ROVING EYE The lion wants his juice
back By Pepe Escobar
You're Muammar Gaddafi, and you're sitting
in your Bab al-Azizia bunker sipping green tea and
surveying the odds of staying in power. Let's see.
You control some neighborhoods in Tripoli; some
cities in the far west, near the Tunisian border;
your birthplace, Sirte. And that's it.
may have lost like 90% of your country. You tried
to get Zawiya (west of Tripoli) back and failed;
those god-damned tribals betrayed you. You tried
to get Misrata (east of Tripoli), and failed. You
tried to get Brega - the second-largest processing
and oil shipping terminal in Libya - and failed.
The Americans and Brits are dying to
invade. "Experts" say you're
boxed in and have only
Zimbabwe as an exile destination. Venezuelan
President "brother" Hugo Chavez wants to send a
multinational delegation to negotiate. Negotiate
what? This is your country. L'Etat, c'est
moi - the state is me, King Muammar. Nobody
can steal my mojo.
They froze your
multi-billionaire assets from A to Z. They shut
down your banks. But you've still got some dough.
A whole lot of weaponry. A few (malfunctioning)
jets. You have those thousands of black African
mercenaries. You have the 10,000-strong special
brigade led by your son Khamis. You got state TV.
So what do you do? You double down. And go
The lion sleeps tonight Danger: the African king of kings in his
bunker is like a lion resting under a tree. He
knows that from the west the "rebels" - or in
shorthand official narrative "al-Qaeda zombie
youths on drugs" - haven't got a chance to hurt
him unless they organize a very complex attack
army out of many rag-tag bands with Kalashnikovs
and rocket-propelled grenades in scattered towns.
He knows that the rebels in the east have
to do the same - plus travel, unprotected, along
an infinite desert highway just to get to Sirte,
where they can be smashed by his jets and tanks.
So he knows they can defend - Zawiya,
Misrata, Brega - but they don't have what it takes
to attack. That gives him enough time to better
plan how to go for the kill.
one problem with this Lion King scenario. What if
he runs out of oil?
No less than 80% of
Libya's oil fields and refineries are now in the
hands of those "al-Qaeda zombie youths on drugs".
Gaddafi knows he needs to get Brega back - and
quick. He'll go for it, again, and with a more
lethal strategy. He still holds Ras Lanouf, 80
kilometers west of Brega - the refinery (220,000
barrels a day), the port and the airport. But he
can't afford to lose Brega.
Brega is not
exporting any oil. There are no tankers coming and
going. Oil production in the southeastern fields
that feed Brega has been downsized, from 90,000
barrels a day to just 11,000; there's nowhere to
store them. There's no oil flowing at the Nafoora
field, part of the Sirte Basin. Italy's ENI, the
top foreign oil major, is repatriating all
non-essential personnel. Libya's daily production
dropped from 1.6 million barrels to 850,000, and
will fall further.
More than this oil on
storage, Gaddafi needs working refineries pumping
out juice for his already cranky military machine.
The crowds in liberated Benghazi say that they
don't need oil money - because they never got much
of from central government anyway in Cyrenaica.
The problem is sooner rather than later they will
need more weapons. Thus they will need oil money
to buy them.
Benghazi is convulsed by
rumors of Gaddafi's secret police infiltrated
everywhere gathering local intel - even inside the
courthouse which has been transformed into eastern
liberated Libya's Revolution Central. No wonder
al-Jazeera is reporting that people in Brega and
Ajdabiya badly want a no-fly zone - to the horror
of pan-Arab media.
It's stalemate time -
and the lion is biding his time, never more
dangerous when he maneuvers in the shade. Although
the Algerian government has vociferously denied,
officially, it is helping Gaddafi, Algeria, with
40% unemployment and across the board pent-up
rage, is also on the brink. Frightful Fortress
Europe, meanwhile, prays. While the Greenstream
gas pipeline from Libya to Sicily is now closed
(Italians are not yet freaking out), Spain dreams
of the new US$1.4 billion gas pipeline from
Algeria set to open in a few days.
Doomsday practitioners already visualize
Algeria's oil production - 1.4 million barrels a
day - soon going down the drain alongside Libya's.
No wonder the head of oil research at Barclays
Capital, Paul Horsnell, says things can
potentially be worse than Iran 1979; "The world
has only 4.5 million barrels per day of spare
Thus speculation will be king
for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, the lion
sleeps, tonight and in subsequent nights, musing
how he'll get his juice back while a sinister
chill envelops Libya all over again.