Sunday, April 28, 2019

Superpower interests at stake in Libyan conflict

Nick G.               28 April 2019

The recent outbreak of violence in Libya is continuing testimony to the US imperialism’s inability to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Good at pushing regimes from their place on the wall, invariably the result has been utter chaos and instability.  Libya is a classic example of this.

Having succeeded in fomenting opposition to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, US imperialism and NATO member states provided air power and direct military aid to opposition groups, resulting in al-Qaddafi’s overthrow and murder.  However, rivalries among the rebel groups prevented any stable, nation-wide state institutions from being established. A transitional government based in Tripoli was so insecure that for a time it had to meet on warships out in the Mediterranean. Eventually it ceded authority to a General National Congress elected in a limited part of western Libya whilst ISIS kept control of areas around Sirte and CIA asset General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army retained control of much of the east were a separate government entity, the House of Representatives, ruled.
The current round of fighting broke out on April 4 when Haftar's Libyan National Army advanced on Tripoli, the seat of the internationally recognized and UN-backed government, striking the outskirts of the capital city.

US imperialism seeks to exploit uncertainty

As Haftar’s forces advanced rapidly on Tripoli, the US hastily withdrew troops based in Tripoli that were ostensibly employed to counter ISIS-Libya.  The real reason, suggested by several observers, was that Trump did not want to defend the UN-backed Tripoli government against the man who was poised to take over the country – Haftar had lived for many years within ten minutes of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia and is regarded as Washington’s man in Libya. His forces also control most of Libya’s oil reserves although negotiations about sale and export of Libyan oil is meant to be conducted through the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC).

When Haftar first advanced on Tripoli, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “We have made clear we oppose the military offensive by Khalifa Haftar’s forces and urge the immediate halt to these military operations against the Libyan capital.” That was on April 7. Eight days later, on April 15, Trump intervened, reversing Pompeo’s policy. A statement by the White House said ““President Donald J. Trump spoke on April 15, 2019, with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar to discuss ongoing counterterrorism efforts and the need to achieve peace and stability in Libya.

“The President recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system. “

So, in US imperialism’s view, Haftar is the man to restore Humpty Dumpty to stability, meaning control under US imperialist domination.

What does China want?

China also wants stability in Libya and has mainly pursued its interests through the Tripoli authorities although it has also kept in touch with the eastern government.  In the chaos surrounding Gadaffi’s overthrow and murder, China evacuated its citizens and Chinese business in Libya was suspended. It took some time for Chinese operations to resume in Libya, but they had been making spectacular progress in recent times, much to the chagrin of the US.

In July 2018, Libya and China signed a memorandum of understanding by which Libya would join the Belt and Road Initiative. This came during a meeting in Beijing where the two sides discussed the return of Chinese companies to resume their stalled projects in Libya, as well as the Chinese role in finding a peaceful solution to the Libyan crisis and its contribution to the reconstruction of Libya.

Last September, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Serraj announced that Chinese companies were welcome to resume operations in Libya. "Chinese companies in the past played an important role in Libya's development and construction process and gained a good reputation," he said, adding that Libya "offers opportunities to invest in multiple areas."

Like US imperialism. Chinese social-imperialism (socialism in words, imperialism in deeds) is after Libyan oil.  China resumed purchases of Libyan oil in 2017. Exports of Libyan oil to China doubled in 2018. PetroChina has an annual contract with Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) to buy Libyan crude oil. The only problem is that much of it is controlled by the US-backed Haftar, hence China’s continuing dialogue with the eastern government backed by Haftar.

But it is not just oil that is motivating China.  It also sees Libya as a market for its telecommunications giants, Huawei and ZTE. Adel Ehmedat, a director of Libya’s General Authority of Communication and Informatics, has said that that “Huawei and ZTE provide a great service to the Libyan telecommunications sector, in terms of the development of telephone networks, mobile and fixed-line billing systems, as well as technical support for training and provision of spare parts.”

Who else is playing in this game?

Russia, France, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are also trying to get what they can out of Libya’s deteriorating situation. Russia is now a major regional player given its assistance to Syria, and tends to cooperate with China militarily and diplomatically. France and Britain both have oil companies seeking to get back into Libya.  France in particular has good relations with Haftar.  Egypt wants Haftar in control and sees him as a political counter to the Muslim Brotherhood’s influence throughout the region.  The Saudi’s and the UAE also support Haftar. But each of them also has its own interests and these contradictions make a united pro-Haftar front quite unstable.

The whole situation is a tragedy for the people of Libya.  Libya’s future should be decided by the Libyan people themselves, free of the rivalries and self-interest of superpowers and regional despots.

The independence, territorial integrity and national sovereignty once enjoyed by Libya was destroyed by imperialism.  Imperialism can not have any role to play in restoring it.

US imperialism and the Middle East: the decline of regional influence

(Contributed)                        27 April 2019

After decades of US-led interference in the Middle East, Washington would appear to be losing its hegemonic presence in the region.

A number of recent developments have had far-reaching implications for US imperialism.

• US-led initiatives to topple President Bashar al-Assad in Syria proved spectacularly unsuccessful;

• the diplomatic position of the Russian Federation has been strengthened across the wider region;

• problems of fleeing jihadists have created serious security considerations elsewhere;

• a new regional alliance, including Iran, Turkey and Qatar has also been established, which effectively has challenged traditional US diplomatic positions;

• an attempt by the US to create an 'Arab NATO' to reassert its regional domination has also proved unsuccessful;

• recent developments inside OPEC, likewise, have seen a dramatic reduction in US-led influence across the Middle East.


Israel, in more recent times, has maintained strong diplomatic silence; evidence of their concern with recent developments, which potentially have far-reaching implications.


US foreign policy aimed at toppling the government of Syrian President Assad using jihadists and Islamic mercenaries, would appear to have failed in a spectacular manner. It is not particularly difficult to find sufficient evidence to support the position or assess the outcome where the past has returned to haunt the present.


Recent US foreign policy toward the Middle East rests upon decisions taken decades ago, which now hang like a mill-stone around their necks:


This foreign policy, an outcome of the artificial creation of Al-Qaeda to challenge Soviet social-imperialism in Afghanistan, had the specific purpose of maintaining a data-base of Mujahideen 'to be used as intelligence assets to achieve US foreign policy objectives throughout both the Cold War and into the post-Cold War era of the new world order', if and as required. (1)


British governments of the period also played an important role in training the jihadists for covert operations. Reliable sources have noted, for example, 'in the 1980s, the British Special Forces (SAS) were training Mujahideen in Afghanistan, as well as in secret camps in Scotland, and the SAS was largely taking orders from the CIA'. (2)


The developments did not escape the attention of some British M.P.s, including Robin Cook, who later served as Foreign Secretary in the 1990s. He publicised what was usually referred to as 'literally the data-base' of Al-Qaeda, composed of thousands of files on who had been recruited and trained by the CIA. 'Al-Qaeda', it was noted, 'was born as an instrument of western intelligence services'. (3)


Soon after US military intervention in Iraq plans were being laid to topple the Syrian government of President Assad. In early 2006 the US allocated $5 million for Syrian governance and reform programs. (4) The moves coincided with US imposition of a series of sanctions against Syria together with covert military planning. (5) The planning, however, was for use with surrogates and proxies which were to include 'an extension of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, drawing on Syrian Muslim Brotherhood networks and the ever faithful, sectarian and vicious Saudis'. (6)


Pentagon military planners would appear to have considered two important factors:


• their failure to establish a viable functioning administration in Baghdad despite the huge US formal military presence;

• a general reluctance to fight two regional wars at the same time, when they had shown their inability to win even one.


Saudi Arabia, a bastion of US-led support for Sunni Islam, has long been played against Shia supporters who identify with Iran. Since the fall of the Shah in 1979, a US puppet installed to promote 'US interests', successive presidential administrations in Washington have maintained a Cold War position toward Tehran. As the Syrian administration of President Assad is based in Alawite traditions, close to Shia belief systems, the US position toward Damascus can best be viewed in similar Cold War terms, directed primarily at Tehran and its allies.


The ambitious US military plan to topple President Assad was eventually implemented in 2011 under the guise of the so-called 'Arab Spring' and the supposed struggle for democracy promoted by the Free Syrian Army. In reality, the complete opposite formed part of the plan: tens of thousands of jihadist mercenaries converged upon the country from elsewhere. Their stated intention was to establish a caliphate based on sharia principles, but designed to serve 'US interests'.


The massive distortion of reliable coverage in US-led media outlets has subsequently been seen, however, to have completely back-fired. President Assad has emerged from the appalling situation as a popular political leader with the mass of Syrians, much to US embarrassment. The military assistance provided to Syria by the Russian Federation from 2015, has, for all intents and purposes, now altered the balance of forces across the wider Middle East.


It has been noted, for example, that 'Russia, not the US, emerged out of the rubble of Syria as a major power-broker and military tactician'. (7) Similar statements, including one from the prestigious US Army Military Review, have since been removed from official websites to avoid further embarrassment for the Pentagon and the military planners responsible for the debacle. (8) 


It is, therefore, not surprising a crisis has emerged in US-led western circles about a suitable course of action to take when dealing with tens of thousands of fleeing jihadists. Very few sensible political leaders would actually want battle-hardened terrorists back in their own countries, for obvious reasons. 


An official media release following the collapse of the Islamic caliphate in eastern Syria reported, 'there are thousands of fighters, children and women from 54 countries, not including Iraqis and Syrians, who are a serious burden and danger for us and for the international community'. (9) The exact number of Australian passport holders within their midst has remained a contentious matter. While Syrian Kurds have repeatedly demanded western countries 'repatriate their citizens', the vast majority of those concerned remain in makeshift transit camps with nowhere to go. (10)


Following the recent stabilisation of Syria a new regional alliance has been established which has been based upon Turkey, Iran and Qatar, with backing from Russia and China. It has come to symbolise a changing balance of forces and credible challenge to traditional US hegemonic positions, through their regional proxies of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. It has already led some observers to note that 'America's Syrian humiliation is worse than it looks'. (11)


Recent attempts, by the US, therefore, to establish an 'Arab NATO', can best be viewed as an attempt by Washington to reassert their hegemonic position. The stated US diplomatic position about the regional body was the outcome of 'the Trump administration's strategy to contain Iranian power'. (12) Needless to say, the plan would appear to have failed, dismally, with Egypt not wanting any involvement to 'bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shia Iran'. (13)


It has been noted the new Turkey, Iran and Qatar alliance has acted as a buffer against the planned 'Arab NATO'. (14) The initial plan for the pro-US NATO-type regional body, was first tabled two years ago by Saudi Arabia. It was also, ironically, 'aimed at limiting the growing regional influence of Russia and China, according to a classified document reviewed by Reuters last year'. (15)


A further factor explaining the reluctance of Egypt to participate in the 'Arab NATO', was their concern whether President Trump would win a second term of office next year. It was thought a successor might abandon the regional military plan, leaving those involved with the problem of explaining their participation to their own peoples at a later date. (16)


It is against this shifting backcloth of regional alliances and changing balances of forces that recent developments inside OPEC have proved significant and evidence of the increased influence of Russian diplomacy in the wider region. Saudi Arabia, historically, has been a major player inside OPEC. Following high-level diplomatic talks between Russian President Putin and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, at the recent G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, Russia agreed to cut oil production while Iran was allowed to keep pumping. (17) Iran is subject to US-imposed sanctions restricting trade in oil with other countries.


It would appear Saudi Arabia is no longer so keen to accept US diplomatic dictat, given the changing regional balance of forces. While Saudi Arabia has maintained strong links with the US, it now has to consider Russia as a credible regional player. It has, therefore, not been so surprising to note an official media release from Saudi Arabia that stated Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih met more times with his Russian counterpart in 2018 than he did with colleagues in the Saudi cabinet. (18) The diplomatic meetings also appear to have been cordial; based on common interests, not 'US interests'.


To date, Israel, traditionally a main regional military planner for the US, has remained very quiet about recent developments. It is, perhaps not surprising: a great deal of the problem the US now confronts within the Middle East resides within decision-making circles of the Israeli corridors of power in Tel Aviv. Israel has provided a great deal of the expertise historically used in US-led regional foreign policy planning and implementation. A reduction of US influence in the Middle East is also quickly experienced inside Israel. The country cannot remain viable without almost unlimited US assistance. Those hiding behind diplomatic silence, have a great deal to hide and even more to lose.


The future, therefore, for the Middle East, remains particularly interesting at the present time.


Australia needs an independent foreign policy!

1.     The Imperial Anatomy of Al-Qaeda, Andrew Gavin Marshall, Global Research, Montreal, Canada, 5 September 2010; NEXUS Magazine, October-November 2010, pp. 11-15.

2.     Ibid.

3.     Ibid.

4.     The Dirty War on Syria, Tim Anderson, (Canada, 2016), page 30.

5.     Ibid., page 31.

6.     Ibid., page 32.

7.     New Turkey-Iran-Qatar axis, Russia Today, Quoted: The Guardian, 3 April 2019.

8.     Syria Conflict,, 3 April 2018.

9.     Defeated jihadists a time-bomb, say Kurds, Australian, 26 March 2019; and, Captured ISIS forces a burden on allies, Australian, 7 March 2019.

10.   Nations urged to take ISIS families, Australian, 26 February 2019.

11.   Russia Today, op. cit.

12.   Egypt quits the 'Arab NATO', Australian, 12 April 2019.

13.   Ibid.

14.   Russia Today, op.cit.

15.   Australian, op.cit., 12 April 2019.

16.   Ibid.

17.   OPEC's new best friend: Russia, Australian, 17 April 2019.

18.   Ibid.