Is the US Seeking to Reproduce Iraq’s Notorious “Oil-For-Food Program” in Libya?


Recent statements by the US Envoy to Libya, Richard Norland regarding oil revenues have been strongly condemned and rejected by the authorities in eastern Libya. This is after the US diplomat warned them of the consequences of returning to using oil to put pressure on political opponents in Tripoli.

The Libyan Parliament and its designated-government in the east have said such statements are “unacceptable interference in internal affairs.”

Independent Arabia said in a report that Norland’s statements included new marketing for his initiative to share revenues, which most Libyans view with sensitivity and apprehension. The Libyans linked this statement to the notorious “oil-for-food” program that brought the Iraqi people to the brink of hunger, in the period preceding the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

Norland called to adopt a comprehensive revenue management mechanism as “a constructive way to address problems related to the distribution of oil revenues, and to establish transparency, without undermining the integrity of the Libyan economy or the neutrality of the National Oil Corporation (NOC).”

He also called on Libyan political actors to “refrain from threatening oil shutdowns; as such actions could have devastating consequences on the Libyan economy and harm all Libyan citizens.”

These statements were met with a campaign of criticism, and a series of official statements rejecting them.

The Head of the Parliament’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Issa Al-Araibi has criticised Norland for his statements. He called the Ambassador’s remarks a blatant interference in the internal affairs of Libya.

Al-Araibi stated that the US Ambassador “is only concerned with the flow of oil and gas and disregards the suffering of the people.” He also accused the Ambassador of “overlooking the corruption of the outgoing government. The oil shutdown is a Libyan matter, and we refuse to interfere in it. We also affirm the fair distribution of wealth among all Libyans.”

Al-Araibi’s statement was supported by a statement issued by 76 MP’s, in which they declared “support for the Libyan government’s decision to administratively seize oil revenues.” They also reiterated that the decision made by the Prime Minister to place the oil revenue under the custody of the Libyan judiciary “was done to protect the rights of the Libyan people, and preserve their wealth for future generations.”

For his part, the Libyan Prime Minister-designate, Osama Hammad pledged to protect Libya’s oil revenues from misuse, stating that his government’s threat to stop the oil flow is a “necessary measure to secure state finances.”

In a call for respect for Libyan sovereignty, Hammad urged Norland to “refrain from aligning with any particular side.” He emphasized the need for “foreign interests not to overshadow the rights and concerns of the Libyan people” and advised Norland against “making media statements without fully understanding the reality on the ground.”

Hammad criticized the US Envoy’s remarks as “blatant interference in Libyan affairs,” accusing them of fostering unilateral benefit at the expense of the Libyan public’s resources.

In a broader appeal, the Libyan Premier also encouraged the Parliament and High Council of State (HCS) to expedite the process toward Presidential and Parliamentary elections. He stressed the need to “establish a unified executive authority to manage the country’s affairs and resources.”

The Parliament-designated government accused the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) of “wasting public money and using oil revenues to buy loyalties in order to remain in power.” It demanded the administrative seizure of oil funds deposited in the accounts of the Oil Corporation, the Central Bank and the Libyan Foreign Bank.

It said in a statement last month that it had “completed procedures for administrative seizure of oil revenues for the year 2022 and beyond, which exceed 130 billion dinars ($27 billion dollars) based on the constitutional declaration on the principle of fair distribution of wealth.”

The government acquires more than 65% of Libya’s oil production from areas under its control in eastern and southern Libya, according to Independent Arabia.

Political analyst, Ezzedine Aqil claimed that the main purpose of Norland’s statements was to promote the US project for sharing oil revenues again.