Books on Libya
Col Mu'amar al-Qadhafi
Update No: 012 - (02/11/04)
Which US Presidential candidate is better for
During the summer there were reports of a Libyan sponsored plot to murder the
Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah. The assassination had allegedly been planned to
take place during the summer of 2003 according to the Libyan intelligence
officers that have confessed to the plot under interrogation in Egypt and Saudi
Arabia. In late October of 2004, the story of the plot has re-surfaced with
further details about its planning. The two Libyan agents involved were Mohammed
Ishmael and Col. Abdel-Fattah al Ghoug, who are, according to official sources,
being held in Saudi Arabia. In total the assassination plan engaged fifteen
conspirators, who have all been arrested including six Libyans and about nine
Saudi jihadists, who had planned to kill Crown Prince Abdullah at a public event
or during a motorcade. Still according to reports of the interrogations, the
Libyan agents had access to funds totalling 4.5 million Saudi riyals (ca. $1.2
million) while the conspirators had already received a previous wired sum of $1
million to an account in the Saudi Kingdom monitored by Saudi authorities, as it
was suspected of being an al-Qaeda account. As was suggested in previous
reports, the United States would be severely embarrassed were the story of the
plot to be true.
Throughout the US election campaign the Bush team has presented Libya as one of
the greatest success stories of his administration's foreign policy. Beyond
occasional and minor citations in the mainstream media, the story has received
little attention. During the presidential debates George W. Bush literally used
the rehabilitation of Moammar Al-Qadhafi and Libya as one of the most revealing
effects of the wisdom of his administration's war on terrorism and war in Iraq:
"Look at Libya," Bush said in one of the debates. "Libya was a
threat. Libya is now peacefully dismantling its weapons programs. Libya
understood that America and others will enforce their doctrine, and the world is
better for it." One of the detained - since July 30th, 2004 - plotters of
the supposed Saudi prince assassination is the Yemeni-born Muslim leader
Abdurahman Alamoudi. He provided the damning evidence that presented the 'casus-belli'
between Col. Qadhafi and the Crown Prince as being an insult the latter
proffered about the Libyan dealer.
Libyan opposition members in London have been reportedly disappointed by the
public relations success enjoyed by Col. Qadhafi's regime buoyed by the Bush
administration's pronouncements on the rehabilitation of Libya. They are touting
the Saudi murder plot story as evidence that Col. Qadhafi has not changed his
ways at all. Nevertheless, while Bush has scolded Qadhafi in private - according
to sources close to Ashur Shamis, the London based Libyan journalist and member
of the opposition, who first broke the story in July - it is unlikely that the
plot will be used to reverse the détente established between the United States
and Libya. Indeed, the Bush administration has become well aware of the dangers
of placing unquestionable trust in the claims of exiled opposition members from
the Middle East, as the Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi's claims of a swift
pacification in Iraq have dramatically unravelled. Nevertheless, Libyan
dissidents are probably correct when they suggest that the boost given to the
current Libyan regime by the United States and the West will do very little to
change the Libyan political system. Libya will continue to rely on oil for its
revenues and while there has been much talk of diversifying the economy in terms
of both sources of income and modes of production, Libya's oil has become an
even more strategic asset as the promised sources in Iraq remain effectively
Nevertheless, the next few weeks could pose a potential challenge for Col.
Qadhafi. The election in the United States is far from decided. At time of
writing, not a week before the election, the main presidential candidates are
still even in the polls. Should Sen. Kerry win, Qadhafi's position vis-à-vis
the United States would have to be in many ways re-negotiated. President Bush
has made Libya an example of the wisdom of his version of 'Pax Americana' in the
Middle East. The very contrast between the 'Mad Dog of the Middle East' image
promoted by President Reagan in the 80's and the 'born-again' leader, who has
suddenly seen the value of peaceful cooperation with the world has been for the
last year one of the pillars of Bush's justification for the war in Iraq and the
so called 'War on Terror'. A Kerry White House would be pressured by different
interest groups - more environmentally and human rights minded perhaps - to be
more critical of regimes like Qadhafi's, even if they are sitting on very
strategic sources of oil. The impetus to re-establish links with Libya came,
after all, from the oil industry itself when some of the major US oil
exploration companies complained to the Bush administration last November that
they needed new sources to exploit - Iraq had already shown itself to be an
untenable proposition. The capture of Saddam Hussein and Col. Qadhafi's dramatic
declaration to abandon the weapons of mass destruction programs he was purported
to be advancing came almost simultaneously in December 2003.
While it is unlikely that Kerry will be immune from pressure by oil companies,
he has proposed a more multi-lateral approach to the Iraq problem and does not
have the challenge of having to justify the war by parading reformed Arab
dictators - that have given up grossly exaggerated weapons. To a certain degree,
a Kerry White House might actually be in a position to demand some more tangible
human rights reforms in Libya. In other words, the Libyan leader would be held
more accountable for reforms. Moreover, Libyan opposition groups will probably
feel more empowered to gain influence over the Western governments that have
vociferously presented Libya as one of the diplomatic successes of the US led
war on Iraq - not surprisingly the first governments to do so were all Bush
supporters, i.e. the UK, Italy and Spain. Conversely, should Bush return to the
White House the Saudi Plot story will necessarily continue to be buried, as the
Saudis are probably not especially happy about the new relationship between the
United States and Qadhafi. In fact, the promotion of Qadhafi as a reformed
leader while Saudi Arabia has received some of its worst public relations ever
in the last few years - no thanks to Michael Moore whose documentary film 9/11,
is expected to constitute an important election factor. Meanwhile, the official
Libyan news agency JANA has not been doing the United States any favours by
suggesting that the Iraqi resistance to the American occupation is legitimate.
Perhaps in response, the Iraqi defence minister suggested that the Libyan regime
has been aiding Iraqi insurgents based in Syria. Strategically, Qadhafi, veiled
his exhortation to resist occupation in purely secular terms suggesting that the
various armies inspired by religious affiliation and fervour are doing a
disservice to a legitimate aspiration of self-determination by the Iraqi people.
Qadhafi has therefore maintained a certain degree of independence. He knows that
so long as Bush needs him, he doesn't have to sway too much from his course. He
also knows that Libya and his regime, in particular need additional sources of
oil for sustenance. The Bush administration and its strong oil industry backers
are more likely, if ironically, to be more beneficial to the Libyan regime than
a Kerry administration, which will probably be somewhat more receptive to the
influence of environmental groups, although one should not expect any major
reversals of US policy for that reason where US energy interests are concerned.
In October Italy's ENI SPA and Libya's National Oil Co. announced that their
joint trans-Mediterranean pipeline central to the Western Libya Gas Project (WLGP)
has been completed. The pipeline is 520-km long and 32-in. in diameter. It will
be known as Greenstream and connects Mellitah, Libya - not far from Tripoli,
with Gala, Sicily, at a depth sometimes reaching 1,127 m. underwater. The
7-billion-euro WLGP will move gas and condensate from Wafa field in the desert
near the Algerian border and Bahr Essalam field 110 km offshore to a new
processing plant at Mellitah. The Bahr Essalam platform is called Sabratha. It
is expected that at full capacity, Wafa will be able to produce 4 billion cu
m/year of gas. Two 530-km pipelines, with diameters of 16 in. and 32 in., extend
from the field to Mellitah. Bahr Essalam will be able to produce as much as 6
billion cu m/year. Libya and Italy will split the resources fairly evenly with
Libya and Italy each using 2 billion cu m/year of WLGP gas.
Libyan natural gas flows in new line
Libya has begun pumping natural gas to Europe through a just-completed undersea
pipeline, marking the first concrete step in the former pariah state's plan to
dramatically increase its exports of gas and oil to the energy-hungry West, the
Wall Street Journal Europe reported.
The Greenstream pipeline, part of a €7bn gas project by Italy's Eni SpA and
Libya's National Oil Co, comes on line as Libya is in the midst of a big tender
process to lure Western investment to develop 15 new energy-exploration areas.
The bids, to be submitted by Jan 10th, are being conducted under a new legal
framework that aims to make the process more transparent.
Libya's overture to Western capital and customers comes as global oil companies
are scrambling for fresh prospects at a time of tight supplies and soaring
prices for oil and natural gas. The US eased commercial sanctions on Libya
earlier this year, simplifying entry for American firms, after Libyan leader
Moammar Gadhafi agreed to abandon his program to build weapons of mass
Recently oil prices jumped again on concerns over tight winter heating-fuel
supplies and news that a strike in Nigeria had stalled some crude-oil exports.
Crude-oil futures sprang to a record high of US$53 a barrel recently in New
York. Benchmark light, sweet crude-oil futures for November traded at US$52.71 a
barrel, up 69 cents.
Libya wants to attract billions of dollars in new investment for oil-and-gas
infrastructure over the next decade. The country aims to ramp up oil output to
two million barrels a day by 2010 from about 1.6 million barrels now. Royal
Dutch/Shell Group signed a preliminary agreement in March for a ling-term
partnership with Libya's National Oil. Shell's corporate parents are Royal Dutch
Petroleum Co of the Hague and London-based Shell Transport & Trading Co.
Libyan oil is highly prized in the industry because it is low in polluting
sulphur and inexpensive to produce. While the country is eager for gas
investment, it is likely to seek top dollar for its oil concessions.
US oil companies are keenly interested in returning to Libya's oil and
natural-gas fields, from which they were barred after sanctions were imposed in
the mid-1980s. After sanctions were lifter earlier this year, several companies
that had been active in Libya - ConocoPhillips, Occidental Petroleum Corp,
Marathon Oil Corp and Amerada Hess Corp - said they would like to return. They
could face competition from US majors Exxon Mobil Corp and Chevron Texaco Corp,
as well as smaller independents such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp and Apache Corp,
which have been successful in other North African nations. Some European
companies, including Eni, continued operating in Libya despite the sanctions.
Though the Greenstream pipeline was negotiated years ago under different rules
that the new tender process, many are looking to the line as a test case for
investment in Libya.
"If Greenstream goes well and the Libyans prove to be reasonable in their
negotiations, this could turn out to be very significant for potential future
projects," says Yvonne Sisler, manager of the global gas group for PFC
Energy in Washington.
Planning for the 520-kilometer pipeline to Sicily began in the mid-1990s. Trade
sanctions against Libya have since fallen and demand for natural gas has jumped.
"The project starts to make sense now, because it looks like the investment
can come into Libya to increase production, and Europe looks like it can consume
more gas," said Shane DeBeer, a partner with law firm Chadboune & Parke
LLP in Moscow who follows investment in Libyan energy projects. "If you had
asked me about this pipeline two years ago, I'd have scratched my head."
Libya's gas exports have been in a rut as sanctions kept out equipment and
investment needed to upgrade the country's creaking infrastructure. Libya has
had one customer for exported gas, Enagas SA of Spain, which has been importing
about 1.5bn cubic metres a year of gas in liquefied form. By next year,
Greenstream will be pumping eight billion cubic metres of gas to Sicily, about
10% of Italy's annual consumption.
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