “We don’t have a problem with western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”

I wouldn’t be surprised.

Meanwhile, a reader using the nom de plume dreamjoehill commented on the events in Libya in terms of “the dynamics of oil war. The idea is to control the governments that control the oil reserves, in order to maximize profits for the oil companies. That might mean increasing or decreasing production depending upon circumstances.

“Qaddafi was not considered controllable, but the new ‘government’ will be dependent upon its NATO patrons and much more pliable.”

Which sounds about right. On the other hand, another reader of that paper, who had swallowed the NATO line completely, repeatedly berated those readers who criticised the US or NATO, proclaiming that “I support the UN mandate and for NATO forces authorised by law to take whatever action is necessary to prevent Gaddafi from committing genocide”. He also asserted that the people fighting for Gaddafi were not Libyan patriots but “mercenaries on drugs” and “zombies”.

Which elicited the response: “Regime-change makes it pretty obvious that America’s corporate government is looking to put a puppet in power so they can pay minimal royalties for stealing the oil out of the ground.

“This is the ONLY explanation for this murderous atrocity. The West is littered with declining oil-addicted states with big guns, and no integrity.”

And this from tomcarberry: “This was a pure war of aggression in violation of all international norms against the most prosperous country in Africa with by far the highest standard of living.

“You and other war mongering Americans cannot see anything wrong with war against Muslims, because to Americans, Muslims are not complete human beings. To you, a dead Muslim child means no more than a dead squirrel on the road.”

I was taken by a post from a correspondent called Obedient Servant who wrote: “There’s oil in Libya? Wow! Who knew?

“And Amerika and a bunch of its oil-hungry allies just had a humanitarian intervention there to help out a popular uprising against a ruthless and tyrannical dictator!

“What are the freaking odds?”

What indeed, Obedient?

Anthony-Claret Onwutalobi
Anthony-Claret is a software Engineer, entrepreneur and the founder of Codewit INC and CEO of Portia Web Solutions. Mr. Claret publishes and manages the content on Codewit Word News website and associated websits. He's a writer, IT Expert, great administrator, technology enthusiast, social media lover and all around digital guy.

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