Hezbollah threatens to import fuel from Iran if shortages persist

If the Lebanese state fails to take action, “we, within Hezbollah, will go to Iran, negotiate with the Iranian government … and buy vessels full of petrol and fuel oil and bring them to Beirut port,” Nasrallah said.
Saturday 12/06/2021
A driver fills his tank at a petrol station in the Lebanese capital Beirut. AFP
A driver fills his tank at a petrol station in the Lebanese capital Beirut. (AFP)

BEIRUT--The head of Lebanon’s powerful Shia movement Hezbollah said Tuesday that the country could soon be forced to rely on fuel imports from Iran, amid an ongoing economic collapse.

Lebanon has been facing increasingly severe fuel shortages in recent months, with long queues at service stations and some drivers waiting more than an hour to buy even small quantities of supplies.

Describing the situation as humiliating, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called on authorities to take a “courageous decision” and override their “fear” of the US to import fuel supplies from Iran, a country under hefty American sanctions.

If the Lebanese state fails to take action, “we, within Hezbollah, will go to Iran, negotiate with the Iranian government … and buy vessels full of petrol and fuel oil and bring them to Beirut port,” Nasrallah said.

“Let the Lebanese state (dare to) prevent the delivery of petrol and fuel oil to the Lebanese people!” he said, adding, “We can no longer tolerate these scenes of humiliation.”

Hezbollah, long designated a terrorist organisation by the US, is a major political player in Lebanon and is closely aligned with regional Shia powerhouse Iran.

Washington slapped punitive sanctions on Tehran under former president Donald Trump, after he unilaterally withdrew from a 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and world powers.

Trump’s successor President Joe Biden favours returning to the nuclear deal and Vienna has hosted indirect negotiations to that end, but sanctions seeking to block Iran from exporting fuel remain in place.

In late 2019, Lebanon plunged into political and economic crisis, with huge street protests against an elite deemed beholden to different sectarian interests. The country has been without a government for the past ten months.

The crisis is also eating away at the country’s dwindling foreign currency reserves which have so far funded subsidies on key goods such as fuel, flour and medicine.

The local currency has lost around 85 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.

The World Bank last week said the country’s financial crisis was one of the world’s worst since the mid-19th century.

In his most recent speech, Nasrallah reassured supporters that he was well after coughing episodes during his last speech caused concerns about his health.

“A human being is a human being, you get sick or tired sometimes,” Nasrallah said in his first televised appearance since he coughed his way through a speech on May 25, when he said he was suffering from allergies and nothing serious.

Referring to social media rumours suggesting he had a grave illness, he said: “Some people killed us off and some started looking for a successor. I reassure them.”

Nasrallah has led the Iran-backed, armed Hezbollah movement for nearly three decades, turning it from one of Lebanon’s many civil war militias into a group of regional influence.

In recent months, Hezbollah has been calling for a swift formation of a new cabinet in Lebanon.

“Those responsible for government formation need to listen to people’s voices and look with pain at the cars queuing up for fuel and the loss of electricity and medication,” Nasrallah said on Tuesday.