Monday 21 March 2011

Libya: The Great Game, Part 94

There has been occasion hereabouts to make reference to conspiracy theories quite recently, (I shall return to the silver markets another time).

And when we see deployment against Libya of armed forces from not only Italy, France and the USA Med Fleet - all fairly proximate - but the UK, Spain, Canada, and Denmark*, within hours of a widely unexpected and essentially unheralded UN vote ... you may be sure the plans were in hand for quite a while before that.

I have commented elsewhere that NATO is in fact quite good at this planning & deployment stuff, particularly of air forces; and France never left the command structure even when she absented herself from actual NATO formations for many years. But even so. What's going on ?

It isn't difficult to 'follow the money', and notice the sheer quantities of oil & gas involved. France has always conducted itself vis-à-vis Algeria so that national champion Total has been able to conduct uninterrupted operations in that country before, during and after the 1960's war. Likewise, it is a pressing feature of Spanish, French and Italian policy to exert as much control as they can to stem the tide of African immigration. Neither of these factors is new, so evidence of pre-planning is not to be marveled at.

But even so. We read a lot about how aggressive China is in its quest for control over raw materials; and how Russia has been gradually reasserting hegemony over the natural resources of the FSU. But these could be painted as rank amateurs when it comes to the decisive colonial instinct: China can barely restrain North Korea, and Russia's 2008 adventure in Georgia amounted to a demonstration of its ineffectiveness.

On the subject of Russia, early reports indicated that they had "stepped up gas supplies to Italy to 2.5 times normal levels after Italy's supplies from Libya were cut off". This may be genuine assistance to the Italian cause, but it may be no more than the Italians nominating winter-maximum supply levels during relatively mild weather, which (in March) they are contractually entitled to do at their own discretion. Nonetheless, if Moscow had given the nod for curtailment, Gazprom would have complied. It is thinking like that which leaves Germany on the sidelines: they pride themselves on being very strategic in their energy policy, but it all boils down to a lame single strand: grovel to Russia and, errr, grovel to Russia. (Oh, and keep those lignite mines open, just in case.)

So - it's not difficult to paint this operation as part of a considered plan, at very least to defend certain lines-in-the-sand as regards stability of access to oil & gas, plus damping-down of reasons for refugees to hit the boats. When push comes to shove, somehow wind-farms don't quite cut the mustard as the future of European energy supply. Actions (or non-actions) in Egypt, Bahrain etc can be seen in the same light: ditto the fact that Qatar - small in numbers, huge in gas supplies - is onside. Oh, and did we mention that little Qatar is perilously positioned as regards Iran ...

To conclude: we can follow this camel-train of thought all the way to the most lurid conspiracy-theories: see this, this & this. But at an absolute minimum we are seeing a measure of self-interested post-colonial steel that many assumed the Old Continent had completely lost. The traditional Capitalism-at-Work-by-other-means, if you like. Russia and China mere bystanders - for the time being, at least.

So: watch Turkey, watch Iran, watch gas prices. This could be a very serious indicator of the shape of politics to come.


*PS - Denmark is interesting. They were deeply worried by German reunification, and vowed to demonstrate that their soldiers no longer wore hair-nets, so to speak - e.g. deploying tanks (which actually opened fire) to Yugoslavia to make the point. I'd guess today's air deployment is more of the same.


Sackerson said...

Filthy, filthy business, Nick. People like my Dad (and yourself at one point) could've been sent to die for twisted plans like these.

By the way, if there was armed insurrection in the UK, would the UN and US intervene to prevent "David Cameron killing his own people"?

Electro-Kevin said...

The prospect of armed insurrection in the UK has been curtailed through gun laws, "For your own good." of course.

Sean said...

news just in from The Spacing Guild and its navigators, "The spice must flow!"

Come on lets have the full silver story

Anonymous said...

Yummy! As the plot sickens. In the USA we have a word for a plot to overthrow our government, it is called "Treason". It's punishment? Death. In other places in the world? It is called a "Protest". A protester who takes up arms to overthrow a government overseas is called, A innocent civilian.
So, if you do'nt like what's going on in this Country, get a handfull of people, gather at the gates of the White House
and demand the President leave the Country. If he refuses you get the UN to make the USA a "No Fly Zone" and let the hand full of people take over the Country.

Thud said...

We need gas, we need oil and we are prepared to pay. If others seeem to be keen on using energy as a weapon against us then I'm happy for our govt to do what is needed to secure supplies.

Steven_L said...

And the French are blatently jumping a the chance to combat test their Rafales.

They've even got their only customer, Qatar, popping over for a demo.

rwendland said...

The 'command and control structure' and 'rules of engagement' of this air operation seem a bit of a mess. With respect to NATO, I gather from this evening's news reports that:

* The U.S. does not want to command this operation for more than a few days

* The Arab League do not want to join in if NATO is running it (probably because Afghanistan is in NATO's name)

* Italy is not sure it will permit use of its airfields unless NATO is in charge

* France is not keen on NATO running the operation

* Norway has suspended its contribution until 'command and control structure' and 'rules of engagement' are clarified

* Germany and Turkey are not keen on the operation whoever controls it

* Russia and China are shocked by the intensity of the air attack, especially away from protection in eastern Libya. Not what they expected from the UN discussions.

It all seems confusion before it has really started. Not to mentions Generals and the PM disagreeing about targeting Gaddafi.

Nick Drew said...

oh yes, when I said NATO is good at this stuff I only meant in the technical sense

a habit of good politics isn't quite so easy to develop

hatfield girl said...

The Italians won't deny their bases, they've too much at stake in Libya, but they want proper Nato protection from terrorist-style attacks - not surprising given form on airliners from the Libyan regime - not just assurances from the UK and France and the US.

The Italian government will fall if the Leagues (not to mention most of the Italian population) aren't given formal, European-strength, permanent immigration controls, and dispersion for those who make it to the mainland.

So the US will have to keep on leading using Nato command structures for a bit longer, till at least the refugees are sorted out.

Anonymous said...

I'd speculate that the CIA got wind of a wheeze to nationalise the oil installations in Libya, followed by a strategic alliance with China to put 100% of the oil production their way in return for a complete refresh of armaments inc. missiles for Gadaffi which could be fired across into Europe.

The risk to oil supplies with Chinese strategic alliance would get the USA to move. The missile threat to Europe from Islamists would be enough to get the French et al into the coalition.

Laban said...

As I understand it BP have no actual installations in Libya, just a deal to prospect over a great chunk of the country.

Maybe they've found an oily Eldorado, a new Saudi, and like good chaps told HMG before they told anybody else - and like the nice chaps they are, they decided to share the information with their good friends the French.


I see that Gaddafi has threatened to

a) attack civilian air and marine targets in the Med

a) unleash Africa's huddled masses on Italy once again, in a Camp of the Saints style

Mark Wadsworth said...

What a splendid blog post. Pity it took me ten months to actually get round to reading it :-) You could re-write it for Syria, I suppose.