Monday, January 11, 2016

UN envoy to Libya uses attacks on oil terminals to plead for accepting GNA

Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Martin Kobler, in his most recent press release, condemns the recent attacks by the Islamic State on the Es Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil terminal.

Kobler said:
“These oil resources are property of the Libyan people and future generations, Libyan parties must spare no effort to block any attempt by Daesh to finance its terrorist agenda through seizure of Libyan oil. This attack serves as a strong reminder to all Libyans of the need to immediately implement the Libyan Political Agreement and form the Government of National Accord.”Kobler claimed that every day wasted in not implementing the GNA is a day that the Islamic State, or Daesh as he now calls IS, gains. He welcomed the statement issued by the new presidency council of the GNA that condemned the attack.
The ports have actually been closed since December 2014. At least four terminals were set ablaze according to one account. According to the Globe and Mail, five storage tanks were set afire. Four fires were in Es Sidra and one at Ras Lanuf. A spokesperson for the Petroluem Facilities Guards (PFG), Ali al-Hassi, said the PFG were still in control of both Es Sider or Sidra and Ras Lanuf ports. The state oil company has asked for help in extinguishing the fires.
On Monday and Tuesday at least nine guards were reported killed and more than 40 injured. Al-Hassi said the PFG had recovered bodies of 30 Islamic State fighters as well as two military tanks and other vehicles used by the militants. Note that the press reports speak of clashes between the Islamic State fighters and the PFG. There is no mention of the Libyan National Army commanded by Khalifa Haftar. Not only were they not present, they did not provide any air support. The commander of the PFG, Ibrahim Jodran, is at odds with Haftar and says Haftar and IS are two sides of the same coin. Indeed, there was bombing of the Islamic State but by the rival General National Council planes rather than Haftar's air force to stop the advance on the oil ports.
Kobler does not bother to mention the casualties or the work of the GNC and the PFG in repelling the IS attacks. However, the prime minister designate of the GNA Faiez Serraj did mention the work of the PFG in halting the attacks. The spokesperson for the GNC Air Force, Colonel Mustafa Al-Sharksi, was furious that no credit was given to the GNC forces. Ajdabia Municipality confirmed the airstrikes claiming they were coordinated between Jodran armed groups and the GNC Air Force. It's interesting that Jodran supports the rival HoR government as well as the GNA. This is all part of his fight with Haftar, I presume.
Al-Sharksi was not diplomatic: "Speaking on behalf of the faithful revolutionaries and soldiers, we say to this Sirraj, staring your political career with lies means that you do not want concord or peace." He also said the Sirraj government (GNA) would enter Tripoli "over our dead bodies."
Haftar apparently thought his inaction while the Islamic State advanced might not look too good, even though most media did not even notice what was happening. He ordered fighter planes from Benghazi to move to Ras Lanuf to protect the oil terminals and oil fields from Islamic State attacks. This is happening after two days during which he did nothing and after Jodran complained Haftar gave his fighters no air support at all.
The Islamic State fighters retreated to their base in the town of Ben Jawad 30 kilometres to the west of the two oil ports The chair of the Tripoli-based National Oil Company said he does not think the Islamic State intended to seize the ports so as to gain oil revenue but to destroy the stored oil to deny the state revenue. The aim could also be to hasten foreign intervention in Libya to create even greater disarray and convince Islamists to join with them. Libya-analysis has recently published some material that gives useful information about some of the events happening in Libya at present

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