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Arming ‘indirectly’: US, Frace and Italy to buy Libya rebel oil, Britain and Kuwait to simply throw money at them

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AP: US administration gives go-ahead for oil deals with Libya rebels

The Obama administration has eased its sanctions on Libya to allow for the sale of oil controlled by the rebels. The move will allow Libya’s opposition forces to use the income from oil sales to purchase weapons and other supplies.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued the order Tuesday. It will allow U.S. companies to engage in transactions involving oil, natural gas and other petroleum products if the petroleum exports will benefit the opposition Transitional National Council of Libya.

Expatica.com: Italy and France to work with Libya rebels on oil sales

Rome is set to host a meeting of the international contact group on Libya early next month which will also discuss ways of helping oil sales from rebel-held eastern Libya to aid the uprising against Kadhafi.

Reuters: Britain, Kuwait setting up fund to aid Libya rebels

Britain hopes for international agreement in the coming week on setting up a fund to help Libya’s rebel-held east, Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday.

The fund is aimed at helping the rebel’s interim national council help pay public sector salaries and with other costs.

“In the coming week, we hope to agree internationally the process for establishing a temporary financial mechanism to provide a transparent structure for international financial support for the financial requirements of the (national council) such as public sector pay,” Hague told parliament.

Kuwait will contribute 50 million Kuwaiti dinars ($182 million) to the rebel council, a rebel leader said on Sunday.

And, of course, Qatar is already arming the rebels

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also suspected of exporting arms to Libya

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/27/2011 at 1:27 am

Posted in Kuwait, Libya, Qatar

Saudi money wins Obama’s mind

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M K Bhadrakuma, Asia Times, April 19, 2011

Twice during the past week senior United States officials have let it be known that the Barack Obama administration has chosen to adopt a highly selective approach to the ferment in the Middle East.

The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton couched the message in appropriate diplomatic idiom in Washington last Tuesday in a speech at a gala dinner celebrating the US-Islamic World Forum before an audience of dignitaries from the Middle East including the foreign ministers of Qatar and Jordan and the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference.

Clinton acknowledged that the ”long Arab winter has begun to thaw” and after many decades, a ”real opportunity for lasting change” has appeared before the Arab people. It, in turn, raises ”significant questions” but it is not for the US to provide all the answers. ”In fact, here in Washington we’re struggling to thrash out answers to our own difficult political and economic questions,” she said.

Following a long-winded appreciation of the “Arab revolt”, Clinton hit the nail on its head: ”We understand that a one-sized-fits-all approach doesn’t make sense in such a diverse region at such a fluid time. As I have said before, the United States has specific relationships with countries in the region. We have a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future … Going forward, the United States will be guided by careful consideration of all circumstances on the ground and by our consistent values and interests.”

Two days later, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates picked up where Clinton left off. At the ground-breaking ceremony of the national library honoring George Washington in Virginia last Thursday, Gates dipped into the oldest annals of America’s young history to underline that US has always pursued a selective approach to democratic aspirations and values of other peoples.

When George Washington was confronted with the consequences of the French revolution, he didn’t allow himself to be swayed by the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity but instead weighed in the terribly dangerous prospect of the possible ”spread of violent French radicalism to our shores”, the negative consequences of estrangement from the British in terms of disruptions in the ”lives of ordinary Americans by impeding trade” and the ”fragility of America’s position at that time”. Therefore, he adopted a neutrality policy toward France and chose to make a peace treaty with Britain although he was accused of doublespeak, sellout, et al.

Gates acknowledged that the US always ”struggled” with ideals while doing business with terrible autocrats. So, what matters today is that ”many of the [Arab] regimes affected have been longstanding, close allies of the United States, ones we continue to work with as critical partners in the face of common security challenges like al-Qaeda and Iran.”

Is the democracy project so terribly important? Gates had an answer: ”An underlying theme of American history going back to Washington is that we are compelled to defend our security and our interests in ways that in the long run lead to the democratic values and institutions … When we discuss openly our desire for democratic values to take hold across the globe, we are describing a world that may be many years or decades off.”

Significantly, Gates was speaking after a tour of the Persian Gulf region against a complex backdrop of Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain to crush the lively democracy movement, frictions in the relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, a jump in oil prices into triple digits and signs that Riyadh might consider expanding its mammoth US$60 billion deal to buy arms from the US.

At any rate, coming out of a 90-minute meeting with the Saudi King Abdullah, Gates said he saw ”evidence” of Iranian meddling in Bahrain. Gates’s visit was followed up within a week by a trip to Riyadh by the US National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, who handed a letter from Obama to Abdullah. All indications are that a deal has been stuck whereby the Obama administration will not queer the pitch for the autocratic Persian Gulf rulers by dabbling in the democracy project in the region.

A hegemon on the move

On the contrary, Washington will allow Saudi Arabia to have a free hand to tackle the movements for democratic reforms in the region and forestall any regime changes in the region. Accordingly, the Saudis are moving on three different tracks. First, they have done everything possible to portray the democracy movement in Bahrain, which has serious potential to overthrow the regime in Manama and trigger a domino effect, in starkly sectarian terms as an issue of Shi’ite empowerment. The Saudi calculation by stoking up the latent fires of sectarian prejudices in the Sunni mind is to somehow prevent a unified, pan-Arab democracy movement from taking shape.

Second, Saudis are giving a coloring that that the democracy movements in the Persian Gulf are in actuality a manifestation of Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of the Sunni states in the region. The Iranian bogey comes naturally to the Saudis for rallying the Sunni states in the region under its leadership as well as for striking sympathetic chords in influential Washington lobbies.

The Saudi ploy is working. During a visit to Manama early March, Gates himself had urged the al-Khalifa family to swiftly undertake political and social reform. By early April he is a changed man who claims he senses an Iranian hand behind the protests.

Third, and potentially quite tricky, is the Saudi propensity to see the case in both Bahrain and Yemen as open-and-shut. The intervention in Bahrain is taking a violent turn with every possibility that it will radicalize the opposition and possibly force it – or at least elements within it – to resort to insurgent attacks. A Bahraini variant of Lebanon’s Hezbollah seems to be in the making.

The Saudis have also waded into the Yemeni tribal politics and are dictating the contours of the transfer of power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh, ignoring the potency of Yemeni nationalism, which resents Saudi hegemony. Again, Saudis propagate that Iran is fueling the Houthi rebellion in north Yemen. (Western observers rule out any extensive ties between Iran on the one side and the Houthis or the Bahraini Shi’ites.)

What are the Saudi calculations? A longstanding objective of the Saudi national security strategy remains, namely, to exercise its quasi-hegemony in the Arabian Peninsula. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) served this purpose for decades. But the GCC dispensation can easily unravel in today’s uncertain circumstances if there is regime change in any of the member states. Riyadh has mooted the idea of the GCC transforming into a “Gulf Confederation” with a common and unified foreign, security and defense policies – under Saudi leadership, of course, under the garb of collective security.

In military terms, this would facilitate the creation of joint armed forces under a unified command with a rapid reaction force that could act in any of the GCC states. In other words, Saudi Arabia hopes to assume the role of the provider of security for the GCC territories.

Riyadh felt disillusioned by the US’ ”abandonment” of Hosni Mubarak and quite obviously, in the Saudi estimation, there was no real inevitability about Mubarak’s exit if only Washington had stood by him. The behavior of post-Mubarak Egypt also adds to a sense of isolation in Riyadh. Significant shifts have begun appearing in Egypt’s regional policies already. Cairo is moving toward establishing diplomatic relations with Iran (broken off since the Islamic Revolution in 1979); Cairo ignored US and Israeli protests and allowed for the first time two Iranian warships to pass through the Suez Canal; Cairo is allowing Hamas leaders in Gaza to use Cairo airport as a transit point for travel to and from Damascus; Cairo is mellowing toward the Hezbollah in Lebanon.

What hits Riyadh most is that Cairo will be disengaging from any containment strategy toward Iran and may gravitate toward the nascent strategic axis involving Syria, Turkey and Iran. Egypt is swimming toward mainstream Arab politics, whereas Saudi Arabia never had much fondness for pan-Arabism.

This growing sense of isolation prompted the Saudi leadership to invoke its ultimate reserves of influence in Washington – the Pentagon. The promise Abdullah made to Gates – that Saudi arms purchases from the US this year will exceed the $60 billion deal (which is already the biggest in US history) – changes the entire complexion of Persian Gulf security from the American perspective. Obama interprets arms sales to foreign countries as the means to create jobs at home. And if the Gulf Confederation idea takes hold, the sky is the limit for lucrative arms deals since a joint military will be created by the petrodollar states involving land, air and naval forces.

The speeches by Clinton and Gates suggest that the Saudis have succeeded in making Obama reassess the Arab spring in the Persian Gulf region. Obama is never short on resonant words. Still, presenting with conviction his (revised) vision of the New Middle East in the major policy speech he is expected to make isn’t going to be easy.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MD19Ak02.html

Written by peripheralrevision

04/18/2011 at 9:34 pm

Qatar Arming Libya Rebels in “Freedom Fight” While Denying Democracy at Home

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Qatar ready to arm Libyan opposition: amir

Xinhua, April 15, 2011

Amir of Qatar Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani said on Thursday that his country stands ready to provide arms to the Libyan opposition on request.

“If they will ask for weapons, we’re going to provide them,” the amir, who is on a visit to the United States, told CNN in an interview.

He confirmed that the opposition had raised a request, but “it will take some time” as the weapons offered need “a lot of training.”

When pressed to confirm reports that Qatar has provided French-made anti-tank weapons to the opposition, he replied that “it might be arrived to them during the last two days. It’s possible.”

Read the full article here

Barack Obama: Qatar crucial to coalition’s success in Libya

Gulf state praised by US president as Doha confirms it is supplying weapons to Libyan rebels in bid to overthrow Gaddafi

Ian Black, Chris McGreal and Harriet Sherwood, The Guardian. April 15, 2011

President Barack Obama said the coalition acting to keep Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi from attacking his people would have been impossible without the support of the tiny Gulf Arab nation of Qatar.

“We would not have been able, I think, to shape the kind of broad-based international coalition that includes not only our Nato members but also includes Arab states, without the emir’s leadership,” Obama told reporters after a meeting in the Oval Office with Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. “He is motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people.”

Officials in Doha confirmed that the Gulf state is supplying anti-tank weapons to Libyan rebels in Benghazi as part of its strategy of working to overthrow the Gaddafi regime.

[…]

Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, has said that UN resolutions on Libya permitted the supply of “defensive weapons” to opposition forces struggling to fight Libyan armour.

Qatari government officials were reluctant to talk about the delivery of French-made Milan missiles, thought to be by sea. “We need to send the Libyans equipment so they can defend themselves and get on with their lives,” a senior source said. “These are civilians who have had to become fighters because of the situation.”

The foreign secretary, William Hague, and his opposite numbers from the 21-nation Libya contact group endorsed Qatar’s position. Hague insisted the UK would supply only non-lethal equipment. France’s view is similar but both countries, which are leading Nato air strikes in Libya, accept that arming the rebels is legal.

Gaddafi’s government has repeatedly complained that the Qataris are supplying the rebels. Khaled Kayim, Libya’s deputy foreign minister, has claimed that about 20 Qatari specialists are already in Benghazi. The emir of Qatar is the only Arab leader to recognise the interim national council in Benghazi.

Benghazi’s revolutionary leadership has pleaded with other Arab countries and the west to provide weapons capable of destroying Gaddafi’s tanks and rocket launchers. But it has persistently avoided answering questions about deliveries, claiming the issue is a security matter.

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Obama: ‘No big move toward democracy in Qatar’

David Jackson, USA Today, April 16, 2011

During the day Thursday, President Obama met with the emir of Qatar, praising his help in Libya and his leadership “when it comes to democracy in the Middle East.”

That night, Obama provided political donors in Chicago with a somewhat different view of the emir and Qatar.

“Pretty influential guy,” Obama said of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, noting that he basically owns the Al Jazeera television network. “He is a big booster, big promoter of democracy all throughout the Middle East. Reform, reform, reform — you’re seeing it on Al Jazeera.”

But Obama: “Now, he himself is not reforming significantly. There’s no big move towards democracy in Qatar. But you know part of the reason is that the per capita income of Qatar is $145,000 a year. That will dampen a lot of conflict.”

Having banished the press pool from a q-and-a session with the donors, Obama did not realize he was still speaking on an open mike.

Read the full article here

Written by peripheralrevision

04/16/2011 at 10:14 am

Posted in Libya, Qatar

Al Jazeera loses credibility for censoring coverage of uprisings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, acting as propaganda tool for Qatar’s role in Libya intervention

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+Al Jazeera is based in Qatar which just happens to be the most active Arab supporter of the “rebels” attempting to aid the west in overthrowing the Libyan government. Qatar is positioning itself to be the international marketer for the oil exported by the “rebels,” was the second country to recognize the “ransitional government,” and has contributed aircraft to the NATO bombing campaign.  Part of Al Jazeera’s advantages in reporting international issues is that it can pretty much criticise anyone it chooses without consequences, the only stipulation is refrain from any serious critique of its host nation and its regional allies. This limitation has greatly jeoprodized the Arab media station’s legitimacy and credibility in covering the events in Libya. So heed the warning that Al Jazeera, while widely recognized as a useful news outlet, is not a reliable source when it comes to current regional issues -PR+

Andrew Hammond, Reuters, April 14, 2011

Pan-Arab broadcasters who played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are helping dynastic rulers police the gates of the Gulf to stop the revolts from spreading on their patch, analysts say.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, was pivotal in keeping up momentum during protests that toppled Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both entrenched rulers who were no friends of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty.

When Al Jazeera’s cameras turned to Yemen, it was as though its guns were trained on the next target in an uprising longtime Arab leaders were convinced was of the channel’s making.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose impoverished country of 23 million is not a member of the affluent Gulf Arab club, accused Al Jazeera of running an “operations room to burn the Arab nation.” His government has revoked the Al Jazeera correspondents’ licences over its coverage in Yemen.

For viewers watching protests spread across the region, the excitement stopped abruptly in Bahrain. Scant coverage was given to protests in the Gulf Cooperation Council member and to the ensuing crackdown by its Sunni rulers, who called in Saudi and Emirati troops in March under a regional defence pact.

Protests in Oman and Saudi Arabia have also received scant attention in recent months.

“Bahrain does not exist as far as Al Jazeera is concerned, and they have avoided inviting Bahraini or Omani or Saudi critics of those regimes,” said As’ad AbuKhalil, politics professor at California State University.

“Most glaringly, Al Jazeera does not allow one view that is critical of Bahraini repression to appear on the air. The GCC has closed ranks and Qatar may be rewarded with the coveted post of secretary-general of the Arab League.”

Despite a wealth of material, there were no stirring montages featuring comments by protesters or scenes of violence against activists in Bahrain. Al Jazeera has produced such segments to accompany Egyptian and Tunisian coverage.

The threat posed by Bahrain’s protests was closer to home. Their success would have set a precedent for broader public participation in a region ruled by Sunni dynasties. More alarming for those dynasties, it would have given more power to Bahrain’s majority Shi’ites, distrusted by Sunni rulers who fear the influence of regional Shi’ite power Iran.

From an early stage, Al Jazeera framed the movements in Tunisia, Egypt and then Yemen as “revolutions” and subverted government bans on its coverage by inviting viewers to send in images captured on mobile phones to a special address.

“Despite being banned in Egypt, Al Jazeera went to great lengths to provide non-stop live coverage of events. It did not do that in Bahrain,” said political analyst Ghanem Nuseibeh.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 12:59 am

The future of Libya’s oil taking shape as first tanker arrives in rebel port

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Eric Watkins, Oil & Gas Journal, April 5, 2011

The MT Equator, a Suezmax tanker chartered by Geneva-based oil trader Vitol SA, arrived in the rebel-held port of Marsa el-Hariga in eastern Libya, aiming to take on up to 1 million bbl of oil for export.

“The significance is not only that this is the first shipment in 18 days, but also a signal that Libya is open to international trade and shipping,” said Michelle Wiese Bockmann, markets editor of Lloyd’s List shipping newspaper.

More to the point, a delivery from Marsa el-Hariga would bring in significant funds for forces opposed to the rule of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi even as government forces today continued to attack rebels trying to reassert their control of the key oil town of Brega.

The battle over Brega is largely connected with the town’s 8,000-b/d refinery and its Mediterranean oil export terminal—both facilities that could significantly boost the rebels’ chances of increased revenue in their fight against Gadhafi’s better trained and equipped military forces.

The planned shipment aboard the MT Equator would represent just a fraction of Libya’s precrisis exports of 1.6 million b/d, but analyst Samuel Ciszuk of IHS Global Insight said the exports would make rebel operations and long-term existence “much more viable.”

In a note to clients, however, Ciszuk also warned about the likelihood of fighting spreading to the eastern oil areas.

“Given the impact on the rebel movement that the establishment of its own independent revenue stream would have, it is not surprising that the fighting could be draw into the rebel-controlled eastern oil areas,” Ciszuk said.

The rebels would likely “struggle to successfully repel well-organized raids to damage production and transport infrastructure at the oilfields,” Ciszuk said.

Ciszuk’s remarks followed a visit to Benghazi, eastern Libya, by Eni SPA Chief Executive Officer Paolo Scaroni on Apr. 2, according to a statement by Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

According to Frattini, Scaroni “had contacts with the Libyan National Transitional Council to restart cooperation in the energy sector and get going again the collaboration with Italy in the oil sector.”

Before Libya’s violent upheaval largely shut down or drastically reduced oil and gas production, Eni was the biggest gas exporter from Libya, as well as its largest oil producer. Its operations are largely in the rebel-held areas of eastern Libya.

Meanwhile, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, the United Nations’ special envoy to Libya, following earlier meetings with opposition leaders, told the UN Security Council that the rebels have “raised concerns about the lack of funds, as well as issues relating to the marketing and sale of oil and gas in Libya.”

Al-Khatib told the council that said loan guarantees on oil and gas and funds from overseas assets were crucial to sustain the rebel’s economic stability.

The European Union offered its assurances over the potential sale of oil by the rebels, saying that its embargo on Libyan oil and gas exports only targets the Gadhafi regime.

The 27-nation bloc has “no issue” with commercial dealings in Libyan gas and oil as long as the revenue doesn’t reach Gadhafi or his supporters, according to Michael Mann, spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Exactly who will buy the oil or even its destination are uncertain as a spokesman for Vitol declined to comment on the company’s involvement in the shipment aboard the MT Equator, citing commercial sensitivity.

According to Bockmann, the shipment would be taken to Qatar for marketing possibly to Italy and France. But Vitol could also have the cargo delivered to Antwerp or Fujairah, where it owns facilities with around 147,000 b/d of refining capacity.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/05/2011 at 11:12 pm

Posted in Libya, Qatar

Libyan rebels name team to run areas they control

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Reuters, April 2, 2011

Libya’s rebel council named what it called a “crisis team” on Saturday, including a new armed forces head, which will administer parts of the country it holds in its struggle to topple Muammar Gaddafi.

The team headed by Mahmoud Jebril will take its direction from the transitional national council, which remains the top rebel political body, council spokesman Hafiz Ghoga told a news conference.

Omar Hariri is in charge of the military department, with General Abdel Fattah Younes al Abidi, a long serving officer in Gaddafi’s armed forces, as his chief of staff. Younes will be in charge of staff matters and field operations, Ghoga said.
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/03/2011 at 3:08 pm

Posted in Libya, Qatar

Queen Hillary of Libya

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Pepe Escobar, Asia Times, March 31, 2011

The current stalemate in Libya could last weeks, if not months. In that case, balkanization looms. Think of eastern Libya with Benghazi as capital, oil-rich and with a United States-installed puppet regime (a Libyan Hamid Karzai, like the Afghan president). It would be like a kind of northern Africa Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud would love it).

And think of a western Libya with Tripoli as capital, impoverished, angry and ruled by Muammar Gaddafi and sons. If that applies, we’re back to the 1950s; Libya as the new Korea. Or, more ominously, back to the 1960s; Libya as the new Vietnam.

Vietnam? No wonder a paranoid Anglo-American-French consortium will pull all stops to take out Gaddafi. They don’t want half a spring roll; they want the whole kebab.

The queen’s speech

The new Libyan government kingmaker is actually a queen: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Any doubts that the US State Department is now frantically setting up a new government peppered with English-speaking collaborators have been dismissed after the London conference on Libya.

The “official” Libyan opposition used to tautologically call itself “Interim Transitional National Council”. Now it’s Interim National Council (INC). Anyone running for cover to the sound of the acronym INC is excused; it does bring appalling memories of the Washington-propped Iraqi National Congress and its fabled “weapons of mass destruction” in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

And what about the INC’s new military commander, Khalifa Hifter – a former Libyan army colonel who spent nearly 20 years in Vienna, Virginia, not far from the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley? Progressives will love to learn that the romantic “rebels” are now led by a CIA asset.
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/02/2011 at 2:18 am