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.