BEIRUT — Iranian diesel is expected to begin arriving in the Bekaa Valley on Thursday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Monday evening — the first of several scheduled shipments that will aim to alleviate Lebanon’s fuel crisis.
The first of at least four Iranian fuel tankers destined for Lebanon arrived at Syria’s Baniyas port overnight Saturday, he said. The tanker finished offloading its cargo — some 30 million liters of diesel — on Monday, he said, and after a couple of days of logistical and administrative arrangements, it will be trucked across the Lebanese border to a storage facility in Baalbeck. From there it will be apportioned across the country by the Al-Amana fuel distribution company, which is sanctioned by the US.
A second ship will arrive in a few days, he said, and will be followed by a third and a newly announced fourth ship.
Lebanon has experienced a severe fuel crisis in recent months as its central bank’s foreign currency reserves have reached critically low levels. The dwindling funds have rendered Banque du Liban unable to purchase sufficient quantities of fuel oil for the state electricity utility, diesel for private generators that offset public power cuts or gasoline for vehicles. This has resulted in hourslong waits at gas pumps and extended electricity blackouts that have overshadowed nearly all parts of everyday life in the country. Although Lebanon’s newly formed government has listed resolving the country’s “lines of humiliation” as a priority, it will be days if not weeks before Parliament gives it the vote of confidence needed to do so.
The Iranian fuel has been the subject of political controversy since Nasrallah announced, on Aug. 19, that the ship carrying it was setting sail for Lebanon. Critics of the move have argued that importing the fuel would risk bringing the wrath of US sanctions on the country for dealing with the Islamic Republic.
Following Nasrallah’s initial announcement, Saad Hariri, the head of Lebanon’s largest Sunni political party and a three-time former prime minister, accused the party of undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty by importing Iranian fuel without permission and setting it on a collision course with the “international community.” On Monday Nasrallah said the decision to import the fuel into a Syrian port rather than a Lebanese port and then have it brought overland was calculated to avoid sanctions against those who do business with the Islamic Republic.
In subsequent speeches Nasrallah announced two more shipments. The fuel for all three previously announced shipments was purchased by a group of unnamed Lebanese Shiite businessmen, Iran’s semiofficial Nournews website reported. Following Monday’s announcement of the fourth shipment, Nasrallah said additional fuel shipments could take place. Iran’s Foreign Ministry has said the country is willing to sell additional fuel to Lebanon.
Back when he announced the first shipment, the leader of the pro-Iran Shiite political party warned against possible Israeli or American military attacks on it, saying he considered the ship “Lebanese territory” from the moment it left the dock in Iran. So far none of the ships appear to have been targeted by Hezbollah’s geopolitical foes, and the US has not announced new sanctions.
In response to a request for comment, a US Embassy spokesperson told L’Orient Today, “As a matter of policy, we do not preview sanctions.”
However, the Americans swiftly followed up on Nasrallah’s initial announcement with their own, two-pronged initiative that would see Lebanon import Egyptian natural gas and Jordanian electricity via Syria. A high-ranking ministerial delegation to Damascus took place last week to discuss the plan’s implementation, followed by another ministerial meeting in Amman. A third project, a bilateral agreement whereby Lebanon would purchase Iraqi heavy fuel oil that it would then swap for fuel compatible with Lebanon’s power plants, may soon also provide energy to beleaguered Lebanon. The first shipment of fuel under that arrangement is expected to arrive this week, according to Lebanon’s Energy Ministry.
In his speech on Monday, the Hezbollah leader also said his organization would for a month donate diesel to government hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, special needs centers, regional water establishments, municipal water wells, the Civil Defense and the Lebanese Red Cross.
He also promised to cover the needs of bakeries, pharmaceutical factories and some other core industries for a month. Outside of this particular dispensation, the price of fuel for customers is not known, but Nasrallah claimed that it would be below cost.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this article said Saad Hariri had served two terms as prime minister. He has served three, forming governments in 2009, 2016 and 2019.
BEIRUT — Iranian diesel is expected to begin arriving in the Bekaa Valley on Thursday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Monday evening — the first of several scheduled shipments that will aim to alleviate Lebanon’s fuel crisis.The first of at least four Iranian fuel tankers destined for Lebanon arrived at Syria’s Baniyas port overnight Saturday, he said. The...