The leader of Hezbollah says tanker transporting Iranian fuel oil to help Lebanon through the financial crisis in Syria.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, said the first ship transporting Iranian fuel oil to help Lebanon through the financial crisis had docked in Syria.
Nasrallah announced last month that it had arranged fuel purchases from Iran, Hezbollah’s main supporter but subject to US economic sanctions, to alleviate a crippling deficit.
Nasrallah thanked Syria for receiving the delivery on Sunday and facilitated its transfer, saying it would reach Lebanon by Thursday.
“We have been told that the arrival of the vessel here (in Lebanon) would harm the country and we do not want to harm the country, so we have chosen another option,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Monday.
The arrival of the Iranian tanker comes days after a new government was formed in Lebanon, which ended a stalemate of 13 months. The new Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati, did not comment on the agreement to import fuel from Iran.
Daily life is almost paralyzed as fuel dries up because Lebanon does not have enough money to pay for it.
The state-owned power plant produces only minimal electricity, leaving businesses and households almost entirely dependent on small, private fuel-fired generators.
A financial crisis has wiped out 90 percent of the value of the Lebanese pound since 2019, pushing up food prices by more than 550 percent and driving three-quarters of the population into poverty. The World Bank calls it one of the deepest depressions of modern history.
Nasrallah said on Monday that a second ship with fuel oil would arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas within a few days, with a third and fourth car, respectively, with petrol.
“We could have had a whole fleet of vessels … but we did not because we did not want to aggravate anyone,” he said.
Syria, also under US sanctions, has relied mostly on oil supplies from its strong ally Iran, which has sent thousands of fighters, including Hezbollah members, to support President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the ten-year-long conflict there.
Nasrallah said the Syrian government had mobilized dozens of tankers to transport the diesel to the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek by Thursday.
‘Not for profit or trade’
Opponents of Hezbollah in Lebanon say the purchase carries the risk of reducing sanctions against a country that is already in crisis, especially since Washington has designated Hezbollah as a “terrorist group”.
The Donald Trump administration announced in 2018 that it aims to reduce Iran’s oil sales to zero after withdrawing from Tehran’s nuclear deal with 2015 by six world powers.
The United States supports its efforts to address Lebanon’s power shortages by importing Egyptian gas via Jordan and Syria.
Nasrallah also praised a trip by Lebanese officials to Damascus this month to try to make it happen.
He said the first Iranian transport of oil was priced in Lebanese pounds and would go to hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes, and that Hezbollah would provide filling stations connected to the group across the country.
“Our goal is not trade or profit,” he said. “Our goal is to alleviate the suffering of the people.”
‘We do not compete [with the state] but we want to add the flow of fuel to the market, ”he added.