By Helping Israel Export Its Natural Gas, the U.S. Can Counter Both Russia and China

July 22 2022

It has of late become almost conventional wisdom that the People’s Republic of China is in every way getting the better of the U.S., whether by developing new military technologies, or educating its young people to compete in the information-age economy, or working with ostensibly private companies to gain global influence, or conducting foreign policy through investment in infrastructure. While there is some truth to these claims, Robert Silverman notes that America has in the past succeeded in directing its economic might to achieve tangible results that benefit both itself and its allies. He gives as an example the BTC pipeline, which brings oil from Azerbaijan, via Georgia, to Turkey, and the more recent natural-gas pipeline that runs alongside it:

BTC is one of most impressive engineering feats and diplomatic achievements of the late 20th century. This pipeline has kept the economic interests and foreign-policy alignment of both Azerbaijan and Georgia linked to the West, and it offers other ongoing strategic benefits for U.S. interests. Through BTC, both Turkey and Israel have access to important energy resources outside of the control of Russia or Iran. At the time of its construction, the pipeline strengthened Turkey as an energy hub, helping to diversify oil and gas away from Russia, already then seen as a problem.

Moreover, argues Silverman, America has a chance to replicate this success through the East Mediterranean natural-gas consortium, which includes Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, and other nearby countries:

If [Washington] had adopted the BTC approach—a creative U.S. government team under professional diplomatic leadership that stays on the job even as political administrations change and that knows our technical and economic agencies as well as diplomatic practices—then we might have solved the complex intergovernmental, technical, and commercial issues by now and provided Europe with a significant new source of gas (and brought our East Med allies closer together). Even the more modest plan currently envisioned, of pumping Israeli offshore natural gas via a northern Sinai pipeline to Egypt, and from there to Europe in liquified form, will only work in a timely fashion with high-profile U.S. leadership.

If the likely result of failure to invest in Eastern Med natural gas means that Europe relies even more heavily for years on dirtier sources such as oil and coal and remains dependent on Russian or Qatari gas, then such a policy doesn’t serve anyone.

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Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: China, Israeli gas, U.S. Foreign policy

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy