Saturday, September 17, 2016

General Haftar's forces seize Libya's four Oil Crescent Ports

The Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by General Khalifa Haftar, made a lightning strike on the oil ports of Es Sidra, Ras Lanuf, and Zuwetina in the oil crescent. He is reported to have captured Es Sidra, and Ras Lanuf so far.

The ports have up until now been controlled by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), headed by Ibrahim Jodhran an opponent of Haftar. Haftar does not support the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) while Jodhran does and has made a deal with the GNA to open the ports to export. The GNA will now have to negotiate with the rival House of Representatives (HoR) government of PM Al-Thinni which is supported, or maybe controlled, by Haftar.
Colonel Ahmed Al-Mismari, spokesperson for the LNA, said that there was still fighting in Zuwetina. He also said that the LNA had seized the south and east gates of the city of Ajdabiya. Al-Mismari said that there had been virtually no resistance by the PFG with no casualties suffered by the LNA and one killed from the PFG. The PFG guards fled leaving all their weapons, including 3 tanks, 2 armoured vehicles as well as mortars. PFG spokesperson Ali Al-Hassi admitted there had been clashes but denied that the LNA had taken over any oil ports.
Tweet accounts differ. One confirms the LNA account: "Tripoli NOC sources: Ras Lanuf & Sidra now under control of Hiftar's forces, Zweitina still under PFG control, fight continues there #Libya" Coming from the National Oil Company of the GNA the report is probably accurate. Not surprisingly, another tweet denies the ports were captured:" Spox of PFG Ali Hassi denies to BBC that Gen. Hefter's forces have 'taken control' of Sidra and Ras Lanuf. "clashes started 7:00 am" #Libya"
The LNA operation is called Operation Al-Barq Al-Khatif (Sudden Lighting). This could easily be a sarcastic take-off of the US bombing missions on Sirte that are called Operation Odyssey Lightning, but it is an appropriate name. Haftar has opposed the US bombings as a violation of Libyan sovereignty--since HoR did not give permission for them.Al-Mismari claimed that the operation had been in the works for some time: “We worked on it. It was not a sudden move." He said that the four separate advances were under the direct control of General Khalifa Haftar.
The reaction of Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, was astonishing. He tweeted : "worried about reported fighting in the oil crescent. will add to division and further restricting oil exports. oil belongs to ALL libyans." What is astonishing is that there is no mention of Haftar nor any condemnation of the attack. You would think that he would condemn the attack on an ally of the GNA government that was unprovoked and now sabotages any attempt to increase oil production unless the GNA comes to terms with Haftar and the rival HoR. Kobler has bent over backwards to try to accommodate Haftar while being snubbed by the general who refuses to even talk to him. He has better things to do such as consolidating his power by militarizing the administration of the east and gaining control of oil fields. Meanwhile, Kobler poses for photo-ops and entertains anyone who is a cheerleader for the GNA.
The Libya Observer report on the attack claimed the operation was called "East Shield". The report also claims that PFG members say that the Haftar troops were backed by rebels from the Sudanese Justice and Equality movement. There were plumes of black smoke coming from the Es Sidra terminal. A port engineer said that a tank had been set afire during the clashes.
Libya's oil production has dropped from about 1.6 million barrels a day before Gadaffi was overthrown to about 200,000 barrels per day now. Haftar's move will give him more power over the GNA and threatens attempts to restart and increase production. The GNA made no move to reinforce the LFG fighters. The UN and GNA must have known that Haftar was making preparations for an attack and he said as much. The Tripoli-based NOC is moving oil in storage at Zuwetina as it feared the oil might be destroyed in clashes. As of now, Haftar and the HoR are winning the fight for control of oil while Haftar also is cementing his power over the eastern area of Libya through military appointees in place of elected civilians.

No comments: