War in Libya Fought for Oil

John Glaser, June 11, 2011

Glenn Greenwald has a brilliant piece up today on what seem to be the real reasons behind the war in Libya: oil.

Much of the war has actually seemed extremely odd, as if it didn’t match up. There seemed to be many more reasons for the administration not to get involved. Why, Greenwald asks, in the middle of debt crises “and when polls show Americans solidly and increasingly opposed to the war — would the U.S. Government continue to spend huge sums of money to fight this war?” Wasn’t there a big risk in not seeking congressional approval, thus going forward with an illegal war? Why, in an Arab Spring which makes this contradiction so obvious, would we attack Qaddafi for behaving exactly the way we pay other allies to behave? Didn’t Washington see considerable risk in engaging in a third/fourth outright war in against a Muslim country? Wasn’t there some concern, even if only for PR purposes, within the administration that the rebels on whose behalf we would ostensibly fight this war have direct ties to al-Qaeda? Did Obama not calculate a future political vulnerability of engaging in what he knew would be deliberate mission creep, or as Greenwald says, that the real goal of the war was “exactly the one Obama vowed would not be pursued — regime change through the use of military force”?

Well, the Washington Post published a story yesterday describing the newfound relationship the Bush administration began to form with Qaddafi since 2004, one that included reviving the presence and cooperation in Libya of U.S. oil companies who had been eager to capitalize on the expected 43.6 billion barrels of oil in reserves there. Starting a few years ago, however, the relationship began to sour as Qaddafi gradually took national control of the production and business of oil.

Even before armed conflict drove the U.S. companies out of Libya this year, their relations with Gaddafi had soured. The Libyan leader demanded tough contract terms. He sought big bonus payments up front. Moreover, upset that he was not getting more U.S. government respect and recognition for his earlier concessions, he pressured the oil companies to influence U.S. policies.

In late February 2008, Mulva was “summoned to Sirte for a half-hour ‘browbeating’?” from Gaddafi, according to aU.S. State Department cable made available by WikiLeaks. Gaddafi “threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production and/or expel … U.S. oil and gas companies,” the cable said.

Now, this troubled marriage and the promise of billions of barrels of oil have been dashed by the fighting and Gaddafi’s refusal to relinquish power. Much is at stake; oil industry executives say companies such as ConocoPhillips and Marathon have each invested about $700 million over the past six years.

This shouldn’t be a particular surprise to anyone. This is how U.S. policy has been implemented for a very long time. Since the very realization that the U.S. had toppled Saddam in Iraq, oil companies pounced on their gift from Bush war policy (some headlines: Oil Companies Look to Future in Iraq; Foreign Oil Giants Bid on Iraq’s Resources; Oil Companies Reject Iraq’s Contract Terms; Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back; Exxon, Dutch Shell Win Iraq Oil Contract). In a momentary lapse, the Bush administration’s 2007 draft of the Status of Forces Agreement in Iraq (eventually rejected) was explicit as it detailed a prolonged and continued US troop presence in Iraq and called for “facilitating and encouraging the flow of foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments.”

U.S. imperialism in Iran is an even more dramatic parallel with Libya. In 1951, when the democrat prime minister Mohamed Mossadegh made moves with the Iranian parliament to nationalize the oil industry which had been previously spearheaded by British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (British Petroleum’s precursor), relationships similarly began to sour. So in 1953 through a process of murder, bribery, secrecy, propaganda, and terrorism, the United States through the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government and installed the Shah who ruled with authoritarian brutality for nearly three decades. The motives were similar: to use force to ensure and facilitate the exploitation of Iranian energy markets, with priority towards rent-seeking American corporations.

Other directly analogous examples abound throughout the history of U.S. foreign policy. And now its Libya’s turn, and the American people await the end of combat operations and the beginning of the selection process by which imperial policy decides who shall rule Libya (that is, who will be most friendly to American interests). Yet, as Greenwald explains,

one WikiLeaks “diplomatic” cable after the next reveals constant government efforts to promote the interests of Western corporations in the developing world.  Nonetheless, the very notion that the U.S. wages wars not for humanitarian or freedom-spreading purposes, but rather to exploit the resources of other nations for its own large corporations, is deeply “irresponsible” and unSerious.  As usual, the ideas stigmatized with the most potent taboos are the ones that are the most obviously true.

Update: I should have popped this link in here as well. Last month McClatchy reported on Wikileaks cables which revealed an oil deal emerging in the last few years in Libya that U.S. officials didn’t like. The Italian oil company Eni, the largest corporation in Italy and one in which the Italian government holds a 30 percent stake, was wagering a deal with the Russian oil company Gazprom, with which Vladimir Putin is connected. In the deal, Eni would have given Gazprom access to Libyan oil and helped Gazprom build a pipeline across the Black sea. The leaked cables reveal U.S. officials plotting ways to prevent such a success from a Russian oil giant. War was never mentioned in the cables, but since the start of Obama’s intervention in Libya, the deal has officially been put on hold.




13 Responses to “War in Libya Fought for Oil”

  1. Well as Gomer would say "Surprise, surprise!" And don't forget the thousands of Chinese oil workers forced out at the start of this fiasco. Our Asian financier had the effrontery to be meddling in Mordor's Libyan oil fields. Don't they know it is guns, not money that gives one rights? Then the money follows -well at least the ability to get into serious debt for a while.

  2. While a case can be made for oil being the cause of the Libya invasion one can also make a strong case for Obama’s re-election being the cause. One can also make a strong case that the Libyan central bank was the target which has stood in the way of the banksters who wish to loot Libya. Recall that one of the first thing done by the so-called rebels was to create a new central bank in Libya. This is a very strange, indeed. But the real reason for the violence is the violence itself. The violence and the chaos are really what matters the most because the violence is the means and the ends.

  3. I mentioned this before that Gadaffi was foolish to give up his nuclear ambitions the they would not have dared to what they are doing to the Libyan people.How I hope and pray that someone does the same to america/britain/france/italy.

  4. Its all lies just like Iraq but Americans just let the government do what they want and what they want is death and oil death and oil death and oil death and oil.In the future there will be more countrys that America pays for there oil with death.Untill it causes world war 3 and we all die buit guess the oil is worth it.Russia and China and others will only take so much of the bullying the US does then BOOM.Time to stand before GOD and be judged and repentence only counts if you mean it and some are past the ability to mean it have fun.

  5. There is no shortage of Oil in the world as we speak.., perhaps in 20-30 years time we will have problem with supply of Oil which by then the other alternatives are in place by at least 50-60% which eliminates the idea in having problem with Oil supply completely.., however, there is this $53 billion dollars that Libyan government had in US, England – Bank of Scotland and China HSBC bank and into verity of accounts in Goldman Sachs and Chase and other banks which is frozen by the order of UN and thereby the respective governments.., and is the reason for this war. This money was going to be used building the African communications and other projects which would expand the power of African Union.

    Russia, China, South Africa and South American country were going to be involved in building the infrastructures , the African union had flatly said NO to EU and US to be part of the investments.., US -EU knows that if that happens African Union would be another giant which would start developing as China and India and that would eliminate the EU colonial structure in Africa… for many years US and EU have tried to eliminate African nations from any kind of independence.., the war in Congo and other nations in Africa is just for that reason…, in one hand you have religious and in the other you have the US and EU bigotry toward nations.., Saudi Arabia is the key player in preventing any kind of democratic government built in North and African Horn Countries.., such development would effect the Tyrants religious influence in the region.., and so goes for US and EU. So the war in Libya is not about oil but is rather a war created by US-EU with Muslims Brotherhood whom are supported by Saudis in one hand and Arab Emirates in the other to keep their monopoly and their economic grip on the Oil market.., here we all know that Qaddafi is against Saudis political and religious influences in the region.., and Saudis are friends of US government so as they are friend to Bank of England and English government or who ever helps them to stay in power.., this war is not about Oil.., is about strategic importance for NATO/US to invade rest of Africa in later time.., is simply to protect the true tyrants in the region using Muslims Brotherhood and its affiliated terrorist groups. http://www.rightsmonitoring.org/2011/04/why-the-w

  6. please do not link to pretend human rights websites:

  7. What is your question…? do you have any problems with the truth of the matter.., the inhumanity in the Libyan war is that Libyan war is as illegal as Iraq was.., Libyan war is as illegal as US Vietnam war was, Libyan wars is as illegal as US and NATO thieveries conducted for last 60 years in African continent, Libyan war is as illegal as George W. Bush election was and Israel apartheid regime is.., so what is the question. One more thing.., Libyan war is as illegal as the Saudis and Arab Emirates tyrants shopping spree and spending money on other things…! in London and Paris while pretending to be religious TYRANTS. Any questions…..?

  8. "The third US audit in an effort to track down $6.6 billion in “missing” Iraqi reconstruction funds has once again failed to account for its whereabouts. It is the first one, however, to concede that much of the money was likely stolen".

    This is another example of stolen money by US.., that is what is going to happen to Libyan – Africans people money.., the war in Libya is not about Oil but rather is about $53 billion dollars of Libyan – African peoples money which is in hand of US, British, France, China, Chase Bank and Goldman Sachs.., they simply trying to steal it.

  9. Gaddafi Bitch-Slaps Arab Leaders
    http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/713/499/Ga

  10. Even if Osama Obama seeked Congressional approval–they would have rubber stamped it. Only reason not to do–the upcoming biggie attack on Iran has more importance for a congressional approval. Notice England/USA/France are saying they are running out of money and Ammo? Only reason,they are saving the stock piles for Iran :^(

  11. [...] Qaddafi forces shelled an oil refinery in the rebel stronghold of Misrata yesterday. It’s likely this was an intentional target, hit in order to undermine an important American interest in the country. [...]

  12. [...] is responding to Glenn Greenwald’s criticism that I also cited and expanded upon in this piece. She writes: The idea that oil lust drives America’s Middle East policy is a perennial—and [...]

  13. [...] staying. Unlike in Iraq, where it proves we need to leave even faster. Even if only to shift resources to Libya — Iraq’s oil is already accounted for, [...]