Sunday, November 28

The regional plan and the deteriorating situation in Syria… Will the gas crisis in Lebanon end?

The new deal for the flow of natural gas to Lebanon – which enjoys regional and international support – is designed to stabilize the energy sector and reduce Iranian influence in the region, but significant obstacles stand in the way of its success on the ground.

In a report published by The National Interest,national interestThe American writer, Alexandre Langlois, says that the announcement of the new deal for the flow of natural gas to Lebanon through Syrian territory represents an important moment for the two countries and the region as a whole, but the current situation in Syria does not seem appropriate for its success and sustainability.

The writer believes that the political and security developments on the Syrian arena do not give positive signs, even if Bashar al-Assad really wants to get closer to the Gulf and the West.

Arab regional agreement

The agreement – which was reached by the energy ministers of Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Egypt on the eighth of last September, with the support of international powers; At the forefront of which is the United States, with funding from the World Bank, to supply the Deir Ammar power plant in Lebanon with up to 450 megawatts of energy, and this will be achieved by the flow of Egyptian natural gas to Lebanon through Jordan and Syria.

It is expected that a large amount of natural gas will flow from Israel under the gas deal concluded between Jordan and Israel in 2019, and the additional flow of energy from Jordan to Lebanon will be absorbed by the end of 2021.

The writer stresses that the agreement comes at a critical stage in Lebanon’s history, as the country suffers from its worst economic crisis in more than a century, and is experiencing frequent power outages due to a lack of fuel in power stations.

The situation in Lebanon worsened due to the efforts of political forces to mobilize sectarian loyalty, and skirmishes erupted in Beirut on October 14; It killed 6 people and wounded 30 others.

A large amount of natural gas is expected to flow from Israel under the gas deal concluded between Jordan and Israel in 2019 (Reuters)

What about the new deal?

The writer believes that the deal to import natural gas from Egypt, through Jordan and Syria, looks wonderful on a theoretical level, but it is difficult to implement it on the ground, as it ignores the facts on Syrian soil.

The agreement assumes that the situation in Syria will be stable enough for gas to flow safely along the Arab Gas Pipeline, which extends from the Jaber crossing in southern Syria, through Homs, to Tripoli in northern Lebanon.

However, the reality on the ground shows that the Syrian pipeline is not working continuously, and the last interruption occurred after an attack launched by ISIS on September 18 last on the Deir Ali power station (southern Syria).

This station is one of the main points along the pipeline that feeds Damascus with large amounts of electricity; The attack reflects the ability of ISIS to carry out sabotage operations through its sleeper cells throughout the country.

The fragility of infrastructure in Syria

The attack also highlights – according to the author – the fragility of Syria’s energy infrastructure, where government-controlled areas suffer power outages of up to 20 hours a day.

The writer adds that the Syrian government is also looting infrastructure in formerly rebellious areas – such as Daraa – to support its military efforts and punish the population for opposing the regime at an earlier stage.

These policies resulted in continued instability in Daraa, which witnessed last summer a siege by Assad’s forces due to the people’s rejection of the results of the presidential elections that granted Assad a fourth term.

The writer points out that the anti-regime sentiment is not limited to Daraa, but rather forms other areas that have previously rebelled against Assad, including Homs Governorate, through which the Arab Gas Pipeline passes, which means more dangers threatening the stability of the gas flow through Syria.

Obstacles to the deal

The writer believes that it is very difficult for the natural gas flow deal to flow into Lebanon through Syria to be sustainable at the near and medium levels, and although Damascus has a great interest in supporting the deal for diplomatic and security reasons, other parties will make all possible efforts to undermine it.

This includes – according to the author – ISIS and other jihadist groups, and some opposition forces that are not interested in Lebanon, which aim to harm the regime and prevent its return to the international political arena, and most importantly, Washington and regional powers cannot influence these parties to keep them away from the pipeline. Syrian.

The writer stresses that the main objective of the deal is to reduce Iranian influence in both Syria and Lebanon, especially after Hezbollah recently announced the fuel deal with Tehran, and the agreement comes in the context of the efforts made by Jordanian King Abdullah II to strengthen relations with Damascus and restore the Syrian regime to its Arab and international arenas.

These attempts are unlikely to bear fruit, given the strength of Assad’s relations with Iran and Hezbollah, the implications of this deal remain unclear, and more international efforts are still needed to bring about real change in both Lebanon and Syria.

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