Rebel group manoeuvres over Libya’s oil could lead to renewed civil conflict

o13-iconAmanda Kadlec writes: The oil tanker flying a North Korean flag is docked. But Libya’s central authorities are attempting to seize the vessel..

Why? Since August, eastern separatists have seized three major ports. The arrival of the tanker is just the latest of several steps to take a larger share of national oil wealth and create an autonomous state.

Since summer 2013 a band of armed men led by Ibrahim Jathran began seizing oil fields and ports in the north-east, where most of Libya’s oil also happens to be concentrated. He operates under the auspices of a group known as the Cyrenaica Political Bureau (CPB) that has since proclaimed itself as the governing authority of the region. Threats to illicitly sell crude oil to rogue buyers have hung in the air for months. To the dismay of the central government led by prime minister Ali Zeidan, this is a potent weapon in the arsenal they are using to bargain for power.

The inability of the central government to intervene in this episode provides another example of their powerlessness. Threats to bomb the ship are empty ones. Ultimatums issued to militias by the government have repeatedly failed from the earliest days of the transition. As time wears on and warnings go either unheard or are met with violent force in response, the value of such statements becomes laughable. While improvements in naval capacity have been made in the past year, and naval forces have the capacity to mobilise and fire, land security rests in the hands of the country’s scattered militias rather than a national army. [Continue reading…]

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