No war in September: Postponing the maritime boundary and the war between Lebanon and Israel

Written by – Elijah J. Magnier:

The American envoy Amos Hochstein left after a few hours’ visit to Lebanon, during which he met with Presidents Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri and the caretaker government, Najib Mikati. Hochstein relied on the Lebanese officials to buy the necessary time, not for finalising the agreement and demarcating the maritime borders, but to buy enough time for the formation of the new Israeli government following November’s elections. The US and the current Israeli government are trying to avoid offering any advantage to the Israeli opposition leader, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, against Yair Lapid’s government. Lapid’s government’s decision to confront Hezbollah in a war or submit to its conditions would affect the forthcoming Israeli elections. Nevertheless, the Lebanese officials are offering Hezbollah compensation by accepting the Iranian gift represented by a free-of-charge fuel tanker for the severe Lebanese electricity shortage, defusing the possibility of war temporarily until next November.

The government of Prime Minister Mikati is inclined to accept the Iranian gift to provide the Electricité du Liban Ministry with the fuel it needs to increase supply hours from one to eight or ten hours daily. By acknowledging the Iranian gift, Mikati addresses the current crisis to dispel part of the darkness in which Lebanon has been drowning. Hochstein previously manifested the US opposition to the Iranian gift following his meeting with Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad in the presence of the US Ambassador to Beirut, Dorothy Shea. Hochstein expressed his displeasure at accepting the Iranian gift, saying that the decision “is up to the government and not the Ministry of Energy.”

This apparently obvious interference in Lebanese decisions is not new, primarily since Washington does not provide anything to help Lebanon in its current severe plight and, at the same time, does not allow it to obtain aid and gifts from countries such as Iran, Russia and China. The US promised to bring Egyptian gas through Syria to ease the Lebanese shortage of electricity supply but never fulfilled its commitment since a year ago, claiming that the delay is due to the hesitant World Bank finance.

The Mikati government considers that the decision to accept the gift announced on behalf of Iran by the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, will anger the Americans. However, Mikati finds himself in a real predicament because Iran did not request bank transfers that are subject to US sanctions or any operation that exposes Lebanon to sanctions. In addition, officials in Lebanon believe that accepting this gift is a temporary drug to calm Hezbollah and keep it away for the next two months from its decision to go to war if the maritime border with Israel is not demarcated. After all, Prime Minister Mikati and many other Lebanese officials who own billions of dollars in western banks don’t dare to challenge the US even if they adopt counterproductive measures to the Lebanese interest for fear of confiscating their assets.

The reception of the Iranian fuel is quite embarrassing to the pro-US allies in Lebanon, who have nothing to offer the country and have zero leverage to bring Lebanon any assistance to help the population in its deep financial crisis. Hezbollah, however, managed to bring to Lebanon more than one Iranian tanker and offered almost half of the two tankers to the Lebanese from all sects, including hospitals in different parts of the country. If accepted, the latest Iranian gift will make obvious how Iran looks after its allies and responds to their request, especially when all Lebanese, including the pro-western allies, are expected to benefit from Iran’s fuel. 

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Proofread by: Maurice Brasher