Opinion Brief

Will Gadhafi sabotage Libya's oil industry?

New reports say the Libyan strongman may blow up oil fields and cut off pipelines to the Mediterranean before relinquishing power. Would he go that far?

Libya's Moammar Gadhafi has an ultimatum for the rebels seeking to oust him: It's me or chaos. That message was conveyed by TIME's Robert Baer, via an unnamed source with connections to Libya's unstable regime. According to Baer's source, Gadhafi knows he can't retake the country with the 5,000 troops still loyal to him. So, to make his point and punish disloyal Libyans, he's apparently ordered those soldiers to torch Libya's oil fields and blow up pipelines to Mediterranean ports. Would Gadhafi really destroy the source of his country's wealth? Could he? (Watch a report about Gadhafi's orders)

Gadhafi is just desperate enough to try this: Libya's oil exports are already plummeting amidst the violent unrest, says Addison Wiggin in The Daily Reckoning. And while Gadhafi's threat to make that "plunge to zero" may well "just be a bluff," everyone from his officers to his own interior minister have defected to the opposition, and "desperate men do desperate things."
"Gaddafi threatens to torch Libya's oil"

It's too late for him to sow oil chaos: Even if a spiteful Gadhafi wants to "destroy the very lifeblood of his economy," that doesn't mean he can, says Lauren Frayer in AOL News. Much of Libya's oil infrastructure is in the east, already out of Gadhafi's realm of control. In fact, turncoat troops are already starting to "safeguard Libya's infrastructure, oil-related and otherwise," in that half of the country.
"Could Gadhafi sabotage Libya's oil fields?"

Libya's oil industry is already in chaos: Regardless of what Gadhafi does, Libya's oil sector is "nearly certain to suffer," says Joshua Schneyer in Reuters. OPEC is rife with stories of political chaos leaving "lasting scars on the oil sector," in Iran, Iraq, and even Venezuela. In Libya, even just "low-level neglect" in the face of fleeing "foreign expertise," will cripple oil fields, and Libya's economy, for years to come.
"Analysis: Revolt in Libya likely to scar its oil sector"

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