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

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy