In the undulating rhythm of Syrian resistance, the spirits of rebellion have once more swelled to the surface in the Druze majority al-Suwayda governorate, shocking an international community that perceived the uprising’s final chord had been struck. A dozen years have eclipsed since the inception of the popular 2011 revolution, and against the odds, the echoes of dissent continue to permeate through the war-torn tapestry of Syria, particularly within the al-Suwayda governorate in southern Syria, where the largely Druze minority population has astoundingly engaged in peaceful protests daily for over a month.

The resurgence of civil unrest exposes the unhealed wounds of a nation brutalised by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Over a grisly 12-year reign, the regime has not merely clung to power but has enacted a torrent of human rights violations, including indiscriminate bombing of civilians, chemical weapon attacks, and targeted onslaughts against hospitals and schools. It’s a horrifying tableau where, according to the United Nations, over half the nation’s populace has been displaced, marking one of the most harrowing humanitarian crises in contemporary history.

In light of these atrocities and the insatiable appetite for change among Syrians, thousands have coalesced in recent weeks to rally against Assad’s iron-fisted rule, demanding his ouster and the realisation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254. Adopted unanimously in 2015, the resolution mandates the inception of an “inclusive transitional governing body with full executive powers”. Yet, the Assad regime, despite the cacophony of international outrage and demands, has remained impervious, continuing its tyrannical rule unbridled.

The winds of opposition are not confined to al-Suwayda. In the coastal birthplace of Assad, voices of opposition have daringly pierced through the regime’s fortress of fear. Yet, these brave souls in al-Suwayda and beyond not only battle against a dictator but grapple with an economy in tatters. Whilst Syrians languish in destitution, Assad and his inner circle bask in opulence, their regime simultaneously entwined with the burgeoning Captagon trade, positioning Syria as a pivotal manufacturer and supplier of the drug, per multiple international reports.

Nevertheless, the regime, bolstered by staunch support from allies Russia and Iran, has withstood the tempest of rebellion, which has embroiled Syria in a ceaseless conflagration. The global response has largely oscillated between tepid and ineffective, allowing Russia, in particular, to overstep boundaries with seeming impunity, not only in Syria but subsequently in Ukraine as well. And now, with China’s burgeoning interest in liaising with the Syrian regime, the geopolitical stakes are further elevated.

The stoic resilience of the protestors in al-Suwayda is emblematic of the unquenchable desire for not only political reformation but also a clamouring for fundamental human rights: freedom and dignity. Amidst the palpable fear of violent reprisal and the regime’s vehement accusations of Western collaboration amongst protestors, the spirit of rebellion remains indomitably fervent.

The ripples of the al-Suwayda movement have cascaded throughout Syria, igniting demonstrations in Daraa, northern Syria, and various other governorates, encapsulating the profound, universal aspirations for democracy and accountability for war crimes amongst Syrians.

For surrounding Arab nations, the rekindled Syrian resistance presents a complex geopolitical conundrum, particularly in light of Jordan’s King Abdullah’s stark proclamation at last month’s UN General Assembly: “Jordan’s capacity to deliver necessary services to refugees has surpassed its limits.” Thus, the Syrian regime is transmitted an unambiguous directive: the resort to violence must not be replayed.

In the shadows of past international missteps, the ongoing Syrian resistance heralds a crucial opportunity: to reconcile with past shortcomings and constructively engage with the legitimate Syrian uprising. The undeterred resilience of the protestors underscores a poignant reminder of the universality of the longing for liberty and justice, providing a pivotal juncture to recalibrate global approaches towards a genuine political resolution that addresses the legitimate demands of the Syrian people.

Image credit: Handout/Suwayda 24/AFP

Navigating the Tumultuous Waters of the Lebanese Refugee Crisis.

In the realm of international politics, Lebanon has surfaced into the limelight, owing to a bold proclamation by Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, a staunch pro-Iran terror group. His recent address illuminated a perspective on the sensitive matter of Syrian migration through Lebanon, sparking vigorous debates and eliciting varied reactions from the global community. As Lebanon grapples with an intensified influx of Syrians crossing its border, Nasrallah has proposed a controversial solution: ceasing the prevention of Syrians’ maritime passage to the European Union.

This significant uptick in migration from Syria, motivated by citizens endeavouring to evade the hostile clutches of the Assad regime and circumvent a deteriorating Syrian economic landscape, has thrown Lebanon into a precarious situation. The Lebanese military has thus beseeched for augmented resources and manpower to safeguard the expansive 394-kilometer border with Syria, a feat currently deemed unattainable given the present circumstances.

Nasrallah’s assertion hinges on the claim that the United States, through its rigorous imposition of sanctions epitomised by the Caesar Act, is instrumental in the destabilisation of the Syrian economy and, consequently, the displacement of Syrian refugees. He postulates that relieving these sanctions and allowing investments to flow into Syria would catalyse the return of countless Syrians to their homeland.

However, beneath the macrocosmic lens of international politics, the escalating Syrian refugee crisis has catalysed a crescendo of xenophobia and frustration amongst the Lebanese populace and political entities alike. A palpable tension percolates through the nation as nearly 1.6 million Syrian refugees seek solace on Lebanese soil, eliciting a complex maelstrom of socio-economic and political quandaries amidst an already dire Lebanese economic crisis, which has submerged approximately 80% of its citizens into the abyss of poverty since its inception in 2019.

The fractious relationship between the Lebanese and Syrian refugees is increasingly evident. Several prominent Lebanese political factions have voiced a unanimous plea for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland. This has been accompanied by the execution of numerous deportations by the Lebanese state since April, alongside an upsurge in anti-Syrian demonstrations within the capital, Beirut.

Meanwhile, humanitarian organisations adamantly underscore the inhospitable conditions within Syria, highlighting the palpable dangers that await returning refugees, including potential torture, forced disappearances, and even fatal encounters with security services. This situation places the involved parties in a moral and political quandary, with seemingly no straightforward resolution in sight.

The disconcerting crisis transcends Lebanese borders, permeating into the European Union, where member states exhibit increasing frustration towards the burgeoning numbers of Syrians journeying by sea to seek asylum. A notable example was witnessed on 15th September when Cypriot Interior Minister, Constantinos Ioannou, approached the EU parliament, imploring them to reassess the security situation within Syria. This was with a view to initiating the return of Syrian asylum seekers, whilst concurrently soliciting additional financial assistance for Lebanon, which he defined as a crucial “barrier” preventing further refugees from infiltrating Europe.

This complex, multi-faceted crisis intertwines geopolitical, humanitarian, and socio-economic threads, creating a delicate tapestry that requires a meticulously balanced approach. While Nasrallah’s provocative strategy of essentially employing the refugee crisis as a bargaining chip with Europe raises ethical and practical questions, it undoubtedly propels the issue further into the global arena, necessitating urgent, collective contemplation and action.

As Lebanon navigates through these tumultuous waters, the coming months will be pivotal, not only in shaping the nation’s socio-political landscape but also in defining the broader international response to a crisis that continues to unfurl amidst an already chaotic global stage.

Image Credit: Anwar AMRO / AFP

Embarking on a Joint Venture in Maritime Oil and Gas Exploration: A Closer Look at the Consortium Formed by QatarEnergy, TotalEnergies, and Eni in Lebanon.

Lebanon has witnessed a significant shift in its energy sector dynamics with the announcement of a three-way consortium between QatarEnergy, TotalEnergies, and Eni to explore oil and gas in two maritime blocks off its coast, signaling an intriguing turn of events for the region’s energy landscape. Amidst a complex geopolitical backdrop and an evolving global energy market, this endeavor, heralded by the Lebanese energy ministry, unfolds a chapter that could be pivotal for Lebanon’s economic prospects and energy security.

In a beacon of positive development amidst Lebanon’s multifaceted challenges, the energy ministry declared that QatarEnergy would be joining hands with France’s TotalEnergies and Italy’s Eni to foster exploration activities in the nation’s offshore sectors. The consortium underscores a shared vision and collaborative effort aimed at harnessing the potential encapsulated in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant offshore areas, which have historically proven to be reservoirs of substantial gas discoveries, especially over the previous decade.

Following months of intricate negotiations, the stakeholder distribution among the consortium members was agreed upon, with QatarEnergy securing a 30% stake, while TotalEnergies and Eni would retain 35% each. Notably, this resolution emerges after Lebanon’s first licensing round in 2017, during which a consortium—comprising TotalEnergies, Eni, and Russia’s Novatek—was victorious in procuring bids to explore offshore 4 and 9 blocks.

However, the journey to this current consortium configuration has not been without its share of challenges and evolutions. In September 2022, Novatek relinquished its involvement, thereby bestowing its 20% stake upon the Lebanese government. This withdrawal necessitated the recalibration of stakeholder investments and roles within the exploration project and rendered the involvement of a new partner, QatarEnergy, both timely and vital to sustaining the momentum of exploration activities.

Moreover, the geopolitical dimension, invariably intertwined with energy exploration and production in the region, played a critical role in shaping the framework and agreements related to these maritime blocks. Particularly, the lingering dispute between Lebanon and Israel concerning their maritime border witnessed a historic resolution in the month succeeding Novatek’s withdrawal. The U.S.-brokered landmark agreement between Lebanon and Israel, delineating their maritime borders, became a pivotal determinant in the structuring and future trajectory of the exploration endeavors in block 9. Notably, a portion of block 9 is situated south of the newly established border with Israel.

A distinct and diplomatically nuanced agreement between Total and Israel was fashioned concerning the revenue generation from the aforementioned segment of block 9, reinforcing the intricacy of managing energy exploration within a context of layered geopolitical considerations. The agreement firmly established that neither Lebanese nor Israeli corporations would operate in the zone located below the newly delineated border, instigating the transfer of the TotalEnergies and government stakes to entities referred to as “vehicles” of TotalEnergies and precipitating the quest for a new consortium partner.

This ambitious exploration initiative arrives amidst heightened global interest in the eastern Mediterranean and Levant regions, particularly given the notable gas discoveries in the previous decade and the augmented reliance on diversified gas supply chains in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The consortium, therefore, not only represents a cooperative venture aimed at tapping into the rich energy potential off Lebanon’s coast but also resonates on a larger scale within the context of regional energy security and global energy supply dynamics.

In conclusion, the formation of the consortium between QatarEnergy, TotalEnergies, and Eni and the ensuing exploration in Lebanon’s maritime blocks is emblematic of the complex, yet potentially rewarding, interplay of energy exploration, geopolitical considerations, and collaborative international ventures. It is imperative that such collaborations are navigated with a judicious blend of economic foresight, environmental consideration, and diplomatic acumen to ensure that the potential benefits can be realized in a manner that is conducive to regional stability and symbiotic international relations.

With this initiative underpinning Lebanon’s aspirations for energy self-sufficiency and economic rejuvenation, all eyes will be attentively observing the unfolding chapters of this exploration story, deciphering its implications not only for the nation but also for the broader dynamics of the global energy landscape.

Turkey is set to resume operations on a crucial crude oil pipeline from Iraq following a six-month suspension, as announced by Turkey’s Energy Minister, Alparslan Bayraktar, on October 2nd. The announcement was made during the ADIPEC conference held in Abu Dhabi. Upon reactivation, the Iraq-Turkey pipeline is poised to supply almost half a million barrels to the global oil markets weekly.

The pipeline’s operations were initially halted half a year ago subsequent to an arbitration decision by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The ICC mandated Turkey to remunerate Baghdad for unauthorized exports that occurred between 2014 and 2018. Following the ruling, Turkey embarked on maintenance work on the pipeline, which is a significant conduit contributing approximately 0.5% to the global crude supply.

In the interim, Baghdad and Ankara came to an agreement to postpone the recommencement of the pipeline flows until the maintenance assessment, particularly imperative as the pipeline transverses a seismic zone, was finalized. Concurrently, the two nations have been entwined in a legal skirmish regarding arbitration awards. Bayraktar had mentioned in the previous month that Turkey was considering legal proceedings against Iraq, given that the latter has an outstanding enforcement case against Turkey.

Moreover, Bayraktar emphasized Turkey’s history as a steadfast transit route for oil and gas. This pipeline resumption is not only vital for Turkey and Iraq but also stands to have a substantial impact on global oil markets by infusing a considerable quantity of crude oil amidst existing market dynamics.

The decisions and subsequent actions from both countries following the reactivation of the pipeline will be pivotal, especially considering the previous legal and operational challenges. As this development unfolds, it may potentially usher in various economic and geopolitical implications within the region, and perhaps, on a global scale.

Image Credit: Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

In an illuminating article published by Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida, a complex, multi-faceted deal in the intricate Syria-Iran-Hezbollah-Russia network is purportedly in the works, potentially escalating the already tense geopolitical climate in the region. The alleged four-way deal, as corroborated by trusted sources, has the potential to heighten threats against both Israel and Ukraine, countries already grappling with their respective security challenges.

If there’s merit to the claim, the arms movement could witness a strategic transfer of weapons from Hezbollah to Syrian regime-supported Arab tribes and further on to Moscow, a move that might appear paradoxical considering Hezbollah’s well-documented proclivity for stockpiling weaponry. Nonetheless, it is argued that such a manoeuvre might enable Hezbollah to offload older munitions while simultaneously acquiring newer, perhaps more advanced Iranian weaponry, thus not only maintaining but potentially upgrading its military capabilities.

This scenario is further complicated by the historical backdrop of arms movement through Syria to Hezbollah, a strategy that Iran has previously leveraged. The unfolding of the Syrian Civil War from 2011 onwards, with Hezbollah’s intervention on behalf of the regime – facilitated by Iranian support, including the deployment of IRGC troops – shifted the geopolitical dynamics slightly, embedding an objective of Iranian entrenchment within the broader framework.

Hezbollah managed not only to benefit from the situation but also firmly establish itself in strategic Syrian locations such as near Aleppo and the Golan. Iran reciprocally expanded its trading axis in Syria, maneuvering weaponry to crucial points like Albukamal, T-4 base, Damascus, and further across the Syrian expanse.

A vital aspect to explore in this convoluted situation is the Quds Force’s leadership, particularly its current leader, Ismail Qaani, who stepped into the role following the 2020 killing of his predecessor, Qasem Soleimani. Qaani, according to a source cited by Al-Jarida, agreed to facilitate the provision of new weapons to Hezbollah via Syria, receiving, in return, a significant portion of its older arms and ammunition to bolster the Arab tribes allied with Syria. These tribes pose a threat to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and are instrumental in expanding the regime’s sway, particularly in eastern Syria. A facet of this arrangement potentially enables Russia to acquire a portion of Hezbollah’s weapons, bolstering its military operations in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

On a parallel trajectory, the alleged deal may facilitate diplomatic and strategic maneuvering between Moscow, Turkey, and Syria. Turkey, having occupied northern Syria and supported Syrian rebels against the SDF, maintains a turbulent relationship with the latter, designating it a “terrorist” entity. As Ankara navigates discussions with Russia, the Syrian regime, and Iran, normalization between Turkey and Syria remains a complex and delicate process, hinging on nuanced demands and historical agreements like the Adana agreement of 1998. However, it appears that Turkey, Iran, and Russia collectively seek to avoid a direct confrontation with Washington, each due to its individual reasons, viewing the empowerment of Arab tribes as a strategically viable means to undermine the SDF without directly instigating conflict.

Moreover, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in dialogue with Qaani, reportedly expressed that confrontations with Israel have morphed into a new phase, centring upon the conflict over energy resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Thus, Hezbollah’s need for qualitative weaponry, capable of establishing a deterrent balance with Israel, becomes imperative.

This complex web of international relations and strategic deals indicates an elaborate, albeit precarious balance in which entities like Hezbollah stand to benefit, replenishing their weapon caches with more advanced technology, and thereby perpetuating a persistent threat to Israel. Simultaneously, Russia’s benefit from the arrangement is situated in the acquisition of additional arms—albeit how Moscow would navigate the transportation of the weaponry remains unclear. This arrangement, if brought to fruition, is indicative of a recalibration of power dynamics in the region, emphasizing the need for careful observation and strategic engagement from the international community to mitigate potential escalations and protect precarious stabilities.