TEHRAN – As many observers in Lebanon and beyond projected a total collapse of order in this Mediterranean Arab country, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has opened a new path for Lebanon to break free from the shackles economic led by the United States.
Nasrallah dropped a bomb last week when he announced that an oil tanker carrying Iranian fuel was bound for Lebanon. Addressing a commemorative ceremony marking Ashura Day on Thursday, the Hezbollah chief announced that the first of several fuel-laden ships would leave Iran for Lebanon within hours, warning the United States and Israel to do not target it.
“Our first ship has completed all arrangements and will sail in a few hours from Iran to Lebanon with the blessing of Imam Hussein (peace be upon him),” he said, noting: “This ship will be followed by other ships, but we gave priority to diesel on the first ship because it is a top priority and it is linked to people’s lives.
In a stern warning to Washington and Tel Aviv, which oppose any fuel trade between Tehran and Beirut, Nasrallah said the ship would be considered Lebanese property when it leaves Iran and that any aggression against it would be considered an aggression against Lebanon. “God willing this ship and others will arrive safe and sound, we don’t want a confrontation with anyone. We are only after having helped our people… We refuse to be humiliated in any military, political or economic war. We refuse the humiliation of our people, that no one dares to challenge us, ”he said.
The announcement sent the US ambassador to Lebanon scrambling to find a way to stop Lebanon from importing fuel from Iran. Ambassador Dorothy Shea rushed to meet with Lebanese President Michel Aoun hours after Nasrallah’s announcement.
“President Aoun received a phone call from the US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea informing him of the US administration’s decision to help Lebanon import electricity from Jordan via Syria via gas Egyptian, ”the Lebanese presidency said on Twitter. He also quoted Shea as saying that “the transfer of Egyptian gas will be facilitated by Jordan and Syria to northern Lebanon”.
Shea also told Aoun that negotiations are underway with the World Bank to secure funding for the cost of Egyptian gas, repair and strengthening of power transmission lines, and required maintenance of gas pipelines.
The American ambassador’s conversation marked the return of her anti-Hezbollah media activism. Under the Trump administration, Shea launched a propaganda campaign against Hezbollah in parallel with the Trump White House’s tightening of the noose on Hezbollah.
If Lebanon is in free fall today, it is in large part because of the continued efforts of the United States to prevent any economic cooperation with Beirut under the pretext of combating the influence of Hezbollah. The United States’ Arab allies in the region, which once helped Lebanon financially, have refrained from providing any assistance to this religiously diverse Arab country.
Then there was the Iranian helping hand. Iran has always offered to help the Lebanese people. But political factionalism and malicious foreign influence in Beirut hindered Iranian aid.
Nasrallah did not announce the import of Iranian fuel until after the fuel crisis in Lebanon reached new heights, with almost all Western countries and their Arab allies refusing to alleviate the crisis.
And when Hezbollah declared the importation of fuel from Iran to begin, Shea saw an opportunity to exploit the situation. First, Lebanese politicians and media close to the West have started to spread speculation about possible US sanctions against Lebanon for importing fuel from a country under US sanctions which is Iran. Second, Shea presented the old idea of importing gas and electricity from Egypt via Jordan and Syria, a project that should make Lebanon choose between integrating into a regional energy grid that includes Israel and doing in the face of total economic collapse.
Nasrallah proposed a third way that would protect the sovereignty of Lebanon and improve the lives of its people. Iran does not impose any conditions on the Lebanese and that they can buy anything from Iran without having to sacrifice their interests on the altar of the promise of American aid.