Jul 9, 2011

Battle for Libya: Moscow is playing on two looms in Libya

by Miroslav Lazanski
Tripoli 07.07.2011

Tripoli- The green national flag of Libya is fluttering in the hot desert wind. The border crossing Ras Jedir, between Tunisia and Libya,unbearable heat and a big crowd. There is about 113 degrees in shade, columns of cars and trucks, all pushing horns and trying to bypass the queue.

     Unlike two months ago, all the customs officers and policemen are wearing new uniforms, they are doing their job very professionally. I enter Libya by foot, waiting to be "sniffed" by the member  of the secret police. Because, he is in charge and he is the one doing everything necessary for the journalists coming to Libya.
     So, just as I have passed the guard's post, one unknown man in civilian clothes waved at me. He approaches me, and the only thing that makes me suspect he is from the secret police, is a little walkie-talkie he is discreetly holding in his hand. Without saying a word, he takes my passport and goes somewhere. What a wonderful feeling it is to remain on the sand, in the hot sun and without a passport in the country who's at war, and your passport was taken away by an unknown man in civilian clothes. Who by the way, didn't show you any official identification.
     The waiting dragged on for about three full hours, until the mini bus, carrying the journalists who were just leaving Libya, arrived. By the way, on the border crossing Ras Jedir, the number of those leaving and those who are coming back to Libya is almost the same. Noticeable is a large number of families with children going back to Libya. There are a lot of trucks carrying white sacs with flour, the cult of flour, or bread, is characteristic for the Arab world. I was surprised by the trucks carrying bicycles, Libya is now massively importing bicycles, he shortage of the fuel turned Tripoli to a genuine Amsterdam.

     The road leading from the border to Tripoli is partially coated with new asphalt, on the side of the road there are a lot of watered flowers. We drive trough Subrata and Zawia , the towns the rebels said were  scenes of fierce battles. I can not see any trace of those battles, on the contrary those towns look very orderly and peaceful, with many people out on the streets strolling.

     In the mini bus, beside me there are a couple of western journalists, as well as a correspondent of the China's state agency. The western journalists take turns in Libya every ten days, regular shift. They find it a normal duration of one "mandate" in these circumstances of coverage. Even with the Internet, there are still world renowned names of journalism.
   Tripoli at dusk, appears quite leisurely, just the kilometers of cars in line for the gas. People leave their cars in line for three or four days in order to fill the reservoir with gas. despite the war and shortages, the gas in Libya got cheaper, so that now 100l of gas cost about 5 EUR.
   Despite the fact that Libya, prior to this war, was one of the biggest exporters of oil, it is now importing gasoline, because the oil processing capacity is very modest. Only operating oil rafineries are those in Zawia and Brega. Exports of oil has virtually stopped, because almost all oil pumping stations, including the "124", have been destroyed. There can be no oil transport without those oil pumping stations.

   At the begining of the war, the rebels have seized ten storage tanks with 8.000.000 barrels of oil, near Benghazi  and Twareg, in the following 40 days they were pumping 130.000 barrels of oil a day, which means they have sold more that 13.000.000 barrels. If they sold one barrel for at least 70 dollars, then their profit would have been 160.000.000 dollars.
  Leaders of the rebels in Benghazi claim they have received only 100.000.000 dollars from the oil sales, so now, many people ask themselves- how did the rest 60.000.000 dollars turn into smoke? So, the lack of unity among the rebels has a very tangible dollar dimension. Some rebel leaders are openly accused of stealing the oil money. By the way, Russian airplane bringing humanitarian help landed the day before yesterday in Benghazi, and yesterday another Russian aiplane with humanitarian help landed, in Tripoli this time. Moscow is playing on two looms.
   On the military level, the situation is almost the same as it was two months ago. Gaddafi can not regain the lost territory, the rebels, even with the great help from NATO, do not progress as much as they are telling the public. After all, who wants to fight at 113 degrees in shade, and with the Ramadan approaching.
  Gaddafi has totally adjusted his troops to the conditions of NATO domination of the airspace, their use of drones and satellite reconnaissance. There are no major troop movements, everything is camouflaged, the army can not be seen anywhere.

  The night before last, the NATO's airplanes just flew over Tripoli, I haven't heard a single explosion, but jesterday in the morning the doctors from the "Zanzour" rehabilitation center told me that some white coloured reagent was trown from the air, that caused people to experience the burning and sat on cars just like snow, so it had to be cleaned with the windshield wipers.
  When I asked them if they gave it for analysis, they said no, because no one ordered them to do so. Nothing is done here, withouth the specific order. There are 1.700 employees in that rehabilitation center, 150 of them are working, the rest of them recieve salaries, and does nothing.
  On the political level, the government now agrees with many of the terms by the rebels, which the government itself previously proposed. As it is, Gaddafi's son Saif al Islam keeps repeating and proposing referendum, new constitution ( there is no constitution now) and elections under international supervision, the only thing not accepted is for Gaddafi to leave Libya.

  The secret negotiations are held at the same time in several European cities, some here here in Tripoli claim that everything is already agreed, and now they are working on technical details. Ramadan is close and no one is looking at a spectacular victory.
Resource: Politika
Translate: Ana Tsivdari
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