Libya’s Deadlock Continues as US Strikes Belmokhtar
The deadlock marring life in Libya has continued unaltered throughout the past few days. As anticipated by several observer and analyst, no progress has been registered with regards to achieving an overarching political agreement in time for the UN self-imposed deadline of Wednesday 17 June, the last day before the start of Ramadan in Libya this year. While various temporary peace deals have been made in the past days throughout the western part of the country, the stability and potential duration of these should not be overstated, especially in light of the LNA’s belligerant stance. Furthermore, even though the GNC has welcomed the fourth draft produced by UNSMIL, describing it as ‘positive’, the recent formation of a new umbrella group gathering hardline Misratan militias affiliated with the GNC seems very much like a step in the direction opposite to the finalising of a lasting and inclusive political and peace agreement.
On Sunday 14 June and in subsequent days, however, the main news getting headlines in Libya was represented by the undertaking of a US airstrike on a militant base located in a farm south of Ajdabiyya. According to media reports and rumours, the main target of this attack was al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s commander Mokhtar Blemokhtar, who is widely considered to be the mastermind behind the January 2013 assault on the In Amenas gas facility. At the time of writing this blog post, it was still unclear whether Belmokhtar, who has been announced dead on several occasions in the past by Algerian authorities, had actually been killed in the strike. Regardless of his, the cooperation between the Tobruk establishment and US authorities will likely reinforce the narratives of radical groups active in Libya, further encouraing them to target western interests in the country through revenge attacks sooner rather than later.
Lastly, even though it has been gaining little attention due to the ongoing conflict, the economic and financial crisis marring the country is worsening every passing day. In this sense, the decision from the Tripoli establishment to cut down on subsidies for basic goods and fuel starting from the month of Ramadan will make for an interesting, if not dangerous, test of its popolarity and capabilities. With regards to Libya’s economic situation, Anjli Raval for the Financial Times reported in details on Tuesday on the country’s current oil output and industry:
The holder of Africa’s largest reserves is producing 432,000 barrels of oil a day, according to Mustafa Sanallah, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, more than 300,000 b/d of which is exported. Although an improvement from last year’s low of around 200,000 b/d, the Opec member’s output is still down more than 70 per cent from levels achieved before the 2011 revolution that ousted former ruler Muammer Gaddafi.
Since the civil war, Libya’s oil industry has been hit by unrest. The state-run oil company has been caught in the middle of a conflict that has divided the country between an internationally recognised government and an Islamist militia that controls the capital of Tripoli. Attacks by radical group Isis, worker strikes and sabotage of facilities have also hampered the oil sector.
Speaking to the Financial Times on the sidelines of an industry conference on Wednesday, Mr Sanallah said Libya was looking to raise output by 200,000 b/d in the next five weeks, through the repair of damaged fields and dialogue with the factions that have brought about blockages.