Oil makes the difference

WHAT IS the difference between armed Arab rebels and peaceful Arab demonstrators? The answer, as far as imperialism is concerned, depends entirely on whose interests they serve.

Armed rebels in Libya are “democratic protesters” in the eyes of the “international community” that Anglo-American imperialism likes to call itself these days, while a blind eye is turned to the suppression of Bahraini civilian protesters who have taken to the streets to demand an end to the autocracy of the royal family.

The reason is simply oil. Bahrain’s oil is firmly in the hands of the big oil corporations of the imperialist world. Libya’s is not. The Libyan oil industry was nationalised in the 1970s. Though Gaddafi’s government turned to the imperialists in 2003 to end economic isolation and modernise its oil industry with Western help, the threat of nationalisation always hovered over their operations. With Gaddafi out of the way there would be nothing to stop the big oil corporations taking over Libya’s vast oil fields and running the country like they do Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

Some 1,500 Saudi and Emirates troops and armour moved into Bahrain this week at the request of the King to “protect government buildings and oil installations”. The fact that none of these offices or complexes have actually been attacked is clearly neither here nor there as far as imperialism is concerned. There can be little doubt that these troops have been sent to help the Bahraini king suppress the protests that have rocked the oil-rich island for the past month or so.

One hand of US imperialism calls on the Bahraini authorities to show “restraint” to sustain the democratic values Obama pretends to uphold. The other hand is working overtime at the United Nations to get the Security Council to sanction Nato intervention on behalf of the Libyan rebels who are now on the receiving end of Gaddafi’s fury.

But the Gaddafi government hasn’t been the pushover the imperialists expected. Mass meetings in the capital, Tripoli, and the timely hand out of large loyalty bonuses to Libyan workers have rallied support behind Gaddafi and his armed forces who are now pushing the rebels back to the provincial capital of Benghazi.

Now some of Washington’s Nato allies are beginning to get cold feet at the prospect of a new imperialist war against the Arabs that could turn into another Iraq.

Turkey and Germany are openly opposing the “no-fly zone” that Anglo-American imperialism wants to impose to allow Nato war-planes support the rebels and at the UN Russia is blocking American attempts to get a Security Council rubber-stamp for imperialist intervention.

Meanwhile support for the Venezuelan initiative is growing with member states of the Latin American and Caribbean alliance, ALBA, pledging their support last week for a peace delegation to intercede to end the fighting.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who visited Libya last October and signed various agreements with the Gaddafi government has suggested that former US President Jimmy Carter lead the peace delegation to mediate between both sides in the civil conflict.

The anti-war movement in Britain must mobilise to oppose sanctions or military action against the Gaddafi government and throw its weight behind the Venezuelan proposal to stop the bloodshed without imperialist interference.