Antoine El Asmar
The American Waver, which exempts both Jordan and Egypt from the penalties of the Caesar Act, followed the carefully planned path, until the project to extract electricity and gas was close to being realized.
Washington is certain that the implementation of this project will limit the dramatic deterioration of the Lebanese infrastructure. The electrical industry is not only limited to a routine mechanism for supplying current, as it is the backbone of the Lebanese economy, and the total collapse of this sector takes into account the rest of the ingredients.
Energy is already the backbone of societies, and it is seen as the main factor in consolidating international peace, with evidence that areas of conflict and fire are often located in the geography of oil and gas.
Washington is also fully aware that arranging an acceptable limit on electricity supply will distract the Lebanese from more hardship and the cunning of the deep state system.
For all this, the US administration has drawn up a map to provide Lebanon with a total of 10 to 12 hours of electricity, and entrusted the US senior adviser on global energy security, Amos Hochstein, with the matter of pursuing this path, of course as an offshoot of his main interest in the path of demarcation of the southern maritime border with Israel.
Hochstein previously described the political crisis as critical, and that it produced a “really devastating economic crisis, something I think we in the United States and the international community
We need to do everything we can to help Lebanon help the Lebanese people. It really starts with energy.” He pointed out that “there is no hope in the economy, regardless of what we do, if we do not reform the basis of peace, which is energy, fuel and electricity.”
For this purpose, Washington set the end of January as a maximum acceptable and fair deadline to start implementing the project to draw current from Jordan and gas from Egypt, in a way that ensures relative electrical stability without taking radical and comfortable solutions. What is required is to extend a helping hand to the Lebanese, but at a minimum, in order for the economic factor to remain the most influential in the course of the parliamentary elections.
Several local and external forces are betting on using the economic collapse to achieve a revolution in the political structure, transferring the parliamentary majority, i.e. the established majority, from Hezbollah and its allies to the Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist Party and its annexes. But Washington has come to view this approach as deficient and naive, given past experiences that confirm the impossibility of any political, parliamentary and partisan majority to rule (the March 14 forces retained the parliamentary majority between 2005 and 2018).
In a related context, Hochstein is preparing for a close visit to Beirut, carrying a complex proposal of several layers, detailed on measuring the American vision to resolve the issue of demarcating the maritime border with Israel, and taking into account the Lebanese concerns in the southern gas fields intertwined with Israeli geography.
Lebanon insists that any solution proceed from guaranteeing its right to the entire Qana field, leaving the US envoy to draw the lines of demarcation, its shape, its zigzags, and its slopes.
There is no doubt that the Lebanese proposal guarantees a much larger area than the proposal that was previously presented by the former envoy, Frederic Hof, as a solution to the disputed area, which amounts to 860 square kilometres, and at the time it met with response from some politicians.
The visitors to Washington heard that the American officials concerned with the energy file held a Lebanese political reference with a major responsibility for continuing to disrupt the border solution, until it was said that Hochstein would come with two files that he would present face to face on the reference: the file of demarcation approval without further procrastination, otherwise the envoy will open the second file, which is about sanctions harsh on the reference concerned.
The US ambassador, Dorothy Shea, had raised the issue of the demarcation with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, on the eve of Hochstein’s visit. She was keen to circulate the issues of research with the Speaker of Parliament, specifically what she meant by “the discussion with the Speaker of the House of Representatives regarding questions about the House of Representatives and an upcoming visit by an official in the US State Department”, in a remarkable reference in form and content that shortened the agenda of Hochstein’s meetings.
The maritime demarcation is seen as the lifeline for Lebanon, mainly because it responds to a chronic American demand related to regional energy security, and as ensuring a smooth supply of energy is a cornerstone of peace in the region.