The Battle for the Oil Could Undo the GNA at Its Formation
After the IS attack on Ras Lanuf on the evening of 13 January, the Tripoli-based NOC has attempted to organise the lifting of Eastern Libyan crude, but it was denied by the Federalist Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) on the flimsy basis of risk of IS attack on that vessel. As discussed in a well-researched Stratfor report on the tensions between the Tripoli and Bayda-based NOCs this excuse by the PFG signals that the rift between the rival NOCs are likely to derail both the further export of crude and attempts to cobble together a GNA. In short, it has been exposed that attempts to form or to scupper the GNA are a brute force competition for Libya’s oil wealth.
The deadline of 17 January for the newly recognized Presidency Council (PC) to submit its selected Government of National Accord (GNA) to the HoR, in accordance with the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA), has come and gone without success. A compromise government was announced by the new deadline of 19 January and a new round of horsetrading has been initiated echoing previous episodes of Libyan history. If this government can actually be voted on by the HoR or take up residence in Libya is anyone’s guess.
On Monday evening Ali Al Gutrani, member of the PC representing the eastern region and a Haftar ally has decided to temporarily suspend his membership in the council. The announcement is a serious blow to the integrity of the GNA and threatens to unravel the new, internationally recognized institution before it even becomes a legal reality in Libya. It may set off a cascade effect as pro-Haftar elements refuse the GNA their approval. Indications that things are moving in this direction came were seconded when deputy PM Omar Alaswad for Zintan suspended his membership of the PC late on Monday night just prior to the announcement of the ministerial lists. A stillborn GNA, would constitute a nightmare scenario for both Libya and the UN. It would represent the complete failure of the UN trying to continue Bernardino Leon’s strategy after it was proved to be corrupted by the UAE.
The declaration, announced early this morning, was signed by seven of the nine-member Presidency Council. Ali Gatrani (deputy prime minster-designate) and Omar Al-Aswad (Presidency Council minister) had earlier suspended their membership of the council. They did so in support for General Khalifa Hafter, demanding that the Libyan Political Agreement clause that the Presidency Council take over as supreme commander of the armed forces be dropped and, reportedly in opposition to the appointment of Al-Mahdi Ibrahim Al-Barghathi as defence minister. The names were selected in collaboration with members of the House of Representatives negotiating on behalf of their towns and areas, not on the basis of competence for the job. This was done to try an ensure that the HoR now votes for the package. It has to do so within ten days, by 29 January.
Gutrani’s withdrawal plus the oil deals that Egypt is attempting to sign with the Bayda-based NOC shows that Haftar/Egypt/UAE are not committed to the GNA but willing to support it so as not to face the blame for scuppering it while also pursuing financial and political arrangements outside it as suits their interests.