US investigating Libya militia leader Haftar's relationship with Venezuela, amid military setbacks

US investigating Libya militia leader Haftar's relationship with Venezuela, amid military setbacks
A number of countries, including the US, are launching an investigation into Haftar's alleged recent actions in Venezuela.
3 min read
04 June, 2020
Khalifa Haftar [Getty]

A number of countries, including the US, are investigating Libyan militia leader Khalifa Haftar's developing relationship with Venezuela, after concerns he could raise funds for his war against the UN-backed Tripoli government through oil deals with Caracas.

UN, European, Libyan and US officials are investigating a Dubai-based ship charterer for possibly aiding Haftar in marketing fuel in a bid to raise funds after his forces suffered a string of recent defeats to government forces, The Wall Street Journal reported.

A trip Haftar made to Venezuela capital city, Caracas, is also being scrutinised, with officials arguing it could be a bid to secure oil and fuel deals.

Recently, political contact between Iran and Venezuela has also increased, with the first of five Iranian tankers carrying much-needed gasoline and oil derivatives docking in the South American country last week.

This growing relationship between Tehran and Caracas is being monitored by the US, with Washington having effective embargoes on both country's energy industries.

The economies of Iran and Venezuela depend on energy exports, although they are in bad shape, in part due to US sanctions.

Haftar's oil sales have been the subject of much controversy, as analysts postulate that his recent forays into the energy sector have been a way to fund his so-called "Libyan National Army's" 14-month assault on the capital Tripoli, controlled by the UN-supported government.

The general currently controls eastern Libya, including key oil export terminals, which could pose a problem for government forces.

With Turkey entering the fray by sending more troops and weapons to support Tripoli, Haftar has been experiencing a heavy losses in his bid to overthrow the government.

Such oil sales could prove an important way to fund his operations in the region, despite the losses.

Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister of the internationally-recognised Libyan government in Tripoli, confirmed the rogue general's need for capital.

The general "wants to sell oil. He needs the money to pay for Wagner [Russian mercenaries]", Bashagha said.

Only the state-run National Oil Corp. (NOC) has the right to sell Libyan oil, and the international community has repeatedly blocked Haftar's attempts to export crude.

He in turn retaliated in January by blocking ports and pipelines, rendering it difficult for the government to shore up funds by selling oil.

Haftar, Iran and Venezuela

The US is also looking into Haftar's relationship with the Nicolas Maduro regime in Venezuela, with one Western diplomat postulating there could be oil deals between Iran and the South American country.

"Our intelligence is looking into it," a US official said.

Haftar had been in contact with the Maduro government and reportedly offered to act as a broker for the country’s oil payments. His private jet was spotted in Caracas on 24 April, according to tracker Flight Radar24.

In November last year, Haftar's Military Investment Authority signed a 10-year fuel distribution deal with two companies, Emo Investment Trading and Marketing of Oil and Derivatives LLC, a shipping charter firm in Dubai, UAE, according to WSJ.

Under the deal, Emo was set to load the Libyan diesel and heavy oil onto vessels in the east of the country on behalf of the Military Investment Authority.

The agreement was confirmed, and last month a shipping document confirmed that Emo sent an Emirati-owned tanker called the Jal Laxmi to pick up the fuel.

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