Libyan crisis deepens, West eyes oil fields

The crisis in Libya is a grim reminder of how freedom can become impotent with the consistent efforts of a ruler who has not lost his will to fight destructively. Since his revolution in 1969, Muammar Gaddafi nationalized the country’s oil wealth and qualitatively improved the standard of living of his people. Libya has the highest life expectancy and highest per capita income on the African continent. The literacy rate among the women is the highest in the Arab world. His grandiose project, the “great man-made river”, which taps water from the aquifers under the Libyan desert and diverts it for the agricultural and drinking purposes, is one of the biggest engineering feats in Africa. The multi-billion project has already succeeded in supplying water to major cities such as Tripoli.

During his radical days, Gaddafi initially supported the Sahrawi struggle for independence only to backtrack in the early 1980s. His ideology at that time was strongly influenced by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arabism, which anti-West and anti-communist at the same time. The psychology that drives rulers like Gaddafi is that they are more able to engage in a nefarious psychological substitution: for them they or their family are the country. Gaddafi’s extraordinary feat of convincing the bright lights of liberalism that he was a kind of Libyan Gorbachev, is a testament to the corruptibility of the defenders of freedom. Gaddafi’s tenure is a reminder of how much wishful thinking there has been about dictators.

Many observers believe that Gaddafi’s embrace of the West in the beginning of the last decade may finally lead to the unraveling of his government; he unilaterally made political and economical concessions to the West to ward off any military threats to his government. In the Arab streets, Gaddafi was in recent years viewed as being no different from the likes of Hosni Mubarak or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

The upheaval in Libya is being viewed by the U.S. and its European allies as an opportunity to establish their economic and strategic stranglehold on the country’s rich energy assets once again. The American policy on the Arab world is built on 3 pillars. First, its reliance on the region for oil; second, its allies in the Arab world must stand firm with the U.S. in its war on terror; third, the Arab allies had to tether their own populations’ more radical ambition vis-à-vis Israel. The U.S. wants a decisive end to the current impasse in Libya. Libya has the African continent’s largest proven oil reserves- 44.3 billion barrels. Its crude is of the highest quality and requires very little refining. The West wants to assure that it will have overall control of the Trans-Saharan oil pipeline connecting Nigeria and Algeria. Leaders like Fidel Castro have warned that the West would use the crisis in Libya to justify military intervention and once again monopolise the country’s oil wealth.

The United Nations Security Council’s sanction against Gaddafi and his close circle of advisors is another setback for Gaddafi. The Council has also called for an international war crime investigations into the widespread attack on the Libyans who have staged an uprising against their government. This is the second time that the Security Council has referred a member state to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The U.S. has chosen to abstain from the ICC to ensure that none of its officials or military men is ever charged for war crimes. U.S. and Israel were the only two countries that were against the creation of ICC in1998.

The Security Council has also imposed an arms embargo on Libya and a travel ban on 16 Libyan leaders. It has ordered a freeze on the assets of Gaddafi and his family members. However, the sanctions do not impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Some are of the view that imposing a no-fly zone at present is too little too late. It is also difficult to judge whether some form of support to the rebels will help; strangely, the rebels have not yet been able to carve out a space in the imagination of those who crave for freedom. Gaddafi has figured this out and therefore operated with the assumption that the defendants of freedom had few instruments by which to impose their writ. Libya is a reminder that it is easier to call for freedom than to have a sensible strategy to secure it.

The Arab League has rejected any outside military intervention on Libya. It has also condemned the use of force by the Libyan government against its people. It has called on the Libyan government to accept the legitimate demands of the people and said that if the unrest continued, it would recommend a no-fly zone in coordination with the African Union. Gaddafi has challenged the U.S. and NATO to send investigation teams to ascertain whether his security forces had fired on unarmed civilians.

The crisis in Libya can be solved only if the West keeps in mind humanitarian purpose and not their oil interests. The way Gaddafi has been reiterating that he would rather die a “martyr” and that there was no question of his leaving Libya, a purposeful planning and approach is required from the West as well as other countries. Military intervention would only aggravate the situation and lead to further unrest in the country. The way Gaddafi’s forces have been advancing to capture the major oil cities in Libya is a grim reminder that Gaddafi will be a tough nut to crack and would not give into the demands of the people or the West or any other country so easily. Gaddafi will fight till the end and may be by then it will be too late to avert the crisis that would have already dissolved Libya.

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