LIBYA is in turmoil and it looks like the forces of the madman Colonel Muammar Gaddafi are slowly retaking city by city from those who rose up in protest against a despot.
For more than 40 years, Gaddafi has done what he liked with the oil income from one of the world’s major producers. Nobody was bothered about democracy or any damn ‘cracy for that matter as long as the spigots were open, the oil was flowing and Westerners could line up at the bowser and fill their tanks with cheap oil.
Now that equilibrium has been disturbed, Oil prices are up – though undoubtedly a good deal of the price rise is due to speculation in the US. Americans will not act on this though; they prefer to blame external factors. It is much more convenient to look at the mote in someone else’s eye than the beam in one’s own eye.
By the time there is any movement on a no-fly zone to protect civilians who are trying to take their county back, it will be too late. Gaddafi will be back on his throne, hundreds of thousands of ordinary people will be lying in the streets and the oil prices in Britain will be back to what they were before the Libyans started their quest for freedom.
But then why did anyone expect anything different? In 1991, encouraged by the US which had just finished the job of driving Iraqi troops out of Kuwait, the people of Iraq started agitating against Saddam Hussein. George the senior encouraged them to rise up. He was riding a wave at that point, and could afford to indulge in bluster about democracy and freedom.
But midway through the protests, George developed cold feet. The US has always had a morbid fear of Iranian fundamentalists controlling any part of the oil-rich Middle East apart from their own little patch of sand after 1979 when the Shah was overthrown and Ayaltollah Ruhollah Khomeini took over.
The strictures on Saddam Hussein flying his own helicopters, put in place by the US in order to prevent him from killing Iraqi civilians, were promptly withdrawn; the old man indulged in the most savage butchery of his own people and regained power. Most importantly, oil supplies regained their old levels and Americans could drive to the bowser and fill up at near normal prices.
Thus, any changes in Libya will be governed by just the one factor – stability. It doesn’t matter how many Libyans die. They are just, to quote Donald “rummy” Rumsfeld, just collateral.
In the rest of the Persian Gulf and the Mideast the same reasoning will be used. Bahrain is the home of the US Fifth Fleet – does one really think that the Americans want to go looking for a new home for those massive ships? Think again.
Perhaps the only country in which the Americans will encourage protesters to continue their activities will be Iran. And that is because of the perceived nuclear threat from Teheran. But there too, any dictator who will agree to submit the nuclear programme for inspection will be acceptable. Oh, and he (it is always a male in Iran) must agree to open the oil spigots as well…