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“Libya: The Gathering Storm: Turkey, Egypt and the Wrestling Match for Libyan Oil” Tuesday, July 28 2020. KGNU: Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues – Segment 3

August 2, 2020

KGNU Hemispheres – June 30, 2020 – Transcript… Segment Three (Part One, Part Two)

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The NATO invasion (of Libya)fractured the centralized government creating weaker regional authorities (partitioning the country de facto), as a result, Western powers are in a much stronger bargaining position to make favorable deals for oil and natural gas with either the Haftar elements in eastern Libya, with the Tripoli-based (poorly named) Government of National Accord or with a number of other mercenary groupings controlling different sources of oil and natural gas production in different areas of the country.

Ibrahim Kazerooni

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First, it needs to be recalled in the current crisis that the overthrow of the Khadaffi government and the murder – and it was really quite obscene – of Muammar Khadaffi – that all this was “made in Washington DC” as Ibrahim mentioned in 2010. Even if the foot soldiers were French, British and Italian as well as the mercenary militias that popped up all over the country, the plan was hatched in the USA.

But between 2011 and now there has been an interesting evolution, or de-evolution of the U.S. role. Since then U.S. power and influence in the Middle East has declined markedly. It has declined to such a degree that in the current situation in Libya, U.S. influence over the current crisis is rather modest. What emerges now are the regional players that have their own national interests in Libyan oil.

Rob Prince

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Ibrahim Kazerooni continues: Let’s briefly look at the timeline

2010. The decision to attack Libya and overthrow Khadaffi, “regime change”, was taken in the United States and NATO in 2010 to stop Khadaffi from proceeding with his plan (to trade oil and natural gas in gold rather than dollars) and to protect the dollar and the economic market in the West (for an elaboration on this – see the link just above).

February 2011. Demonstrations against the Khadaffi government broke out in February 2011. Western special forces, particularly the British S.A.S. and the French special forces, were immediately dropped into Libya to distribute all kinds of weapons – a huge amount of weapons were distributed and supplied to mercenary elements there. The Western media referred to these elements as involved in a “popular uprising” but these were orchestrated by these foreign special forces.

March 2011. See how quickly they moved! As in Iraq and they (the US/NATO) was planning to do in Syria. One of the first acts after overthrowing and killing Khadaffi: fracturing the centralized Libyan government, the rebels create a new oil company and a central bank to replace the central bank that existed during Khadaffi’s rule, as well as replacing the bank that Khadaffi had already established – earlier – the independent bank with a different bank. (Khadaffi’s independent bank would be based on gold and silver back exchanges for the buying and selling of oil and natural gas to African countries – again, see the link above in the first paragraph).

This newly establish bank was based on Western banking procedures, based on petrodollars again, but not based upon a gold or silver standard.

What surprised everyone – I remember reading about this at the time – was how Al Qaeda terrorists (involved in Khadaffi’s overthrow) acting as astute banking specialists were capable of establishing a whole new banking authority for an oil rich nation. Establishing this bank was the first order of business of the post-Khadaffi period in Libya proving that the primary importance of the invasion was destabilize and dismantle the Libyan banking system as well as the country’s oil industry.

All this continues up until today.

The NATO invasion fractured the centralized government creating weaker regional authorities (partitioning the country de facto), as a result, Western powers are in a much stronger bargaining position to make favorable deals for oil and natural gas with either the Haftar elements in eastern Libya, with the Tripoli-based (poorly named) Government of National Accord or with a number of other mercenary groupings controlling different sources of oil and natural gas production in different areas of the country.

This is more or less the same story to what happened in Iraq as a result of the 2003 U.S. led invasion there – as I indicated earlier by citing Robert Fisk’s comment (see Part Two of the program).

The 3000 or so Hillary Clinton emails released in 2015 shed light on why, within a week of initial fighting, the rebels set up a new bank. One of the emails noted that the presence of violent mercenaries in Libya was not about “securing people” but about assuring the security of global banking and oil.”

This, from the horse’s mouth.

If there is any doubt about the relationship between American foreign policy and oil – here it is. The U.S. goes into a country, dismantles its government – obviously it will not be said that the goal is to control oil; to the contrary the pretext has to be wrapped in a “humanitarian interventionist” package. By the way most of the gold confiscated during the military intervention in the central bank to support the Libyan dinar and dirham has vanished. Nobody knows where it is – as happened with Iraqi gold in the Iraq Central Bank in Baghdad.

That was nine years ago. But as a result of all this, a price is being paid.

Today what exists in Libya?

A number of different militias run different regions of the country now are joined by a number of regional powerful countries entering into the mix – all competing for a share of the Libyan oil and natural gas “big cake” that has no central government defending the country’s combined natural wealth.

Rob, do you want to add anything.

Rob Prince: Yes, a few points.

First, it needs to be recalled in the current crisis that the overthrow of the Khadaffi government and the murder – and it was really quite obscene – of Muammar Khadaffi – that all this was “made in Washington DC” as Ibrahim mentioned in 2010. Even if the foot soldiers were French, British and Italian as well as the mercenary militias that popped up all over the country, the plan was hatched in the USA.

But between 2011 and now there has been an interesting evolution, or de-evolution of the U.S. role. Since then U.S. power and influence in the Middle East has declined markedly. It has declined to such a degree that in the current situation in Libya, U.S. influence over the current crisis is rather modest. What emerges now are the regional players that have their own national interests in Libyan oil. We’ll come back to this.

That’s the first point.

The second point has to do with how the Libyan crisis of 2011 created this mercenary storm – created or substantially added to it – in its wake.

Many of the mercenary elements that wound up fighting in Syria with ISIS, al Nusra and that myriad of U.S., Saudi, Qatari, Turkish, Israeli funded, trained and armed so-called Islamic “jihadist” groups emerged from the Libyan collapse.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: By the way Rob there was an article – I remember reading it – the title was something like “Libya: From Africa’s Wealthiest Democracy Under Gaddafi to Terrorist Haven After US Intervention” that captures the essence of this. That is exactly what happened to Libya.

Rob Prince: Yes.

These mercenaries are then transported from Libya – mostly from Benghazi – to Syria via Turkey.

Remember in 2012, when U.S. Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, was assassinated “on a mission” in Libya?

What was the “mission” he was on at the time? Basically Stevens was negotiating with terrorist groups over the transfer of these mercenaries to Syria.

So it starts in Libya (1), the mercenaries are transferred to Syria. Now in Syria they are for the most part isolated in Idlib Province at least for the moment. Idlib Province abuts with Turkey. The jihadist mercenary presence in Idlib Province has created a crisis for Turkey which fears their streaming over the Syrian border into Turkey creating instability there – as mentioned in a number of earlier Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues programs. While the exact number of these mercenaries in Idlib is unknown, the range varies from75,000 to anywhere near 125,000, a significant concentration in any event.

These mercenaries are Turkey’s hot potato. Having recruited many of them and opened its borders so that they could descend south into Syria to participate in the abortive effort to overthrow the Assad government, now Turkey fears their return and has been looking for months to send them elsewhere in the world, the problem being, no one wants them.

Now with the events in Libya, again the figures I have been reading, indicate that at least 15,000 to 20,000 of them have now been transferred by Turkey back into Libya to support the Tripoli government in its efforts defeat the Libyan forces under General Khalifa Haftar.

It’s like a poisonous ping pong ball – we need to keep that in mind.

All of this is common documented knowledge although generally not discussed or acknowledged in the U.S. media. These same elements referred to in Syria as “the moderate opposition” which from what I can tell is either so small that it is irrelevant or non-existent – there is nothing “moderate” about any of these.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: In a number of meetings that the State Department (Syrian opposition) organized, repeatedly U.S. politicians have admitted that there was no moderate opposition within this group. They were all terrorist organizations that the United States labeled as “moderate” to justify providing them with a huge amount of financing and weapons.

By the way what you said about the American ambassador killed in Benghazi. He wasn’t just killed because he was negotiating to send this or that mercenary group to Syria; He was killed because he was in the process of giving a considerable sum of money to one group at the expense of another.

Rob Prince: That sounds about right!

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Stevens was not killed in some kind of freak accident. He was offering financial support to one group; the other group was offended by this favoritism; they blew the place up and killed him.

Rob Prince: Moving on to the current moment I want to do so in response to a program I saw recently. I was watching two commentators – I think they’re Greek – and by the way on many issues, they are quite knowledgeable, quite good. The name of the program is the Duran. It’s worth listening to.

On one recent program, the two, Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou, were discussing the possibility of war between Turkey and Egypt over Libya. I was rather surprised that they insisted that war in Libya was not about oil and natural gas. This is not a war about oil, they said. But it is a war about energy, oil and and natural gas.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Can I interject because we are running out of time.

Let’s quickly look at where are we now concerning Turkey and Egypt.

As we have discussed concerning Turkey in the past, in the Libyan case, the Turks not only wanted to find a conflict to remove the terrorists from Syria in a way that they would not become refugees in Turkey, with Libya naturally being the best place to relocate them, Erdogan thought that he might be able to use the power of these terrorists in Libya to neutralize the advances on the ground being made at the time by Haftar’s forces and in so doing to result in Turkey’s control of Libya’s natural gas as a result. The plan was to develop Libyan natural gas, transport it through pipeline or by ship to Turkey and from there to sell it to Europe.

Now the French have gotten involved, worried that such a plan would circumvent French influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Secondly the scramble for Libya’s natural gas has brought Russia and Egypt into the equation. Last week the Egyptian government got a green light from its parliament as well as approval from tribal system near the Libyan border to move into Libya militarily. Sisi has already begun to amass a great deal of military hardware near Libya’s eastern border in the west of Egypt.

I don’t think that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan thought that the situation would get to this stage now is saying that the only solution to the Libyan crisis is peace talks through negotiations.

Rob Prince: Laughs

Ibrahim Kazerooni: You’re laughing Rob; I had the exact same reaction when I saw it reported yesterday, I began laughing as well. Now he suddenly realizes the predicament Turkey finds itself in.

Now both Turkey and Egypt find themselves in a difficult situation.

In Egypt’s case, because the Ethiopians have already started filling up the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Sisi needs a swift (and decisive) victory in Libya to create the popularity he needs among the Egyptian people to confront the Ethiopians, possibly militarily. Once Sisi is in a stronger position militarily it will put a great deal of pressure on the Ethiopians to negotiate a settlement rather than risk the bombing of the dam.

On the other hand Erdogan has his own dilemmas to address. He doesn’t want to lose the gains Turkey has made in Libya. If he loses Turkish ground in Libya his reputation in the Middle East is going to evaporate.

Where is Russia coming into the fray?

Russia is entering the Libya crisis to impose its will on Turkey to withdraw from Idlib Province in Syria. Recently a build up of Russian troop concentration took place in Syria near Idlib Province for the first time. It’s a warning sign to Erdogan and the Turks that the situation in Libya is not going to be left unanswered. The Russians are pressing Erdogan to negotiate with the Haftar forces and settle the differences peacefully or in the absence of negotiations, Russia will support Egypt.

Erdogan will not have the power to stand up to Egypt. Even though Turkey is in NATO, that alliance – deeply split over whom to back in Libya, is not prepared to stand by Turkey – nor is Washington DC. And as a consequence, Turkey risks losing its base in Idlib, Syria as well.

This is the kind of crisis we are in at present. And who knows – if Egyptian troops do enter Libya where the situation will lead. There is a good chance that Egypt will push back the Tripoli forces most of the way back to Tripoli and come to control all Libya’s oil and natural gas. This is not out of the range of possibilities. It will be very difficult for Erdogan to withstand such an Egyptian military offensive.

Rob you want to add anything?

Rob Prince: I just want to shed a little light on the Russian connection to all this.

What is the Russian connection? It has to do with what could be called “pipeline politics.”

At present Russia provides a great deal of natural gas to Germany and the rest of Europe. Erdogan’s Libyan play is to short cut some of that Europe-bound natural gas, or some of it anyhow by controlling Libyan natural gas, shipping it to Turkey either by pipeline or ship and then selling it to Europe, thus cutting into Russia’s natural gas supply and the influence that goes along with it, a result which would not displease Washington in the least.

That is the main reason Russia is concerned about Turkey’s offensive in Libya.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Another aspect of all this – remember the Doha Protocol (the division of labor between those regional Middle East allies trying to overthrow the Assad government.) A scenario of this protocol – anothe plan to bypass Russian gas to Europe – was that natural gas produced in Qatar would be shipped by pipeline overland to Syria (after Assad was overthrown) to Turkey and from there to Europe.

Rob Prince: Correct and that is what the Syria war – at least in part – was about. Assad’s victory over his mercenary enemies scotched that plan but now it emerges from the depths again in Libya, essentially the same plan.

For Egypt there are also security concerns of a Muslim Brotherhood supported Libya – which Turkey is integrally involved with on Egypt’s border. Muslim fundamentalism has been a serious problem in Egypt – including the election of Morsi – so there is that concern.

But there is yet another concern and that is that Egypt worries with a Turkish victory that it, Egypt, will lose the natural gas that it currently gets from Libya (and sells to Israel!)

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s not only that Rob, There was a joint Egyptian-Israeli project to develop natural gas in Sinai. Egypt made a deal with Khadaffi that Egypt would receive natural gas at below market prices from Libya permitting Egypt to turn around and sell that natural gas to Israel at above market prices as a portion of Egyptian contribution to the Sinai project.

Rob Prince: And our discussion up until now is just scratching the surface because now we have a whole bunch of players, whom for different reasons are lining up either behind Turkey or Egypt in the Libyan affair.

So the French, Greeks, Cypriots, Russians are involved; Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates are involved, Ethiopia is tangentially gotten into it as well.

For the United States it doesn’t matter how this plays out because regardless, they will be able to get cheap oil and gas from Libya, having set in motion the tragedy that is Libya since 2011 and reap the benefits – and as they have done in so many other cases argue that they are not involved – classic case of plausible deniability.

The end

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1. Actually it starts much earlier, with U.S. cooperation with Islamic mercenaries, al Qaeda and the like, in Afghanistan already back in 1979.

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