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Hezbollah’s Rivals Dismiss Iran Fuel Shipment as Stunt ahead of Lebanon Elections

Hezbollah’s Rivals Dismiss Iran Fuel Shipment as Stunt ahead of Lebanon Elections

Friday, 24 September, 2021 - 05:45
In this Aug. 31, 2021, file photo, motorcycle drivers wait to get fuel at a gas station in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)

Hezbollah may have heavily promoted its import of fuel from Iran that began in recent weeks, but it appears the arrival of the shipment will do little to ease the deepening crisis in Lebanon.

Rather, it appears the imported fuel has only plugged a small hole, while the wider image reveals that the move ultimately has electoral purposes with parliamentary polls set for next years, remarked various Lebanese parties.

Furthermore, not only has Hezbollah undermined the state by importing the fuel - and risking sanctions - but it has even sent the shipment to areas that are held by its Lebanese rivals where it was either rejected or welcomed.

Member of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners George Brax told Asharq Al-Awsat that according to 2020 figures, Lebanon needs some 7.5 million liters of diesel fuel (mazout) a day to meet its needs.

Each Iranian vessel that arrives in Lebanon is loaded with some 40 million liters, of which Hezbollah is distributing some 3 million liters per day, which is hardly enough to meet the people’s daily needs, he noted.

The Iranian fuel changes nothing in the crisis, which is only getting worse, he stated.

Each vessel is enough to meet Lebanon’s needs for five days. According to its media, Hezbollah is distributing the shipment to sectors and parties of its choosing. Some of the fuel is handed out for free and others at around 20 percent less than the official price.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had previously declared that the first two shipments would include diesel fuel (mazout), while the third would include gasoline (benzene). He announced that the aim was to ease the suffering of the people and that the shipment would be dedicated to various institutions, including public hospitals, orphanages and the Red Cross, at no cost.

If they desired, several private institutions, including hospitals, bakeries and owners of power generators, could purchase some of the fuel at a price lower than the official rate.

Political analyst and Hezbollah critic, Ali al-Amine told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is obvious that the quantities imported by Hezbollah are not helping ease the crisis as it is trying to lead its supporters to believe.”

In fact, its supporters are starting to realize this themselves, he noted.

This is just another stunt aimed at appeasing its supporters and electoral base to cover for its successive failures, especially among its followers, he remarked.

The distribution of the shipment in areas that are outside the party’s influence, such as the Christian towns of al-Forzol and Jabboule in the Bekaa Valley, has stirred debate.

A video posted on social media showed a nun in Jabboule thanking Nasrallah for the delivery, saying it will help warm orphans. Mayor of al-Forzol, Melhem al-Ghassan appeared in another video where he thanked Nasrallah and described him as an “honest man”.

Their comments drew widespread anger and demands for an apology.

The Lebanese Forces’s Zahle branch condemned Ghassan’s remarks, saying “they do not reflect the history and views of the majority of the people of the town who are known for their struggle and keenness on their dignity that has never been humiliated under any conditions or need.”

“The people of al-Forzol believe in the rise of the state of institutions and they will not side with a party that is working on undermining institutions and destroying the foundations of the state,” it said of Hezbollah.

The LF called on Ghassan to retract his statements and apologize to the people, reminding him that it was the town’s municipality’s duty to provide the people’s needs.

Al-Amine remarked that the controversy stirred in al-Forzol was exactly what Hezbollah wanted.

“It is as if it is saying: ‘We are bringing you the mazout, but you don’t want it.’ It is attempting to portray itself as filling the void left by the state, which the party itself is weakening and whose absence it is exploiting,” he explained.

The party is seeking to exploit crises to its advantage and such ploys have become obvious to its supporters, he added.

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