The massive explosion that rocked Lebanon completely obliterated the Port of Beirut. Although, officials did not say what caused the initial blaze that set off the blast, the Port of Beirut has been caught in a covert war brewing in Lebanon for sometime. Commentators on the Levant have long been warning that it could be a flashpoint for the next Lebanon war – that flashpoint is the disputed resource-rich maritime territory known as Block 9.
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Igor Grechushkin – the Russian businessman
On 4th August 2020, powerful explosions rocked Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The explosion was linked to 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse since 2014. It was confiscated from an abandoned ship MV Rhosus belonging to a Cyprus-based Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin.
Igor Grechushkin, a Russian businessman has been linked to the ammonium nitrate stored in the warehouse which sparked the explosion at Port of Beirut. The 2,700 tons of fertilizer was confiscated from his abandoned cargo ship after an unscheduled stop.https://t.co/uIBKCTMpYi
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) August 5, 2020
The explosive power of the blast added up to approximately 240 tons of TNT, according to one estimate shared online by a nuclear expert. By comparison, the yield of a MOAB, the largest conventional bomb, is ~11 tons TNT equivalent.
A security source stated it was caused during welding work on a hole in a warehouse. However, the US President Donald Trump suggested that it was an attack caused by a bomb.
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“I’ve met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that this was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of an event. They seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind.”
Meanwhile, the President of Lebanon Michel Aoun has suggested that the Beirut blast may have been caused by external interference due to a missile strike or a bomb. Aoun also said that he asked France for satellite images to see if there were warplanes or missiles in the air at the time of the blast.
Lebanon's President has suggested that Beirut blast may have been caused by external interference due to missile strike or bomb. He said that he asked France for satellite images to see if there were warplanes or missiles in air at the time of the blast.https://t.co/T3kA9uRuh7
— GreatGameIndia (@GreatGameIndia) August 8, 2020
Although, officials did not say what caused the initial blaze that set off the blast, the Port of Beirut has been caught in a covert war brewing in Lebanon for sometime. Commentators on the Levant have long been warning that it could be a flashpoint for the next Lebanon war – that flashpoint is the disputed resource-rich maritime territory known as Block 9.
Block 9 – The Flashpoint for Lebanon War
In 2010, vast hydrocarbon reserves were discovered in the Levant Basin. It was the key for economic boom in the region, particularly, Lebanon, Israel and Cyprus. However, conflict over the right to exploit a gas field called Block 9 spiraled into a covert war between Lebanon and Israel. The matter was dragged to the United Nations whereby the US supported the Lebanon proposal.
Israel rejected the proposal and the dispute dragged on until 2017 when Lebanon floated the tender for hydrocarbon exploration, including opening the Block 9 for bidding. The move has irked Israel ever since who vowed to the UN that it “will not allow any nonconsensual, unauthorized, economic activity in its maritime areas,” and is “committed to pursuing available and relevant options to protect its sovereign rights.”
Attempt to sabotage Russian Gas Deal
In 2017, the Lebanese Oil Authority granted licenses in Block 9 to a consortium comprising the French company Total, the Italian ENI, and the Russian Novatek. Soon, an anti-Lebanon campaign sparked in the Middle East, aimed at “intimidating” and forcing it to give up the joint gas project with Russia.
— Lebanon Gas and Oil (@LebanonGasOil) December 14, 2017
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil went to Moscow and stated the following to Russian journalists:
We are about to conclude the first in the history of our country agreement with Russia on shell gas exploration. And now we see an attemp to hinder this effort. Certain parties are trying to intimidate Lebanon.
We hope that Russia will continue building up its influence in the Middle East in order to form a balance of powers in the region.
Some countries are trying to use certain forces to remove the head of Lebanon. The same forces that unleashed the war in Syria and those who are feeding into terrorists are now trying to damage Lebanon.
However, the cooperation continued with the Russians gaining a more stronger foothold in Lebanon. This called for a more aggressive approach from Israelis.
Lebanese Civil War
During his visit with US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, Lebanese President Michel Aoun reportedly received a secret US-Israeli document detailing plans for creating a civil war in Lebanon with covert false flag operations and possible Israeli invasion.
Although the source of the document is Israeli and created in partnership with Washington, no one knows who presented it to Aoun. The Lebanese TV station, Al-Jadeed, initially reported the document on Lebanese TV and a video on its website.
According to another the document, although “full load of our firepower will be unleashed,” they somehow do not anticipate any casualties. They do, however, expect the civil war to “trigger requests” for intervention from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) which Israel must only agree to after extreme reluctance.
The document says Israel will also play an important role by creating “covert false flag operations” as the conflict progresses. Perhaps these operations would include chemical attacks similar to the chemical attacks on civilians in Syria or even direct attacks on Lebanese or Israeli civilians to blame on Hezbollah and justify international intervention.
Meanwhile, huge protests erupted in Lebanon and on October 29, 2019, the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation, and that of his cabinet.
Israel claim rights to Block 9
After the Lebanese put out the tender for exploration of Block 9, Israel issued a stern warning to the companies involved in the licenses. In an international security conference in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said:
“They [Lebanon] are announcing a tender on the gas field, including Block 9, which is ours by any definition. Respectable firms bidding on the tender are, to my mind, making a grave error – because this is contrary to all of the rules and all protocol in cases like this.”
Meanwhile, work began full steam at the Levant Gas Field and the Port of Beirut became the main supply base for the entire operation.
Port of Beirut – Base for Oil Consortium
In April 2019, another tender was launched to select a service company to lease space and manage the supply base for the consortium of Total, ENI, and Novatek, which planned to begin exploration the same year. Port of Beirut was to be turned into a supply base for the consortium said Walid Nasr, Chairman of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA).
“The base will host all preparations and support all offshore operations, from pipes and casings, to storage facilities,” Chbat said.
By November 2019, offshore oil and gas exploration equipment started arriving at the Port of Beirut. In June 2020, it was announced that a well site would be located in Block 9 in six weeks and complete drilling before the end of May 2021.
Wissam Chbat, board member at the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) and head of LPA’s Geology and Geophysics Unit, said that Total, French oil company, is expected to specify the location of the well to be drilled by its subcontractors in Block 9 of Lebanon’s waters within six weeks.
“Total will keep in mind that it should complete its drilling of the well in Block 9 before the end of May 2021,” Chbat told Xinhua in an interview.
Port of Beirut obliterated in massive explosion
Just weeks later, the Port of Beirut is obliterated in a massive explosion, bringing the entire operations to a grinding halt. Within hours the French President announced his visit to Lebanon the very next day.
“I will go to Beirut tomorrow to meet the Lebanese people to bring them the message of fraternity and solidarity of the French. We will take stock of the situation with the political authorities,” President Macron wrote on Twitter.
Je me rendrai demain à Beyrouth à la rencontre du peuple libanais pour lui porter le message de fraternité et de solidarité des Français. Nous ferons le point sur la situation avec les autorités politiques.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) August 5, 2020
Russians on their part have offered assistance in investigating the explosion, lawmaker Oleg Morozov told Sputnik. “I think if we are asked to provide appropriate assistance in the investigation, then, of course, we will help,” Morozov said.
Intelligence experts on the Levant warzone GreatGameIndia spoke to are of the opinion that there would be a strong retaliation by the oil consortium nations in which the US Presidential Election would be a major factor. However, what theater they choose remains to be seen.
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