The Israel-Egypt Gas Deal Is Highly Advantageous to Both Countries

March 1 2018

The Texas-based firm Noble Energy and the Israeli firm Delek recently concluded an agreement with Egypt’s Dolphinus to export natural gas from Israel’s offshore reserves to Egyptian gas-liquefaction facilities—the only such facilities in the region—and then export it to Europe. As Zvi Mazel explains, the economic benefit to both countries can be substantial, but anti-Israel sentiment could still get in the way:

Egyptian officials were at pains to stress that this was a business deal between private companies, while at the same time emphasizing that it was a first step toward making Egypt a regional gas market. . . . These attempts to preempt accusations of “normalization” [of relations with Israel] were not wholly successful. Questions were asked in parliament; an attorney petitioned the [Egyptian] supreme court to void the deal.

The ink hadn’t dried yet on the deal when Cyprus revealed that it, too, was engaged in negotiations with Cairo regarding the export of gas from its Aphrodite offshore field not far from the coast of Egypt. . . . Aphrodite’s reserves are estimated at some 129-billion cubic meters. Noble energy, Delek drilling, and Avner oil exploration [another Israeli company] hold significant shares in that field.

Several routes exist for optimizing the production of eastern Mediterranean gas fields. . . . Yet significant obstacles lie ahead. Ongoing disputes concern the maritime borders of all parties involved. Cyprus reached an agreement with Egypt regarding the delimitation of its maritime borders in 2003, in 2007 with Lebanon, and in 2013 with Israel. . . . Egypt, [however], has never delimited its maritime borders with Israel. It’s currently not happy with the agreement between Cyprus and Israel, even though its commercial waters are not affected and the coordinates of that agreement conform with internationally accepted criteria. . . .

That said, the enormous gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean could significantly contribute to the economic development and stability of the countries of the region, provided these governments can set aside their conflicts and differences of opinion to work together for their mutual benefit. As things stand, political and religious interests have the upper hand, and it’s hard to see how they could be overcome or avoided.

Read more at JNS

More about: Cyprus, Egypt, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Natural Gas


To Undermine Russian and Iranian Influence in Syria, the U.S. Must Go on the Offensive

March 22 2018

When Iranian-lead, pro-Assad forces attacked U.S. allies in Syria last month, they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by American firepower. The incident, writes Tony Badran, makes clear that the U.S. has the capability to push back against the Damascus-Tehran-Moscow axis. By taking a more aggressive approach while working closely with Israel, Badran argues, Washington can at once prevent Russia and Iran from cementing their control of Syria and avoid getting drawn into a wider conflict:

Israeli assets can augment U.S. capabilities considerably. A few days after the skirmish in Deir Ezzour in February, Iran flew a drone into Israeli air space. Israel responded by destroying the Iranian command center at the Tiyas military air base near Palmyra, and then proceeded to bomb a large number of Iranian and Assad-regime targets. The episode again underscored the vulnerability of Iran, to say nothing of the brittle Assad regime. Close coordination with Israel to expand this ongoing targeting campaign against Iranian and Hizballah infrastructure, senior cadres, and logistical routes, and amplifying it with U.S. assets in the region, would have a devastating effect on Iran’s position in Syria.

By going on the offensive, the U.S. will also strengthen Israel’s hand with Russia, reducing Jerusalem’s need to petition the Kremlin and thereby diminishing Moscow’s ability to position itself as an arbiter on Israeli security. For instance, instead of haggling with Russia to obtain its commitment to keep Iran five or seven kilometers away from the Israeli border, the U.S. could adopt the Israeli position on Iran’s entrenchment in Syria and assist Israel in enforcing it. Such a posture would have a direct effect on another critical ally, Jordan, whose role is of high importance in southern Syria and in the U.S. zone in the east.

Assad and Iran are the scaffolding on which the Russian position stands. Targeting them, therefore, undercuts Moscow and reduces its leverage. By merely forcing Russia to respect Israeli and Jordanian needs on the border, the U.S. would undermine Russia’s attempt, more generally, to leverage its position in Syria to make headway into the U.S. alliance system. In addition to adopting a more offensive military posture, the U.S. should also intensify the economic chokehold on Assadist Syria.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy