In the final quarter of 2021, Egypt reached an agreement with Lebanon to export natural gas to the country in the first quarter of 2022.
The agreement was first published by the US State Department’s senior advisor on global energy security, Amos Hochstein. His announcement was a clear indication that the plan was essentially an American construct, intended as a “conflict resolution” measure to mitigate the effects of Lebanon’s economic free fall.
Aside from being controlled by a militia whose ongoing regional wars stifled economic growth, Lebanon‘s recent political nightmare is reflected in the power and power outages that have plagued the country. Lebanese citizens are grappling with the state-owned electricity company ElectricitÃ© du Liban and the complete shutdown of the country’s electricity grid after the two main power stations ran out of fuel.
According to Bel Trew, a journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon now has no state power, which means that the whole country is run on private generators.
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âThe generators are unaffordable: My bill last month was 3.75 million liras, which is $ 2,500 at the official price and about $ 250 on the black market. How is the airport going? She mentioned this to highlight the chaotic energy situation in Lebanon.
While Lebanon is going through a very severe energy crisis, the country is also in a bitter rivalry with other countries, particularly Israel, for the energy reserves of the eastern Mediterranean. Attempts to resolve the sea border dispute between Lebanon and Israel are still changing. In 2019, Lebanon did not sign the East-Mediterranean Forum Agreement as it was organized by Israel. With the US being the main backer of this proposed gas pump from Egypt, the key question is whether the move would be important enough to affect US mediation efforts between Israel and Lebanon.
Although Israel wants to work with Lebanon on energy policy in the east of the Mediterranean, Lebanon does not want to join the club as it is technically still at war with Israel. Last May, former Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Harari said that an Israeli diplomat had invited Lebanon to the East Med Forum, but Lebanon was reluctant to join in the current circumstances. The US seems ready to help Lebanon rather than promoting Israeli hostility. The main reason for this gentle US diplomatic stance towards Lebanon is the support of Egypt and France, both of whom exert significant political influence in Lebanon.
Ultimately, the US services to Lebanon are supposed to tie it into a framework that is beneficial to the region in general, and to Israel in particular. Finally, Lebanese energy reserves (oil and gas) in the Eastern Mediterranean would add to the regional potential and support the reconstruction of Lebanon. It is also important for the USA to support the âwave of normalizationâ between Israel and Arab states. This process was created by the Abraham Accords despite Israel’s endless occupations.
When Ambassador Dorothy Shea met the energy ministers of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt last September, she said her country had a plan that Washington would facilitate energy payments to Cairo on behalf of Beirut, using the World Bank‘s designated aid Lebanon. For his part, President Michel Aoun boasted that Lebanon’s electricity crisis was about to end.
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On the other hand, it is noteworthy that the Syrian regime is included in this energy plan despite the Caesar Act. In line with the project, Egyptian gas will be shielded from the Caesar Syria Civil Protection Act. Syrian officials have so far expressed their willingness to support the US plan. Accordingly, Egyptian natural gas is being piped into Lebanon via Jordan and Syria to increase its electricity production as part of a plan agreed by the four governments to alleviate the severe electricity crisis. Should this plan become a reality, it will be thanks to the Biden government that it was able to reconcile Lebanon with Assad’s Syria in such a way that the energy crisis in Lebanon would be ended.
In summary, it can be said that by using the electricity crisis as an instrument for conflict resolution, Washington will gain an enormous mediator role between Israel and Lebanon in the energy dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean. Second, by circumventing Caesar’s law, the Biden government would de facto recognize and support the Assad regime, which is responsible for the killing of more than 500,000 people over the past 11 years.
The views expressed in this article are the property of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of Middle East Monitor.