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Controlling Libya’s wealth: Hifter’s long game

As Libya's oil exports, and funding for oil operations, look set to rise, the struggle for political control is shifting to Libya’s financial institutions.
A general view of pipelines at the Zueitina oil terminal in Zueitina, west of Benghazi April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo - RTSN8GP

For nine months, the United Nations has attempted to force the so-called General National Accord (GNA) government on Libya. Despite myriad international pronouncements of support, the GNA has failed spectacularly to take hold on the ground. Regional squabbles, constitutional complexities affecting its legitimacy and its lack of institutional capacity impede the GNA's progress. Lurking behind all these proximal causes are its lack of revenue. It has never controlled Libya's key nodes of oil production and exports.

On Sept. 11, forces aligned with Gen. Khalifa Hifter, the GNA's most prominent rival, seized control of most of Libya's oil crescent ports — evicting the remaining pockets of Ibrahim Jadhran's federalists. In the wake of this momentous action, the two-year hiatus on international oil exports from Ras Lanuf, Sidra and Zueitina was speedily brought to an end. Since then, tankers have been loaded (mostly with crude that has been in deep storage in tanker farms) and funds for repairing oil facilities have been allocated. Soon, revenue from these oil shipments will flow back into Libya's coffers. To whom in Libya's complex, fractured institutional landscape will these funds go, and why are they being allowed to flow?

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