What is really happening in Libya right now? As some pundits predict a “Somaliaisation” ahead, the Tripoli government says it wants to resume oil exports as quickly as possible, which would restore by far the biggest chunk of the state budget, which is close to collapse.
In the way are opposition forces led by General Haftar, who has seized key export installations in the name of the rival Tobruk parliament.
But he has allowed the state oil company to continue management of the facilities, which, despite its reaffirmed loyalty to the Government of National Unity, says it will follow Tobruk’s orders. US envoy Jonathon Winer called the handover back to the National Oil Company a “promising” development.
On Thursday tankers docked at Ras Lanuf and Brega ports, the first ships in since 2014.
Pragmatism or parceling-out of spoils? The NOC says both the western and eastern governments agree on a resumption of exports, and that in a month output could be more than doubled to 600,000 barrels a day, and tripled by the year’s end. Vital revenue for Libya. It could also be vital political capital for Haftar.
His seizure of four terminals between last Sunday and Tuesday may have been a sign sent by Haftar to the UN sponsors of the Tripoli government that he needs to be restored to Libya’s political landscape.
Haftar was excluded from the 2015 UN-brokered deal that gave birth to the National Unity government.
President Serraj may find the General hard to resist. His government is cracking, with two ministers expressing support for Haftar’s initiative, and Tripoli’s backers in the international community are running scared that full-blown civil war is on the cards, and want to stop any escalation in the violence at all costs. This would only give ISIL, present in several Libyan strongholds but especially hard-pressed by Haftar, space to wage its jihad.
Any increase in chaos could be exploited by the estimated 235,000 migrants becalmed in Libya just waiting their chance to head for Europe, with Italy their number one target says UN envoy Martin Kobler.
Managing this migratory flow requires proper border security and making Libya safe again is a priority if another crisis is to be avoided.