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After Tripoli, what is a petro-ruler to do? And what is China to do?

Steve LeVine, the oil and the glory blog
The apparently successful Libyan uprising leaves a tattered playbook for the petro-rulers of the Middle East, and forces leaders from the West and especially China to rethink anew their interactions with these stewards of the heart of the global economy. Having learned from early stages of the Arab Spring that conciliation does not guarantee their survival, the toughest of the region’s dictators now grasp from Libya that they cannot presume that deadly action will throw off the rabble, either — they must find a new formula for sticking around. As for politically blithe China, it cannot assume that agnosticism is its best strategy for resource security — it, too, must recalculate, and probably take an unaccustomed political position rather than straddle the fence.

The self-immolation of Tunisian fruit-seller Muhammad Al Bouaziz in January ignited the repressed aspirations of millions in the region, leading to the important abdications of Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. But it was the Libyan rebellion in February that raised the specter of flaming oilfields in the nations that truly count in the global economy — the oil-soaked monarchies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar. The price of oil surged (more on this matter below).

More important as far as the rulers were concerned, they seemed secure, but they could not be certain, and the biggest of them all — the al-Saud family of Saudi Arabia — paid out $129 billion to its people in various allowances as a cost of retaining power. Its neighbors did similarly. For the decades to come — as long as these rulers remain in power — they will go everywhere with the albatross of al Bouaziz hanging on their necks. Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia, which has been nursing him back to health after he was badly injured in a palace explosion two months ago, but is it in King Abdullah’s interest to allow Saleh to return home? Probably not — if rehabilitation was previously in the cards, today’s Tripoli events probably spell the end of Saleh’s hopes.

As for outside powers, Western leaders anticipated today’s events in Tripoli by demanding the resignation of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad (who so far has responded by pushing ahead with the bloody end of the two options open to these rulers in the traditional Dictators Playbook). The dancing in Tripoli tells the United States and the European Union that NATO bombing was the right thing to do, and that they must continue to be proactive or lose the Arab street…
(23 Aug 2011)

Libya Must Shape its Own Future

Emira Woods, Foreign Policy in Focus
As the Libyan people celebrate freedom from the rule of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, many are wondering what will come next for the North African nation. In an interview at 12:30 PM EDT, Emira Woods, Co-Director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, stresses the need for the Libyan people to seize the opportunity to create a political and economic Libya that works for the benefit of all the people of Libya.

Libyans celebrated as the end of Qaddafi’s regime seemed near. [Gianluigi Guercia/AFP] “After 42 years of Muammar el-Qaddafi, it is now long overdue for the Libyan people to determine their own destiny,” says Woods. “The question is, can this be a real revolution, where the interests of all the people are heard, are reflected, where the political infrastructure that is put into place is representative of all?”

Interviewer: What does it mean for the Libyan people that the end of Qaddafi’s rule seems to be at an end?

Emira Woods: The most critical issue now is for Libyans to be able to control their own destiny. After 42 years of Muammar el-Qaddafi, it is now long overdue for the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. Whether it’s the oil sector or other elements of their economy, or it’s their political decision-making, it is now time for the Libyan people to take control of their own destiny and not for short-term interests of the United States or other NATO countries to determine key next steps in Libya’s future.

Interviewer: Do you think there is a chance that the Transitional National Council might hand over any part of Libya’s sovereignty to outside interests?

EW: Well I think the Transitional National Council is a big unknown. There are varied interests in the council, including interests that were allied with the CIA and other western agencies and other western forces, including interests that were quite frankly at odds with each other. You know, the internal fighting and bickering that led to even the recent assassination of their general from within I think shows quite a splintering of the rebel factions…
(22 Aug 2011)

After Uprising, Rebels Face a Struggle for Unity

David D. Kirkpatrick and Steven Lee Meyers
With rebels on the verge of ending Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s long reign, the character of their movement is facing its first real test: Can they build a new government of unity and reconciliation, or will their own internal rivalries mean divisions in the new Libya?

Six months after their revolt broke out, the day-to-day leadership of the anti-Qaddafi movement remains an unanswered question, with no figure emerging as the rebellion’s undisputed leader. Even the common struggle against Colonel Qaddafi never masked latent divisions between east and west, between political leaders and fractious militias, and, some say, between liberal public faces and Islamists in the rebel ranks.

The rebels from the western mountains who stormed into Tripoli on Sunday night often roll their eyes at their ostensible political leadership, the Transitional National Council, which is based in the eastern city of Benghazi. Many complained that their national leaders did not give them enough support, even after Western governments began allowing them access to the frozen assets of the Qaddafi government.

“The N.T.C. did not work so hard to bridge the gap” between what western rebels forces had and what they needed to subdue Tripoli, said Youssef Mohamed, a management consultant working as an adviser to one of the rebel units charged with securing the capital.

American and European officials said on Monday that they have been working for weeks to foster cohesion in the rebel ranks and to avoid a repeat of the sectarian strife that gripped Iraq in 2003 after the American invasion. Officials said they thought that one reason Tripoli fell as quickly as it did was that important rebel groups closed ranks and came up with a coherent strategy to invade Colonel Qaddafi’s last stronghold.

Even so, rivalries began emerging on Monday well before Tripoli was fully subdued, along with questions about the rebels’ credibility. Officials of the Transitional National Council in Benghazi said Sunday that their forces had captured Colonel Qaddafi’s son and would-be successor, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi. But then on Tuesday he appeared at a Tripoli hotel housing foreign journalists — moving freely around the city — and even before then some in Tripoli appeared not to trust their Benghazi leadership to handle him…

…Officials in Washington said that for the last several weeks, representatives of the rebel council had met quietly with American, European and other diplomats in Qatar and laid the groundwork for building a democratic government in a country that has never known one.

With the lessons of postwar Iraq very much in mind, the Obama administration and its allies oversaw the drafting of “a transition road map” that creates an interim governing authority to fill the vacuum created by the monolithic Qaddafi regime until elections are held.

The road map did not specify dates or a timetable for the election. But the officials said the rebel leaders had consistently pledged to have an open, inclusive government. They have also pledged not to pursue vendettas or a “de-Baathification-style” purge of the political and security bureaucracy, something that fueled the insurgency in Iraq…
(22 Aug 2011)