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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’aubaine pour reprendre la main sur le monde arabe

by Bruno Odent

Libya: A Golden Opportunity for Western Powers to Regain Control over the Arab World

Translated Wednesday 23 March 2011, by Isabelle Métral and reviewed by Henry Crapo

A smell of oil gives the neo-colonial powers’ real objectives away. Protection of the civilians is not among them. And this fuels criticism.

Right from the first, Muammar Gaddafi made no secret of his hatred for the Tunisian and Egyptian rebellions against Ben Ali’s and Mubarak’s dictatorial rule. In his own idiosyncratic way he has just hit upon the safest way to put the great post-colonial powers back into the saddle by providing the Tunisian and Egyptian former dictators’ accomplices with a pretext for bombing his territory. Paris, London or Washington are thus once more taking over the controls. Since resolution 1973 was voted by the Security Council last Friday despite the abstention and reservation of several states, French Rafale or British Tornado planes can drop their bombs on the tyrant’s hideouts. There are and will be major collateral damages, more civilian victims. As was the case twenty years ago, during the first Gulf war led by an international coalition where the US then played the most prominent part, France being content with playing the part of first-rank participant.

Tripoli is the only real war objective

This time the French president Nicolas Sarkozy stands on the Western armada’s front line. Last Friday he was saying before the cameras that the aim is “to protect defenceless civilians” and to support the emergence of democracy. UNO’s resolution stipulates that the war objective pursued is only to protect “the populations and civilian zones under the threat of attacks in Lybia’s Arab Jamhiriya.” But these verbal precautions are meant to rally the countries that balk at approving the Security Council’s resolution, or at least to persuade them to abstain. They ill conceal the Western powers’ war-prone strategies.

Several military geo-strategies already make it clear that if for the time being nothing condones the deployment of terrestrial forces to support the Lybian insurgents, the UNO resolution might be re-interpreted depending on the evolution of the situation on the field. Indeed it seems obvious that it will not be possible to leave Gaddafi in control of a part of the Lybian territory without sooner or later incurring serious reprisals in Libya or even beyond, given the colonel’s antecedents. Thus the logic sparked off by the war initiated last week and by the intervention of French Rafale planes necessarily leads to make Tripoli the only real war objective.

As recently as yesterday several capitals showed their resentment at having been deluded by Paris, London and Washington as to the intervention’s real objective, and reacted very strongly. Moscow confirmed its reservations over an action that led to attacks that “were also launched against non-military objectives”.

A strong smell of oil

And yesterday the Arab League itself, who was initially won round to the principle of a no-fly zone, did not conceal its disagreement over the turn taken by air bombings. Amr Mussa, the organization’s general secretary, protested that “what is taking place in Libya differs from the objective of imposing a no-fly zone. What we want is the protection of civilians, not the bombing of more civilians.” And he voiced the wish that an extraordinary meeting of the League be called.

Today Libya is the next biggest producer of oil in Africa after Nigeria. And it sits on huge reserves. Enough to stir limitless greed, even as, Japan’s nuclear catastrophe aiding, oil seems to be a most highly coveted fuel. The great capitalist powers easily came to terms with the Gaddafi regime during the last decade. Libya’s oil thus represents nearly 20% of Italy’s supply and at least 10% of France’s.

The great Western capitals consider that part of the Libyan elite who have broken off with the guide might grab all or part of the oil and constitute an even more “pliant” partner than the present regime. Especially as they would stand indebted to the West for its military intervention and as the social question, which is incontrovertible in Tunisia or in Egypt, does not figure so prominently in Libya, whose population was somehow driven into exile: its migrants (4,5 million out of 10 million inhabitants) being caught between two fires, had no demands to formulate other than the right to save their skin by fleeing the country.

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