The oil profiteers and Libya

Submitted by AWL on 10 April, 2019 - 9:02 Author: Hugh Edwards

With the news that the forces of General Haftar have bombed Tripoli's Mitiga airport (8 April), the events in Libya have reached a critical stage.

The conflict is not just about two men and their armed forces, General Haftar (former Gaddafi general, lived in USA for 20 years, warlord with military clout based in the east of Libya) and El Sarraj (head of the UN-backed nominal government, with little clout outside Tripoli).

It is indirectly about the clash between two imperialist powers, France and Italy, both with a long and murderous history of involvement in Libya and Africa as a whole. Haftar, "the strong man" of Cyrenaica (the eastern coastal region), has always had the backing of the French. Along with the bulk of "the international community", France has nominally supported the government of El Sarraj in Tripoli. At the same time it has surreptitiously provided aid and arms to the General.

The giant French petroleum corporation, Total, has the bulk of its economic interests in Cyrenaica.

Logically a victory for Haftar's forces over the UN-backed government in Tripoli would herald the defeat of Italy's largest energy company ENI, whose interests are focused there, in the west of Libya.

It would thus emphatically reassert the profile of French imperialist interests in Libya.It would also boost France's neo-colonialist hold in the Sahel and its ambitions in any carve-up in Syria.

In alliance with Egypt's Al-Sisi, France also has a potent economic presence in Algeria, which it now surveys with studied alarm.

The role of ENI in Tripoli has made Italy El Sarraj's most reliable and loyal support. Italy's current coalition government, coming to power, hastily sought the international limelight as the would-be director and saviour of Libya's future.

Shamelessly it sought the blessing of Trump, at the expense of Macron and the French.

But Trump showed no interest, and the relation of forces on the ground inexorably shifted Haftar's way.

The only competition the Italians won was that in hypocrisy. The odiously racist Salvini (deputy prime minister), as he demonised the "invasion" of Islam in Italy and his "defence of Christianity", sustained El Sarraj's government, whose main political base is the Muslim Brotherhood.

The profits of ENI don't have a faith, and those come first.

Already Haftar has a grip on the bulk of petroleum deposits, much to the delight, no doubt, of Total. But the National Oil Corporation that sells the barrels and cashes the proceeds has its headquarters in Tripoli. Conquering it means taking control of its income, therefore political control of power in the country.

Neither the French and Italian working masses have anything to share here with their respective thieving and murderous states, and the economic forces that they serve. Still less do the tens of thousands of immigrants imprisoned in camps in Libya, at the mercy of thugs finaced by Italy and the bourgeois forces of Fortress Europe.

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