The Israel-Lebanese oil dispute – part of US-Russian Mid-East energy battle

Instead of accepting a US-brokered deal for Block 9, Hizballah and Iran make Israel’s offshore gas and oil fields a fourth war front.

When six years ago, the US tried to mediate the dispute over Block 9, which straddles the maritime waters of Lebanon and Israel (offering 60 percent to Lebanon; 40 percent to Israel), Russia, Iran and Hizballah had not yet intervened militarily in that early stage of the Syrian civil war. At the time, too, the US controlled Middle East energy markets and Israel cherished the belief that its offshore gas and oil fields were rich enough to supply Europe’s annual consumption and make the Jewish state a Middle East energy power.

But Beirut flatly rejected the US compromise then – just as it does now, except that, today, Lebanon speaks with a stronger and more aggressive voice, backed since then by Hizballah’s and Iran’s victories in the Syrian war arena.

Israel, for its part, missed the train. Major international energy firms have since drawn away from investing in the development of Israel’s Mediterranean gas and oil fields, and it has fallen back on supplying its own needs and sales to neighbors, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. Most of all, Israel has reason to rue its rejection of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repeated offer to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for Russian state firms to develop those fields, finance a pipeline network to Europe and provide security for the project. Putin maintained that neither Iran nor Hizballah would venture to attack rigs and pipelines under Russian ownership and protection. This rationale worked effectively in October 2017, when Iraqi and Shiite militia forces seized the oil city of Kirkuk from the semiautonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, while refraining thus far from laying hands on the oil fields supplying Turkey, because the Kurds had earlier handed them over to the Russian Rosneft energy giant.
Netanyahu spurned Putin’s proposition at the time for the sake of Israel’s close ties with Washington.

In the present geo-strategic circumstances, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources are strongly skeptical of the chances of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Acting Undersecretary David Satterfield pulling off their bid to broker a deal between Lebanon and Israel over Block 9. Even if a compromise is negotiated, Beirut will flout it before the ink is dry, just as it did UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which prohibited Hizballah from rearming after its 2006 war with Israel or positioning armed strength in South Lebanon.

Five compelling impediments stand in the way of the US mediation bid:

  1. The Block 9 issue has evolved from the latest turn in the Syrian war into part and parcel of a broader test: US controls the oil fields and gas plants of eastern Syria which the US-backed SDF seized from ISIS last year, including the Conoco natural gas facility. Against this, Iran, Hizballah and Syria are in position for holding Israel’s Mediterranean oil and gas facilities hostage.
  2. A resolution of this impasse is contingent on the US and Russia reaching understandings on Syria. In their absence, US forces on Feb. 7, for the first time attacked Russian “mercenaries” helping Syrian and pro-Iranian attempting to cross the Euphrates and seize control of the Tabiyeh oil fields on the eastern bank; and Moscow, for its part, will not lift a finger to stop the Iranian Al Qods commander, Qassem Soleimani, or Hizballah’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, from continuing to threaten Israel’s offshore rigs. Nasrallah said explicitly on Friday, Feb. 16: The region has entered “the battle of oil and gas. No one should look at this as a separate dispute,” he said. If the Lebanese Defense Council so decides, we [Hezbollah] are ready to disable Israel’s offshore gas installations in a couple of hours.”
  3. The Israeli-Lebanese dispute is not the only energy-related quarrel in the region, which Secretary Tillerson is trying to tackle. For months he has been trying without success to settle the feud which oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt are fighting with Qatar. Just as the former is tangled up in the Syrian crisis, the latter is caught up in the challenge the US and Saudi Arabia is presenting to Iran’s bid for control of the Red Sea and determination of the outcome of the Yemen war.
  4. The Trump administration’s perception of Lebanon’s government and mlitary structures is unrealistic. Its officials appear to believe that they are not fully under Iranian and Hizballah control and can still be rescued from those Shiite-imperialistic claws. Washington therefore continues to remit arms and funds to Beirut, although Hizballah takes the first cut.

For Israel, the dispute over Block 9 is a major handicap for its strategic position against its foes. Until now, Israel had to contend with three belligerent Iranian-Hizballah fronts building up from Quneitra on the Syrian Golan, southern Syria and southern Lebanon. Hizballah’s threat to its offshore gas and oil fields has added a fourth.

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47 thoughts on “The Israel-Lebanese oil dispute – part of US-Russian Mid-East energy battle

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:00 at 15:00
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    This just in. Israel has found a Dead Sea Scroll with a map of the Mediterranean proving the Mediterranean and the South China Sea belong to them.

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 17:01 at 17:01
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      The only scrolls , show that there were no Jews present in that or any area on any historic maps . Egyptian send Hebrews on their way for one reason ;they fed up of feeding them ;
      The maps historically show Finikians and Greeks and Persians ruling over those lands over centuries , thousands of years.
      To rewrite history , Israelis took lessons from their USA/British lobby of nomads.

      • Feb 17, 2018 @ 19:19 at 19:19
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        And indians have no bein present in USA oilfields. Little shorter time ago andcertain…

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 5:59 at 5:59
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      God says the land-grabbers get Greenland, too. Just because.

      Greenland can use a little genocide.

      • Feb 18, 2018 @ 8:07 at 8:07
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        Greenland is where “the farthest mosque” is.

    • Feb 19, 2018 @ 6:15 at 6:15
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      Israel’s claim is legally binding as it was in place along with Lebanon’s and Cyprus’ own declared maritime borders, which Lebanon subsequently withdrew when gas was discovered in the Mediterranean basin. Cyprus continues to honor its claimed border, even though Turkey actively threatens it. Per intl law and maritime conventions, maritime borders are drawn perpendicular to the flow of the land, which Israel’s maps reflect. Lebanon claims a false straight latitudinal line as a border. Let’s not forget, Lebanon also claims a fabricated map to claim Israeli land while the UN, using 13 different maps of the region, sided with Israel and its Blue Line land border.

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:09 at 15:09
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    There will be a major war to wipe out Hezbullah once and for all.

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:43 at 15:43
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      Well who wipe who out is an open question really.

      Can’t see how Hez can be we wiped out though by non battle hardened soldiers

      • Feb 17, 2018 @ 16:55 at 16:55
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        Stop with the “battle hardened” crap. Israel is “war-hardened”. When ‘IT’ starts, being an enemy combatant in the field will be the last place anyone would want to be. The enemy’s greatly improved abilities have only ensured massive and emphatic measures are taken to stop them. The very real problem for the enemy (and anyone else threatening), is a panicked Israel. They have a only very, very tiny country and absolutely nowhere to go. With the likely speed of escalation, they will probably only have themselves to rely upon. If major installations and military bases are hit, and its unable to defend itself – God help us all. Just think about it. This is more likely to be the case than not. No one is going to take Israel without itself being totally obliterated. There will be no prize, no survivors and definitely no winners. Belief in biblical prophecies is not required to understand this scenario playing out.

        • Feb 18, 2018 @ 6:00 at 6:00
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          ApartheidIsrael has helped UncleSam lose wars in Iraq AND Syria.

          It’s hard work bankrolling ISISrael, and even harder work to give foot massages and hand jobs to the beloved alCIAda fighters chillin’ in the Stolen Golan.

          • Feb 18, 2018 @ 8:06 at 8:06
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            Does it eat you up knowing that Israel has prevailed over 70 years?

            Good.

            All you can do is draw CARTOONS of your “victories” over 70 years of Blessed Israel.

            Enjoy your NAKBA. You and your fellow Sand Nazi swine deserve every painful bit.

          • Feb 19, 2018 @ 6:19 at 6:19
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            How is Israel apartheid again? It’s a word thrown around a lot…but never explained with any clarity or facts. Oh, and we do enjoy our Golan Heights…now that Racist Arab terrorists don’t have it anymore. Druze love it too.

          • Feb 20, 2018 @ 23:14 at 23:14
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            LOL, all those nations including lebanon are in chaos and crisis..much weaker than in the past… ready for the pickings

      • Feb 19, 2018 @ 6:17 at 6:17
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        you mean…by soldiers who refuse to use human shields like Hizbullah does. Yeah, when the only goal for victory is having some terrorists stay alive, Hiz sets the bar pretty low. All they need to do is run to Syria and hide.

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:10 at 15:10
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    We can not simply abandon the Maronites and Orthodoxy who have been devastated by the Iranians and Hezballah and even the minority Sunni have lost much as a result of the Shiite majority and its form of imposed sharia law. For the USA there are long term humanitarian responsibilities that must be perceived differently than Israel can which is facing the threat of 100,000 to 500,000 Iranian and Hezballah missiles. We don;t here in the USA, at least not yet.
    The second part of opposition from the American left despises and will make this about oil just like they did in Iraq. Its always about oil and how evil it is and how American corporations are manipulating our perception of reality to make war. It is an infantile construct of reality but it is the drum they beat.

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:35 at 15:35
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      Don’t exaggerate the benigne attitude of the Christians towards Israel. Christians were better educated and acquainted with European ideas of the Nationalism. They were the first who realised what Zionism meant, and started to confront it, the Muslims had entered later. Christians understood that they are minority, and tried to dissolve the confrontation between them and Muslims in the secular Arab Nationalism, and Pan Arabism. In 1947 trying to avoid the war the Zionist leadership offered to Christians the status of the privileged minority, akin to the one enjoyed buy Druzes. The answer was that we are Arabs first, and Christians after. Christians were instrumental for creation of the PLO, and the notorious murderer George Habash was a Christian for example. Christians were part of the Baath regimes in Iraq and syria, and Naser clique in Egypt. In regard to Lebanese variety, they wanted Israel to kick out Arafat and his gangs from the Lebanon, and then leave. However Gemayel clan having Israel behind them had become too powerful for his enemies among the Christians and they organised the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, and in fact invited Syrians into the country.

      • Feb 18, 2018 @ 8:56 at 8:56
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        Christians can be very different. It’s a safe bet that there will be all too many who have called themselves “Christians” but who will get it to the hilt from the King when he finally returns:

        “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not… in thy name done many wonderful works?… Then shall he say also unto them, I never knew you… depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”.

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:43 at 15:43
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    Notice how land grabbers like Israel and Turkey are also trying to grab other countries Med basin resources.

    No surprises there.

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 17:30 at 17:30
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      Sure, “no surprises there” for the brain dead. Ignorant, ill-informed comment. Israel is one of the smallest countries in the world, and there is no comparison next to true land-grabber,muslim Turkey and their Armenian genocide that did actually happen, and continues now with the Kurds. Over half of Israelis are from neighboring muslim arab countries, persecuted, robbed of land and possessions. This occurred to them, not only in Europe. Whatever land Israel has “grabbed” it has won through war waged upon it. Seems memories have faded and history is set to repeat itself with even more devastating consequences this time around.

      • Feb 20, 2018 @ 1:26 at 1:26
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        a Smallest that have erected to Golan area. Israel is indeed criminal country, who has force all jews to came to Israel by all mean, I’m not talking BS here, just do research, start from ‘Lavon Affair’.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 7:57 at 7:57
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      Grabbing land that was taken from you does not count as land grabbing. What we have is the descendants of the land grabbers, namely the Palestinians, seeking to retain lands so they can benefit from their ancestors wrongdoing.

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 15:46 at 15:46
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    yeah , doesnt matter what ,the middleeast is lost

    as much as i hate to say it, but russia,iran,huzbola and syria controls the region

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 17:15 at 17:15
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      If that were true, Israel wouldn’t still be there, and Russia wouldn’t be afraid to admit that it just sacrificed hundreds of fighters to the US for nothing.

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  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 17:29 at 17:29
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    The Dead Sea scrolls? Really? They were documents of a Jewish splinter group and they have zero significance, except for a few better copies of some of the Books of the Old Testament (Torah.) I fail to understand why anti-Semites read Debka. Maybe just so they can post tripe in the comments section?
    Anyway, the Oil Field dilemma in the Mediterranean Sea can only be settled by a large war, or negotiations. Since, most of the counter parties are Muslim, and Muslims will not actually honor any treaty they sign, that leaves war as the only solution. Hard to take, but it is the truth of the matter.

    • Feb 17, 2018 @ 19:32 at 19:32
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      Oy vey! Always with the gas! I love the way non-jews arrogate to themselves the power to decide who is a “real” Jew and who isn’t.

      Actually the theology and rituals of the essenes were well known among the Jews of the second Temple period. These included their ideas of the elect, dualism of spirit and flesh, a new covenant, predestination and immersion (baptism). The Essenes considered themselves ‘hasidim’ (pious ones), ‘zenuim’ (chaste ones) and ‘anavin’ (humble ones). There was no one Halakhic system. The differences between the Hillelites, the Shamaites, the Essenes, the Sadducees and the Galileans were significant. The Talmud tells us of the acceptance of two pharisaic Halakhic systems, Hillel and Shammai five others, not defined, are rejected. Eventually the Shammaite was also rejected.

      • Feb 17, 2018 @ 22:24 at 22:24
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        Muslims have hated and killed each other from the Atlantic to the Pacific, for 1,400 years.

        It’s the nature of the beast.

        • Feb 18, 2018 @ 6:06 at 6:06
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          In light of the glorious history of Arab muslims and real semites (not pretend whiteboys), seventy years of apartheid from the shitty little settler colony seems pretty insignificant.

          It will all be over as suddenly as the United Nations and Uncle Sam’s welfare checks brought the little honkey outpost into existence.

          • Feb 18, 2018 @ 8:00 at 8:00
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            Arabs muslims aren’t semites at all. They are lite skinned Africans.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 16:02 at 16:02
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      You Zionists love to call Anti-Zionism, Anti-semitism. It is not. A lot of Jews are anti-Zionists.

      • Feb 19, 2018 @ 6:20 at 6:20
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        Not that many. Most believe and support the human right of self-determination by Jews. Only a tiny sect are against it – those that Iran loves to host. There are more pro-Zionist Muslims than anti-Zionist Jews. And that has to just kill you, doesn’t it?? 🙂

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  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 21:08 at 21:08
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    Most of you are missing the point or know nothing of the history of the area. Those are Jewish lands and have been for thousands of years until stolen from them by mohammand and his followers. Israel wants their land back, its not muslim land its Jewish.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 0:50 at 0:50
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      The modern day Arab-Israeli conflict was started by Jews. As usual, they behaved like leeches and infiltrated Anglo-American governments starting with the British government with Benjamin Disraeli to do their bidding. This lead to the Balfour declaration. Arabs and Jews both coexisted in relative peace before the 20th century during the Ottoman era. The conflict began when Zionists made a claim on this shared land and began an underhanded effort to steal the remaining Arab parts. What did you expect? Of course the Arabs would resist. Now Zionists have infiltrated the US empire and are using the US government as their sugar daddy….like leeches. Zionists are cowards that need to leech off some Goy host.

      Oh your fake book says your gods chosen people? That’s really cute, and self aggrandizing. You are wasting resources trying to fulfill a fanciful book written by old men 2000 years ago. Anything from Abraham is fake…its not leading to world peace…the opposite. This applies to Jews, Christians and Muslims. All fighting for nothing. Sad.

      • Feb 18, 2018 @ 7:58 at 7:58
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        Trifekta of Nakba,

        Arabs/Muslims must pay Jizzya to Infidels.

  • Feb 17, 2018 @ 21:50 at 21:50
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    stuff you anti yehudim. the Bible is true and the yehudim are back in their ancient land. oil gas and all. you got your own stuff so bugger off to your home land.

  • Feb 18, 2018 @ 3:09 at 3:09
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    Well,
    Article is pretty full of geo political conclusions. Should just stick on the intel reports and leave conclusions to others.
    Not selling out to Russian interests is never a bad thing, despite whatever short term gains there may be out of it.
    For a number of reasons.
    One, should be pretty obvious how stupid an idea it is to ‘sell your soul to the devil.
    Two, US is still a 18 trillion dollar economy, as is Europe. China is around 10ish (who really knows) and Russia is at best 2.5 or 1.5 depending on how poorly the Rubble is doing. One would have to be an idiot to side with such a tiny yet vicious state player in the grand scheme of things.
    Nope, Israels political interests are firmly tied to Americas and vicariously the wests, thats as it should be. No amount of short term gains would be worth giving that up.
    Happy to hear objective rebuttals, ideally not from paid russian trolls.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 6:08 at 6:08
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      Moosead has to spin their bull$hit.

      They’re struggling with the fact that they no longer control the skies and Nasrallah can make the whole settler colony flee back to Bulgaria.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 7:26 at 7:26
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      Refreshing. There is a very real “super natural” dimension. Remember how Bibi announced he would Change the illustrious people on the shekels? They had just discovered Tamar and Leviatan, but now 44 PRISON KEEPERS died, and our beautiful landscape around Haifa also. The PM cooled off, then he made the announcement again, and this time a JAIL KEEPER burned outside KIRIAT SEFER, and beautiful landscape also got destroyed. When he finally did change the 200,-₪ he lost control over the oil and gas. The good news is like you say, OBAMA WAS NOT ABLE to change the Dollars and even if he had put Mrs Harriet Turner (Tubman) ? On the Dollar, it would have improved its value. Gd wants Israel to be the capital and the world can be saved by one action IF IT TAKES PLACE BEFORE 19.04.2018. You are right to look for leadership in USA and WESTERN EUROPE.

  • Feb 18, 2018 @ 6:39 at 6:39
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    Israel shall liberate some area to the north gaining nice roads connecting the coast to the hermon area also destroying Hesballa its terrorists rocket storage and so on.
    So the border could look straight after that mission.
    Israel shall go for it as a sign that nobody thall try to mess with her.

    • Feb 18, 2018 @ 7:33 at 7:33
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      That’s nice, but it can be avoided at low cost.

  • Feb 18, 2018 @ 8:55 at 8:55
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    Christians can be very different. It’s a safe bet that there will be all too many who have called themselves “Christians” but who will get it to the hilt from the King when he finally returns:

    “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not… in thy name done many wonderful works?… Then shall he say also unto them, I never knew you… depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels”.

  • Feb 18, 2018 @ 9:27 at 9:27
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    The only non apartheid country in the Middle East is Isreal, all of the rest discriminate against Jews and an other non Muslim. Lebanon might be an exception for Christians but only because they are close to half of the population. Every majority Muslim country discriminates against non Muslims.

  • Feb 20, 2018 @ 1:29 at 1:29
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    How about Golan, Sinai and Sheba, are those lands has connected to Palestinian?

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