Libya, King Idris, Tribes, Colonialism, Conflict, and Oil

Libya, King Idris, Tribes, Colonialism, Conflict, and Oil

Brandon : Canada | Mar 03, 2011 at 1:08 PM PST
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Further information on these issues can be found at these links: here, here, and here. Many of the rebel supporters in the anti-Gaddafi forces fly the flag of the monarchy and the former King Idris. Protestester sometimes carried photos of the King as well.

Idris has a long history in Libya going back to the nineteen twenties. He was recognized by the British under the new title Emir of the territory of Cyrenaica, a position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920. He was also installed as Emir of Tripolitania on 28th July 1922. Cyrenaica is a territory in Eastern Libya one of three territories that also included Tripolitania to the west and Fezzan to the south. In 1951 these three areas were united as the United Kingdom of Libya under King Idris on the 24th of December 1951.

Having thrown off the shackles of Italy Idris at once set about making deals with the U.S. and the U.K. The King's rule was to the advantage of prominent Cyrenaican tribes including many such as the Zuwayya who today lead the revolt against Gaddafi. In 1996 members of the Warfalah tribe were purged from Gadaffis government. Not surprisingly when the present revolt broke out the tribe was one of the first to defect to the rebels.

On the other hand Gaddafi's own tribe and the Magariha tribe that dominates Fezzan in the south and some parts of Tripolitania have been steadfast in supporting Gaddafi. This includes the city of Sirte Gaddafi's birthplace which is firmly in the control of pro-Gaddafi forces.

Idris banned all politcial parties but made astute deals with various tribes to maintain his rule a practice that Gaddafi also carried on and dated from colonial times. It is not too surprising that Cyrenaica is the first liberated partof Libya as the old tribal alliances break down and groups see the possibility of renewed power for their tribes as was the case under Idris.

Of course Idris also made deals with the U.S. and U.K. signing twenty year deals for military bases. He was also widely regarded as a puppet of British and American oil companies.

While outside media portray the struggle in Libya as one of national liberation it is no doubt in part also a matter of revenge on tribes dominant under Gaddafi. Listen to the Cyrenaican based rebel leader Colonel Tarek Hussein. He said he would finish the people of Sirte if they did not join the rebels:"I want to deliver a message to the people of Sirte: You are with us or against us. Because when we move to Tripoli, you either join us, or we will finish you." Hmm that sounds as if he is threatening to kill civilians.

The 1969 revolution led by Gaddafi sought to establish a united socialist and egalitarian society based on the Arab socialist model of Nasser in Egypt but that goal has long been abandoned. However Gaddafi did gradually take more and more control of oil resources

The increase in production that followed the 1969 revolution was accompanied by Libyan demands for higher petroleum prices, a greater share of revenues, and more control over the development of the country's petroleum industry. In 1973 the Libyan government announced the nationalization of a controlling interest in all petroleum companies operating in the country. This step gave Libya control of about 60 percent of its domestic oil production by early 1974, a figure that subsequently rose to 70 percent. But over the last several years with the rehabilitation of Gadaffi's image there has been considerable foreign investment in oil as shown by the appended chart.

No doubt the oil companies would like to go further along the route of privatization and at a faster pace than was already happening under Gaddafi. Perhaps once things settle down this will happen as the newly dominant tribes make deals as had their forebearers in the times of King Idris.

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Oil facilities in Benghazi under rebel control. Obviously they were not destroyed by bombing.
northsunm32 is based in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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