Back in February we were wondering how long before Gadaffi starts a scorched earth policy on his own country, and primarily his oil infrastructure, in a repeat of Hussein's non-triumphal departure from Kuwait. Turns out the answer is about a month and a half. With it now becoming painfully clear that the whole purpose of the humanitarian intervention is to procure preferential terms of oil imports from Libya's rebel alliance, the "humanitarian" force has forgotten that despite no airplanes, Gaddafi will likely not take too kindly to not collecting revenues from what he perceives as his natural resources. From the FT: "Oil production in rebel-controlled eastern Libya has stopped after troops loyal to Muammer Gaddafi bombarded several oilfields, the opposition said on Wednesday. The assault came hours after the rebels exported their first cargo of oil into the international market, potentially opening the door to millions of dollars of funding to sustain their uprising against Colonel Gaddafi’s 41-year rule. The attack against oilfields in the east was the first against production facilities. Previously, only port facilities and crude oil storage tanks in the Es Sider and Ras Lanuf, also in the east, were damaged during the conflict." We are confident that this escalation will give NATO the caed blanche to commence a land-based campaign and prevent further infrastructure destruction before Gaddafi causes irreparable damage to even more facilities (although Halliburton naturally couldn't care less).
More from the FT:
While storage could be repaired relatively quickly, production facilities are far more complex, particularly if oil wells caught fire.
Abdul Jalil Mayuf, an official at the Arabian Gulf Oil Company, said production had been stopped “because it was not safe” following an attack on the Misla field by pro-Gaddafi troops. “It’s not safe in the fields,” he said.
The attacks on the fields came as Arab nations backing the use of force in Libya were being urged to help train and guide rebel fighters as western military planners prepare for involving ground forces.
Amid fears of a prolonged stalemate, the UK and France are approaching Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to provide or fund military specialists to bring some fighting discipline to a ragtag opposition force.
This guidance, which could be supplied by military contractors, would be modelled loosely on the clandestine ground support and air cover provided for the irregular Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
Air strikes halted forces loyal to Col Gaddafi from advancing on Benghazi but the planners realise it will take more than that to tip the balance.
Look for changes to this shortly:
Nato members are unwilling to provide troops to train or co-ordinate the rebels, leaving a question mark over how the next phase of the conflict can be prosecuted to give the opposition the upper hand.
Providing military support through Arab partners in the alliance is seen as a better way to overcome political resistance to western ground forces operating in another Muslim country.
And the ironic thing is that any imminent land invasion will only exacerbate things, as the Arabic world will hardly look too kindly on such a NATO-based invasion, forcing Brent to continue grinding slowly to their old all time highs.