Washington, through its old leverage, is trying to continue using Libya to its advantage.
For example, although the Government of National Unity (GNU) officially gave up power at the end of December 2021, the day of the country’s failed general elections, the US is blatantly avoiding any influence on the implementation of the decision adopted by Libyan parliament to appoint the new prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, whose cabinet has already won a vote of confidence and is ready to function. As a result, former PNU head Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh refused to hand over power to a successor and chaos continues to prevail in the country.
Taking advantage of the situation, Washington, through Najla Mangoush, still serving as GNU foreign minister, and Libya’s permanent representative in New York, pushed for a Western resolution at the UN General Assembly on April 7 suspending Russia from its seat on the HRC. Incidentally, Libya was the only Arab country to support the resolution. According to Libya’s former permanent representative to the UN, Ibrahim Dabbashi, as reported by Address Libya, the foreign minister thereby clearly tried to enlist US support to keep the outgoing government in power. Dabbashi did not rule out that the US Department of State might have given the Libyan permanent representative “instructions” before the meeting.
Meanwhile, Libya’s 5+5 military commission to resolve the crisis in Libya announced on April 9 it was suspending its work and accused the current head of the Government of National Unity, Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, of obstructing its work. The military commission said in a statement that Dbeibeh had obstructed its work after receiving a vote of confidence from the House of Representatives (Libya’s parliament) and had broken his promise not to run for office. The commission also accused the head of the Libyan GNU of refusing to hand over power to the Fathi Bashagha government, which had been approved by parliament. The said 5+5 joint military commission of the Libyan parties, comprising five senior officers from the GNU side and five others from the Libyan National Army to negotiate a ceasefire in the country, began its work in early 2020 in Geneva.
With the political situation in Libya still tense, several convoys with armed men and armored vehicles have been spotted in Tripoli. Al-Arabiya TV channel reported, citing sources, that they may have arrived in the capital from the cities of Zawiya and Zintan. “More than three armed convoys have entered the Libyan capital Tripoli from the west and south,” the channel’s interlocutor said. The reasons for their entry into the Libyan capital are not yet known, nor have official statements been issued by the authorities.
As a result, the situation in Libya has sharply deteriorated. Representatives of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) in the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) have suspended the ceasefire agreement of October 23, 2020 and withdrawn from the said commission. The expert community believes that such statements have the most undesirable consequences for Libya, ranging from a deepening rift between east and west to a slide into a new war. Senior LNA officers involved in the JCM made four main demands: to stop Libya’s oil exports, to block the coastal highway that links the eastern and western regions of the country, to stop cooperation and all and any contacts with the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) of Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, and to stop flights between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. In fact, it is a repudiation of the crucial achievements of the JMC, the result of the most recent enormous diplomatic efforts. Senior officers representing the LNA, members of the JCM, also accused the Dbeibeh government of obstructing the work of the newly elected Fathi Bashagha government.
Against this backdrop, Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) has announced a halt to oil production in the country’s largest field, El Sharara. Days earlier, NOC announced a halt to production and a state of force majeure in the El Feel field, which is supplied entirely by electricity from El Sharara. On April 16, a group of individuals infiltrated and attempted to block the El Feel field, bringing oil production there to a complete halt. Following the forced closure of the El Feel field, production from the Abu al-Tifl, al-Intissar, al-Nakhla and al-Nafoura fields directly linked to the port of Zueitina has been completely stopped. Gas and condensate production at the Abu al-Tifl gas processing plant has been halted, the injection plant at Zueitina’s 103D field and the production facilities at the Zueitina port gas plant have been shut down.
Libya has already calculated the daily losses from oil export stoppages at $60 million, according to Mohamed Aoun, Minister of Oil and Gas in the Government of National Unity of Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh. According to further estimates, over the past seven months, due to acts of sabotage on the oil infrastructure, each time leading to a stop in production of hydrocarbons, the Libyan economy has sustained $90 billion worth of damage. The day before, the minister said that oil production in the country dropped to 400 thousand barrels per day, which means an almost 2.5-fold reduction. The disruption of the supply chain will soon have a negative impact on the stability of the state’s gas-fired power grids, particularly in the eastern region, and ordinary consumers will soon face a domestic gas shortage that will undoubtedly lead to further national unrest.
As Fathi Bashagha, the newly appointed head of the Transitional Government, recently blocked by the United States, said, “The Dbeibeh government is illegally using oil revenues and diverting them to militias and armed groups to stay in power.”
The main Libyan oil shipments go to Europe, to countries in the predominantly Mediterranean basin. The disruption of supplies from Libya is exacerbating the energy crisis. This means that as long as there is no effective central authority in Libya (which, given the realities, is impossible until outside forces agree on a division of influence in the country, and the tribes grow mentally into an understanding of the need to restore central authority), the reliability of Libyan supplies can be forgotten. So, too, can be an end to the Libyan conflict.
Vladimir Odintsov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.