An Iranian ship carrying fuel reportedly reached Syria’s territorial waters, according to Iranian media and Lebanese media on Thursday. Al-Akhbar was the first to report the arrival. This will be a major gamechanger for Lebanon and Hezbollah, which aims to profit off the Iranian fuel that is being shipped. The fuel will supposedly be offloaded at a Syrian port and then transferred to Lebanon.
The organization TankerTrackers.com disputed the information, noting that "first tanker has not reached the Suez yet. - Second tanker hasn't left Iran yet but has left port. - Third tanker is leaving Iran. It normally takes 10-12 days to reach the Suez. Normally." TankerTrackers.com said a different tanker with 730,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil arrived several days ago.
While the Al-Akhbar report is relatively short on tanker details, Iran’s Tasnim news has more information. This shows how much of a point of pride this is for the Islamic Republic. In July 2019, UK Royal Marines temporarily seized a large tanker named the Grace 1, which was on its way to Syria. Tehran has also sent ships to Venezuela carrying gasoline. The US seized fuel from some of those ships in the summer of 2020.
Tasnim notes that the “imminent arrival of Iranian fuel shipments to Lebanon coincides with the US congressional statement that ‘the United States seeks to resolve the Lebanese fuel crisis and does not need to import Iranian fuel.’” A US delegation, including Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), was recently in Lebanon warning of the economic free fall there. The US delegation left Beirut yesterday after meeting with Lebanese officials. It is supposed to come to Israel next.
HEZBOLLAH HAS been at odds with the US and wants to use the fuel delivery to show it can run Lebanon’s economy. Hezbollah also wants closer ties with China via Iran. The terrorist group has, in the past, slammed US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea.
"As US officials, we are working hard to find ways to resolve the fuel crisis, and there is no incentive for Lebanon to rely on Iranian fuel or any other fuel being shipped from Syria," Murphy said in Beirut yesterday, according to reports. The same reports note that Syria is under sanctions from the US.
“Informed sources report that due to technical reasons, Iraqi oil is expected to enter Lebanon with a delay, and also in the shadow of the ambiguity of the US decision to import gas from Egypt to Lebanon, the convoy of Iranian fuel ships, which is the first that will enter Lebanon within a week. This is the only hope of the Lebanese people in the shadow of the suffocating US siege against Lebanon,” Iran’s Tasnim says. The news agency is close to the Iranian regime and the IRGC. Iran’s Fars News has the same report on the tanker.
Al-Akhbar notes that the “Iranian ship is loaded with diesel, which Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced on the Ashura commemoration that it set off from Iran, and that its final cargo destination will be Lebanon, entered Syrian territorial waters yesterday.”
The involvement of Hezbollah and Nasrallah shows that the Iranian-backed group wants credit for this shipment.
“According to sources following the case, the cargo of the ship will be transported by tankers from Syria to Lebanon, after unloading it at a Syrian port," Al-Akhbar wrote. "According to the sources, part of the cargo of the ship will be donated by Hezbollah to government hospitals and care homes, with a private company announcing the sale mechanism for private institutions and electricity generators. According to the sources, two ships will arrive successively by the same mechanism, without revealing whether they are loaded with diesel, gasoline, or both, ‘with the possibility of a fourth ship departing from Iran.’”
WHAT THIS tells us is that Hezbollah, which has already taken over Lebanese foreign policy and defense policy, is now also taking over its energy policy. Soon, Hezbollah – which has its own telephone networks, plays a role in banking, the port and airport, and now has a role in supermarkets – will now be importing gas and oil, essentially making Lebanon a province within the Hezbollah empire. In no other place in the world does an illegal, armed militia run a country the way Hezbollah has a stranglehold over Lebanon.
Hezbollah has also blackmailed Lebanese politics to control the presidency, prevented the formation of a new government and the appointment of a full-time prime minister. It has also sent fighters to Syria to threaten Israel, assassinated critics like Lokman Slim, murdered former prime minister Rafic Hariri, and was likely behind illegal storage of ammonium nitrate at the Beirut Port that destroyed part of Beirut in an explosion last year. Now the terror group is angling to be an oil baron as well.
The goal of Iran's energy export is to provide shipments to Hezbollah – to empower it like it illegally sends it missiles, drones and other weapons.
The tweets from TankerTrackers.com, which appear to cast doubt on the reports in pro-Iran media, illustrate the murky world of oil and gas shipping, with ships that switch off their AIS transponders to hide. The question is why pro-Iran media would depict the arrival of a tanker with oil, which is a more regular shipment to Syria, as if it was gas destined for Lebanon. Is their goal to embarrass the recent US delegation, or to put some wind in the sails of Hezbollah. Dashed hopes for the fuel distribution, however, may backfire.