Specter of long oil war falls over torn Libya

An ambassador from a Muslim country invited me for a chat in a coffee shop Sunday. In the peaceful night of Beijing, we sadly remembered the eighth anniversary of the Western invasion of Afghanistan.

A few hours earlier, a UN-approved coalition had launched a military attack against Libya, the heaviest raids since the Iraq War.

“The West has been using the tactic of ‘divide and rule’ to control all of us, whether it’s the Arab world, India, Afghanistan or China,” my friend said.

A new fight is taking place over Libya, which was started after the UN failed to work for a political solution to end the Libyan civil war. Instead it authorized the West to intervene in Libya militarily.

On the eve of American invasion of Iraq, then French President Jacques Chirac was a hero in the eyes of Chinese when he took a tough stance against the Western military intervention of Iraq. France’s then-Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, received loud applause for his speech against the Iraq War at the UN.

But with French President Nicolas Sarkozy pushing an initiative, the UN Security Council Thursday approved no-fly zones in Libya.

On Sunday, French warplanes took the lead in the airstrikes against Libya, which, according to Libyan state media, killed at least 64 people and wounded 150 others.

A photo shows the Libyan opposition fighters were waving not only the old flag of the Libyan monarchy, used by the rebels to symbolize a free Libya, but also the French tricolor.

Another photo shows the old flag fluttering next to the Italian warship that arrived at the port of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

Unlike the democracy movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the Libyan revolt is more like a regime change than a revolution or reinstatement of an old system.

Before the attacks, the Libyan rebel leaders met with Sarkozy and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. It has been reported that the rebel leaders will remember their friends once the dictator is gone.

There is widespread opposition to Western military involvement, which could revive the anti-West memories of European occupation of Libya last century.

Furthermore, Western military intervention could give credibility to the Libyan government’s claims that the West is responsible for the civil war.

If we look at the other democracy movements sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, most of them appear to be indigenous, independent mobilizations against decades-long Western-backed dictatorships.

The Western industrial countries are contending global resources with emerging economies like the BRIC countries. Last Thursday, in the UN Security Council vote on the no-fly zone resolution against Libya, all the BRIC countries abstained.

Enormous French, British and US interests are at stake. Why did the West not push the UN for a military involvement in Yemen, where Saudi Arabian tanks have rolled in for a military crackdown? Why are the US, France and UK not talking about setting up a no-fly zone in Saudi Arabia or Bahrain on behalf of the rebellions?

People believe Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are clients of the Western oil companies.

The US war policy has always been aimed at maintaining American hegemony in oil-rich and strategically-located countries and regions. The military intervention has much to do with which countries will gain privileged positions in the Libya’s oil industry.

Will it be BP or Chevron that wins the lucrative contracts to develop Libya’s enormous oil fields? Or will the expanding Chinese and Russian oil companies in Libya be curtailed?

The current Western military intervention in Libya has made it impossible for Libyans, like Tunisians and Egyptians before them, to take their fate into their own hands.

Libya is being torn apart. The fate of Afghanistan and a long war is now falling on the Libyan people.

The author is a professor of journalism at the Tsinghua University. xiguang@tsinghua.edu.cn

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