The Diesel of Victory, or that of Defeat?
The Diesel of Victory, or that of Defeat?
I was delighted by the news that Iranian diesel fuel tankers arrived in Lebanon via Syria. I was even more delighted by the celebrations accompanying the convoys, firing bullets and rockets in the air, and with them slogans, flags and pictures of the senior leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ axis in the region.
This convoy, smuggling Iranian diesel into Lebanon, invoked a sense of victory in the hearts of Hezbollah’s base, who raised pictures of Ali Khamenei and Hassan Nasrallah, slogans of Iran and Hezbollah, and banners claiming "victory"; around the trucks.
All of this fanfare, however, is but a sign of defeat, not victory. That the ceiling of expectations in the face of “global arrogance” had been lowered from overthrowing American hegemony, ending Israel’s existence in seven and a half minutes, and praying in Jerusalem, to smuggling a convoy of Iranian diesel to Lebanon, is undoubtedly a sign of defeat, not victory.
First, for conditions in a country, any country, to reach the extent of urgently needing smuggled fuel, this is a defeated country. Hezbollah has “broken” a non-existent “siege.” If Lebanon were able to pay the market price for the diesel that the country needs, there would be hundreds of sellers whose ships are already waiting at high sea. There has never been a decision to ban diesel from the Lebanese.
Rather, the mechanism of fuel and diesel subsidization by the Lebanese government obliges fuel traders to sell it at a specific subsidized price, while the subsidy does not reach the merchants, who have to procure it using precious cash dollars, and sell it using the collapsed local currency.
What Hezbollah did was to procure diesel from Iran in Lebanese currency, and in the best case, according to a relatively low exchange rate of the dollar against the lira (oil derivatives are priced in US dollars), along with a discount on the price of the fuel shipment itself.
In other words, Iran shouldered some of the cost of subsidies provided by the Lebanese state, a gesture which Iran cannot repeat or sustain. It was, however, a maneuver sufficient for Hezbollah to consider it a public relations success and that it warrants massive celebrations of victory.
In this sense, yes, Hezbollah defeated the Lebanese, no more, no less... For a long time, the party has been scoring one victory after another against the Lebanese people. In the July 2006 war with Israel, Hezbollah defeated the Lebanese by changing the entire Lebanese political and social landscape after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the uprising of March 14, 2005, which forced al-Assad to withdraw his military from Lebanon in April 2005.
At the time, during the prolonged sit-in at the beating heart of Beirut, Hezbollah defeated the Lebanese by destroying the commercial center of Beirut, and then concluded its victory over them on May 7, 2008, when its militia invaded Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
Hezbollah defeated the Lebanese by imposing the Doha Agreement of 2008, which set unconstitutional criteria for power-sharing. It defeated them by disrupting the election results after 2005 and 2009, and forcing the parliamentary majority to form Hezbollah’s own governments, or governments that satisfied it and toed its line.
It defeated them by eliminating their political elites, from the assassination attempt on Marwan Hamadeh in the fall of 2004, to the assassination of Lokman Slim in 2020, and between the two was the mother of all assassinations, in February 2005, which it removed Rafik Hariri from the Lebanese equation. Hezbollah then defeated the Lebanese by bringing Michel Aoun to the presidency, concluding the “Decade of Hell” with the collapse of epic proportions that Lebanon is undergoing.
The Iranian diesel convoy is a chapter added to this long history of Hezbollah’s “victories” over the Lebanese people, victories that do not require much effort. As for Hezbollah’s facade of victory over the United States, and its attempts to sell this delusion to its base, it is an irony that should not go unnoticed, nor should it be allowed to drown the Lebanese people in more despair, or help Hezbollah and its core people believe in the euphoria of victory they are experiencing and expressing.
Let us remember that, last June, with incredible hubris, and in the midst of the fuel crisis, Nasrallah stated that his party would negotiate with Iran for the procurement of diesel and gasoline (so far it has only materialized with diesel). He challenged the Lebanese state to prevent him from bringing ships through the Port of Beirut, despite the fact that Nasrallah and his allies control the state, the Ministry of Energy, the government at large, and the parliamentary majority.
However, the man soon walked back on this defiance when he sensed the “heat” from the American side. Thus, he came back to say that the ships would come to the Syrian port of Banias and their cargo would be transported from there by land, to avoid "embarrassing" the Lebanese state and leave it subjected to “sanctions.”
Of course, he overlooked the fact that his first statement embarrassed the Lebanese state by defying and challenging it publicly. In the simplest sense, Nasrallah acquiesced to America's conditions and adhered to Washington's dictates. This renders the narrative about “breaking the American blockade” a mere laughing stock as, since 2011, dozens of Iranian ships have arrived in Syria according to the same smuggling mechanism that was adopted with Syria and later with Venezuela.
Nasrallah threatened the Lebanese people, condescended to them, then acquiesced to the Americans, without any of the foregoing, prevented him from espousing propaganda about “victory.” To complete the picture of this farce summarized by Hezbollah’s current reality, one must pay attention to the fact that, at the height of its commotion about breaking the American blockade and shifting the balances in the region, Iran itself was looking for a way to obtain American vaccines against COVID-19.
Similarly to Nasrallah, and with the same hubris, Khamenei had banned the import of vaccines manufactured in the United States and the United Kingdom, saying that he “does not trust them.”
In a tweet published on his official English Twitter account, Khamenei said that “American and British vaccines are not allowed to enter the country,” adding, “I do not trust them (...) they may want to try the vaccine on other countries.”
Meanwhile, Iran is the country most affected by the pandemic in the Middle East.
Later, Khamenei retreated, as did Nasrallah. While supporters of Hezbollah were celebrating Washington's defeat via the terrestrial route between Syria and Lebanon, the government of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was granting approval to import the American Johnson & Johnson vaccine, dropping the ban, nearing prohibition, that Khamenei had imposed, and dispelling much of the nonsense about the existence of Iranian vaccine that is better than Western vaccines.
Again, if these were to be considered victories, then they are victories over the Lebanese, the Iranians, and other oppressed peoples in the name of defeating the Great Satan and global arrogance, while continuing to beg from the United States many of the basic means of life, be they vaccines or green currency.