Black Gold, Libya’s Wealth! Who Gets It?

Moving sand dunes, rocks and mountains in Tadr...
Image via Wikipedia

Even before the fate of Tripoli is sealed, the great oil grab is already beginning. BP has a contentious oil and gas exploration contract in Libya, which the UK government will be anxious for it to resume. Italian oil giant ENI is the first to send staff back to Libya, and its shares rose on the news. France’s Total and Austria’s OMV also did well as investors hoped they would soon be able to resume production in Libya. But at what price to the Libyan people?

­The Italian Foreign Minister fired the starting gun, saying Italy’s ENI oil company will play the number-one role in the region.

British PM David Cameron already delivered a promise, seen by many as more of a threat, that the NATO mission in Libya, which is “to protect civilians,” will continue for “as long as it is needed” to make sure a safe transition to democracy.

As allied forces lend air support to the rebels to take Tripoli, the Stop the War Coalition warns Libyans not to expect that they are getting something for nothing.

Western powers do not do this without asking for payback. Why is it that the head TNC [Transitional National Council] is going to Paris to meet with French President Sarkozy? Of course, that is one very important issue that was why the Western powers and Tony Blair and others struck a deal with Gaddafi in the first place. It will be exactly what they’re seeking to continue with the TNC to further exploit those oil riches.”

The British government makes no secret of the fact that its motives in supporting the rebels are not entirely altruistic. Last year alone the UK exported around US$40 billion worth of goods and services to North Africa and the Middle East.

But “black gold” is the key – Libya has the largest oil reserves in Africa. “When Western powers look at the region, they talk about humanity and democracy, but they’re thinking about oil.

Months of chaos await Libya if the NATO-led operation in the country topples Muammar Gaddafi.  But regime change would suit Western oil interests.  “What emerges from that, suits some of the Western oil interests, especially the British and the French, who were fighting like piranhas over grabbing the most juicy oil sites.

The markets reacted nervously to Libyan opposition forces’ offensive on Tripoli. Hopes are high that oil production in Libya will soon resume. But the rebels now say that some old business partners might no longer be welcome.

But other major oil producers are cautious about joining the race back to Libya. BP said on Monday that it would return to Libya to continue its exploration program “when conditions allow.”

Still, analysts believe that oil giants could be the actual beneficiaries in postwar Libya, especially the countries that have shown the most support for the opposition. The Libyan opposition has hinted that some business contracts will be preferred if they win.

“We don’t have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies.” Said, Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at the Libyan rebel oil firm Agoco. “But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil.”

This could mean that countries that have been calling for the Libyan conflict to be resolved through negotiations might see the loss of billions of dollars in oil contracts. US and European oil giants, meanwhile, might have the market left to themselves and perhaps new players like Qatar.

But the reality is “no matter who ends up running Libya,”  the West will get the country’s oil.

Advertisements

Israel will bomb Iran in the fall? What!

A longtime CIA officer who spent 21 years in the Middle East is predicting that Israel will bomb Iran in the fall, dragging the United States into another major war and endangering US military and civilian personnel (and other interests) throughout the Middle East and beyond.
 
Earlier this week, Robert Baer appeared on the provocative KPFK Los Angeles show Background Briefing, hosted by Ian Masters. It was there that he predicted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to ignite a war with Iran in the very near future.Robert Baer has had a storied career, including a stint in Iraq in the 1990s where he organised opposition to Saddam Hussein. (He was recalled after being accused of trying to organise Saddam’s assassination.) Upon his retirement, he received a top decoration for meritorious service.

He obviously won’t name many of his sources in Israel, the United States, and elsewhere, but the few he has named are all Israeli security figures who have publicly warned that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are hell-bent on war.

Most former Mossad chiefs wary of Netanyahu

Baer was especially impressed by the unprecedented warning about Netanyahu’s plans by former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. Dagan left the Israeli intelligence agency in September 2010. Two months ago, he predicted that Israel would attack and said that doing so would be “the stupidest thing” he could imagine. According to Haaretz:

When asked about what would happen in the aftermath of an Israeli attack Dagan said that: “It will be followed by a war with Iran. It is the kind of thing where we know how it starts, but not how it will end. “The Iranians have the capability to fire rockets at Israel for a period of months, and Hezbollah could fire tens of thousands of grad rockets and hundreds of long-range missiles, he said. 

According to Ben Caspit of the Israeli daily Maariv, Dagan’s blasts at Israel’s political leadership are significant not only because Mossad chiefs, in office or retired, traditionally have kept their lips sealed, but also because Dagan is very conservative on security matters.

Caspit writes that Dagan is “one of the most right-wing militant people ever born here. … When this man says that the leadership has no vision and is irresponsible, we should stop sleeping soundly at night”.

Dagan describes the current Israeli government as “dangerous and irresponsible” and views speaking out against Netanyahu as his patriotic duty.

And his abhorrence of Netanyahu is not uncommon in the Israeli security establishment. Accordingto Think Progress, citing the Forward newspaper, 12 of the 18 living ex-chiefs of Israel’s two security agencies (Mossad and Shin Bet), are “either actively opposing Netanyahu’s stances or have spoken out against them”. Of the remaining six, two are current ministers in Netanyahu government, leaving a grand total of four out of 18 who independently support the prime minister.

In short, while Congress dutifully gives Netanyahu 29 standing ovations, the Israelis who know the most about both Netanyahu and Israel’s strategic situation think he is a dangerous disaster.

But according to Baer, we ain’t seen nothing yet. There is almost “near certainty” that Netanyahu is “planning an attack [on Iran] … and it will probably be in September before the vote on a Palestinian state. And he’s also hoping to draw the United States into the conflict”, Baer explained.

The Israeli air force would attack “Natanz and other nuclear facilities to degrade their capabilities. The Iranians will strike back where they can: Basra, Baghdad”, he said, and even Afghanistan. Then the United States would jump into the fight with attacks on Iranian targets. “Our special forces are already looking at Iranian targets in Iraq and across the border [in Iran] which we would strike. What we’re facing here is an escalation, rather than a planned out-and-out war. It’s a nightmare scenario. We don’t have enough troops in the Middle East to fight a war like that.” Baer added, “I think we are looking into the abyss”.

Another US war?

Masters asked Baer why the US military is not mobilising to stop this war from happening. Baer responded that the military is opposed, as is former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who used his influence to thwart an Israeli attack during the Bush and Obama administrations. But he’s gone now and “there is a warning order inside the Pentagon” to prepare for war.

It should be noted that the Iranian regime is quite capable of triggering a war with the United States through some combination of colossal stupidity and sheer hatred. In fact, as Baer explained, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard would welcome a war. They are “paranoid”. They are “worried about … what’s happening to their country economically, in terms of the oil embargo and other sanctions”. And they are worried about a population that increasingly despises the regime.

They need an external enemy. Because we are leaving Iraq, it’s Israel. But in order to make this threat believable, they would love an attack on their nuclear facilities, love to go to war in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and Iraq and hit us where they could. Their defense is asymmetrical. We can take out all of their armored units. It’s of little difference to them, same with their surface-to-air missile sites. It would make little difference because they would use terrorism. They would do serious damage to our fleet in the Gulf.

Given all that, is it possible that the United States would allow Israel to attack when the president knows we would be forced to join the war on Israel’s side?

“The president is up for re-election next year,” Blair pointed out, and Israel is “truly out of control”.

What happens when you see 100 F-16’s approaching Iraq and there is a call to the White House [from Netanyahu] that says “We’re going in, we’re at war with Iran”? What does the President of the United States do? He has little influence over Bibi Netanyahu. … We can’t stop him. And he knows it. 

It’s a pretty frightening scenario, made infinitely more so by the fact that top Israelis (who have heard Netanyahu’s thinking from Netanyahu himself) also see the future the same way. Those Israelis deserve a world of credit for sounding the warning bell loudly enough that we would hear it and do something about it – although it’s impossible to know if the people who matter are paying attention.

Actually, only one person matters: the US president. If Israel bombed Iran tomorrow, Congress would forget all about their partisan differences and run, not walk, to the House and Senate floors to endorse the attack and call for unstinting support for Israel. That is what Congress always does, and will always do so long as the lobby (and the donors it directs) are the key players in making our Middle East policies.

And who knows what Obama would do? So far, he has not exactly distinguished himself when it comes to standing up to Netanyahu.

But an Israeli attack on Iran would be different. It would endanger countless Americans (in the region and here at home, too). It would kill off any economic recovery by causing oil prices to skyrocket. It would engulf us in another Middle East war. And it would threaten the existence of the state of Israel.

This is something the president needs to focus on instead of being forced to nickel and dime with the likes of Representative Eric Cantor and Senator Mitch McConnell. How incredible that these two, and their right-wing allies, have our government tied in knots in their incessant effort to elevate themselves by destroying the President of the United States.

Has Obama been Crowned “King OBAMA?”

Now, the American President is being called “King Obama,” have I missed something? Has the USA become a Monarchy in the last month or two? Has he raised himself to the position of KING, without the approval of the Nation or  Congress. Yet, everything is conceivable in the USA, when Americans place themselves at the pinnacle of Human Power.

As the ICC puts out a warrant for one world leader — Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi — some US lawmakers are beginning to feel like President Barack Obama is becoming a bit of a monarch himself and less of the voice of the people that elected him. When a man becomes delusional with self appointment, he needs to pay a  visit to the psychiatric ward at Bellevue, Located on First Avenue in the Kips Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, the facility’s name is well-known to people elsewhere from the many literary, film and television references, where “Bellevue” almost always refers to the hospital’s psychiatric facilities.

Bellevue

In front of Congress this week, James E. Risch (R-ID) recalled then-Senator Barack Obama discussing the lack of power the president has to go to war without Congressional approval. “The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” he quoted Obama. To White House officials, Risch asked, “Can you give me a simple answer, is that still his position?” With the White House saying that the Libyan mission is not in fact a war, they argue that President Obama is not in violation with the War Powers Resolution that would prohibit him from mobilizing military forces near Gaddafi’s regime.

Vijay Prashad, director of International Studies at Trinity College, says this isn’t okay at all. The idea that the White House is calling this a “limited engagement is absurd,” he says, and not only is the president violating the War Powers Resolution, but he has disregarded terms established by the UN as well. “None of this is actually making sense,” says Prashad.

While he disagrees with the White House’s stance, Prashad says this isn’t “an Obama problem,” and notes that presidents have acted similarly for decades now. “If the US had properly gone to war in Afghanistan, than it may not have been so unclear about the legalities of killing Osama bin Laden,” he says. Prashad claims that the US has improperly gone to war several times over the last 20 years, with commanders in chief leading troops into battle without Congressional approval ever since the Korean conflict.

“This is where you say 20/20 hindsight is actually something we should have at our benefit,” says Prashad. He argues that we should learn something from the Bush administration. After all, he says, “ if  it didn’t work out so well in Iraq,” why would it work now? “Look at history and say this is a reason not to do it again,” he says.