Oil production recovering, yet political uncertainty remains - August 13

This week was marked by reports of a gradual resumption of oil exports and an increase in Libya’s output. Oil production is currently estimated at 850k barrels per day (bpd).

However, challenges remain for Libya’s oil and gas sector and political uncertainty could translate into security threats. The underlying causes that sparked the JuneJuy 2018 crisis are yet to be addressed, including tensions over control of oil and gas revenues. As the 10 Dec deadline to hold elections approaches, there is a possibility the political and military divides would become further entrenched should the Government of National Accord (GNA) fail to solve core economic issues in Libya. In the East, the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) challenge lies in its ability to protect the Oil Crescent against potential attacks.

On the political front, uncertainty is growing as deep institutional divides remain unchanged and amid rising local anti-Italy sentiment in the West. On 09 Aug, the Italian Embassy in Tripoli denied allegations that Ambassador Giuseppe Perrone requested elections to be delayed. The statement came in response to a statement by the House of Representatives (HoR), which strongly condemned Perrone’s comments, declaring him a persona non grata and calling for his replacement. Meanwhile, the GNA also stressed on 07 Aug that Libya’s planned elections’ schedule is to be decided by Libyans alone. This position clearly marked a GNA understanding of the negative impact that Perrone’s comments could have on its election prospects.

In Tripoli, conflated grievances, including over power cuts and the higher cost of living, have prompted locals to back the upcoming elections, which increases pressure on the GNA to implement urgent economic measures.

From a security standpoint, the prevailing anti-Italy sentiment has manifested itself in sporadic incidents involving Italian nationals and interests in the West, while militants continue to pose a threat to the security situation in the Oil Crescent, including Islamic State (IS) and other elements affiliated to former Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) commander Ibrahim Jathran. There were unconfirmed and emerging reports of a mobilization 50 kms from Sirte in anticipation of an attack on the Oil Crescent. According to the unconfirmed reports, the Greater Sirte Operations Room remains on high alert. Thus far, there is no indication or reliable information to suggest an attack is imminent. Whispering Bell has received multiple reports in the past month suggesting militants could mount another attack in the Oil Crescent.

Meanwhile, reports suggest the Libyan National Army (LNA) Air Force conducted two airstrikes targeting Benghazi Defence Brigades (BDB) positions near As Saddadah on 11 Aug. There were no reports of fatalities, casualties, and/or physical damage. The LNA aircraft took off from the Al Jufra airbase. The latest reports indicate the presence of a coalition of militants, including the BDB, Chadian mercenaries and other elements affiliated to Ibrahim Jathran, near As Saddadah.

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