NATO's Libya campaign was and is all about oil. But not about simply controlling Libyan high-grade crude because the USA is nervous about reliable foreign supplies. It rather is about controlling China's free access to long-term oil imports from Africa and from the Middle East. In other words, it is about controlling China itself.
Libya geographically is bounded to its north by the Mediterranean directly across from Italy, where Italian ENI oil company has been the largest foreign operator in Libya for years. To its west it is bounded by Tunisia and by Algeria. To its south it is bounded by Chad. To its east it is bounded by both Sudan (today Sudan and Southern Sudan) and by Egypt. That should tell something about the strategic importance of Libya from the standpoint of the Pentagon's AFRICOM long-term strategy for controlling Africa and its resources and which country is able to get those resources.
Gaddafi's Libya had maintained strict national state control over the rich reserves of high quality "light, sweet" Libyan crude oil. As of 2006 data Libya had the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, some 35%, larger even than Nigeria. Oil consessions had been extended to Chinese state oil companies as well as Russian and others in recent years. Not surprisingly a spokesman from the so-called opposition claiming victory over Gaddafi, Abdeljalil Mayouf, information manager at Libyan rebel oil firm AGOCO, told Reuters, "We don't have a problem with Western countries like the Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil." China and Russia and Brazil either opposed UN sanctions on Libya or pressed for a negotiated settlement of the internal conflict and an end to NATO bombing.
As I have detailed elsewhere,1 Gaddafi, an old adherent of Arab socialism on the line of Egypt's Gamal Nasser, used the oil revenues to improve the lot of his people. Health care was free as was education. Each Libyan family was given a state grant of $50000 towards buying a new house and all bank loans were according to Islamic anti-usury laws, interest free. The state was also free of debt. Only by bribery and massive infiltration into the tribal opposition areas of the eastern part of the country could the CIA, MI6 and other NATO intelligence operatives, at an estimated cost of $1 billion, and massive NATO bombing of civilians, destabilize the strong ties between Gaddafi and his people.
Why then did NATO and the Pentagon lead such a mad and destructive assault on a peaceful sovereign country? Clear is that one of the prime reasons was to complete the encirclement of China's oil and vital raw material sources across northern Africa.
Pentagon alarm over China
Step-by-step in the past several years Washington had begun to create the perception that China, which was the "dear friend and ally of America" less than a decade ago, was becoming the greatest threat to world peace because of China's enormous economic expansion. The painting of China as a new "enemy" has been complex as Washington is dependent on China to buy the lion's share of the US Government debt in the form of Treasury paper.
In August the Pentagon released its annual report to Congress on China's military status. 2 This year the report sent alarm bells ringing across China for a strident new tone. The report stated among other things, “Over the past decade, China’s military has benefited from robust investment in modern hardware and technology. Many modern systems have reached maturity and others will become operational in the next few years,” the Pentagon said in the report. It added that “there remains uncertainty about how China will use its growing capabilities... China’s rise as a major international actor is likely to stand out as a defining feature of the strategic landscape of the early 21st century.”3
In a matter of perhaps two to five years, depending on how the rest of the world reacts or plays their cards, the Peoples' Republic of China will emerge in the controlled Western media painted as the new "Hitler Germany." If that seems hard to believe today, just reflect on how that was done with former Washington allies such as Egypt's Mubarak or even Saddam Hussein. In June this year, former US Secretary of the Navy and now US Senator from Virginia, James Webb, startled many in Beijing when he told press that China was fast approaching what he called a “Munich moment,” when Washington must decide how to maintain a strategic balance, a reference to the 1938 crisis over Czechoslovakia when Chamberlain opted for appeasement with Hitler over Czechoslovakia. Webb added, “If you look at the last 10 years, the strategic winner has been China.” 4
The same massively effective propaganda machine of the Pentagon, led by CNN, BBC, the New York Times or London Guardian will get the subtle command from Washington to "paint China and its leaders black." China is becoming far too strong and far too independent for many in Washington and in Wall Street. To control that, above all China's oil import dependency has been identified as her Achilles Heel. Libya is a move to strike directly at that vulnerable Achilles heel.
China moves into Africa
The involvement of Chinese energy and raw materials companies across Africa had become a major cause of alarm in Washington where an attitude of malign neglect had dominated Washington Africa policy since the Cold War era. As its future energy needs became obvious several years ago China began a major African economic diplomacy which reached a crescendo in 2006 when Beijing literally rolled out the red carpet to heads of more than forty African states and discussed a broad range of economic issues. None were more important for Beijing than securing future African oil resources for China's robust industrialization.
China moved into countries which had been virtually abandoned by former European colonial powers like France or Britain or Portugal.
Chad is a case in point. The poorest and most geographically isolated African countries, Chad was courted by Beijing which resumed diplomatic ties in 2006.