Libya: Greed Is Tearing The Country Apart

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November 13, 2013: Tribes and militias in eastern Libya have formed a separate state called Cyrenaica and have also established an oil company to sell oil produced in the eastern part of the country. But the government still has warships and patrol boats off shore preventing any unauthorized oil shipments. The eastern rebels want a return to the form of government Libya had before Kaddafi took over in 1969. Before that Libya consisted of three large provinces, each with a lot of autonomy. The one in the east was called Cyrenaica. Meanwhile, Islamic terrorist groups in the east appear to be behind the growing number of attacks against security personnel in general and intelligence experts in particular. These Islamic terrorists are also a threat to this newly declared regional government.

Meanwhile, the government is running out of money because of the oil fields and oil export facilities being seized. Currently only about 250,000 barrels a day are being shipped, versus about 1.4 million barrels if there were no militia interference. Unless the government can get the oil flowing by the end of the year, the entire country will begin to suffer major shortages of food and other essentials. Libya imports most of its food and much else. All is paid for by oil. Already officials in charge of buying food are warning that shipments will halt soon because of a lack of cash (some of it stolen but most of it not available because oil is not being shipped). The government has called for the population to rise up (peacefully) against the factions that are shutting down oil production. That may actually happen once the shortages become widespread and severe. The government is also trying to negotiate with the various factions, but that is proving difficult because the faction leaders tend to maintain the loyalty of their followers by promising more than they, or the government, can deliver.

The IMF calculates that the oil production shutdowns will cut GDP by at least 5.1 percent in 2013. The economy had contracted 61 percent in 2011 because of the disruption caused by the successful revolution. GDP doubled last year because oil production resumed, but now many factions are blocking production and oil shipments to coerce the government to meet their particular demands. This won’t work because if you show favoritism to one group others will demand the same.

Greed for a larger share of the oil revenue is tearing the country apart. The problem is a classic one in Arab countries where tribalism, along with political and religious factionalism, makes governing difficult when there is oil wealth to be had. In this case there is a country called Libya but there are too few Libyans. That is, there are not enough people in Libya willing to cooperate with each other for the common good. This sort of thing causes many Arabs to despair over ever achieving the economic and other progress seen in the West. A growing number of Arabs now believe that only a dictator can overcome these problems. Perhaps in the short term, but this sort of thing is not unique to the Arabs. It occurs everywhere and was largely overcome in the West over the last few centuries. The problem is that there is no quick fix. The cure is messy and time-consuming. Libyans fear they will have to suffer through another round of civil war before any progress in achieving national unity is achieved.

November 12, 2013: In the west protestors, demanding more government benefits, shut down the refinery which supplies 23 percent of the countries refined petroleum products (the rest is imported).

Just across the border in Tunisia police raided a terrorist training camp, killing one man, wounding two, and arresting eight. The camp was being used to prepare suicide bombers and bombs, weapons, and other terrorist materials that were seized.

November 9, 2013: In Benghazi (eastern Libya) a prosecutor and five policemen were killed in the last 24 hours.

November 8, 2013: To cheers from people on the streets, hundreds of soldiers moved into Benghazi in an attempt to restore order and disarm Islamic terrorists and rebellious militias.

November 7, 2013: In Tripoli battles between rival militias left 2 dead and 29 wounded. The violence has been going on for days and has gotten worse.

In the west 50 armed Berber protestors shut down a natural gas pipeline that delivered gas to Italy. The Berbers demanded more autonomy.

In Benghazi a local intelligence official was killed when a bomb planted in his car went off.

November 6, 2013: As part of an effort to reduce the number of armed militiamen, the government said that beginning in 2014 it would stop paying militiamen and reminded the militias that these payments were a temporary measure to help the militiamen as they found jobs in the security forces or the civilian economy.

November 3, 2013: In Benghazi a soldier was killed by a mine, and 16 other security personnel and civilians were wounded in several clashes.

In a small town near Brega (an oil export terminal in eastern Libya) militia leaders declared the founding of a regional government, called Cyrenaica, for eastern Libya.

October 31, 2013: The government declared a 67 percent pay raise for people in the state oil company, in an effort to help halt all the oil industry disruptions.

October 28, 2013: In the western city of Sirte an armored truck transporting $55 million (78 percent in Libyan currency, the rest in dollars and euros) was attacked by ten armed men and all the cash was stolen.

The navy towed one of its frigates (a Russian Koni class ship) to Malta for repairs.

October 26, 2013: A car bomb went off in Benghazi, but there were no injuries. 

 

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