Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Oh God! Lebanon with Oil?! | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Without oil, Lebanon was not safe from its own people, neighbors and enemies. So what would the situation be if it is proved that Lebanon is not only a beautiful country but it also has oil and gas deposits (as claimed recently), especially after hopes have been raised in Beirut after Israel announced that it discovered gas?

Yes, we have every right to say ‘Oh God’ in this context. What will we say to the Syrians who are keen to have custody over Lebanon in every way? What will we say to Hassan Nasrallah who will tell his opponents and supporters, ‘Didn’t you decide to let us make sacrifices in the south? Well the oil and gas is in the south and we are in the south now!’

Without oil, Lebanon is already one of the most complex states politically. So what would a Lebanon with oil be like, especially as we have witnessed and listened to those fierce battles over donations received by Lebanon following the 2006 war, despite promises of pure money etc?

Today, all indicators in Iran state that no pure money will appear easily. In addition, a Gulf official previously conveyed to the Lebanese [the message] that the economic crisis has had a big impact on everybody and we cannot donate money to you in front of our own people whilst you are engaging in feuds, point scoring and absurd wars.

But the most striking of all statements, or rather let us say the most striking of the Lebanese clashes over Lebanese oil and gas before their existence is even verified, came from a Lebanese official. He spoke about the arguments over pessimism or optimism [over the existence of oil] and hastening or delaying the search for natural gas and petrol. Commenting on the Israeli announcement that it had discovered natural gas off the Haifa coast, which is an extension of South Lebanon, the official said, “Israel is willing to make every effort to ensure its autonomy over the energy because it is facing an Arab embargo in this context. As for us, our situation is different.” This “different situation” is Lebanon’s problem.

In this regard, Arab donor countries, or countries that lend money or provide aid to Lebanon – whichever way one describes them – must deal with Lebanon and its politicians in the same way they deal with companies in the fields of exchange and accountancy. Even if petrol and gas are extracted from Lebanon, which is what we hope for them of course, every penny paid must be accounted for.

It makes no sense for Arab countries to race to give Lebanon money whilst the country is inoperative without a government. Even if there is oil and gas, the political wrangling will not stop and most importantly, Hezbollah will have the chance to arm itself however much it wants until we find ourselves embroiled in a new “divine war” even before the houses that were destroyed in the last war could be rebuilt or before cars could once again drive over the bridges re-erected with the money provided by donor countries.

Deal with Lebanon financially in the same way you deal with your own people where there is no extravagance and no over-indulgence. Account for every penny; this is not out of stinginess or to be condescending but rather for the sake of guaranteeing the interests of a country without a government. When it did have a government it became a hostage in its own official headquarters for over a year because the person hiding in the suburbs wanted to practice his democratic right of civil disobedience.

Therefore, hold Lebanon to account until its petrol and natural gas appears and at that point, we will enter another phase of the Lebanese conflict.