Sooner or later it had to happen: when the situation in Libya becomes serious, oil is the first weapon used by armed groups to dictate their own law.
After Gaddafi ‘s death , such incidents occurred several times in the North African country. It happened for example in January 2020 , close to the Berlin Conference which was to discuss the balance between General Haftar and the then government of Fayez Al Sarraj .
A crisis returned after a flight by former Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Maitig to Russia. It is happening now even in these days, marked by the close duel between the premier recognized by the UN, Abdul Hamid Ddedeiba , and the premier voted by the parliament, Fathi Bashaga.
Two faces for one armchair, again nothing new in post-2011 Libya . Except that now the Libyan crisis fits in with several crises that are upsetting the international balance.
The new block on the export of crude oil from Libya could be linked to the war in Ukraine and could exacerbate the energy crisis in the European and Mediterranean area.
The blockade of crude oil
In 2020 Libya was faced with a paradoxical and almost gross situation. There was a government that had the keys to the safe, the one led by Al Sarraj under whose wing was the national bank into which the proceeds from the sale of oil went.
While, on the other hand, there was an army (or, better said, a group of militias) led by General Haftar who had the keys to the factories and controlled most of the territories where the fields are located. Today the situation is not all that different, albeit more fragmented.
In Tripoli sits Ddedeiba, the entrepreneur from Misano appointed in April 2021 by the forum for dialogue on Libya and who was to lead the country to a vote last December. He has many militias on his side who help him control the capital, but not all of them are on his side.
Because in the meantime Fathi Bashaga would like to sit in Tripoli, instead elected by the parliament at the beginning of the year. Bashaga is also measurable and also under the government of Al Sarraj was Minister of the Interior . So he too in the west can have contacts and acquaintances between some of the most influential militias.
Its real base, however, is in the east, where the parliament that voted for it is located. And in the east the main military force is still that of Khalifa Haftar.
The latter, given several times in crisis and out of the game after losing the battle for the taking of Tripoli against Al Sarraj, holds control of the eastern regions and many provinces of Fezzan , the desert area of Libya in which they contract however the main factories.
Including that of Sharara, the largest ever in Libyan territory. Oil is no longer part of Sharara. Closed for weeks due to protests by unspecified local groups, the plant last week only operated for one day. Then the activities were suspended again.
The groups, probably linked to Haftar and Bashaga, are still preventing the return to normalcy today.
A situation very similar to the one that has been occurring for weeks in the ports of Sidra and Ras Lanuf , essential stopovers for the transport of crude oil as they are located in the oil crescent between Sirte and Benghazi.
These areas are also in the hands of Haftar, from where the oil tankers have not been able to leave for Europe for several days now.
The consequences of the Libyan crisis are coveted by the Kremlin
Mohamed Aoun , Libyan oil minister of the Ddedeiba government, quantified the current losses due to the oil block in recent days. Tripoli would lose the opportunity to produce, as declared by the Libyan executive on AgenziaNova , about 600 thousand barrels a day.
A huge amount considering that in times of peace, at least 1.2 million barrels a day come out of Libya. The block therefore affects almost 50% of the entire production. For the Libyans, all this translates into lost revenue.
For Europe in a further aggravation of the energy crisis. With the surge in prices already recorded at the end of 2021, the Old Continent would be in great need of Libyan oil.
On its own, it is not sufficient to replace the Russian one, for example, on which there is the possibility of a total embargo in the next sanctioning packages against Moscow, but still important in a phase in which more and more alternative sources of supply are sought.
Hence, the Ukrainian crisis and the energy crisis are destined to be grafted onto the Libyan crisis. In such a situation, the Kremlin gains the most . With a drier Europe, Russia sees the possibility of an embargo against it ever more distant.
Moreover, Moscow can “remind” the Old Continent that it has to deal with it to avoid a general collapse of the economy. A bit like it also happens with the crisis linked to wheat .
It should also be remembered that the Kremlin has a very important role in Libya. Over the years, President Vladimir Putin has forged very strong ties with General Haftar, providing him with money and weapons.
There are not a few, among the diplomatic corridors, who risk that there is a precise order from the Russian president behind the closure of the Libyan oil terminals.
In reality, this conclusion appears somewhat forced for several reasons. First of all, because the Kremlin itself at one point considered Haftar unreliable. The general has often gone his own way, taking decisions on several occasions independently from the directives of the allies.
The Putin – Haftar equation, that is, has never been automatic and it is not even now. But certainly there is not all the interest from the Russian capital in advising the strong man of eastern Libya to unblock exports of crude oil to Europe. Moscow therefore has another important card to play in Libyan oil also in the Ukrainian context.