THE ROVING EYE
Sweet crude of mine
By Pepe Escobar
Sweet crude of mine
By Pepe Escobar
Royals dancing in palace corridors have been spotted in Riyadh. The heir to the Libyan throne, Prince al-Senussi, a nephew of King Idriss who was deposed by Muammar Gaddafi and others in a bloodless 1969 military coup, has embarked on a busy self-promotion campaign, saying he's ready to go back to Libya and even "lead the country".
Nothing in the world would be sweeter for the House of Saud - extremely distasteful of most Arab secular republics - than a friendly, brand new emirate in northern Africa.
But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the real winners of the Libyan tribal/civil war, may have other ideas. Mahmoud Jibril - the dodgy National Transitional Council's prime minister - speaking in Qatar, has explicitly thanked the winners by name: France, Britain, the United States, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Of this top five, the Western top three might welcome, in theory, a pliable emirate - but as long as it does not exhibit North Waziristan-style ultra-fundamentalist tendencies, as in Pakistan's tribal area.
It's an open game, because at this stage no one really knows the degree of influence Islamists will be able to wield in post-Gaddafi Libya. A week from now, in Paris, some answers might be on the table; that's when the "friends of Libya" (FOL) will gather with council leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil and prime minister Jibril to talk business regarding what is gearing up to be a new NATO protectorate.
Meanwhile, from Benghazi to European capitals, the dancing is to the tune of a Guns 'n Roses megahit, now rebranded Sweet Crude of Mine. France and Germany are already pressing the "NATO rebels" leadership for juicy deals, Italy starts today (Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is meeting Jalil in Milan) and the Brits and the Americans are about to join the fray.
Up to now, Libya's National Oil Company was essentially awarding service contracts on old, profitable oil fields to Libya's national subsidiaries. But what BP, Total, Exxon Mobil and the Qatar oil company really want is serious involvement in new fields, and those famous production-sharing agreements (PSAs) that allow stratospheric profits. They want the full bonanza they didn't get in Iraq - where some of the juiciest contracts went to Russian, Chinese or Malaysian players.
As for those players that were already on Libyan soil, such as Spain's Repsol and Italy's ENI, they are planning to be back in business before the end of September. No one knows what will happen to Chinese investments.
What WikiLeaks had already revealed  will certainly be back in the form of dogfights, such as between US companies and Italy's ENI for the cream of the contracts. Largely because of Berlusconi's very tight "bunga bunga" links with Gaddafi, ENI was already pumping almost 200,000 barrels of oil a day before the tribal/civil war.
Anyway, from the point of view of corporations linked to the war "winners", no more Gaddafi is already a surefire guarantee of ultra sweet contracts and an array of concessions.
Follow the money
On the banking front, WikiLeaks once again had already revealed  that the privatization of Libya's central bank was regarded as a golden "opportunity" for US banks. The shadow "rebel" bank facilitated by HSBC in all probability will take over - obviously not independent as the previous Libya Central Bank but aligned with the Swiss-based Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers' central bank.
So bye-bye to "subversive", unifying Gaddafi ideas such as dumping the US dollar and the euro so Arab and African nations would start dealing in a new single currency - the gold dinar. It's crucial to note that most African nations - and a lot of Arabs - backed up the idea. The only serious contrarians in the region were South Africa and the Arab League (influenced by the House of Saud). Obviously Washington and the European Union (EU) were furious - to the point of calling NATO to the rescue.
It's never enough to remember that in late 2002 Iraq under Saddam Hussein started accepting payment in euros instead of US dollars for its oil. Everybody knows what happened next. Don't mess with the petrodollar, or else ...
So the oil and the flow of money will be secure in the hands of the "winners". Now for the strategic design. The Pentagon's Africom - after its first successful African war - will be rewarded with its first African base, thus abandoning its headquarters in that lovely African bush, Stuttgart. And NATO will proceed in its sacred mission of turning the Mediterranean into a "NATO lake". Northern Africa is already in the bag; now for the eastern Mediterranean, to teach a lesson to those pesky Syrians.
Whose flag is this?
To qualify the TNC's cast of characters as "dodgy" is in fact an understatement. Virtually everyone is "invisible". Few may remember that the TNC's Jalil was the judge that condemned those Bulgarian nurses to death - a notorious case in France that warranted muscular intervention by neo-Napoleonic Nicolas Sarkozy, who even regimented his trophy wife Carla Bruni to seduce the Big G. After the nurses were freed, Jalil was promoted by Gaddafi to justice minister, lasting from 2007 until his opportunistic defection last February.
To believe that this motley crew of disgruntled tribals, radical Islamists, fake "socialists" of the Tony Blair variety, cynical opportunists on the payroll of oil giants, military defectors and outright thugs will pray in the altar of "democracy" is a mirage. Not to mention that they invited NATO and regressive Arab monarchies to bomb their motherland - certainly not where they live, but "the other side", Tripolitania.
It remains to be seen how most people and tribes in Tripolitania will relate to the people of Cyrenaica - which they view as lowly country bumpkins - seizing power. They are already fuming at being degraded in the new Libyan flag - which is basically the Cyrenaica flag (black rectangle with a white Islam crescent) with two additional strips, red for Fezzan and green for Tripolitania
No one knows how the next stage of this "kinetic" war that is not a war (copyright: The White House) will play out. Yet there are serious reasons to believe this may turn out to be a devastating remix of the 2001 "defeated Taliban" and 2003 "Mission Accomplished" scenarios.
Bedouins and Berbers, at war, are all about strategic retreat and ambushing. That is, guerrilla. No one knows what degree of tribal support Gaddafi may still count on not only around Tripoli but around his fiefdom of Sirte or in the high desert. Yet it's a sure bet that he'll go the guerrilla way. Whether he'll end up like Saddam or play "the road goes on forever" like the Taliban is the $100 billion question (the amount of Libyan funds to be unfrozen by the "winners"). Quagmire looms.
1. See WikiLeaks cables show that it was all about the oil.
2. See Libya makes progress on banking reform.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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