Jumblat Asks about Iraqi Oil, Slams ‘Diesel Invasion’ – Naharnet

Progressives Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Tuesday tweeted about Lebanon’s electricity crisis and the diesel that Hizbullah brought from Iran.

“As if everything is calculated. An announcement is made about Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas, which is a chance for beginning to address the electricity crisis, after which comes a diesel invasion,” Jumblat tweeted.

“One asks about the Iraqi oil and the ambiguity surrounding its replacement and receives no answer. And finally there is the farce of parliament’s power cut, the subsequent bravados and the Iranian oil excavation,” the PSP leader added.

“Where is the state of Lebanon?” he wondered.


Sourcing Fuel, Hizbullah Cements Role as Lebanon’s ‘Real Ruler’ – Naharnet

Iranian fuel has entered Lebanon without state authorization and despite U.S. sanctions following arrangements by Hizbullah, consecrating the party’s status as the main powerhouse in the crisis-hit country.

“This latest event gives yet another confirmation that Hizbullah has considerably increased its sway over the Lebanese state,” said political scientist Karim Emile Bitar.

“It is no longer even trying to hide behind the veneer of legality offered by official institutions,” he said.

Lebanon, grappling with its worst-ever financial crisis, defaulted on its debt last year and can no longer afford to import key goods, including petrol for vehicles and diesel for generators during almost round-the-clock power cuts.

Fuel shortages have forced motorists to queue for hours — sometimes days — while electricity outages have plunged the country into darkness, paralyzing hospitals, schools and government offices.

Despite being an integral part of the state — it holds seats in parliament and backs several cabinet ministers — Hizbullah has bemoaned the state’s failure and vowed to step in with its own solution.

The party, which is designated by the U.S. as a “terrorist” group and is the only group to have kept its arsenal after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 war, arranged for dozens of trucks carrying Iranian fuel to enter Lebanon via Syria last week.

The delivery was not officially approved by the government and the trucks entered via an illegal crossing for a transaction that violates U.S. and other sanctions.

The move, although a first, falls in line with the Iran-backed party’s long-standing autonomy from a weak centralized state that has stood idly on the sidelines as the group deployed in Syria in 2013 and repeatedly engaged in military confrontations with Israel on Lebanon’s southern front.

“Hizbullah’s latest move weakens the state and perceptions of the state,” political activist and energy expert Laury Haytayan told AFP.

“It’s very clear that the state is unable to stop Hizbullah. The state is watching and it’s paralyzed and it can’t take any action.”

– ‘Violation of sovereignty’ –

A total of 80 trucks carrying four million liters (one million gallons) of Iranian fuel oil entered Lebanon on Thursday, days after a first Iranian ship reached the Syrian port of Baniyas.

Three more Iranian ships are expected to deliver fuel oil and petrol in the coming weeks, according to Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The shipments were purchased by Lebanese businessmen, according to Iran, most likely with ties to Hizbullah.

The Lebanese government, headed by prime minister Najib Miqati and which was finally formed last week after a year-long delay, has distanced itself from the scheme.

Speaking to CNN last week, Miqati described the Hizbullah delivery as “a violation of Lebanese sovereignty” but said he believed Lebanon would not be hit by U.S. sanctions because the government had not authorized the shipment.

The first fuel delivery — which Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV says can only cover the needs of a single major institution such as a hospital for one month — is a “test,” Haytayan said.

If it goes unanswered by the U.S., then many traders may be emboldened to stock up despite the threat of sanctions, especially if shortages persist, the expert said.

– Distribution –

Fuel distribution will be managed by Hizbullah auxiliaries that are already sanctioned and run no additional risk.

Al-Amana, a fuel distribution company which is owned by Hizbullah and has been under U.S. sanctions since February 2020, distributed a first batch of around 100,000 liters of fuel oil in the southern Hizbullah stronghold of Tyre and Beirut on Saturday, al-Manar reported, without specifying the exact beneficiaries.

On Sunday, Al-Amana distributed another 100,000 liters of fuel oil in Mount Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley which is widely considered a Hizbullah bastion, al-Manar said.

The first deliveries were all free of charge after Nasrallah on Monday said his group would donate fuel to government hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, water pumping stations, municipalities, civil defense units, firefighter brigades and the Lebanese Red Cross.

The rest will be sold on the market in Lebanese pounds at a price less than the subsidized rate set by the state, Al-Amana said Sunday, making it a serious competitor for official importers selling stocks in U.S. dollars at a much higher price.

Nasrallah said last week he hopes municipalities will oversee distribution.

But he stressed individual institutions could also source fuel directly from Hizbullah if a particular municipality refuses to engage with it for political reasons.

Dispelling rumors that the fuel will only benefit Hizbullah’s own community, Nasrallah said it was intended “for all regions and for all Lebanese” regardless of their political or sectarian affiliation.

Source Agence France Presse


Iran Says Ready to Sell Lebanon Fuel if Its Govt. Asks – Naharnet

Iran said Sunday it is willing to sell fuel to Lebanon’s government to help ease shortages, days after a first delivery of Iranian fuel arranged by Hizbullah entered the country.

“If the Lebanese government wants to buy fuel from us to resolve the problems faced by its population, we will supply it,” foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

He told a news conference that the Islamic republic had already sold fuel to a “Lebanese businessman,” without naming Hizbullah.

Tehran-backed Hizbullah promised in August to bring fuel from Iran to alleviate the shortages sowing chaos in Lebanon, in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

On Thursday, dozens of tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel arranged by Hizbullah arrived in Lebanon and were due to fill the tanks of a fuel distribution firm owned by Hizbullah, which has been under US sanctions.

Lebanon’s new Prime Minister Najib Miqati had told CNN the shipment “was not approved by the Lebanese government.”

He added that he was “saddened” by “the violation of Lebanese sovereignty.”

Hizbullah is a major political force in Lebanon and the only group to have kept its arsenal of weapons following the end of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.

Lebanon is facing one of its worst-ever economic crises, with more than three out of four Lebanese considered to be under the poverty line.

Last year, it defaulted on its foreign debt and can no longer afford to import key goods, including petrol and diesel.

Mains electricity are only available a handful of hours a day, while the Lebanese are struggling to find petrol, bread and medicine.

Source Agence France Presse


Al-Rahi Slams Hizbullah Fuel Tankers, Obstruction of Port Probe

by Naharnet Newsdesk

Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday called on the new government to “work as a unified national team that reflects the state’s unity.”

He added that the government must “halt the deterioration and confront the incessant attempts to undermine the state and harm its democratic system.”

“The state cannot function properly amid practices or stances that contradict with its entity and institutions,” al-Rahi said.

“They simply call them points of contention, as if resolving them is unnecessary, such as Lebanon’s neutrality and its nonalignment; the correction of the practices that violate the constitution and the Taef Accord; the way the fuel tanker trucks were brought in; and the obstruction of the probe into the port crime, as if what’s wanted is to halt the investigation,” the patriarch lamented.

Al-Rahi, however, added that what boosts his hope is that “the domestic, regional and international circumstances that gave birth to this government allow it to carry out the urgent efforts that the Lebanese people need from it.”

He accordingly called on the government to “conduct reforms, revive the financial and economic activity, secure the academic year, support the private schools alike the official ones, resolve the fuel and electricity crisis, shut down smuggling crossings on the border, and address the issue of apple refrigerators to avoid its spoilage.”

Source Naharnet