Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lebanon likely loser in maritime resouce battle

JULY 14, 2011

After explaining that the battle between Israel and Lebanon over maritime resources is actually a four-way battle among Israel, Cyprus (which entered into a maritime demarcation agreement this week with Israel), Lebanon and Turkey, James Dorsey explains that Lebanon is the likely loser in that battle.
According to Dorsey, however, the protagonists are already taking action to address the legal void. "It's international waters, so you state your claim and whoever gets there first gets an advantage," he said. The Israelis now have that advantage, which Dorsey likened to "the old Marxist principle of possession is ownership."

While Turkey has stayed notably quiet on the latest Israel-Cyprus demarcation agreement, Lebanon disputes it on the grounds that Israel is laying claim to an area that partially infringes on territory claimed by Lebanon last year, a claim since recognized by the United Nations.

But Dorsey said that Lebanon's options for enforcing its claim are limited. The Lebanese could attempt to take legal action by bringing the claim to an international court or by petitioning the United Nations to intervene. But those efforts are sure to be long and tedious, said Dorsey, who added that Lebanon lacks a serious military option.

"I don't think they have a real option in terms of trying to change things on the ground, and I think the best you're going to see is a lot of saber rattling," he said. "It's motion without movement."

Furthermore, while there may be an ultimate need to accommodate Lebanon, the Israelis are loathe to do so, said Dorsey, particularly given the recent rise of Hezbollah within the Lebanese government.

"The Israelis at this point have no reason to be nice," he said. "I think what's going to happen is that the Israelis are going to go ahead and explore and produce, and so will the Cypriots and the Turks. And the Lebanese are going to have trouble getting their act together, so there will be nothing they can do about it."

Israel Radio reported on Thursday that the actual area claimed by both Lebanon and Israel is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide and that no one knows for sure whether there is natural gas underneath those waters. Both the Tamar and Leviathan gas wells are clearly on the Israeli side and not claimed by Lebanon.

But the real key here is that like the Shaba Farms and seven villagesclaims, Hezbullah is looking for sources of conflict to maintain a territorial dispute between Lebanon and Israel. In that respect, it doesn't matter how much territory there is or how much gas there is underneath it.

What could go wrong?