Hezbollah allies are scrambling to fend off charges that the Iran-backed terror group is pushing underwater drilling in order to manufacture a conflict with Israel. Hezbollah’s brand as a Lebanese organization protecting Lebanese territory from Israel has been shattered by its involvement in the Syrian conflict on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime.
Observers increasingly fear that the group may be trying to drag Lebanon into war with Israel so as to restore its image. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea last week blasted the group for trying to create “another front with Israel” by forcing the issue of drilling in contested waters. National Liberal Party leader Dori Chamoun last week piled on.
“The issue is not limited to Hezbollah’s causing another clash with Israel, but also the threats of Bassil over striking deals with contracting companies regardless of the views of the cabinet,” Chamoun said in remarks published by Kuwaiti daily Al-Anbaa on Thursday. “Bassil is rushing to secure the bids for his own interest, and this has been confirmed by his readiness to offer the contracts to Iranian companies.”
At stake are three ‘blocks’ along the contested Israeli-Lebanese maritime border. Both Hezbollah and Lebanon’s caretaker Energy Minister Gebran Bassil – who, like Aoun, is a member of the Hezbollah-allied FPM – have been pushing Beirut to issue tenders to energy companies that would explore and eventually drill in those areas. The move would be a de facto claim of sovereignty over the contested territory, and as a matter of black letter international law, Israel would be forced to act either legally or militarily or both.
Energy companies are already expressing trepidation over drilling in the disputed areas, after which Hezbollah and Hezbollah-allied politicians doubled down.
Meanwhile Michel Aoun, head of the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), is among those scrambling to respond and insisting that – actually – Lebanon’s caretaker government is not moving fast enough to open up disputed underwater areas to exploration.
[Photo: LoicBreithzLiban / YouTube]