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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/21/18

Lebanon -- Should it be Devil, Deep Blue Sea" or Russia?

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Lebanon Left - Israel Right
Lebanon Left - Israel Right
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Lebanon, as so often in the past, is facing mortal danger.

Saudi Arabia is putting great pressure on the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a powerful but controversial figure who holds dual nationality - Saudi and Lebanese. Riyadh expects Lebanon to play by its own rules, sidelining Hezbollah, ending Iranian influence in the country, and promoting Saudi business and political interests" or else. It is a clear that foreign aid from the Gulf is increasingly conditional.

Tension with Israel is also mounting. A military conflict could erupt at any moment, with devastating consequences. Between 1978 and 2006, Israel attacked its northern neighbor on five occasions. The last time Israel invaded Lebanon, during the so-called Lebanon War in 2006, at least 1,300 Lebanese people were killed and 1 million displaced.

The Israeli air force is lately, unceremoniously, violating Lebanese air space, flying over its territory on the way to Syria, where it is bombing selected targets, grossly violating various international laws.

To make things worse, Israel has begun building an ugly concrete wall right at the border line, an act which Lebanon views almost as a declaration of war. The Lebanese military received orders to confront Israeli bulldozers and construction crews, if the building of the frontier barrier continues. Both sides are now using intermediaries to communicate, but a confrontation may take place at any moment.

There is also a maritime dispute between the two countries, over an oil and gas rich area, which both countries are claiming as their own. This quarrel is also threatening the fragile 'peace' between Israel and Lebanon. Although some would say, what peace, really, if both nations are still technically at war?

Reported by AP, on February 8, 2018:

"Israel has in recent days escalated its threats against Lebanon over Lebanon's invitation for offshore gas exploration bids on the countries' maritime border.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman described Lebanon's exploration tender as "very provocative" and suggested that Lebanon had put out invitations for bids from international groups for a gas field ,"which is by all accounts ours."

His comments drew sharp condemnation from the militant Hezbollah group and Lebanese officials, including Hariri, a Western ally, who described Lieberman's comments as a "blatant provocation that Lebanon rejects."

Abi Assi quoted Hariri as saying Thursday that area in the water that Israel is claiming, "is owned by Lebanon."

A day after the above report appeared, Lebanon's energy minister said, "the dispute with Israel would not stop Lebanon benefiting from potential undersea reserves in the contentious Block 9."

An international consortium consisting of three giant oil companies - Italy's Eni, France's Total and Russia's Novatek -- is standing by, ready to begin drilling, although Total is increasingly reluctant to participate in the project amidst the Israeli threats.

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