Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2016, 15:00 GMT

Libya: More Politicking with the Country's Oil Ports

Publisher Jamestown Foundation
Author Alexander Sehmer
Publication Date 16 September 2016
Citation / Document Symbol Terrorism Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 18
Cite as Jamestown Foundation, Libya: More Politicking with the Country's Oil Ports, 16 September 2016, Terrorism Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 18, available at: [accessed 20 September 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Link to original story on Jamestown website

While forces allied with Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) have been battling Islamic State (IS) for control of the city of Sirte, the Libyan National Army (LNA) has seized control of oil facilities along the country's northern coast (Libya Herald, September 11). Operation Sudden Lightning (al-Barq al-Khatif), which was launched on September 11, has successfully put the forces of the anti-Islamist General Khalifa Haftar in control of four of Libya's oil terminals - Brega, Ras Lanuf, Es-Sidr and Zueitina (al-Jazeera, September 14). The operation appears to have encountered little resistance, although there were reports of fighting at the Zueitania terminal (Libya Herald, September 12).

Since the collapse of Muammar Gadhafi's regime in 2011, control of Libya's once centralized oil assets has been a way for various groups to acquire political clout (See Terrorism Monitor, May 27).

Of the four terminals, three - the exception being Brega - were controlled by the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG), led by Ibrahim al-Jadhran, whose forces have aided the Sirte campaign. The LNA for its part has been sitting out the battle for Sirte. Haftar has little love for the UN-backed GNA, established in December 2015, instead backing the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

While the United States, Britain, France and others have condemned Haftar's oil port offensive, the general is not without international backing. He has varying levels of support from the likes of France, Egypt, the Gulf States and Russia, and there have been reports of UAE pilots flying sorties on behalf of the LNA (Middle East Eye, September 14).

Haftar's actions are a setback for the UN's plans in Libya and could deal an economic blow to the country, which has already seen its oil exports slump to well below the 1.6 billion barrels per day it was producing prior to the 2011 uprising.

However, the general has indicated the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) will be able to resume exports from the terminal (al-Arabiya, September 14). This is a pragmatic move on Haftar's part as it is unlikely the LNA would have been able to export the oil - al-Jadhran experienced a similar problem until he reached an agreement with the GNA earlier in the year.

Control of the terminals is, then, likely more a bargaining chip for Haftar, to be deployed once the GNA and its allies have defeated IS in Sirte. That moment, despite rearguard action by IS fighters who have fled the city - there have been several attacks reported on supply lines between Misrata and Sirte in recent weeks- appears to be drawing increasingly close (Libya Herald, September 11).

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