(Photo credit: Jewish Insider)
Media reported on 6 October that US Senator Ted Cruz introduced an amendment last month that would make the US-sponsored deal to import gas into Lebanon through Syria eligible for sanctions under the Caesar Act.
Cruz proposed the amendment on 29 September to the 2023 National Defense Appropriations Act (NDAA), which would render any “energy-related transaction” with Damascus subject to US sanctions.
Under the amendment, such transactions include “any natural gas, electricity or other energy-related transaction … that provides material support to … the Government of Syria.”
If this amendment passes, the White House would be forced to provide Lebanon with a written exemption from Caesar Act sanctions in order for the deal to go through, something it has not been willing to do since the agreement was first proposed.
The Caesar Act, passed in 2019 by the US Congress, imposed harsh sanctions on Syria and currently prohibits countries or businesses from cooperation or trade with the Syrian government.
The deal to import Egyptian gas into Lebanon through Jordan and Syria was introduced last year by the US itself, and was meant as an alternative to Iranian fuel which the US proposed directly after resistance leader Hassan Nasrallah announced that Hezbollah would be bringing fuel into the country from the Islamic Republic.
Despite this, the US government has since failed to provide sanctions waivers for the companies and states involved in the deal to be exempt from the Caesar Act.
Moreover, the World Bank has continued to delay its funding of the project, and has accused Lebanon of not being “serious about the deal.”
Despite Lebanon’s implementation of the necessary steps, however, the World Bank said in April of this year that it needed to review the project’s “political feasibility” before approving the funds, something which Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayyad, who is in contact with the World Bank and the US and French embassies, had not been informed of.
The energy minister declared at the time that the ball is in the court of the US and World Bank – not Lebanon – when it comes to fulfilling this project.