7 September 2021 — Moon of Alabama
The hostility of the U.S. against the resistance axis in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon has led to conflicting aims. While the U.S. wants to isolate the ‘resistance’ it also wants to keep its own dominating role in Lebanon. Those aims are now in conflict. The U.S. is thus in a situation where it will have to lift sanctions against Syria to be able to politically compete with Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The U.S. had put Lebanon under an economic siege to pressure it into doing its bidding:
Following Israel’s failure to disrupt or defeat Hezbollah in the 2006 war, the victory of the Resistance Axis in the Syrian conflict, and the growing military and strategic reach of Hezbollah, the US set into motion a policy to starve out Lebanon and destabilize the country’s economy. Washington’s bag of tricks is empty, save this one last sanctions-and-siege weapon.
Israel wants the US to do the impossible: pressure Lebanon into disarming Hezbollah and resume talks over the disputed Mediterranean Sea border for gas extraction.
In the meantime, the Lebanese have lost trust in a banking system that confiscated their life’s savings almost two years ago, and a US-backed Central Bank that has contributed to the collapse of the local currency. The bankrupt Lebanese government has, in turn, eradicated most of the subsidies on gasoline needed for the functioning of hospitals, electricity, transport, and bakeries.
The country has no monetary reserves left to import oil or gasoline and to generate electricity. Power cuts are now lasting 22 hours per day. There is no functional government that could solve those problems.
Lebanon is thus in a extremely deep recession during which the poverty rate has increased from 40% to above 80%. Still – no Lebanese politician or faction leader will dare to attack Hizbullah as it is too powerful to be beaten. Also no one, except maybe Israel or the U.S., wants Lebanon to return to the times of its civil war.
Hizbullah has helped its constituency through the crisis by providing subsidized food. But I can not support all of Lebanon. What it and its friends in Syria and Iran can do is to break the siege the U.S. has put onto the country.
Iran had offered to provide oil to Lebanon in exchange for (worthless) Lebanese lira. But the Lebanese government did not take the offer as the U.S. had threatened it with additional sanctions.
Hizbullah has jumped into the gap. Three tankers have left Iran and are on their way to Syria. Their load will be refined in a Syrian refinery. From there diesel and gasoline will be provided to Lebanon where Hizbullah will organize their distribution.
After this became known, and after the tankers were on their way – protected by a Hizbullah threat to attack whoever touches them – the U.S. had to counter the offer. It could no longer uphold its claim of being a friend of Lebanon when it was seen as doing nothing to help the country while Hizbullah and Iran are providing real support.
The U.S. came up with a rather weird scheme. Egypt will up its natural gas supplies for Jordan where it will be used to generate electricity that will then be exported to Lebanon. Who or how this will be payed for is so far unknown.
Moreover as Lebanon and Jordan share no border the electricity will have to be routed through Syria!
The U.S. scheme to provide some marginal support for Lebanon is thus necessitating a breach of the U.S. sanctions on Syria and its diplomatic isolation:
Jordan will host a meeting of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon’s energy ministers on Wednesday to discuss transportation of Egyptian gas to Lebanon for electricity generation, said state-owned broadcaster Mamlaka.
The United States has been in talks with Egypt and Jordan over a plan to ease Lebanon’s power crisis which involves using Egyptian gas to generate power in Jordan that would be transmitted via Syria.
A top level Lebanese delegation went to Damascus on Saturday to pave the way for the U.S.-backed plan to ease the power shortages in Lebanon.
U.S. sanctions on Damascus are a complicating factor in any effort to help Lebanon via Syria, but diplomats say Washington is looking at ways to urgently deal with those hurdles.
The U.S. will now have to lift sanctions on Syria to win a public relations war against the resistance in Lebanon. Some payments will also need to be made to Syria to rebuild the necessary electricity lines which were destroyed during the war.
By pushing for sanctions and blockades on whoever disagrees with the ‘western’ view of the world the U.S. has defeated its own political aims. The chance that all of Lebanon would flip to the resistance side now made it necessary to break its own sanction policies.
That is diplomatic defeat and a loss of face that few in the Middle East will forget about anytime soon.
Posted by b on September 7, 2021 at 16:57 UTC | Permalink