(FinalCall.com) – Not anticipating the emergence of a stalemate and the creation of two Libyas may have thrown an unintended monkey wrench in plans by Western powers and Arab allies’ desire to allow Libyan rebels–now called the Interim National Council–to sell captured oil.
According to published reports, the complexity of sanctions of Libya may mean companies wanting to do business with the rebels do so without political or legal cover.
This all began in March with Qatar marketing one million barrels of captured crude “on behalf of Libya’s Interim National Council” and delivering “four shipments of petroleum products to the countries eastern port of Benghazi,” reported Oil & Gas Journal.
This “move” actually occurred, reported Qatar’s state news agency QNA, within the context of the resolutions taken by the participating countries in the London conference on Libya (that included EU member states, the U.S., the UN, NATO and the Organization of Islamic Conference) held on March 29.
QNA also said the move came from a directive from Qatar’s ruler Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani “to ease the suffering of the Libyan brethren and to meet their humanitarian needs.” What was not said is that the rebels are in dire need of funds to finance the revolt against the Col. Muammar Gadhafi’s government.
The chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corp. responded by sending a letter of protest to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries concerning the assistance that fellow member Qatar is giving to rebels selling Libyan oil. In the letter NOC Chairman Shokri Ghanem said it was “very unfortunate” Qatar tried to market Libyan oil and purchase fuel on behalf of rebel forces opposed to the rule of Col. Gadhafi.
The export of Libyan oil by the rebels also hit another snag.
The Liberian-flagged tanker Equator was able to bypass NATO’s blockade in the first week of April, sailed into the eastern port of Marsa el Haria and “loaded up to one million barrels of the light sweet crude so prized by refiners before setting sail through the Suez Canal for east Asia,” reported Reuters. “Oil traders believed it would unload on China.”
This never happened. In fact since refueling in Singapore, the tanker has sat anchored off the archipelago. “AIS live ship tracking data on Reuters, based on satellite signals sent from the vessel, shows its massive iron hull immersed in 15 meters (49 feet) draft water–indicating it was still carrying (the same cargo) on May 10,” reported Reuters.
In addition Reuters has been told by more than a dozen “shipping and sanctions experts … that the tanker’s expensive cargo has been caught in legal political limbo created by international sanctions in Libya.” So even though many western nations are ready to assist the rebels with finding a way to sell the stolen crude, or even purchase it themselves, but no one is willing to take the risk as the standoff and emergence of two Libyas seems to have made touching the oil too hot and too dangerous to handle.
On top of that journalist Emma Farge, who has been following this crisis, told NPR‘s Market Place host Kai Ryssdal “that the political will has dissipated. So especially in the United Nations, you have a divided council, where you have the European powers who are willing to address the issues of the problems with the sanctions regime, but others who are more relaxed, such as Russia and China.”
And even if the rebels are able to find a buyer the potential for sabotage of oil fields by Libyan forces is high. According to NPR‘s Martin Kaste, reporting on Weekend Edition from Libya, rebels said last month “Gadhafi forces sabotaged” the two distant oil fields of Mila and Sarir that supply the terminal in Tobruk. According to Mohammed Saleh, who works for an oil marketing company, all the fuel received now comes to “Tobruk just by gravity.”
Kaste said “by gravity” because the booster system that usually pushes oil through the pipeline was also attacked. “Now Tobruk is just getting the oil that was already inside the 300 mile long pipeline.” And since Tobruk is the rebels only major oil terminal, “the attacks have put them out of business.”
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Ten reasons why the U.S. war in Libya is a CIA operation (FCN, 04-28-2011)
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