Lebanese maritime security: Navigating rough seas with good policy, by Joseph Sarkis
Lebanon has a coastline of 120 nautical miles (NM) along the eastern Mediterranean and an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that encompasses an area of 5000 square nautical miles (SNM). While this wide expanse presents many opportunities, it also represents a pressing security challenge for the Lebanese maritime security and the region in general.
Outside the region, many world powers are also invested in defending the country’s coast. The U.S. holds several vital interests in this domain, such as countering terrorism and other malign actions, stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), and ensuring freedom of navigation and commerce through critical international waterways. With ongoing conflicts in the region and the Syrian civil war next door, Lebanon is compelled to more effectively manage threats to the nation, which would benefit the region and the globe as well.
Threatening elements can flow both into and out of Lebanon through its maritime borders, compromising national security on the one hand and international security on the other. Moreover, as Lebanon tightens land border security measures, one can expect would-be malefactors to exploit vulnerabilities in Lebanon’s maritime borders. Security threats are increasing off Lebanon’s shores; Lebanon’s maritime security capabilities need to keep pace.
Maritime threats to Lebanon fall into five broad areas: terrorism; pollution; illicit trafficking of drugs; smuggling of weapons and explosives; illegal immigration and human trafficking. Combatting such a wide range of hazards requires a robust navy and, sometimes, regional coordination and information sharing as well as assistance from abroad.