HomePoliticsAnalysisThe “Screw Cap” controversy and the Making of Public Opinion Bombing Cyprus or Boycotting Pepsi?

The “Screw Cap” controversy and the Making of Public Opinion Bombing Cyprus or Boycotting Pepsi?

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Social Media tweets highlight a fragmented political opinion and allegiances

As Lebanon scrambled to contain the fallout from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s threat that Cyprus could be implicated in a wider conflict if the island nation allows Israel to use its ports and airports to target Lebanon, trending on social media were calls to boycott Israel backed companies and PepsiCo saying its new logo resembles the Israeli flag. The “Screw Cap” controversy started as the soft drink company’s new bottle cap designs spark outrage in the country with residents calling to send away company trucks reaching their areas. The Lebanese based franchise denied the allegations saying it is employing one thousand plus Lebanese workers whose fate will be endangered of such a narrative. Meanwhile a truck for Pepsi Cola company was greeted with rice in a Lebanese Forces dominated village in the Metn area, as another truck was kicked out of Bar Elias, a Bekaa village by an angry cheick calling the soft drink a killer of kids in Gaza.

The controversy was reaching far reaching proportions as tweets raged confirming the fragile consensus of Lebanese over politics. Videos on twitter and TikTok showed tens of people throwing cans of Pepsi in the sea. Other tweets were making fun of the threat of bombing Cyprus.

Public opinion was hammered as reports from twitter-trends website say that Pepsi hashtags topped the 24.8k as this article was written.

The Social Divide

It is clear that the vast majority of Lebanese society supports and hopes for victory over Israel in some form or another, as well as the “liberation of Palestine,” but in the context of Lebanon’s involvement status in the war, Lebanese society is so diverse and divided in two, depending on the Lebanese citizen’s living area, religion, and political opinion.

Virtually, on the one hand, there is a pro-Hezbollah group that is simply waiting for its party’s big moment. In recent months, the same group launched “The Resistance – Lebanon Shield” campaign, and is now urging the organization’s leaders and supporters to lead Lebanon and the entire resistance axis to triumph over Israel, regardless of the consequences for their home and homeland. This group’s online influencers proudly post the party’s statements and victories in the combat against Israel since the first day of the war, and solely urge for border escalation. Hezbollah’s social media mouthpieces also spread propaganda videos recording the activities of the organization’s military groups on the border, as well as threatening videos in Hebrew intended at intimidating Israeli people.

Contrary to them, on the other side, there is the “anti-Hezbollah” group, which opposes Iranian influence on their homeland on a daily basis and criticizes Nasrallah and his party and even mocks threats that have not been carried out since the beginning of the war. Not surprisingly, these influencers, mostly from the capital city of Beirut and Christian provinces and villages, do support the Palestinian struggle against Israel, but claim that it is not their war while understanding the consequences of war on Lebanon in these days of economic and political crisis in Lebanon. The economic crisis even before the war is one of the worst in history along with the political crisis in which Lebanon does not actually have a president. 

In addition, the group that opposes Hezbollah blames it for the presidential crisis, since its representatives in parliament thwart the elections every round. 

Another argument is that Lebanon, after a war with Israel, may not be able to rise from the pit it will enter and from the ruins of destruction that will be “from the south to Beirut.” And there have already been unequivocal statements on the social networks that unlike in 2006, this time, citizens of Beirut will not open their doors to Hezbollah supporters from the south if the war starts there.

Also amongst subject of controversy are also symbols of U.S. corporate might such as McDonald’s, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Electric __ ubiquitous global brands __ who did take position in open conflicts. For example all announced they were temporarily suspending their business in Russia in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Starbucks had said that it was donating profits from its 130 Russian stores __ owned and operated by Kuwait-based franchisee Alshaya Group __ to humanitarian relief efforts in Ukraine. Also Coca-Cola Co. announced it was suspending its business in Russia, but it offered few details. Coke’s partner, Switzerland-based Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co., owns 10 bottling plants in Russia, which is its largest market. Coke has a 21% stake in Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. PepsiCo and General Electric both announced partial shutdowns of their Russian business. Pepsi, based in Purchase, New York, said it will suspend sales of beverages in Russia. It will also suspend any capital investments and promotional activities.

Can we afford to loose Cyprus ?

Cyprus is the main exporter from Lebanon agri-business.

In 2022, Cyprus exported $72.9M to Lebanon. The main products exported from Cyprus to Lebanon were Refined Petroleum ($301M), Rolled Tobacco ($10.4M), and Bovine ($3.13M). During the last 5 years the exports of Cyprus to Lebanon have increased at an annualized rate of 6.55%, from $53.1M in 2017 to $72.9M in 2022.

In 2017, Lebanon exported $14.2M to Cyprus. The main products exported from Lebanon to Cyprus were Rolled Tobacco ($8.19M), Aluminium Structures ($5.33M), and Refined Petroleum ($3.03M). During the last 22 years the exports of Lebanon to Cyprus have increased at an annualized rate of 7.65%, from $9.79M in 1995 to $14.2M in 2017.

The oil and gas agreement

On the 23 July 2021, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Zeina Akar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) extending over a duration of five years between Lebanon and Cyprus related to the oil and gas sector. The MOU defines the following objectives such as “establish a general framework of cooperation in the oil and gas sector, for the mutual benefit of both parties including common and cross-border infrastructure” and “exchange of best practices, regulatory framework and sector expertise, strengthen collaboration in training the scientific and technical staff in both countries.”

Cyprus has issued exploration drilling licenses to ExxonMobil and partner Qatar Petroleum, a consortium made up of French energy company Total and Italy’s Eni, as well as Chevron and partner Shell, to most of its 13 segments in its exclusive economic zone off its southern coast.

Lebanon divides its maritime zone, which is supposed to contain gas and oil, into 10 blocks, four of which are adjacent to the territorial waters of Cyprus.


Cyprus and Lebanon have had close and historic relations for decades and the island became a refuge for thousands of Lebanese who resided on the island during Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. Many Lebanese citizens moved again to Cyprus following the historic economic meltdown in Lebanon that started in late 2019.

It has lobbied its EU partners to offer Lebanon financial assistance, and recently set up a maritime corridor to dispatch humanitarian aid to famine-threatened Palestinians in Gaza.

Cyta announced the signing of an agreement with the Lebanese Ministry of Telecommunications for the construction and maintenance of a new subsea telecommunications connection between Cyprus and Lebanon, with the commercial name CADMOS-2. The agreement was signed on Monday, 12th December 2022 in Beirut. Cyta was represented by the Chairman of the Board Mr. Michalis O. Ioannides and the CEO Mr. Andreas Neocleous. CADMOS-2 is a new subsea cable between Cyprus and Lebanon, expected to be operational in 2024. Out of necessary funds in Lebanon treasury the Cypriot government has expressed willingness to fund the project.

CADMOS-2 will complement and in the future replace a cable system interconnecting the two countries since 1995, and is expected to be operational in 2024, to meet the needs of international connectivity. The agreement enhances Cyta’ s position as a telecommunications hub and its role as a services centre in the wider area of the Eastern Mediterranean. At the same time, it supports the business activities between Cyprus and Lebanon and strengthens the wider cooperation between the two countries, at a critical period characterized by uncertainty.

What’s at stake

Hezbollah controversial statement on “bombing Cyprus” also received a barrage of controversial statements on social media. 

Can Hezbollah bomb Cyprus? A fact check by NOWLEBANON reveals that Britain has two “Sovereign Base Areas” situated on Cyprus island – Akrotiri in the west and Dhekelia in the east – which are large, highly secretive military and intelligence facilities comprising 2.5 percent of the island’s land area.

The use of Akrotiri and Dhekelia to advance Israeli interests is not a recent development. These British bases have been actively employed in the Middle East to safeguard the regional interests of the US and its staunchest ally, Israel.

This 2.5 percent parcel of land, constituting the privately-owned British territory within the 8,500 square kilometers of Cyprus, housing the two bases, was originally under the ownership of Britain and its allies, notably the United States, with occasional involvement from other actors such as Germany and France. 

Akrotiri Base has long served as a joint operational hub for the UK and the US for their operations in the Middle East. Operations in Syria and Iraq have seen the collaboration of these allies, with ongoing utilization of British bases to this day. Through the British bases in Cyprus, Israel has enhanced its intelligence-gathering capabilities, surveillance, and control over maritime routes in the region. Additionally, it has fortified its military presence in the area by obtaining military support from these bases during critical periods.

The US and its allies have long considered these British Sovereign Bases on the island of Cyprus as an advance base for various activities in the region.

Just 45-minute from Tel Aviv, British military bases on Cyprus island serve as a secret arms depots for Israel in its war on Palestine’s Gaza, reports indicate. British bases in the island of Cyprus have been actively employed in the Middle East to safeguard the regional interests of the US and its staunchest ally, Israel.

According to a 2023 European Union Commission on spyware, Cyprus has also hosted Israeli companies such as the NSO Group which create and sell hacking software products. One such hacking software, Predator, allows private individuals and governments to hack cell-phones and has been used to target civil society activists worldwide. In recent months, Declassified UK and Haaretz have both published reports suggesting that the United States and the United Kingdom have been providing military support to Israel in its ongoing war on Palestine’s Gaza by utilising British air bases located in Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper exposes claims that the US military has been secretly supplying weapons to Israel using the British bases on the island. Over 40 US transport aircraft, 20 British transport aircraft and seven heavy transport helicopters believed to be carrying equipment, arms and forces have flown to RAF Akrotiri, Britain’s vast base in Greek-administered Southern Cyprus. From here, cargo planes proceeded to Israel’s Nevatim Airbase.

Reports show a significant increase in flights from RAF Akrotiri since the outbreak of Israel’s war on Gaza, adding to the claims surrounding the UK and US’s military involvement in the region.

Nasrallah’s threat should also be viewed in the context of wartime statements by Iran and its proxies about disrupting vital shipping lanes to Israel through the East Mediterranean. As early as November 1, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for a joint Islamic effort to block oil and food shipments to Israel in response to the Gaza war. Since then, the Houthis, Iraqi Shia militias, and other members of Tehran’s so-called “axis of resistance” have threatened Israeli ports and shipping and launched attacks in their direction. For example, several Iraqi militia drones downed over the Golan Heights were believed to be headed for Haifa port.

At present, Cyprus and its environs are not protected by a robust, multilayered air and missile defense network. The government reportedly reached a tentative agreement in 2022 to purchase Iron Dome systems from Israel, though it is unclear if and when they will be delivered. The island could therefore be vulnerable to Hezbollah missiles absent the deployment of British or NATO guided-missile destroyers. This scenario should be particularly troubling to Washington given the large allied military presence in Cyprus, which includes a few thousand British troops, more than a hundred U.S. Air Force personnel, and a detachment of U-2 surveillance aircraft from the 1st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. According to various media outlets, the Akrotiri base has been extensively involved in facilitating air transport of military supplies to Israel during the Gaza war.

Hezbollah Capabilities and Intentions

Hezbollah has a range of options to back up Nasrallah’s threat. The group is believed to possess a large arsenal of highly accurate surface-to-surface missiles mainly of the Iranian-made Fateh family, which cover ranges from 250 to 1,000 kilometers while carrying a 450-kilogram high-explosive warhead. It also likely has antiship ballistic and cruise missiles similar in quality and quantity to what the Houthis have used against international vessels in the Red Sea region since November—including the highly advanced Russian Yakhont, a supersonic weapon with a range of 300 kilometers.

Hezbollah would therefore have little problem targeting Britain’s Akrotiri air base, its nearby PLUTO II over-the-horizon surveillance radar, or its Troodos radar and signals intelligence collection station. Fateh-type missiles could reach these targets from either Lebanon’s mountainous coastal areas (about 250 kilometers away) or as far east as Baalbek in the Beqa Valley, giving Hezbollah ample flexibility to protect its launchers from counterstrikes. The group also has large stocks of one-way attack drones capable of reaching targets around the island, from anchored ships to inland facilities.

Where do we go from here 

Nasrallah’s threat highlights the genuine prospect of the Hezbollah-Israel conflict broadening into the Mediterranean. If a wider war erupts, Israeli military and commercial traffic at sea would certainly be at risk given the militia’s large antiship arsenal and track record of tactical surprise (e.g., for the 2006 Hanit attack, the militia reportedly exploited Lebanese Armed Forces naval radar assets to target the ship). Israel’s offshore energy assets would be at risk as well, including property owned by the U.S. corporation Chevron. Beyond Israel, commercial shipping in the East Mediterranean could be directly threatened or caught in the crossfire, including humanitarian aid shipments from Cyprus to Gaza. Even the Houthis could conceivably launch solidarity attacks at targets in these distant waters given their long-range suicide drones and missiles.

Most of the reports uncovering the US military’s secret weapon supply to Israel have surfaced from Greek and Greek Cypriot newspapers. On October 7, when Israel launched its war on Gaza, all military aid to Israel was routed through Akrotiri.


Maan Barazy is an economist and founder and president of the National Council of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He tweets @maanbarazy

The views in this story reflect those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of NOW.