In Libya, Hifter Plays the Oil Card

Jan 22, 2020 | 09:00 GMT
Smoke billows after an attack by Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Hifter on Tripoli on Jan. 19, 2019.

Billowing smoke marks the aftermath of an attack by Libyan National Army leader Khalifa Hifter's troops on Tripoli on Jan. 19, 2019. Control of the country's oil exports is a major weapon in Hifter's arsenal.

(ENES CANLI/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Just hours before global powers kicked off a Jan. 19 conference in Berlin to discuss ways to end Libya's conflict, one of the war's major parties, the Libyan National Army, made a major announcement: It was closing the country's five oil export terminals in eastern Libya. Not long after, the LNA shut off a key pipeline connecting Libya's two main oil fields in western Libya to ports. If the closures continue, they could torpedo Libya's oil production from approximately 1.15 million barrels per day to less than 75,000 b/d. At the end of the day, the LNA and its leader, Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, are likely to come under enough pressure that they will bring the country's production back online. More crucially for Libya, however, the merely modest progress at the Berlin peace conference shows that the country remains months away from any meaningful political solution to its civil war....

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