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It would be really uplifting to imagine
United Nations Security Council resolution 1973
 on Thursday was voted just to support the
beleaguered anti-Muammar Gaddafi movement with a
no-fly zone, logistics, food, humanitarian aid and
weapons. That would be the proof that the
"international community" really "stands with the
Libyan people in their quest for their universal
human rights", in the words of United States
ambassador to the UN Susan Rice.
there's more to doing the right (moral) thing.
History may register that the real tipping point
was this past Tuesday when, in an interview to
German TV, the African king of kings made sure
that Western corporations - unless they are German
(because the country was
against a no-fly zone) - can kiss goodbye to
Libya's energy bonanza. Gaddafi explicitly said,
"We do not trust their firms, they have conspired
against us ... Our oil contracts are going to
Russian, Chinese and Indian firms." In other
words: BRICS member countries.
interesting that UN resolution 1973 had 10 votes
in favor, zero against it, and five abstentions.
These came exactly from the four BRIC countries
(Brazil, Russia, India, China), plus Germany.
Brazil and Germany had voiced their deep
skepticism over military action for days,
preferring a diplomatic solution; but in the case
of Russia, India and China, other (energy)
motivations may have been at play. The top four
BRICS members (the other is South Africa, which
voted for resolution and formally joins the
expanded group in April) tend to coordinate their
voting in every major decision.
to the oil So cynics have every right to
invoke the time-tested mantra: it's the oil,
Libya is the largest oil economy
in Africa, ahead of Nigeria and Algeria. It holds
at least 46.5 billion barrels of proven oil
reserves (10 times those of Egypt). That's 3.5% of
the global total. Libya produces between 1.4 and
1.7 million barrels of oil a day, but wants to
reach 3 million barrels. Its oil is extremely
prized, especially with an ultra-low cost of
production of roughly $1.00 a barrel.
Gaddafi threatened Western oil majors, he meant
the show would soon be over for France's Total,
Italy's ENI, British Petroleum (BP), Spanish
Repsol, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Occidental Petroleum,
Hess and Conoco Phillips - though not for the
China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). China ranks
Libya as essential for its energy security. China
gets 11% of Libya's oil exports. CNPC has quietly
repatriated no less than 30,000 Chinese workers
(compared to 40 working for BP).
part Italian energy giant ENI produces over
240,000 barrels of oil a day - almost 25% of
Libya's total exports. No less than 85% of Libya's
oil is sold to European Union (EU) countries.
So a who's who of profiteers of the - in
theory - UN-sanctioned US/North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO)/Arab League military operation
in Libya has got to include European Union and
Anglo-American Big Oil. Not to mention Wall Street
- think about those billions of dollars of Libyan
financial assets deposited in Western banks, and
now confiscated; and of course US/EU weapons
Depending on how it is
implemented, and for how long Gaddafi resists, UN
resolution 1973 is intimately linked to severe
disruption of oil supply to the EU, especially
Italy, France and Germany; and that implies all
sorts of geopolitical implications, starting with
the US-EU relationship. Everyone wants to be well
positioned for the post-Gaddafi energy
The key point of UN
resolution 1973 is point four - as in "take all
necessary measures ... to protect civilians and
civilian populated areas under threat of attack in
the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi,
while excluding a foreign occupation force of any
form on any part of Libyan territory".
It's essential to stress that "take all
necessary measures" goes way beyond a no-fly zone,
stopping short of a land invasion. Crucially, it
covers air strikes, or cruise missiles unleashed
on Gaddafi tanks on the road to Benghazi, for
instance. But it may also cover bombing of Gaddafi
regime installations in Tripoli - even his
headquarters. With Gaddafi willing to fight to the
death it's fair to assume the mandate only ends
with regime change.
But what about
Bahrain? Time for Hypocrisy Alert number
1. It was delightful to watch Alain Juppe back as
French minister of foreign affairs - and preaching
about humanitarian values - in place of Chanel
icon Michele Alliot-Marie, who spent a holiday in
Tunisia in the middle of the popular battle to get
rid of tyrant Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.
Barack Obama administration - at least in public -
was split between US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton (in favor of no-fly), and Pentagon supremo
Robert Gates (against it). President Obama never
revealed his cards up to the last minute (apart
from stating that Gaddafi must go). Acting in such
a way he pushed the UN to lead, with the
Anglo-French duo working alongside an Arab
country, Lebanon, to polish a draft.
harsh critics had seen as the president recklessly
laying his credibility on the line, and his
"failure to act decisively in support of freedom"
perhaps should be seen as a canny shadowplay,
leaving the impression of the UN legitimizing
another - the nasty term is inevitable -
international "coalition of the willing", and not
a Western intervention. Humanitarian
Now it all
depends on how NATO will operate out of French
military bases along the Mediterranean and Italian
air force and naval bases in Sicily, at a cost of
$300 million a week. The Pentagon's Gates has
already redeployed US naval assets close to the
Libyan coast. And he assured Obama that the
Pentagon was capable - how could it not? - of
opening a third war front.
Hypocrisy Alert number 2. Saudi Arabia, the United
Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan may all be
collaborators of the US/NATO anti-Gaddafi force.
Three of these are Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
members. As part of the Arab League they all voted
last week in favor of a no-fly zone. What a cosmic
irony to see these four autocracies supporting a
military operation for the benefit of the same
kind of protesters who want justice, dignity and
democracy in their own backyards.
provisional, military Egyptian government, more
sensibly, has already said it won't take part in
military operations. Instead, the Egyptian
military are shipping assault rifles and
ammunition across the border to eastern Libya -
with Washington's approval.
question is inevitable. Would the UN vote with the
same zeal to impose a no drive zone on Saudi
Arabia - to prevent it from sending tanks and
troops across the causeway to repress people in
Bahrain, a country it has already invaded?
Time for Hypocrisy Alert number 3.
Washington, according to the brand new Obama
administration doctrine, applies "US outreach" to
rebels when dealing with "evil" dictators" such as
Gaddafi. The rebels eventually get full UN
support. Then Washington preaches "regime
alteration" when dealing with "our" bastards, such
as Bahrain's al-Khalifas and the House of Saud.
The dictators get away with murder.
ball (of fire) in the Med is now in Gaddafi's
court. His minister of defense has already warned
that all aerial and naval traffic in the
Mediterranean is at risk - and every civilian and
military target is fair game. Gaddafi for his part
told Portuguese TV channel RTP, "if the world gets
crazy with us we will get crazy too. We will
respond. We will make their lives hell because
they are making our lives hell. They will never
So watch out. The great 2011
Arab revolt is about to get crazy. This Club Med
war may be a blast - or a raging, bloody mess.
Note 1. These are key
points of the resolution authorizing action to
protect Libyan civilians from Muammar Gaddafi:
It expresses the UN's grave concern at the
deteriorating situation, the escalation of
violence, and the heavy civilian casualties,
condemns the gross and systematic violation of
human rights, including arbitrary detentions,
enforced disappearances, torture and summary
executions and says that the attacks against
civilians may amount to crimes against humanity
and poses a threat to international peace and
A no-fly zone is an important element for the
protection of civilians as well as the safety of
the delivery of humanitarian assistance and a
decisive step for the cessation of hostilities in
Libya, it says.
It demands the immediate establishment of a
cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all
attacks against, and abuses of, civilians and that
the Libyan authorities comply with their
obligations under international law...and take all
measures to protect civilians and meet their basic
needs, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded
passage of humanitarian assistance.
It authorizes UN member states to take all
necessary measures, notwithstanding the previous
arms embargo, to protect civilians and civilian
populated areas under threat of attack in the
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while
excluding a foreign occupation force of any form
on any part of Libyan territory.
Requests the co-operation of the Arab League
member states in that.
Decides to establish a ban on all flights in
the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in
order to help protect civilians exempting
humanitarian flights and authorizes member states
and Arab League nations acting nationally or
through regional organizations or arrangements, to
take all necessary measures to enforce compliance
with the ban on flights.
Calls on member states to intercept boats and
aircraft it believes may be taking arms and other
items banned under the previously passed UN
embargo and includes armed mercenary personnel in
that category - telling members states to comply
strictly with their obligations...to prevent the
provision of armed mercenary personnel to the
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
Member states should ensure domestic
businesses exercise vigilance when doing business
with entities incorporated in Libya if the States
have information that provides reasonable grounds
to believe that such business could contribute to
violence and use of force against civilians.
Requests that the UN Secretary General creates
a group of up to eight experts to oversee the
implementation of the Resolution.