Why the U.S. Is Pressuring Israel into an Agreement with Lebanon

On Saturday, the Lebanese foreign minister told reporters that a deal with Israel regarding the two countries’ maritime borders is “95-percent” complete. The deal, brokered by the U.S., would allow both countries to explore their offshore natural-gas supplies without conflict. Meanwhile, Hizballah—the Lebanon-based terrorist group with tens of thousands of missiles aimed at the Jewish state—has threatened to attack Israeli gas rigs if Jerusalem starts drilling in the Karish gas field before reaching an agreement with Beirut.

Both the threats and the negotiations, argues Tony Badran, must be understood in the context of a broader American strategy of propping up Lebanon, and its military, in the name of an illusory stability:

Lebanon is explicitly an Iranian holding, an economic basket case whose “government” and “army” are fronts for the Hizballah militia that is run directly from Tehran. . . . Yet the Biden administration has made it its mission to throw whatever money and resources it can muster in order to prop up and stabilize the Hizballah-controlled order in Lebanon—while involving itself at a . . . granular level in the micromanagement of Lebanon’s hopelessly mismanaged, Iranian-dominated energy and security sectors. In its obsessive pursuit of these priorities, the administration has pressured and cajoled U.S. allies, encouraging some to violate U.S. sanctions, concocting mechanisms to allow for the circumvention of U.S. laws, and destroying the integrity of U.S. foreign-assistance programs that must certify, among other things, that U.S. taxpayer funds are not being used to fund terrorists and terrorism.

In addition to entangling America’s Arab allies, the administration has also enmeshed Israel with its energy scheme, [so as] to turn Lebanon (that is to say, Hizballah) into an energy producer and perhaps exporter. The United States decided that the pathway to this nirvana . . . is the demarcation of Lebanon’s maritime border with Israel, which Washington therefore resolved to broker.

Should the Israeli government cave, as appears increasingly likely, team Biden’s gambit will have set the precedent of extracting concessions from Israel under the threat of attack leveraged by the United States on behalf of Iranian assets. Moreover, the gambit, by design, will turn Hizballah, and consequently Iran, into a player in eastern Mediterranean energy.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Iran, Israeli gas, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy, US-Israel relations

 

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security