The Power of Neutrality: Lebanon as an Oil Transit Country | Dan Naor


This article examines the role of Lebanon as an oil transit country facing regional and international crises. From the transit policy, one can deduce foreign policy, neutrality, and the challenges that confronted Lebanon in the past, and still do. The article analyzes two case studies from the early 1970s, just a few years before the Lebanese civil war. The first is the Tapline Affair, in which Syria blocked the oil flow in the Saudi-Lebanon line in 1970. Lebanon found itself between East and West and had to maneuver between different aspirations, those of progressive Syria and those of conservative Saudi Arabia and the American oil company. The second is the nationalization of the Iraqi Petroleum Company installations by the Iraqi government in 1972. Lebanon found itself once again between East and West, but also had to deal with the progressive Arab states. In both cases, Lebanon’s neutrality was put to the test, with Lebanon having to forge a path between the various antagonists. While historians usually depict the period in which the transit crises took place as an era of weakness and decline, the transit crises demonstrated strength, which was derived in part from the Lebanese policy of neutrality.