With the recent death of an ambassador, heightened tension in the region, and Marines already on the ground with warships ready to support, many Middle Eastern countries are wondering if the U.S. is going to repeat its 2003 invasion of Iraq to secure Libya’s natural resources. Is it possible? Does the U.S. want Libyan oil?
Even if America did have an interest in Libyan oil — which, by the decrease in dependence over the past ten years, we can safely say is highly unlikely — engaging in anything other than diplomacy would be an international catastrophe. The last thing America needs is for the world to think it’s on a mission for oil and doesn’t really care about Libya’s progress and stabilization, because it does. Regional attitudes toward the United States since the Iraq War are already tainted from big oil companies winning contracts during the 2009 auctions of Iraqi oil fields. This may be why the U.S. stayed out of the bidding for Afghanistan assets late last year, leaving China to secure the largest stake in Afghanistan’s natural resources. The U.S. has committed billions of dollars to stabilize the region, and despite decades of clandestine operations in the Middle East, the real resources that the United States are after in the region now look more like political ones than natural ones.
Hamid Faroqi, a professor of economics at Kabul University, agrees.
“Americans know that if we can create an environment for Afghanistan’s neighboring countries to have their economic benefits tied with the Afghans’ benefits, it will create a situation that stops the negative intervention of these neighbors and puts them in a better position to help create peace and stability in Afghanistan. The US and other Western countries also don’t want to get involved with this because they don’t want to get accused of being here just to take advantage of Afghanistan’s natural resources.”
Earlier last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured the world that Libya’s oil assets are not on America’s agenda. When asked about U.S. intervention during the Libyan uprising, she responded,
“We feel that we did this in a prudent and effective manner, and we did it in a way that did not raise the alarm bells around the region and the world that we were about to invade for oil.
If you follow, as we follow, all of the websites that are looking at what’s happening in the Middle East, you see a constant drumbeat that the United States is going to invade Libya to take over the oil and we can’t let that happen. Well, we are not going to do that.
We are going to side with the Libyan people in their aspirations. But the last thing in the world we wanted was to start off with military assets, when we very effectively got our people out. Yeah, the seas were high. The seas were high for the other evacuators as well.”
But despite the U.S. Government’s best intentions — and no matter how cautiously they approach any situation in Libya — there are at least three things that are raising red flags for those who fear that the U.S. has a hidden oil agenda.
First, there’s the setup. Just like in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’ve established a diplomatic presence with a country whose people are impoverished and, for the most part, disconnected from the information age. These efforts then and now just so happen to have involved countries that export a large amount of oil. In fact, Libya is home to the largest oil reserves on the entire African continent.
In February of last year, Libyans rose up in the name of peaceful democracy and fought against the Gadhafi regime in order to establish a free state. Since then, their new government has been working to support Westernized governmental standards in order to form a more peaceful relationship with the rest of the world, but this slow nation-building progress hasn’t diverted attention away from their oil at all.
John Laughland, from the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation, said this of the 2011 uprisings in Libya:
There are events unfolding in the Ivory Coast where there is also an armed conflict between rebels and the government, but nobody seems to be thinking of that. It’s only because fashionable attention is focused on Libya – oil, but also for the political implications of the Middle East as a whole. We all know that the West including Britain has got its hands very dirty with the Libyan leadership over the recent years.
Second, there’s the motive. Libya makes up a large percent of oil imports in Europe, and while the U.S. has slowly reduced its reliance on Libyan oil over the past ten years, the EU has grown in its dependency. In addition to securing oil assets for our European allies, Libyan control would assure not only sustained dependency growth, but also U.S. and EU concerns over a strengthening China. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), China’s oil consumption growth accounted for half of the world’s oil consumption growth in 2011. Controlling Libya means controlling 10% of China’s oil imports.
Last August, US News reported that the civil war on Libya was having an impact on oil prices.
The turmoil in Libya greatly disrupted that country’s substantial oil production and exports. Before the country’s civil war erupted in February, Libya produced 1.6 million barrels of oil per day and exported 2 percent of global oil supplies. The conflict curtailed that supply by more than 90 percent. But with rebel forces apparently on their way to seizing control of Tripoli, the civil war appears to be in its final throes. That could mean a boost to the U.S. economy in the form of new consumer spending.
(Source: US News)
A total of 23.7% of foreign oil interests in Libya belonged to United States companies.
That same month, United Explorations explained how the conflicts in Libya were driving up oil prices and that as Gadhafi’s control was weakening, oil prices started to reflect:
The conflict in Libya started in protests against Gadafi’s regime in the eastern port city of Benghazi, and spread to Zintan, al Bayda and Quba. Since then, the oil price evolved from US$99 to a maximum of US$120.91 in April 28. A 21% oil price increase might seem big, but in fact it is huge.
Taking into account that the daily supply from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries’ 12 members rose to 30.05 million barrels a day in July from 29.94 million in June, it means that the acquisition cost of OPEC’s daily oil production (responsible for 40% of world’s oil production) increased over US$657 million in just a couple of months. But as Gaddafi’s regime is closer to an end the oil price is having a small rest, with a 5% fall in August.
(Source: United Exploration)
What 2011 taught the world — and oil companies — about Libya was that anti-American sentiments + civil unrest = profits.
Third, there’s the opportunity. When countries’ oil fields are taken over by U.S. companies, oil prices go up. This isn’t a result of organic economic factors, like supply and demand, but a profit strategy of oil monopolies.
It’s a fact that when oil prices go up, oil companies make record profits. Take a look at data from the past three years alone:
As we learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, when a country’s oil exports start to diminish it’s time to step up foreign involvement in order to step up and get back on track. In terms of international relations this can be a very good thing: foreign nations who don’t have the technological, economic, or physical resources in order to keep up with a growing global demand for their resources can work together with developed nations in order to form a peaceful — and profitable — partnership. In reality, though, the transactions are exploitative. In fact, every time there has been conflict, the price of oil shoots through the roof (and when that happens, companies start rolling in the big bucks):
The United States may not directly support intervention in Libya’s national development, but since recent anti-American sentiments have led to American deaths it’s very possible (but highly implausible, considering both Clinton’s reassurance and the all-too-familiarness of the situation) that direct force could be authorized. (Recall that in 1986 President Reagan ordered bombings in Tripoli, Libya, after evidence of Libyan involvement in a terrorist attack against American soldiers in Berlin surfaced).
Heightened Tensions from a Viral Video
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured the world that the U.S. Government had nothing to do with the viral video that has sparked unrest in northern Africa. Some are worried about whether or not the release of this video will have a domino effect. Anti-Muslim propaganda surfaced before the 2008 elections, too, which sparked two years of increased conflicts with forces on the ground.
If it is a strategic case of black propaganda being used to propel the United States into Libya full-force, then no one will know if it’s working or not because anti-American sentiments in the region are still palpable, and the movie could have been substituted for a protest or a charismatic local and the effect would have been the same.
The United States may not have an economic interest in Libya, but there is definitely commitment there. In March of 2011, reports surfaced of CIA intervention in Libyan rebel forces movements, indicating a strong (and covert) U.S. Government interest in the Libyan uprising. Two months later we learned that President Obama had ordered clandestine CIA operations in Libya in order to ensure the outcomes of the civil war were favorable for US interests. Then in September, documents from Tripoli indicated that the CIA was pushing to establish a permanent presence in Libya all the way back in 2004, and worked closely with local groups — so closely, in fact, that terror suspects were being taken to Lybia for questioning. Finally, in March of 2012, leaked emails to Al Akhbar English showed that the U.S. Government actively contracted private security companies like Blackwater and SCG International in order to help shape the outcome of the Libyan and Syrian rebellions.
This should be of no surprise, though, considering that the U.S. Government has been closely involved with Libya since the late 1960s, and even if we wanted to secure future resource opportunities then, it’s obvious that we now have a vested interest in the development of Libya into a peaceful democracy and less of one in its natural resources. Even so, reassurances haven’t stopped international communities from theorizing about Western intentions in the region. In an August 2011 interview with PressTV, Director of the Center for Research on Globalization Michael Chossudovsky commented in Libya’s natural resource situation.
Several years ago, I was asked in regards to Iraq… I was giving a public lecture, a question was directed at me: ”Professor we need that oil”. Okay that is the Western position, “We need that oil.”
My answer was: ”trade, don’t steal it”.
That is what the Western oil companies are there for, they have already positioned themselves.
The Libyan Oil Company was a very important state entity, which was there to serve the Libyan people. It was used to finance economic development. It is slated to be taken over and privatised, handed it over to Total, which is the French Oil company and other Western oil companies.
What I said, when I was asked that question: “if you need oil, well, you should buy it on the market. And accept the fact that the large share of oil resources [reserves] are in Muslim countries, it is more that 60 percent, and it belong the people of those countries.
They can buy it from them; they do not need to invade countries and then steal the oil from them. And that is what is happening, it happened in Iraq, and now it is happening in Libya.
While the U.S. sends Marines and ships toward Libya, the rest of the world will be watching closely for a repeat of all too familiar history. Despite concerns, though, it’s doubtful that the U.S. will want any stake in Libya’s natural resources because the political damage would be far worse than any economic gain. The United States wants Libya to be a strong, democratic presence in the region — and the first real success story out of the Arab Spring — and it would be foolish to throw progress away for the sake of an energy resource.