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Libya: Big Oil and Intrigue

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What is going on in Libya is not just another revolution raging in North Africa. I was watching the news the day before yesterday and caught the comments of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and NATO’s concern and strategy regarding Libya. Rather than sit back and see how this revolt turns out, it looks like there will be some kind of action on the part of the U.S. and NATO because Libya is different from the other countries in the region rising up to rid themselves of oppressive dictators. Libya has oil for one; it’s large, strategically important; and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, has long been a thorn in our side.

I was talking to a friend about the news yesterday, and we were ticking off a list of all the foreign oil companies in Libya. Considering what’s at stake there, he reminded me of a story from just a couple of years ago in 2009: the release from a Scotland prison of a major terrorist, Abdelbaset Mohamed Ali al-Megrahi, back to Libya.

On December 21st, 1988, a Pan Am 747 blew up over Lockerbie Scotland, killing everyone aboard: 243 passengers, 189 of them Americans, and 16 crew members, as well as 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie who were also killed as the debris came raining down on their houses.  Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was tried and imprisoned in 2000, the only person convicted of the crime. Incredibly, in 2009, on grounds he had three months to live before he might die of terminal prostate cancer, he was allowed by Scotland, presumably under pressure from the U.K., to be released back to his home in Libya as an act of compassion. President Obama said the release was a big mistake and some kind of intervention was anticipated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to stop it but somehow as unpopular as the decision was here and in Britain, it went through. Later, however, a Senate hearing was ordered.

Al-Megrahi returned home a hero. President Muammar Gaddafi proclaimed, “It is a new dawn for Libya,” and met with him personally to congratulate him. I imagine the idea back in Britain was that al-Megrahi would return quietly home to die, thus alleviating some of the embarrassment and guilt to the parties involved in this shameful sellout. But sources have it this notorious terrorist is still alive in Tripoli today.

BP Oil, our friends who laid waste to the waters and shores of our coasts last summer, upsetting the ecosystem and destroying the livelihood of millions from the Gulf of Mexico to the South Atlantic coast, actually admitted in 2009 that they facilitated al-Megrahi’s release by lobbying the British government because BP was trying to protect their $900 million oil and gas exploration deal in the Mediterranean waters near Libya.

What kind of message does this send the world? It’s an outrageous story and for that reason it’s worth refreshing everyone’s memory on the topic. Government bending to the will and influence of big corporations to do what is morally wrong. All I can hope is that Gaddafi will soon join his peers in the Ousted Dictators of North Africa Club somewhere, and perhaps we’ll all get a fresh start and some much needed justice in that part of the world.

Isabel Nazarian contributed to the writing of this story.

Image courtesy of Chad Teer under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license.

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About Birgit Nazarian

  • Obama, the dancing boy of the investment bankers and George Soros, intervening in Libya over something so small as a BP engineered prison release. What a joke! The Arab League issued a fatwa against western intervention in Libya. [Gratuitous vulgarity deleted by Comments Editor]

  • A very interesting article! But I’m not sure that reading the situation using the “oil key”, while right to some extent, is the best way to understand what’s going on. Oil interests have had a role to play, sure, but there are many other interests and demands here, chief among them, a call for justice and freedom. Does that remnind anyone of something? The Turkish governing party? You bet!
    Regarding the other comment, in my view, Western intervention in Lybia at this point in time is highly unlikely. There are of course technical, military and tactical difficulties but there’s something else too and it has nothing to do, I believe, with any position the Arab League might take (I hadn’t heard they had issued any such fatwa, btw).

    The real reason is that the opposition to Geddafi does not want any meddling from foreigners, any kind of foreigner, Arab League included.

    Any foreigner stepping into what is increasingly looking like a civil war in Lyba would immediately serve as fodder to Geddafi’s insane arguments that the opposition to his regime has been fomented by Al Qaeda.

    What is going to happen then in Lybia? I don’t think that oil interests, large as they are, will play such a big role. Yes, they do play a role but let’s remember one fundamental fact: 80% of Lybia’s oil is already under rebel control (the eastern part of the country, around Benghazi). Moreover, installations (so far) are intact and oil exports have resumed with two tankers leaving Benghazi a couple of days ago.
    So, the oil situation is likely to get under control very fast.

    What is not going to get under control any time soon is the current political situation of Lybia, a country now divided in two: the east under rebel control and the west under Geddafi’s control. The question is: how long with Geddafi’s entourage support him and will the three tribes still loyal to him remain so?

  • Thanks for your insight Claude.
    Yes, I agree there are many complexities to the situation in Libya. I focused on the oil and the connection to BP and terrorist al-Meghrahi only to isolate that particular bit of history. Taken into context today it only serves as a reminder of a tiny bit of our history from the U.S. perspective with Libyan strongman Ghaddafi and big oil interests. I appreciate additional perspectives and deeper analysis. There are many, many things in play here.

    I think the U.S. and the West must tread very carefully, to intervene at this point would drag us into yet another conflict with who knows what kind of exit strategy, something we are already full up with now.

  • Jeanie

    Rebels fight for democracy but where is democracy now? Which democracy is there to assist them in their fight against a mad man? We were all fooled. There is NO democracy!