Will Lebanon save Iranian fuel delivering bypassing US sanctions?

Kirill Grishin

In Lebanon, for several months, a severe shortage of fuel. There are huge queues at gas stations, and diesel fuel storage facilities have long been empty. Speculators sell gasoline at exorbitant prices. Will Najib Mikati’s cabinet hold up and why is Israel in a hurry to seize the moment?

Lebanon is now characterized by interruptions in fuel supplies and frequent power outages, which sometimes last up to 22 hours a day. It paralyzes hospitals, shops, restaurants and industry. All this resulted in massive street protests.

The energy crisis in Lebanon began in the summer. Then, due to problems with the supply of fuel oil, the state electric company Electricité du Liban reduced the energy supply to the population to a minimum, two of the four CHP plants were stopped. The Lebanese authorities tried to solve the problem: they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on external interventions, but the purchased goods disappeared in some unknown place. Later, the fuel was found: the Lebanese military conducted raids on closed gas stations, the owners of which concealed the availability of gasoline in anticipation of a rise in prices.

It happened on August 12, when the Central Bank of Lebanon canceled government subsidies for fuels and lubricants due to the reduction of foreign exchange reserves. Official prices for fuels and lubricants immediately jumped by 66%. And last Friday, the Lebanese Ministry of Energy announced a new rise in gasoline prices by 37%. But even this does not reflect the real situation. A 20-liter canister of gasoline in Beirut – at an official price of about $ 120 – costs about $ 330!

The situation did not get any easier after tankers with diesel fuel from Iran began arriving across the Syrian border a few days ago. These are unofficial supplies from Syria as part of a deal brokered by Hezbollah, bypassing US sanctions. The third tanker is en route from Iran to the Syrian port of Baniyas. The Lebanese authorities said that the arrival of Iranian oil products means a breakthrough of the US economic blockade. But the situation has not changed significantly, neither the supply of Iraqi fuel to the state-owned company Electricité du Liban, nor the supply of Iranian diesel fuel have yielded positive results yet, writes Arab News.

The Lebanese movement Hezbollah in August announced its readiness to privately purchase oil products from Iran. In Lebanon, not everyone liked this style.

In Tehran retorted that sending Iranian fuel in Lebanon “occurred in accordance with standard procurement process Lebanese traders. “And Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati denied fears that the country would face US sanctions over Iranian oil imports.

Taking office on September 10, Mikati said that in the next 100 days he will stop the “spread of the fire” that has led the country to the worst crisis in history. But so far without much success inside the country, and the chair under it is seriously wobbling all this time. Moreover, given the economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the Lebanese economy is essentially doomed.

And then Israel is in a hurry to seize the moment – it has invited the American oil service company Haliburton to the disputed area of territorial waters in the Mediterranean Sea with Lebanon.

An offshore drilling contract has been signed. The hopes that the crisis in Lebanon could push the local authorities to unblock valuable gas reserves. But for now, Beirut, through the mouth of Mikati, demonstrates its unwillingness to concede. The Lebanese government is expected to receive a vote of no confidence today.

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