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A Congress Unwilling to Exercise Its War Powers

10:09 am in Government by Kevin Gosztola

Dueling resolutions from Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and Democratic House Representative Dennis Kucinich sparked a debate in Congress. The debate centered around the War Powers Act, the US Constitution and whether President Obama had violated the law by taking the United States into a war in Libya.

The Kucinich Resolution (H.R. Con. Res. 251) aimed to direct the president, pursuant to the War Powers Act, to remove all troops from Libya within fifteen days after the resolution was adopted. It was an attempt to force Congress to exercise the authority that it has under the Constitution to decide when and where troops are deployed for wars and whether or not wars should be launched.

In contrast, the Boehner Resolution (H.R. Con. Res. 292) was offered by Speaker Boehner to take the wind out of the sails of the growing bipartisan movement, consisting of anti-war Democrats and anti-interventionist Republicans, who were ready to assert Congress’ legislative authority and oppose the further expansion of the Executive by the Obama Administration that has taken place as a result of the Libya War.

The resolution brought by Rep. Kucinich failed 148-265. Speaker Boehner’s resolution passed 268-145.

The passage effectively stymied Rep. Kucinich’s genuine attempt to bring an end to the shirking of constitutional responsibilities in matters of war and peace in Congress. It aimed to halt the operations that had been initiated by the Obama Administration without congressional approval. But, as evidenced by the debate, despite the near unanimous recognition that seventy-seven days into the war the Obama Administration has the US embroiled in an illegal war and Congress has abdicated its responsibility, the majority of representatives in the House were reluctant to actually exercise the authority, which the Constitution grants them.

Representatives, who understood the weight of the moment, attempted to reason and convince a servile and overwhelmingly deferential majority that there needed to be action. They called out Speaker Boehner for offering a resolution that sidestepped the responsibility Congress is supposed to uphold.
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‘Official History’ of Bay of Pigs Still, Fifty Years Later, Classified Under CIA Embargo

3:02 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Screen shot from an archive reel of footage from the Bay of Pigs

The National Security Archive has, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion, filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the release of the CIA’s “Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation.” The lawsuit charges the CIA has “wrongfully withheld” a multi-volume study the Archive requested in 2005 that is “the most important and substantive CIA-produced study of this episode.”

Director of the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project Peter Kornbluh has called on the CIA to release the report under President Barack Obama’s Executive Order 13526 , which states that “no information may remain classified indefinitely.” (Of course, denying FOIA requests doesn’t mean documents will be classified indefinitely. It just means they aren’t getting released now.)

One might wonder, how long does this have to go on before someone goes ahead and declassifies the material? What is the government hiding? Is there any chance someone will just leak the report to WikiLeaks and end this travesty?

The Bay of Pigs invasion is an episode in US foreign policy that is considered to be a sham. Beyond that, it’s unclear what has been learned from the incident.

On February 3, 1961, a memo for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was written titled, “Military Evaluation of the CIA Para-Military Plan, Cuba.” It detailed the following in relation to overthrowing the Castro Regime: the operation would be dependent on local Cuban support, the beachhead area would be the best area in Cuba for accomplishment of a Task Force mission, an airborne assault would likely not be opposed and thus would be successful, and an amphibious assault would be successful even if lightly opposed. The plan detailed in the memo had a “likelihood of achieving military success” depending on political factors like “the size of a popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces.” It would not “necessarily require overt US intervention.”

This document and other documents that have already been declassified and are in the public domain detail the reprehensibility of the invasion. Anyone reading them would be forgiven for wondering if those developing foreign policy and running the military and intelligence agencies in the US throughout the past decade have been inspired and influenced by plans developed for Cuba in the run-up to the Bay of Pigs.

The world might consider what has changed since then. US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Colombia, Somalia, Pakistan and Yemen all can be compared to the Bay of Pigs. WikiLeaks has lifted the veil on much of these US operations revealing that assassinations or extrajudicial/targeted killings of people play a key part in the global “war on terror.” Through the Afghanistan War Logs, it was revealed that the US has a unit, Task Force 373, which hunts top Taliban for detention or death without trial. The Logs also showed “non 373″ operations involving drones. Drones happen to be a 21st Century tool for the US that could be at the center of an assassination plot. What might have happened if the CIA under the Kennedy Administration had been able to employ drone technology to go after Fidel Castro?

Also, recently it was “discovered” the CIA had a secret al Qaeda assassination program that Vice President Dick Cheney possibly prevented the CIA from telling Congress about. Far more similar to the Bay of Pigs operations, the program that, in July 2009 was reportedly canceled , possibly involved “attempts to use assassins to kill or capture senior terrorists.” The plan involved the development of “small paramilitary teams that could carry out “surgical’ strikes on high-value targets” but supposedly was “bogged down” with “basic operational and logistical questions.”

While a 1976 order was signed by President Gerald Ford and banned the CIA from carrying out assassinations, the world was declared a battlefield in the aftermath of 9/11. (Actually, one might ask if the US has ever not thought the world is its battlefield.) Targeted assassinations of any terror suspects became permissible no matter the legal questions they raised. In fact, as Glenn Greenwald covered in June of 2010, the Obama Administration picked up where the Bush Administration left off and began to justify the government’s right to target Americans for assassination without giving them due process.

With the US intervening along with support from France, the UK and various other countries, it appears the Washington Consensus has not changed. CIA boots are indeed on the ground in Libya. What they are doing exactly is largely unknown (although it has been reported they are gathering intelligence). Furthermore, the issues officials thought “Cuban Exiles” could pose are the same issues those following the situation closely might warn about today when talking about the rebel forces in Libya.

The CIA counted on a sizeable number of indigenous volunteers and had arms ready for 1,500 volunteers. Officials noted that a “major problem could arise in control of indigenous personnel.” The invasion also called for contact with “guerrilla bands” operating in the general area of the operations.

“According to currently available intelligence, it is estimated that within a 25 mile radius of the objective area, five guerrilla bands with a total estimated strength of 660 may cooperate with the task force. Another guerrilla band with an estimated strength of 90 is operating approximately 30 miles west of the objective area. Two additional guerrilla bands are operating some 40 miles north of the objective area. The concept is for those bands to reinforce the invasion force in the beachhead area. This part of the concept is not considered sound.[emphasis added]

On local indigenous support, officials noted “continued support of the invasion would depend largely on the identification of leaders with the hopes and aspirations of the bulk of the population.” Noting the perils of “wholesale bombings,” officials understood force had to be restrained or else Cubans would, in reaction to a high loss of life, unite behind Castro.

April 15, 1961, eight B-26 planes from the Cuban Expeditionary Force carried out air strikes to destroy Castro’s air capability. Similar to what happened with the two Libyan pilots that defected to Malta, a Cuban pilot and three of his comrades landed at 7 am at the Miami International Airport claim to have defected from Castro’s air force. But, what happened was suspicious: They claimed to have carried out attacks against Castro’s airfields but reporters noted the planes’ machine guns had not been fired and the planes’ noses were made of solid metal while Castro’s B-26 planes were made of plastic.

The “Benghazi Rebels” of the Bay of Pigs invasion were to set up a “counterrevolutionary government” to be recognized on Cuban soil. The strategy involved a “propaganda action plan ” to maintain the morale of the anti-Castro fighting forces, instruct pro-patriot forces and tell them how to join the fight, intimidate pro-Castro forces and make them defect or become panic-stricken, confused and uncertain, present the desired picture of the internal fighting, and appeal to other government and peoples for support through the dramatic presentation of declarations of the fighting forces and new government. But, the invasion massively failed. The Cuban military forces were able to overwhelm the planned operation and many of US-backed forces involved were kidnapped or killed.

In retrospect, it seems that the CIA planners were hoping to be able to assassinate Castro and that would be ultimately how the Bay of Pigs operation would succeed. That’s not surprising given the following document titled “A Study of Assassination ,” which was likely published around December 31st, 1953. Detailing how assassination could be employed in foreign operations, the document took multiple Freedom of Information Act requests before the CIA finally declassified some fourteen hundred pages of over one hundred thousand pages estimated to be in the secret archives on the “Guatemalan destabilization program.”

“The Classifications” portion shows how the government planned to respond to an assassination attempt on a leader like Castro:

The techniques employed will vary according to whether the subject is unaware of his danger, aware but unguarded, or guarded. They will also be affected by whether or not the assassin is to be killed with the subject. Hereafter, assassinations in which the subject is unaware will be termed “simple”; those where the subject is aware but unguarded will be termed “chase”; those where the victim is guarded will be termed “guarded.”

If the assassin is to die with the subject, the act will be called “lost.” If the assassin is to escape, the adjective will be “safe.” It should be noted that no compromises should exist here. The assassin must not fall alive into enemy hands.

A further type division is caused by the need to conceal the fact that the subject was actually the victim of assassination, rather than an accident or natural causes. If such concealment is desirable the operation will be called “secret”; if concealment is immaterial, the act will be called “open”; while if the assassination requires publicity to be effective it will be termed “terroristic.”

Following these definitions, the assassination of Julius Caesar was safe, simple, and terroristic, while that of Huey Long was lost, guarded and open. Obviously, successful secret assassinations are not recorded as assassination at all. [Illeg] of Thailand and Augustus Caesar may have been the victims of safe, guarded and secret assassination. Chase assassinations usually involve clandestine agents or members of criminal organizations.

The section titled “Employment” is interesting given how adamant the US has been in recent history to preserve the tool of assassination:

Assassination is an extreme measure not normally used in clandestine operations. It should be assumed that it will never be ordered or authorized by any U.S. Headquarters, though the latter may in rare instances agree to its execution by members of an associated foreign service. This reticence is partly due to the necessity for committing communications to paper. No assassination instructions should ever be written or recorded. Consequently, the decision to employ this technique must nearly always be reached in the field, at the area where the act will take place. Decision and instructions should be confined to an absolute minimum of persons. Ideally, only one person will be involved. No report may be made, but usually the act will be properly covered by normal news services, whose output is available to all concerned.

[*For a full chronology of the Bay of Pigs that includes details obtained from documents procured through FOIA requests, click here.]

CIA Director Allen Dulles admitted in the aftermath of the Bay of Pigs, “I don’t think that the CIA should run paramilitary operations of the type in Cuba, and possibly not of the type run in [REDACTED]. The Cuban operation has had a very serious effect on all our work. I believe there should be a new set-up. I think we should limit ourselves more to secret intelligence collection and operations of the non-military.” But, as previously mentioned, the CIA continues to develop assassination programs. Half a century later, the CIA is taking heat for the destabilizing impact of its presence in Pakistan. Hundreds of American personnel have been asked to leave the country and Pakistani military and state officials want more information on the agency’s covert operations.

Add to that what unfolded with Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who the Obama Administration tried to pretend was a diplomat, and the continued use of drones in Pakistan, it is clear the CIA has learned very little from the Bay of Pigs invasion. If anything, it’s embraced many of the tactics that were part of plans with the hope that a do-over here and a do-over there might at some point produce a favorable outcome the agency can celebrate.

The CIA’s willingness to engage in such perversions as the Bay of Pigs should compel us to line up behind organizations like the National Security Archive. The more sunshine on the past half century’s activities and operations, the more likely we are to reign in a rogue element that has been given carte blanche for far too many barbarous foreign policy experiments. And, if the National Security Archive cannot use proper legal channels to get the information disclosed, then a courageous person should draw inspiration from alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning and just leak the remaining unjustifiably classified material already.



100 Revelations to Mark the 100th Day of Cablegate

11:12 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

*Special thanks to C-Cyte for recording my tweets and posting them online in a post for people to view if they do not normally use Twitter.

One hundred days ago, WikiLeaks began to release the US State Embassy cables. The release event, which continues, became known as Cablegate.

A future post will include a look at Cablegate and what its impact on journalism, international diplomacy, and human rights has been and what its role has been in world events like the uprisings and revolutions the world that are currently unfolding. For now, it is worth recounting what has actually been revealed because of the release.

One common denominator can be found in a majority of the cables: corruption. For all the talk of this country and that country being corrupt and that country being so corrupt it’s gone, the plain fact is that between all the countries of the world, perhaps as a result of American coercion and/or threat of force, the world is one corrupt planet.

Point blank, the fallacy that these cables revealed nothing new is utter bullshit. And anyone who says they have revealed nothing we didn’t already know deserves to hear you say or tweet that to their face.

WikiLeaks has managed to partner with 50 media outlets over the course of the past months. 5,287 of 251,287 cables have been released so far. This not only means there will likely be a 200th, 300th and 400th Day of Cablegate but also means there will be many more revelations to come in the next year.

The following are 100 revelations, which this author tweeted this morning consecutively to mark the 100th Day. The one hundred tweeted revelations are dedicated to alleged whistleblower and hero Bradley Manning, who is currently being abused and humiliated in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia. He has been denied a right to a speedy trial. He has been issued charges but yet the military and government has taken its time with his case. And so, he has been detained and imprisoned since June and, most recently, the military started to force him to sleep naked at night.

If Manning released the material (and he is charged by the military with releasing the cables), it he who has given us the privilege of reading about what the US government and foreign leaders have been up to for the past years. Manning, if he is the whistleblower, has helped usher in an era of openness and transparency that has shaken the world of diplomacy, international relations and journalism.

Here are the one hundred, which were tweeted this morning:

100. Murdered Ugandan gay rights activist was mocked by Uganda politicians at UN-backed debate http://bit.ly/fEiSh8 #cablegate

99. US’ secret list of Allied countries it thinks should contribute more to Afghan war http://bit.ly/fLqsHI #cablegate

98. Panama president wanted US to wiretap his political rivals http://bit.ly/hS2M23 #cablegate http://bit.ly/fLqsHI

97. New Zealand did about-face on troops to Iraq, feared missing out on lucrative Oil for Food contracts http://bit.ly/i4rZES #cablegate

96. Obama pushed Spain to implement law to crack down on illegal Internet downloads http://bit.ly/iflhWB #cablegate

95. US pressured Spain to investigate Islamic centers http://bit.ly/fgzLZz #cablegate

94. Libya bought infected blood then accused Bulgarian nurses of infecting AIDS patients http://bit.ly/fVbB7i #cablegate

93. US thinks Sweden will play critical role in cyber warfare in future http://bit.ly/f4vhFm #cablegate

92. Sec. of Defense Robert Gates thinks Russia is oligarchy run by security services http://bit.ly/fEyqaJ #cablegate

91. US lobbied Russia to amend draft law so it would not disadvantage Visa, Mastercard http://bit.ly/gAtUbf #cablegate

90. Russian Orthdox Church pervades all aspects of Russian society and politics http://bit.ly/ighsI7 #cablegate

89. Saudi Arabia asked US to halt lawsuit against state company being sued for oil price fixing http://reut.rs/f6cCxq #cablegate

88. Libya placed billions of dollars in US banks http://reut.rs/i3rR1Y #cablegate

87. Revelation on Ivory Coast election that divided the country and has created civil war http://bit.ly/g0aE3M #cablegate

86. Deposed president of Madagascar “recruited mercenaries’ http://bit.ly/hzpDNC #cablegate

85. Egypt military had a ‘Plan B’ in the event of regime change http://bit.ly/dU4iWc #cablegate

84. Chamber of Commerce head in Nicaragua used his position to undermine President Daniel Ortega http://bit.ly/gNSHoU #cablegate

83. Rice wanted US diplomats to gather intelligence on Israeli communications tech & Palestinian leaders http://reut.rs/fSV4R1 #cablegate

82. Japan launching first post-war foreign spy agency http://yhoo.it/fJHISP #cablegate

81. China used US debt to pressure US on Taiwan http://bit.ly/gorONi #cablegate

80. Uribe authorized clandestine ops against leftist FARC in Venezuela http://bit.ly/dSWI6L #cablegate

79. US, UK & France considered delaying Internat’l Criminal Court investigation into Bashir http://bit.ly/gIjJbJ #cablegate

78. Karzai warned it would be near impossible to hold credible elections in Afghanistan http://bit.ly/e0PVwp #cablegate

77. A Baghdad zoo with booze-swilling bears and laser-enhanced fish http://bit.ly/ePGi3G #cablegate

76. Mubarak warned Cheney not to go to war in Iraq http://bit.ly/gwb4LI #cablegate

75. How Coca-Cola got embroiled in a feud between Gaddafi sons http://reut.rs/gsenWH #cablegate

74. Fighters in Eastern Libya willing to ‘die hard’ in Iraq War, fueled by Gaddafi-US link http://wlcentral.org/node/1369 #cablegate

73. Paraguayan president is a US agent http://bit.ly/fwz3It #cablegate h/t @MatrixWikiLeak

72. US concerned with Berlusconi-Putin tie http://reut.rs/id24oy #cablegate

71. Berlusconi entertains escorts at ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties http://bit.ly/hpHelx #cablegate

70. Russia a mafia state http://bit.ly/dJBhNP #cablegate

69. Impossible to prevent cartels from financing candidates in Mexico elections http://bit.ly/gAbjrl #cablegate

68. US cheered on Operation Cast Lead in Gaza http://bit.ly/dFwv1C #cablegate

67. Obama tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to sign Copenhagen accord http://bit.ly/ewaPHt #cablegate

66. Canadian officials were afraid Obama was too gung-ho on renewable energy http://bit.ly/dMQAr7 #cablegate

65. U.S. and China conspired to block reform on climate change at Copenhagen talks http://bit.ly/eu6l9o #cablegate

64. Dalai Lama thinks climate change should take priority over politics in Tibet http://bit.ly/fTuINF #cablegate

63. Late president of Gabon Omar Bongo embezzled funds, channeled $ to French political parties http://bit.ly/he008Y #cablegate

62. US played a role in a coup in Honduras that was illegal http://lat.ms/gnFJV5 #cablegate

61. US resentment toward unions uncovered in Mexico cable http://wlcentral.org/node/1351 #cablegate

60. Tunisia cables uncovered rampant corruption on Ben Ali or ‘The Family’ http://to.pbs.org/er6pSn #cablegate

59. US lied in cable about Michael Moore’s film ‘Sicko’ being banned in Cuba http://bit.ly/hSrdgZ #cablegate

58. Revelations on 9/11 gang that fled to London http://bit.ly/e50Om4 #cablegate

57. European feudalism in Azerbaijan no problem for US, oil makes risk of embarrassment worth it http://bit.ly/gQUscn #cablegate

56. UK secretly advised Libya on how to secure release of Lockerbie bomber http://bit.ly/iccGIa #cablegate

55. The Libyan frogman that couldn’t swim (truly, a cautionary tale) http://bit.ly/eHpFoK #cablegate

54. Bangladeshi death squad trained by UK officers http://bit.ly/gDlCUO #cablegate

53. Baby Doc Duvalier’s return to Haiti was a ‘concern’ for US http://bit.ly/eRj4hF

52. Saudi Arabia can’t pump enough oil to keep prices down, reserves 40% overstated http://bit.ly/e9774n #cablegate

51. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

50. Gordon Brown was concerned about use of bases for US spy planes http://bit.ly/dSOdtQ #cablegate

49. BP had a blast similar to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in Azerbaijan http://bit.ly/fabXL8 #cablegate

48. Pfizer used “dirty tricks’ to force Nigeria gov’t to drop legal action against controversial drug trial http://bit.ly/hDWjeI #cablegate

47. US, Nato & Red Cross colluded, downplayed number of Afghani civilian deaths in Bala Baluk massacre http://bit.ly/fM1TD2 #cablegate

46. US threatened military action against China during secret “star wars” arms race http://bit.ly/fRIzOT #cablegate

45. Libya pressed oil firms to reimburse terror costs http://reut.rs/gOVobd #cablegate

44. US wanted derogatory information on Bahraini royals http://bit.ly/i0VWVD #cablegate

43. Coca Cola revealed corrupt Israeli tax collectors http://bit.ly/iiDEfu #cablegate

42. Egyptian torturers trained by the FBI http://bit.ly/fY8eHO #cablegate

41. David Letterman does more to dissuade Saudi youth from militancy than US propaganda http://bit.ly/dLzfqJ #cablegate

40. US suggested India send Bollywood stars to Afghanistan to help stabilize country http://bit.ly/gvq3bg #cablegate

39. McDonald’s tried to delay US legislation to aid lawsuit in El Salvador http://bit.ly/eNr0tQ #cablegate

38. Shell Oil in main ministries in Nigerian gov’t, knows everything http://bit.ly/fJlnpq #cablegate

37. Foreign contractors hired to train Afghan police paid for young “dancing boys” http://bit.ly/gu4b32 #cablegate

36. US, UK conspired to get around British cluster bomb ban http://bit.ly/hJb9sj #cablegate

35. US maneuvered to ensure Spanish High Court wouldn’t investigate Couso, Guantanamo & CIA flights http://bit.ly/igUQZ0 #cablegate

34. Millions in US military aid for fighting Pakistani insurgents diverted to gov’t coffers instead http://bit.ly/gZe2HB #cablegate

33. US diplomats ordered to spy on UN, obtain iris scans, fingerprints & DNA http://bit.ly/dE1mTt #cablegate

32. US pressured Germany to not pursue 13 CIA agents that abducted Khaled el-Masri http://bit.ly/i9qAmC #cablegate

31. Somali pirates blew cover off weapons deal between Kenya and Sudan http://bit.ly/i7LRsJ #cablegate

30. Iraq War provided few advantages for US oil but plenty advantage for Halliburton http://bit.ly/fbfxiB #cablegate

29. Chinese leaders ordered cyber attack on Google http://bit.ly/g1uBb0 #cablegate

28. Yemen President Saleh fights proxy war for US against Houthi rebels http://bit.ly/eD8Zvz #cablegate

27. Yemen covered up US drone strikes, claimed bombs against al Qaeda were own http://bit.ly/ifjG17 #cablegate

26. Blackwater flouted German arms export laws, transported aircraft to Afghanistan http://bit.ly/guBdwJ #cablegate

25. Omar Suleiman considered halting elections in Gaza to prevent Hamas victory http://bit.ly/gHrtCv #cablegate

24. US mole in NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s office uncovered http://bit.ly/gXNoVh #cablegate

23. Germany and US cover up Siemens shipment to Iran, 111 containers left at Dubai port http://bit.ly/ekzD8T #cablegate

22. Turkey’s role in CIA rendition flights to Guantanamo http://bit.ly/dL6oSO #cablegate

21. German communities fear loss of millions as US reduces troop presence http://bit.ly/ifHOZF #cablegate

20. President Kibaki of Kenya probably didn’t brazenly steal election http://bit.ly/gbyo9j #cablegate

19. Francis Mathaura described as being “shadow president’ of Kenya http://bit.ly/ea9mst #cablegate

18. US officials surprised at how easy it was to get Russia-Germany gas pipeline grant from Finland http://bit.ly/eDBZ8r #cablegate

17. Finland traded votes with Israel to get spot on UN Security Council http://bit.ly/hjlueQ #cablegate

16. GPS & detailed map feature made Nokia smartphones favorite for Iraqi rebels http://bit.ly/eQWsPf #cablegate

15. Sudan president Omar al-Bashir stashed $9 billion from Sudan in British banks http://bit.ly/hsYaCK #cablegate

14. Qatar adapts Al Jazeera coverage to suit foreign leaders http://bit.ly/hy96Sw #cablegate

13. Gaza wall, valued at $40 million USD, was to be completed December 2010 http://bit.ly/gL2hEu #cablegate

12. Egypt considered nuclear arms if Iran managed to acquire atomic weapons http://bit.ly/ifwKvq #cablegate

11. Uruguay linked to trafficking of arms to Venezuela to former guerrillas for possible coup http://bit.ly/dZlFco #cablegate

10. Danish gov’t played double game when pressured to investigate CIA rendition flights http://bit.ly/eomwJg #cablegate

9. US forced Denmark to have armed guards on airplanes http://bit.ly/dHGoMb #cablegate

8. Secret collusion between Swedish and US military and civilian intelligence http://bit.ly/dVFxX2 #cablegate

7. US Embassy in Costa Rica trained, funded security forces used at anti-FTA protests http://bit.ly/fGcN9Z #cablegate

6. Vertical Aviation disqualified from supporting Colombia forces in Afghanistan by State Dept http://bit.ly/hgIvj9 #cablegate

5. US suspected Brazil pres. Dilma Rousseff would “outlaw’ antiterrorism bill for “ideological’ reasons http://t.co/39bEb9E #cablegate

4. Peruvian Armed Forces still greatly influenced by drugs http://bit.ly/dLWHEo #cablegate

3. US pushed foreign govts to buy aircrafts from Boeing rather than European rival Airbus http://bit.ly/h6rmZi #cablegate

2. Israel’s plans for a big war in Middle East against Hamas or Hezbollah exposed http://bit.ly/eZN0Bu #cablegate

1. Monsanto fought off environmentalists/farmers in Argentina, got USG to represent interests http://bit.ly/hqKYrS #cablegate

If you would like to continue to mark the day, see Greg Mitchell’s blog on The Nation . He has been live blogging WikiLeaks and covering Cablegate revelations for the past 100 days. So, today, he marks his 100th day live blogging WikiLeaks (and writes about the day that Cablegate swung open).

The Nation has put together this slide show to also mark the day.

And, if that’s not enough, there’s WL Central, where you can get more of the latest news and updates on Cablegate, protests/uprisings, and more.

Follow me on Twitter @kgosztola to stay up to date on Cablegate revelations and WikiLeaks.

US Businesses in Libya Made Certain They Could Operate in the Rogue State

8:06 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

The only people more terrified of the foreign mercenaries or anti-aircraft missiles or the fighter jets deployed to shell protesters than Libyans are the businessmen working for oil and gas companies in Libya. In fact, this whole democracy thing is a nightmare for companies in Libya that fought just over two years ago to ensure the market in Libya would not be restricted by an amendment that aimed to prevent companies from doing business with rogue states designated as state sponsors of terrorism.

Financial Times reports escalating violence in Libya has kept oil prices at two and a half year highs. Many of the oil ports and refineries are now shut down. International oil companies are evacuating their staff from the “world’s 12th largest oil exporter.”

All the violence, protest and political tension in Libya and the wider Middle East and North Africa seems to have led the US-Libya Business Association to make a cold calculated decision to disappear from the Internet for the time being until calm returns to Libya. RAW STORY reported on February 21 that the website of the US-Libya Business Association (USLBA) went down.

The group, which incorporated in 2005, describes itself as “the only US trade association” focused on the US and Libya.

Most recently, US-Libya Business Association Honorary Chairman Ambassador David Mack and Executive Director Charles Dittrich participated in a Middle East Institute-sponsored discussion in Washington, DC, titled, “US-Libya Relations: Surviving the WikiLeaks Controversy?” The two, who visited Libya for five days and met Libyan government officials in mid-December were scheduled to discuss their “impressions regarding the political and economic climate in Libya and the implications for both overall US-Libyan relations and the prospects for American business interests.”

A cache of the USLBA website reveals the companies affiliated with the association. Founding members include Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Hess Corporation, Marathon Oil Corporation, and Occidental Petroleum. General members include Dow Chemical, Fluor, Halliburton, Midrex Technologies, Motorola, Raytheon, Shell, United Gulf Construction, Valmont, and White & Case LLP.

Cables released by WikiLeaks on Libya so far do not explicitly name the USLBA. The cables do specifically deal with some of the member companies. They reveal that one of the chief objectives of diplomats in Libya over the past years have been to improve and ensure that the energy sector is able to have maximum commercial opportunities. This led the USLBA, the National Foreign Trade Council, the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce to urge Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to “pursue waiver authority for Section 1083 for countries that have been removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism” on February 28, 2008.

Section 1083 of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (also known as the “Lautenberg Amendment”) made it easier for “plaintiffs in terrorism-related lawsuits to seize foreign government-owned assets to satisfy US court judgments.” It caused concern among US firms, especially those in the oil & gas sector, because the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) informed American oil companies that this was “their problem” to be solved.

Big Oil Companies Face Possibility of Seized Assets

Libya, which had terror claims lawsuits pending, worried this could impact business. The NOC wanted to cut business altogether to avoid any problems.

A little over two weeks before the USLBA and other organizations launched their pursuit of a waiver in February, a cable was filed explicitly dealing with Section 1083 on behalf of US businesses that were to be impacted. The author of 08TRIPOLI113 explicitly addresses the risks to oil & energy companies as a result of Section 1083:

OIL PRODUCING & OIL SERVICES COMPANIES AT GREATEST RISK

-2. (SBU) U.S. companies participating in joint venture partnerships with Libyan national oil companies assess themselves as being at greatest risk under section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act. This list includes Occidental, ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Amerada Hess. These companies are involved in jointly developing Libyan oilfields and in extracting and lifting crude oil. The three U.S. partners in the Oasis Group (Marathon, ConocoPhillips and Amerada Hess, who are partnered with Libyan state firm Waha) pay $2 million/month to the GOL in operating fees, and $100 million/month in taxes and royalties. Company reps assess that these payments — as well as jointly-held facilities and equipment — would be exposed to court-ordered attachment and seizure under section 1083. U.S. oil service companies, such as Halliburton, may also be exposed, according to local company reps, and most service companies have frozen further expansion until the risks are clarified. Company reps have expressed concern to us that their GOL partner companies would view any U.S. court-ordered attachments of payments or equipment as a breach of contract, potentially leading to termination of their work in Libya.

3.(SBU) U.S. companies engaged exclusively in the exploration (as distinct from production), such as Chevron and ExxonMobil, assess themselves to be subject to less risk for the moment, since they make no regular payments to the GOL that would be subject to attachment (the signing bonuses agreed in connection with winning their Exploration and Production Sharing (EPSA) agreements have already been paid to the GOL, and day-to-day exploration work is contracted out to largely non-GOL entities). Nevertheless, company reps say that they are concerned about the longer-term impact of this legislation on their future plans in Libya.

Shukri Ghanem, Libya’s NOC Chairman, reacts swiftly to the recent legislation and instructs “all international partner companies to cease conducting transactions in U.S. dollars.” Through contacts with US oil companies, US officials find out that NOC would like to “reduce its exposure to U.S. courts, since dollar transactions are routed through the U.S. financial system.” Furthermore, the cable shows that US companies believe the legislation could “find” the companies “in breach of their contractual obligations if US courts disrupt their montly payment of operational fees to the NOC.”

Leader and Guide of the Revolution Threatens Retaliation

08TRIPOLI214 , a cable filed on March 12, 2008, features Leader Gaddafi giving oil companies a “browbeating” for the fact that the passage of Section 1083 is coinciding with litigation over a settlement to compensate victims of the UTA Flight 772 bombing.

U.S. OIL COMPANIES TREATED TO BROWBEATING 2.(C) ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva was summoned to Sirte for a half-hour “browbeating” by Leader Muammar al-Qadhafi during his visit to Libya on/about February 24. Country manager Page Maxson told P/E Chief that the entire conversation focused on al-Qadhafi’s “personal ire” about the so-called “Lautenberg Amendment” (section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008) and the USD 6 billion award against Libya in the UTA bombing case, and al-Qadhafi’s view that Libya had not been sufficiently compensated for its decision to give up WMD and renounce terrorism. Al-Qadhafi passed a copy of his recent letter to the President on the subject (ref B) to Mulva. Telling Mulva that he and his fellow U.S. oil company CEOs needed to engage members of the U.S. Congress and the Administration on the matter, al-Qadhafi threatened to dramatically reduce Libya’s oil production and/or expel out U.S. oil and gas companies. Al-Qadhafi claimed Libya would rather “keep its oil in the ground” and wait for a more favorable overseas investment climate than continue high levels of production in an environment in which sizeable portions of its oil-related assets could be seized.

3.(C) In a related development, Exxon-Mobil Country Manager Phil Goss told P/E Chief that Shukri Ghanem, Chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation, had chastised him during a meeting on February 25 for nearly an hour on the “dire political signal” represented by the Lautenberg Amendment and the UTA judgment. Ghanem told Goss that U.S. oil and gas companies should “tell Washington” that Libya was serious in its threat to “significantly curtail” its oil production as a means to “penalize the U.S.” for Lautenberg and UTA. According to Goss, Ghanem — a U.S.-educated former Prime Minister — was emotional in insisting that Libya “would not tolerate” Lautenberg and UTA without taking some retaliatory measures. Privately, Goss questioned whether the GOL could really afford to significantly curb oil output at a time when it is making massive investments in infrastructure as part of the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the military coup that brought al-Qadhafi to power on September 1, 2009. Stressing the erratic nature of decisionmaking in the GOL, Goss was careful not to rule out the possibility that Libya could choose “to do something stupid”.

Days later, a discussion to focus on three major outstanding claims cases in US venues: Pan Am 103, LaBelle, and UTA is urged. Plans to settle and use the high-profile case to “find a mechanism to mitigate the effects of Section 1083″ are made by Libya and US officials. This indicates that the US was likely seeking to use the power of Section 1083 to force a pay out from the Libya government before finding a loophole for US-Libya business relations to return to normal.

New Freedom to Establish Position in a Lucrative Market

By August, the two countries managed to come to an agreement over Section 1083 and the outstanding claims cases in US courts. The reaction to the agreement was favorable. 08TRIPOLI666 summarizes:

Reaction among ordinary Libyans and well-informed contacts to news that the U.S. and Libya finalized a comprehensive claims settlement agreement has been enthusiastic. Coverage in state-owned media has been positive but limited, in part to minimize questions about the parameters of the compensation package and potential criticism from old guard elements. Some informed contacts have characterized the agreement as a “grand opening” in U.S.-Libyan bilateral relations, as compared to the “soft opening” between the re-establishment of diplomatic ties in 2004 and the signing of the claims agreement in 2008. There are high expectations in some quarters that the U.S. will seek to capitalize on the new tenor of the relationship to press Muammar al-Qadhafi to open further political space – particularly with respect to respect for human rights, freedom of the press and an expanded role for civil society – in what remains a tightly-controlled society.

Additionally, the diplomat who authored this cable comments, “There is also the belief that expanded political and economic engagement with the U.S. and the West, which is expected to accelerate with the lifting of the Lautenberg Amendment and potential asset seizure, will help solidify internal Libyan reforms undertaken in recent years. Many Libyans hope that expanded engagement with the U.S. will include U.S. advocacy for political reform and greater respect for human rights. A key challenge for al-Qadhafi will be to temper expectations that fully normalized relations with the U.S. will prompt an immediate shift in the nature of the regime and its reluctance to move quickly on political reform.”

Sec. of State Rice Travels to Libya to Seal the Deal

On September 5, 2008, Secretary of State Rice traveled to Libya. One of her key objectives was to help come up with a solution to this Lautenberg Amendment kerfuffle. A “scenesetter” was prepared for Rice so she could be prepared to help mediate this conflict over US company operations in Libya. It reads:

10. (C) Libya’s economy is almost entirely dependent on oil and gas. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves (43.6 billion barrels) and the third largest proven natural gas reserves (1.5 billion cubic meters) on the African continent. Libya currently produces about 1.7 million barrels/day of oil; only Angola and Nigeria produce more in Africa. Oil and gas infrastructure suffered during the sanctions period. The lifting of sanctions has opened the way for new exploration and improved production. New technology and refined management techniques introduced by international oil companies (IOC’s) are a key part of Libya’s plan to increase oil production to 3.0 million barrels/day by 2013. Most of Libya’s oil and natural gas are exported to Europe – Italy, Germany, Spain and France are key customers. Major U.S. energy companies active in Libya include Amerada Hess, ConocoPhillips, Marathon, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental. Joint ventures involving U.S. companies currently account for about 510,000 barrels/day of Libya’s 1.7 million barrels/day production. A large number of small to mid-sized U.S. oil and gas services companies are also working in Libya.

11. (C) After years of isolation under sanctions and limited spending by the GOL, Libya is currently in the midst of an economic boom, partly driven by a desire to complete large-scale infrastructure projects as tangible symbols of the regime’s achievements in advance of the 40th anniversary of al-Qadhafi’s revolution on September 1, 2009. High oil prices have helped fuel the outlays. Western companies, eager to establish a position in what is expected to be a lucrative market, are arriving in sizeable numbers. A temporary pause prompted by adoption of the Lautenberg Amendment in January 2008 and concern about asset seizure is coming to an end on news of the comprehensive claims agreement. XXXXXXXXXXXX Despite great promise, Libya remains a challenging business and investment environment. Contradictory regulations, inefficient government bureaucracy, limited human capacity and rampant corruption (in 2007, Transparency International ranked Libya 133rd out of 180 countries in terms of being most corrupt) are significant challenges that could hamper greater investment.

The Washington Consensus think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, notes Libya was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in the early 1970s after “Gaddafi established terrorist training camps on Libyan soil, provided terrorist groups with arms, and offered safe haven to terrorists” from groups like the Irish Republican Army, Spain’s ETA, Italy’s Red Brigades, and Palestinian groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988, the bombing of a French passenger jet over Niger in 1989, and the Libya-sponsored bombing of a Berlin disco that killed two US soldiers all helped keep Libya on the list. The Libya government was also believed to be in pursuit of WMDs.

In the late 1990s, the Gaddafi regime began to take steps that led the US to alter the designation. It began to offer to surrender its WMD programs and cut ties to terror groups. It finally agreed to compensate victims of the Pan Am 103 bombing and also sent a letter to the UN Security Council taking responsibility for the attack.

Most importantly, the past ten years have seen the world close in on peak oil (if that point has not been passed already). Libya, in the past few years, has begun to privatize and open up its resources to development and exploitation by foreign companies. US companies that are a part of USLBA have greatly benefited from measures, which US diplomats have been keen to advocate for in meetings with Libyan government officials.

The last thing USLBA companies want right now is to see revolutionary change that leads Libya to no longer be opened for business .

Photo from the NY Daily News

Saif Speaks to Libyans: What WikiLeaks Cables Say About His Address

10:20 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

An address from Muammar al-Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, was aired on television in Libya early on February 21. Saif al-Islam told Libyans he had come without a prepared speech and was going to speak from his heart and mind.

The address (which can be read here) was given as Tripoli was turning into more of a battlefield. Snipers were firing in Saha Al Khadra. His father’s “thugs” were allegedly going into hospitals and killing Libyans who had been out in the streets and been wounded.

Rumors are circulating that Saif al-Islam was shot. Some of the unconfirmed reports say Saif al-Islam is dead and his father and some from the Gaddafi family has fled. Muammar has gone to Venezuela, some reports allege.

The death of Saif al-Islam is possible, but until there are reports which go beyond unconfirmed, this is largely a distracting story. What Saif al-Islam said in the recorded address that aired on February 20 is much more important.

Saif’s Address to Libya

In his rambling address, Saif al-Islam manages to outline what he thinks are key aspects of what is happening in Libya. First, there are political activists whom Libya should work with, who likely have valid grievances and demands worth considering. Two, in Bayda, where he is from and where his mother lives, “Islamic elements” have stolen weapons, killed soldiers, and would like to establish “an Islamic Emirate in Bayda.” And, third, “children” out protesting managed to take drugs and then were “used.” (The last part is interesting given the fact that since Libyans’ “Day of Rage” on February 17 there have been little reports, if any, on Libyans finding people are getting doped up and causing problems.)

If one looks through the entire address and then sifts through the many cables from Libya that have been released by WikiLeaks and leaked to newspapers by WikiLeaks, it is possible to pull out threads to illuminate what might happen from this point forward.

Saif al-Islam emphasizes oil in Libyan society at one point saying, “American Oil Companies played a big part in unifying Libya.” He indicates his fear of an Islamic Emirate being established in Bayda saying, “The British FM called me. Be ready for a new colonial period from American and Britain. ou think they will accept an Islamic Emirate here, 30 minutes from Crete? The West will come and occupy you. Europe & the West will not agree to chaos in Libya, to export chaos and drugs so they will occupy us.”

In a call for Libyans to lay down arms and not become enmeshed in conflict, he says, “Before we let weapons come between us, from tomorrow, in 48 hours, we will call or a new conference for new laws. We will call for new media laws, civil rights, lift the stupid punishments, we will have a constitution.” He says even his father, “Leader Gaddafi,” wants a constitution.

Saif’s Quixotic Bid for a Libyan Constiution

Saif has been one of the few leaders in Libya to push for Libya to develop a constitution. He is often regarded as a leader who owes his popularity to backers who are “reformists.” In a cable from November 19, 2009, on who which Qadhafi son will succeed Muammar, Mutassim is seen as a brother who stands with “conservatives” in Libya. The cable mentions in March 2009 he drafted a constitution but it was dropped from the General People’s Congress agenda.

In August 2008, Saif spoke at a youth forum, where he said he would be withdrawing from politics entirely to work with civil society organizations in Libya. He pushed for reforms and spoke explicitly about passing a constitution because, to him, the Jamahiriya system had failed. 08TRIPOLI679 details”:

Turning to governance, Saif al-Islam resurrected his call for a constitution, something he explicitly advocated in his 2006 Youth Forum speech in Sirte, which drew harsh criticism at the time from the Revolutionary Committees and other conservative regime elements. Reacting to that, Saif al-Islam had softened his language in his 2007 speech in Benghazi (ref B), using the term “social contract”. In Sabha this year, he adopted slightly more forward leaning language, saying Libya “needs something, which is perhaps called a constitution – let’s say a popular pact similar to the social pact or a pact of the mass of the people”. Such a contract should stem from the popular authority of the people, he said, but stressed that a formal document of some kind was needed to enshrine and protect the will of the people against unconstitutional attempts to usurp power as in the recent coup in Mauritania.

Criticizing the inchoate nature of the decentralized Jamahiriya system, he said Libyans are frustrated with the the existing system’s failure to deliver basic services such as trash collection, pest control, water and electricity, and now want a clearly articulated system of rules that govern personal conduct, economic affairs and governance. Describing the bedrock of good governance as effective local government, he stressed that despite the rhetoric about popular local committees, the Jamahiriya system of his father had not delivered on that front. Describing the decision to dismantle formal decisionmaking structures and to effectively decouple the local and central governments as “a mistake”, he called for a “new administrative structure” that would better integrate local municipalities and districts with the central government.

Referring to Muammar al-Qadhafi’s March 2 address to the General People’s Congress, in which he called for government restructuring and radical privatization (ref C), Saif al-Islam conceded that he had been personally involved in the work of the committees tasked with implementing his father’s vision. He emphasized that plans for restructuring the government are underway, and will involve reshaped local institutions and greater privatization. Arguing for aggressive privatization, he said “the state will not own anything” and “everything should be done by the private sector”. (Note: As reported ref C, five committees were established to formulate plans for implementing Muammar al-Qadhafi’s March 2 vision. Contacts have told us Saif al-Islam established shadow committees staffed by personnel from the Economic Development Board (EDB) and National Planning Council (NPC); the final recommendations for implementing al-Qadhafi’s vision reflected heavy input from the shadow committees. End note.) Referring obliquely to reports of fierce infighting over recommendations about restructuring and privatization, Saif al-Islam noted that “many things that were not nice” had happened in the course of recent intra-government debates, but stressed that those issues had been resolved.

Muammar initiated a process for adopting a constitution quietly in mid-November of 2008. 08TRIPOLI936 shows Muammar allegedly kept it quiet so his son, Saif, could be involved in the process.

The cable notes, however that the “secretive nature of the project has prompted concern among constitution committee members,” who fear Muammar could change his mind. A small circle of Libyans involved in the process are also keenly aware that “secretly developing a constitution reflects the failure of al-Qadhafi t orealize the importance of robust processes (a key weakness of the Jamahiriya system) as a precursor of durable political results.” Muammar is described as “taking the politically expedient route” instead of “investing in a more transparent and slower (but more credible) process.”

Is Saif Afraid Army of “John McClanes” Will Bring Libya to Utter Ruin?

Given the role of Islamic extremists in the continued global war on terrorism, it is no surprise that US diplomats have kept tabs on Islamists in Libya, especially ones believed to be engaged in terrorism. The fear Saif expresses in his address to Libyans appears to reflect a knowledge of how fixated US and European officials have been on what has been happening in Egypt and whether democracy will lead to an Islamist state run by the Muslim Brotherhood or some other group that the US might consider to be similar.

The city of Derna, which is ninety-three and a half kilometers east of Bayda, is described in one cable as a wellspring for foreign fighters who are heading off to fight coalition forces in Iraq. Gaddafi’s link to the US is alleged to be fueling the radicalization of young Libyans in the area. The cable quotes a Libyan “interlocutor,” who likens the young men in Derna to “Bruce Willis’ character in the action picture “Die Hard’” because, for them, “resistance against coalition forces in Iraq is an important act of ‘jihad’ and a last act of defiance against the Qadhafi regime.” The interlocutor suggests many of them refuse to die quietly.

Derna is compared to Bayda and other cities like Benghazi:

Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya had benefited in the last several years from increased government patronage, Derna continued to “suffer from neglect”. Citing an indeterminate grudge between Libya’s former monarch, King Idriss al-Sanussi, and leading citizens of Derna, xxxxxxxxxxxx claimed that Derna had long been the victim of a deliberate government campaign to keep it poor. He compared Derna’s plight to the fortunes of another conservative eastern Libyan town, Bayda. While Bayda had been the summer retreat for King Idriss and was initially shunned in the early years of Qadhafi’s rule, its fortunes changed after Qadhafi married Sadia Farkhis, daughter of a prominent citizen of the town. The government subsequently established the Omar al-Mukhtar University in what had been the royal palace and sited a number of government-owned enterprises there. By contrast, Derna had not benefited from any such measures.

The neighborhood of Baab al-Shiha, a “district from which a large number of the Libyan foreign fighters identified in documents captured during September’s Objective Massey operation in Iraq had hailed,” is described. Of interest in the “lower-middle class neighborhood” is the “number of small, discrete mosques tucked away in side alleys,” which are part of a “profusion of “popular mosques’” that has “complicated effective monitoring by security forces.”

Just how closely Libya likes to monitor cities comes through in this section of the cable:

4. (C) A number of residents were on the streets; however, they were visibly more wary and less friendly than in other Libyan towns. xxxxxxxxxxxx later noted that some residents were closely questioned by security officials after speaking with a visiting Newsweek reporter in April. Told P/E Chief was an American, xxxxxxxxxxxx jokingly swore and said “there goes my evening”. Clarifying, he said he had plans that night, but would likely be detained and questioned by security officials about his interactions with an Emboff. While P/E Chief had not obviously been followed, word would doubtless reach security officials’ ears that foreigners had visited and inquiries would be made. He dismissed the idea of parting company to avoid creating problems for him, saying it was important that he, as a son of Derna, not bow down to the central government’s authority. “They may have their boot on our throat, but it’s important that they know that we are still breathing and kicking”, he said.

In 08TRIPOLI120, which appears to be a cable that immensely influenced the aforementioned cable, US diplomat Chris Stevens comments, “[The] ability of radical imams to propagate messages urging support for and participation in jihad despite GOL security organizations’ efforts suggests that claims by senior GOL officials that the east is under control may be overstated.”

It describes the frequent references to “martyrdom” in the mosques in Benghazi and Derna:

(S/NF) xxxxxxxxxxxx partly attributed the fierce mindset in Benghazi and Derna to the message preached by imams in eastern Libyan mosques, which he said is markedly more radical than that heard in other parts of the country. xxxxxxxxxxxx makes a point of frequenting mosques whenever he visits Libya as a means to connect with neighbors and relatives and take the political pulse. Sermons in eastern mosques, particularly the Friday ‘khutba’, are laced with “coded phrases” urging worshippers to support jihad in Iraq and elsewhere through direct participation or financial contributions. The language is often ambiguous enough to be plausibly denied, he said, but for devout Muslims it is clear, incendiary and unambiguously supportive of jihad. Direct and indirect references to “martyrdom operations” were not uncommon. By contrast with mosques in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country, where references to jihad are extremely rare, in Benghazi and Derna they are fairly frequent subjects.

The contents of the mentioned cables suggest that in Libya violent revolution is much more possible than it was in Egypt. The area of eastern Libya is filled with Libyans who may seize this moment as opportunity to finally throw off the chains of tyranny that have bound them for over four decades. That they have been repressed for so many years by Gaddafi’s regime will likely fuel desires to wage guerrilla warfare for freedom.

Libya’s Privatization of State Enterprises Increasing U.S. Oil’s Influence?

Saif’s nod to “American oil companies” either signals the growing instability worries Saif because it might have a negative impact on his ability to accumulate more wealth from oil operations in Libya or it points to how successful US oil companies have been at convincing the Gaddafi regime to open up its doors in the past few years.

Prospects for U.S. oil companies appear to be relatively good on February 11, 2010. 10TRIPOLI116 features Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) Shokri Ghanem expressing “support for improved Libya-U.S. relations.” He explains near-term goals for the NOC that include “plans for increasing oil and gas exploration and production” and “developing a cadre of Libyan experts to replace the expatriate workforce.”

Ghanem tells Ambassador Gene Cretz “76 percent of the positions in the oil and gas industry in Libya were occupied by “foreigners.” Many of the positions are jobs he thinks Libyans could be doing (although jobs requiring “experience with new technologies” would still require “expatriates”).

A Libyan privatization board was set up recently and welcomed US companies” in February 2010. And, in a cable titled, “U.S. Foreign Commercial Service Opens For Business in Libya,” suggests that over the course of the past years Libya has become more and more open to US corporations, particularly energy, telecommunications and construction companies. The cable describes Libya’s efforts “to diversify its economy and to privatize government enterprises.” Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Israel Hernandez, who has just opened up a “new Foreign Commercial Service office at the Embassy and discussed commercial opportunities with U.S. and Libyan business leaders and cooperation with senior Libyan government officials,” talks about Libya as “one of the fastest growing markets for U.S. trade.”

However, months ago, in June 2008, a cable is sent out lamenting how soaring oil prices are making it possible for Libya to push for “more stringent long-term contracts with foreign oil and gas producers.” The cable describes a Libyan national oil company ratifying a twenty-five year extension for a contract with Italian firm Eni North Africa BV. The outcome is seen as something that may lead international oil companies (IOCs) to abandon “production efforts” in Libya (this in spite of the fact that Libya is “widely perceived to be one of the relatively few places in the world with significant unproven reserves of sweet, light crude and natural gas”).

Several other major extensions are anticipated in the coming months, including those involving U.S. firm Occidental Petroleum (along with Austrian partner OMV) and Petro-Canada. Those agreements were signed with the NOC in late 2007, but still require GPC [General People's Congress] ratification. It is possible the NOC will seek further concessions in light of its deal with Eni. Spain’s Repsol and the NOC are renegotiating along the EPSA IV contractual model. The initial deal between Repsol YPF and NOC stipulated a 50-50 split of production; however, the NOC is now seeking a minimum production share of 72 percent.

“The NOC has approached numerous other IOCs about extensions, raising the possibility that it will reopen deals that were only concluded a few years ago. Even the U.S. Oasis Group (comprising Amerada-Hess, Marathon and ConocoPhillips), which paid $1.8 billion in December 2005 to return to acreage in Libya’s Sirte Basin that it held before the suspension of U.S.-Libyan diplomatic ties and the imposition of U.S. and UN sanctions, may be affected. Libya’s relatively modest 59.2 percent production share in that deal has generated preliminary probing by the NOC as to whether the Oasis Group would consider renegotiating, which it has so far successfully opposed” [emphasis added]

The diplomat authoring the cable comments:

Libya and the IOC’s have been here before: a spate of renegotiations and extensions occurred in the late-1960s and early 1970s, driven in part by the then-new al-Qadhafi regime to demonstrate to its people that it was a better steward of Libya’s hydrocarbon resources than the Sanussi monarchy had been. As during that period, the current penchant for shifting the goalposts has not been well-received by the IOCs. Despite Libya’s relatively unique position in terms of unproven reserves, high quality oil and low recovery costs, observers here expect that some IOCs facing potentially long renegotiation periods (and associated costs of idle personnel and materiel) and diminished production returns may choose to abandon altogether their production efforts in Libya.

How Saif benefits from Libyan oil business is detailed in the cable, “Qadhafi Incorporated,” from May 10, 2006, which details how Muammar al-Gaddafi’s children supposedly have “income streams from the National Oil Company and oil service subsidiaries.” Saif is believed to be “involved in oil services through One-Nine Petroleum and other Qadhafi family members and associates are believed to have large financial stakes in the Libyan Tamoil oil marketing company based in Europe and Oil Invest.” And notes, it is “believed that millions of dollars are distributed to politically connected Libyans and Libyan expatriates.”

Several cables mention Muammar’s plan to redistribute the country’s oil wealth to Libyans through a privatization scheme. That aspect of Libya’s recent history is worth exploring further as it seems like it is much more likely to have been a ploy to open up Libya to more foreign investment. US cables show the Libyan government has typically not wanted to up the standard of living for Libyans because it might lead to political instability. (Of course, they didn’t expect neighboring countries to inspire Libyans to revolt so the fear of raising Libyans to a better standard economically is no longer likely a chief concern for leaders at this moment.)

For the latest on Libya, follow WLCentral’s live blog.