Ranking members of Congress are expressing concern regarding energy deals brokered by the Biden Administration between Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Jordan.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking member Jim Risch (R-ID) and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking member Michael McCaul (R-TX) sent a letter on Monday to Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning the deals would “likely benefit” Syria’s President Bashar Assad and worsen the economic situation in Lebanon.
“This administration has argued that preventing Lebanon’s collapse necessitates limited engagement with the Assad regime. While we acknowledge Lebanon’s precarious situation, its energy sector is a black hole of corruption. Not only would such deals likely benefit Assad financially, they would exacerbate corruption in Lebanon,” the lawmakers wrote.
“Further, we have serious concerns that the administration has provided a blueprint for circumventing Caesar sanctions in the future, by involving the World Bank and claiming the amount of energy the Assad regime would receive as an in-kind payment is below the threshold to sanction to the suppliers,” the letter went on.
“If the administration continues to confer its support for these deals, it sets a precedent that the administration is unwilling to enforce the Caesar [Syrian Civilian Protection] Act, and will facilitate international actors finding loopholes to avoid the sanctions crafted by Congress with broad bipartisan and bicameral support.”
Click here for the full text of the letter.
Last month Lebanon denied reports that the United States had brokered a deal in which Israel would indirectly supply the country with natural gas.
Under the alleged agreement, Israel would have piped natural gas to Jordan, then Syria and finally to Lebanon from its offshore Tamar and Leviathan gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea.
Under the alleged deal brokered by US special envoy for energy Amos Hochstein, Washington had agreed to exempt the project from sanctions imposed on the Assad regime.
Lebanon signed a US-backed deal with Jordan last month that would ease Beirut’s crippling power shortages by transmitting electricity from Jordan to Lebanon via Syria, according to Reuters.
The deal came as part of a broader plant to pump Egyptian gas to a power station in northern Lebanon via a pipeline running through Jordan and Syria.
But Lebanon’s Energy Minister, Walid Fayad, said the deal would not go into effect until financing arrangements were worked out with the World Bank, a process expected to take about two months.
Under the agreement, Lebanon would receive 150 megawatts (MW) from midnight to 6 am local time, and 250 MW throughout the day – about two full hours of electricity in total.
“It is a humble deal but of great importance for the Lebanese people who are today in need of every hour of additional electricity,” Fayad said.