Meet Cyrenaica: The World's Newest Aspiring (Pseudo-)Petrostate

How It Works
Jan. 16 2014 2:44 PM

Meet Cyrenaica: The World's Newest Aspiring (Pseudo-)Petrostate

A worker from the Libyan Oil and Gas national company checks oil loading taps and meters at the Hariqa oil port storage on Aug. 20, 2013 in Tobruk, Libya.

Photo by Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

The government of Cyrenaica says it is in discussions with a number of potential customers to export crude oil. If you haven’t been following the news out of Libya for the past few months, you may be wondering what, exactly, is Cyrenaica.

Over the summer, the Cyrenaica National Council declared the eastern region of Libya to be semi-autonomous. The Cyrenaica government now boasts a prime minister and 24 other Cabinet ministers, as well as an elected legislature. According to the Libya Herald, the new entity is “viewed as largely the creation of Ibrahim Jadhran, the former Petroleum Facilities Guard commander.”


The leaders of Cyrenaica claim they are not trying to break up Libya, but want a federalist system governed along the lines of the 1951 constitution, which divided Libya into three regions. Cyrenaica was recognized as a distinct region under Italian and British rule as well as the original indpendent Kingdom of Libya, but since 1963, the country has been divided into 10 smaller regions. The government in Tripoli has been extremely hostile to the new entity, viewing it as an attempt to fracture the country.

The new pseudo-state came about after Jadhran seized several of Libya’s eastern oil ports over the summer and refused to allow the crude to be released into international markets. The Libyan navy, meanwhile, has blocked foreign tankers from docking at ports controlled by the group. Close to 80 percent of Libya’s reserves—the largest proven reserves in Africa and the country’s lifeblood—are located in the east.

Cyrenaica last month did what any aspiring petrostate does in this situation and hired an international lobbying firm to help sell the oil.

International oil companies have cut deals with unrecognized governments before—notably Somalia’s semi-autonomous Somaliland state—but the situation in Libya is a lot more fluid and there’s a good chance Cyrenaica might not be around in a few months to follow through on contracts.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.