Inteligencia y Seguridad Frente Externo En Profundidad Economia y Finanzas Transparencia
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Economía y Finanzas  
 
15/07/2006 | The Economic Impact of an Israeli-Lebanese War

Stratfor Staff

Israel is on the verge of invading Lebanon, launching a war that could engulf Syria as well. But the likely economic disruption is not where most would think.

 

Lebanon's involvement in the international economy was quite crimped, even before Israel blockaded its ports. Aside from tourism and some agricultural exports, its primary contribution is in banking, as many Arabs funnel their money -- mainly from oil or drugs -- through Lebanon's notoriously unrestrictive banking sector. These banks can and likely will remain open for business -- at least for electronic transfers -- so long as Israeli troops do not park in their lobbies. But considering Israel's previously thorough efforts in the country, that should not be ruled out.

In illicit terms, the bulk of Lebanon's economic involvement is in the drug trade. Here Hezbollah -- the very same Hezbollah that Israel is likely to attack in Lebanon -- is the primary player. Hezbollah maintains a network of processing centers for turning Afghan opium into heroin and methamphetamine labs in the Bekaa Valley, with some opium and marijuana produced locally as well. The Bekaa Valley will be a primary target for Israeli forces in the upcoming war.

Farther abroad, the effect of the conflict will be more pronounced.

In the past, when Israel has invaded Lebanon, it has eliminated entire portions of the Syrian military, and there is little reason to expect that this time will be different. There is even a chance that Syria's some 200,000 barrels per day of oil exports could face disruption, either from a direct military attack on the oil complex or from an Israeli blockade of the port of Banias. Regardless, wars in the Middle East push oil prices higher.

Ironically, the most severe economic disruptions will be in Israel, where fighting on the ground is likely to be nonexistent. Bear in mind that the Israeli economy is more than twice the size of the Lebanese and Syrian economies combined.

Business operations in Israel could face some disruptions if Hamas-linked suicide bombers seek revenge for the ongoing Israeli operations in the Gaza, or if Hezbollah fires rockets into northern Israel. But these disruptions will pale when viewed against the general disruptive effect of a broad Israeli mobilization. Obviously, tighter security considerations will slow business activity, but that is only the first, and smaller, of two effects -- and Stratfor expects Israeli air and anti-air assets to keep the war well away from any ports or airports removed from the Lebanon border.

The second is that the reserves have been activated. While Israel's standing military is composed mainly of volunteers, the country maintains full conscription. That means that people from all walks of life are putting on uniforms. Expect business disruptions due to personnel shortages throughout the country, particularly in the north.

Turkey has no intention of becoming actively involved in the conflict (although passive cooperation with the Israelis is likely), and its public efforts will be limited to reinforcement of forces at its supertanker export terminal at Ceyhan. Incidentally, the much ballyhooed Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was inaugurated July 13, the same day tensions between Israel and Lebanon erupted into attacks.

Stratfor (Estados Unidos)

 


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