By Damir Kaletovic
Just as oil watchers wonder whether Libya’s ambitious oil production targets could undermine the OPEC deal, Libya’s General Haftar—the man largely responsible for freeing up Libyan oil production after two years—is hinting that he may run for elections and upset the fragile political balance.
General Haftar, the head of the Libyan National Army (LNA) and allied with Eastern forces, said publicly that on 17 December that Libya’s U.N.-backed government is obsolete—a comment interpreted as a hint that Haftar plans to run in the country’s next elections.
OPEC’s end-November production cut extension sparked talk about whether Libya, so far exempt from cuts, would reach its 1.25-million-barrel production target by the end of 2017 and thus upend the OPEC deal. However, producing at around 1 million barrels per day presently, the fragile nature of the political balance of power makes any increase in oil production tricky at best.
Reuters likened Haftar’s comment, made during a military graduation ceremony, to moves made by Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he was gunning for the Egyptian presidency in 2014.
For Libyan oil, Haftar has been the force of liberation, taking control over key ports from militia factions who had held it hostage for over two years. Since then, it’s been an easy truce and even shakier partnership between the Eastern government in Tobruk and the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
Who controls the oil in this scenario has been the billion-dollar question.
The LNA controls the oilfields and ports that had been hijacked by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), but oil money goes to the Central Bank of Libya, which is aligned with the UN-backed government, otherwise known as the Government of National Accord (GNA)—the same government Haftar is calling ‘obsolete’.
Damir Kaletovic is a veteran investigative journalist covering Europe and the Middle East, and a senior consultant for Divergente Research.