Israeli gas is said to be pumped into Syria and Lebanon via an Arab pipeline to curb Iran’s influence

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Most of the gas pumped into Lebanon through the Arab pipeline that extends from Egypt, Jordan and Syria is Israeli. Most of the electricity supplied to Lebanon via Syria and Jordan is also largely Israeli, according to an agreement drafted years ago by senior US diplomat Amos Hochstein.

Just a few days ago, Hochstein himself promoted border negotiations between Lebanon and Israel. He told Beirut that the Arab gas pipeline would be exempted from the Caesar Act sanctions imposed by Washington on Syria. The US official also stood behind a Jordanian-Israeli agreement in 2014 that aimed to promote an “axis of moderation in the Middle East between moderate Arab countries and Israel”.

Aside from the technical and economic aspects of the new gas deal, several signs suggest that it will ultimately aim to counter Iran’s influence in Lebanon and Syria. The best evidence of this is that the deal was announced just days after Tehran’s announcement that it would send oil derivatives to Lebanon via Syria. Even beyond the region, Moscow and Washington are unanimous on this question, despite different motives and goals.

A Western official quoted a senior Russian official as saying that Israel had encouraged Russia and the US to force the return of the Damascus regime to southern Syria and agree to the delivery of energy to Lebanon. Israel believes such a move will help counter Iran‘s influence in Lebanon and Syria, the Russian official said. In addition, CIA chief William Burns, who had toured the region in recent months, was also involved in the gas deal, which was also supported by the coordinator of the National Security Council for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk.

The drafting of the agreement required a great deal of effort and coordination: creating security in southern Syria, where the gas and energy networks will run. Indeed, in recent months, Russia has been citing “settlements” where government forces have returned along the border with Jordan. The opposition has been driven from the area, mines are being removed, and Amman has since improved its relations with Damascus. Jordan’s King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad held a phone conversation in early October. In addition, the Amman-Damascus motorway has reopened and talks have been held on border security and creating incentives for Damascus.

Ministerial meetings were also held between Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Syria in order to overcome obstacles in the operation of the gas pipeline and the energy network. Part of the deal is Washington’s promise to Moscow that the World Bank will fund the project through support from Lebanon’s Electricite du Liban (EDL).

In particular, the US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea informed Lebanese President Michel Aoun that Washington had approved the proposal after telephone conversations with the Egyptian and Israeli energy ministers. These talks focused on “future plans to supply Israeli gas for liquefaction in Egyptian plants before export”. Israeli sources said the plan called for “Israeli gas to be supplied through natural gas facilities in Egypt prior to export to a third country.”

Egyptian and Israeli companies have made several agreements over the years. In 2018, they agreed to deliver 64 billion cubic meters of Israeli gas from the Mediterranean Tamar and Leviathan fields to Egypt. The deal is for ten years and was worth $ 15 billion. After Egypt declared its self-sufficiency in gas production, it announced that it would become a regional energy hub by importing Israeli gas.

On the Jordanian front, Hochstein started negotiations in 2012 about an electricity contract between Amman and Tel Aviv for electricity generation.

Washington’s interest in this project was aroused in order to politically cover the gas and electricity projects for Lebanon. American officials told their Arab counterparts that the projects would be exempted from the Caesar law, which came into force in mid-2020. Beirut, Cairo and Amman continued to demand written guarantees, and Hochstein informed Lebanese officials of the exemptions.

Despite the technical and political challenges, such as repairing the actual pipeline, removing mines and protecting the border, Washington has tried to remove legal obstacles and Moscow has tried to remove the military obstacles, mainly political and military ones not for economic reasons.



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