Hezbollah claims victory over US ‘siege’ with Iranian oil

Hezbollah claims victory over US ‘siege’ with arrival of Iranian oil
3 min read
16 September, 2021
The first of a shipment of Iranian oil reached Lebanon from Syria on Thursday, in a move hailed as a victory by Hezbollah and its supporters.
The arrival of Iranian fuel was hailed as a victory for the Shia paramilitary group, which claimed it "broke" a US-led 'seige'. [TNA]

As trucks entered Lebanon from Syria carrying Iranian oil on Thursday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s smiling face watched from printed banners erected alongside the Baalbek road.

“You have and you will continue keeping your promises,” one read, while another congratulated Nasrallah for “[breaking] their siege.” The names of the signs’ sponsors were also written in bottom left hand corners.

Twenty tankers of Iranian oil entered Lebanon, the first of 33,000 metric tons of oil unloaded from an Iranian tanker in the Syrian coastal city of Baniyas on Tuesday. Nasrallah had originally announced that an Iranian oil tanker was heading towards Lebanon in mid-August, daring the US and Israel to stop it.

The oil arrived in the eastern city of Baalbek, where it is to be distributed to schools, hospitals, and the Red Cross, according to Nasrallah’s Monday speech. Previously, the Hezbollah leader had said the fuel was for all of Lebanon, not just the Shia paramilitary group.

Videos circulating on social media showed residents celebrating the arrival of the fuel with gunfire, despite Hezbollah asking residents not celebrate near the fuel storage facilities in Baalbek.

The country’s south, Hezbollah’s stronghold, has been one of the regions hit hardest by the country’s fuel shortage.

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“Everyone is happy about this, it’s not even sectarian. Look at Tripoli and Akkar, which are Sunni areas, they’re saying they are with Hezbollah,” Hussein Hato, a business owner in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahiyeh, told The New Arab. “Hezbollah is working for all of Lebanon, not just its sect,” he added.

Nasrallah has consistently blamed a Western “siege” for much of Lebanon’s current economic problems, claiming the US has cut off the country from international funds and the ability to import materials from Iran. The group has styled the importation of Iranian oil—in defiance of US sanctions—as breaking that “siege” on Lebanon.

The US named Hezbollah as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) in 2001 and has applied multiple rounds of sanctions to the group and its leadership.

The US most recently imposed sanctions on the group in August for violating a weapons transfer law. On Monday, the US offered $7 million for information on the head of its external security bureau, as part of the US Rewards for Justice program.

Nasrallah’s rhetoric of being under a western siege echoes that of his neighbour and ally, the Assad regime. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has blamed much of Syria’s economic malaise—which closely mirrored the economic collapse of Lebanon—on Western sanctions, rather than the rampant corruption and cronyism which plagues both countries.

The first shipment of gasoil arrived from Iraq on Thursday, carrying 31 tons of oil as part of a larger deal for Lebanon to receive one million tons of oil from Iraq over the coming year.

The fuel is sorely needed, as Lebanon suffers from crippling electricity shortages. State power provides about two hours of electricity a day and the network of private generators which supplies much of the country with power are struggle to source diesel. As a result, hospitals, schools and businesses have closed across the country.

Lebanon needs 3,600 megawatts of electricity per year to cover domestic demand, but only currently produces 700 megawatts, according to the country’s former Minister of Energy.