Saturday, December 20, 2014

Libya clashes threaten operation of eastern oil ports

One Libyan oil export port is no longer functioning because of clashes between government forces and anti-government militia who are launching attacks nearby.
An official told Reuters that Ras Lanuf a large port east of Es Sider was still exporting oil but the al-Waha Oil Company that operates Es Sider had stopped work. Armed groups from Fajr Libya a coalition of militia opposed to the government had launched attacks on al-Hilal an important oil region but Brigadier-General Saqr Jarushi said they had been repelled by the air force:"Air force jets and helicopters struck the fighters as they advanced on Al-Sidra oil terminal," he said, adding that the air raids had caused "a large number of casualties". Libyan officials said. An aide to the Omar al-Hassi, the prime minister of the Tripoli government, said that the attack on Es Sider was part of a much larger offensive called "Sunrise".

The Tripoli government appears to be reacting to the Hafter offensive with its own counter offensive. The Es Sider terminal is held by the eastern separatist Ibrahim Jedran, who is loyal to the Tobruk government. Fajr Libya had earlier announced it had started an operation to "liberate oilfields and terminals". The group reported that two of its fighters had been killed and several wounded. The Al-Hilal region contains the Ras Lanuf and Brega terminals as well as Es Sider.

 Although the UN has demanded that fighting stop and a dialogue begin, the Tobruk UN-recognized government supports the CIA-linked general Khalifa Haftar who is now head of the Libyan armed forces and has given him the green light to liberate Benghazi and Tripoli. So far he has managed only to liberate part of Benghazi at considerable cost and may now face a united front of radical militias from Derna, where some groups have pledged allegiance to IS. The new Shura Council said: "Everybody saw what happened in Benghazi: disaster; institutions destroyed; houses demolished; mosques and universities burned by the criminal hands of Haftar's supporters." Certainly not everyone in the west saw this because it is reported only as a positive development that Haftar has retaken part of Benghazi.

 Egypt has been supporting the efforts of Khalifa Haftar. Some believe that Egyptian planes have been involved in the bombing of Benghazi by Haftar's forces and that Egypt provided support for planes from the UAE that bombed Tripoli earlier. There have been recent bombings of Tripoli as well including the one airport left functioning.

 The EU has recently banned all seven Libyan airlines from flying within the airspace of the group of 28 countries We can expect western countries and their Arab allies to continue to ignore the ruling on Nov. 6 of the Libyan Supreme Court that said the June elections were unconstitutional and the Tobruk House of Representatives should be dissolved. The international community will continue to recognize the Tobruk government even though it now has as head of the military CIA-linked Khalifa Haftar who was formerly called a "renegade general".

 Egypt is now taking diplomatic action which it hopes will eventually lead to foreign intervention as part of the "war on terror". No doubt we will hear more and more about radical Islamists in Libya and the threat they pose to the west in preparation for international action. Here is what Al-Monitor reports on the Egyptian diplomatic push: On the diplomatic front, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has held several meetings since the launch of the initiative to stabilize Libya and the formation of the Libyan neighbors group. The aim is to urge international action on Libya, with Egyptian diplomacy framing Cairo's policy as part of the global war on terror.

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