If notions of sweeping away a range of despotic tyrants enabling representative rule doesn’t excite western policy makers (Tunisia, Egypt), the threat to oil supplies (Libya) certainly does.
Oil prices are now comfortably over $100 per barrel their highest since October, 2008 and possibly set to eclipse the peak of $145. The US is the largest consumer of oil in the world and effectively controls its distribution globally via its effective influence and control of the Middle East’s vast reserves. The US government, in a Libyan oil profile released in the last few days highlighted the importance of Libya confirming that: “Libya holds around 44 billion barrels of oil reserves, the largest in Africa.”
Egypt although of great strategic and demographic importance in the region trails far behind with 5 billion barrels of reserves. But the uprising against Ghaddafi means Libya’s oil supplies are now under a cloud of uncertainty. Additionally, the US Energy Information Administration said just prior to the political crisis in Libya, that international oil investors were boosting their investments there, as the Libyan government “plans to increase its oil reserves, production capacity, and further develop the natural gas sector in the medium-term, as the country continues to recover from over a decade of US and international sanctions.”
Three-quarters of the 1.7 million barrels of oil Libya produces daily were quickly taken off the market as opposition to Ghaddafi grew, and production is expected to remain off-line for the foreseeable future. Western companies see Egyptian and Tunisian production coming back soon, but they are both very modest and Saudi reserves although the largest in the world are still under some doubt over the extent to which production can be greatly increased in the short term to compensate for Libya. Similarly Iraq, whose largest oil refinery was badly damaged by internal opponents of its regime last week, and Iran exhibit little sign of being able to boost production significantly in the years ahead.
Another key consideration regarding a western intervention in Libya is the lack of a recognised alternative to Ghaddafi who has protected their interests well over the past 40 years. Whereas they are confident that a plan ‘B’ for their friendly dictators – anything but Islam – will eventuate in Egypt and Tunisia, Libya is not so clear due to a lack of secular political opposition that would be satisfactory for western interests.
But while western governments plan what form of intervention and justification can be best used to protect their oil and strategic interests in Libya, there is no excuse for the Muslims to leave their brothers to the slaughter of Ghaddafi. Where is the urgency to side and help the Muslims against Ghaddafi and his continuing attacks on the uprising? Where is the Egyptian army, so fresh from celebrating the end of Mubarak’s tyranny, where are the other Muslim forces which can stand up to Ghaddafi and his crumbling regime?
“And if they seek your help in the Deen, you must help them” [TMQ Al-Anfal: 72]
Ahmad narrated from Ibnu Umar who said the Messenger of Allah (saw) said:
“There will be ‘Umara over you who order you of things they do not do. Whoever believed them in their lies and helped them in their injustice he would not belong to me nor I belong to him, and he will not join me on the Hawdh (basin)”