Lebanese economist Ziad Nasreddine comments on the potential ramifications of Hezbollah’s ongoing efforts to ship Iranian fuel to Lebanon, an effort announced by Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah a day earlier.
Source: Al-Manar TV via Kalam Siyasi (YouTube)
Date: August 20, 2021
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Mr. Ziad, some say: what could (the ships) change, how could a ship or two coming from Iran constitute a solution for the stifling crisis we are experiencing, and the approach of (opening up to) the East must be done in a different way, and as long as it is not an exchange between a state and another (i.e. not from the side of Hezbollah as a party), the economic value of this action will be intangible, the Lebanese people who are experiencing the most severe siege won’t feel (any difference).
Ziad Nasreddine, Lebanese Economist:
Firstly, as for the issue of Iran, when we talk about the Islamic Republic of Iran, we are talking about a country that owns 10% of the world’s oil reserves, and 15% of the world’s gas reserves, and so it has a substantial surplus. Today (Iran) is providing power and electricity to Armenia, and a certain amount to Afghanistan, and a certain amount to Iraq and Pakistan as well. Therefore, there are many countries whose economies are tied to Iran and can deal with it.
Now when we talk about the internal affairs of Lebanon, today we can actually say that we have took a first step towards the East, and this first step is a fruitful step; it is not a matter of a ship or two, it is a matter of a strategic decision (concerning) the economic (affairs of Lebanon). Today, there is a real conflict between the East and West. The main question is ‘who needs the other, the East or the West?’. Today, the East has promising economies and great capabilities, and all the states surrounding (this geopolitical region) are allowed to deal with it and make strategic agreements, except for Lebanon.
The question today is, about a month ago, Saudi Arabia headed towards the East, specifically to China, and signed strategic agreements that might reach $90 billion, the UAE signed strategic deals with China, Jordan is also about to make agreements, and even the Israeli enemy is (doing so), yet (we are made to believe that) restrictions only (apply) to Lebanon?! Therefore, the fundamental and highly important depth of any economic rescue (project) for Lebanon must start, and will start, from Syria, and reach the depth of Asia and Iran today plays a central role, today there are 14 states who have requested to get fuel and gas from Iran, so, we have entered a new phase. The fear (of US allies in Lebanon) today is not because of the diesel oil and gasoline coming to Lebanon, the fear is tied to this first step which forms a starting point for (the implementation of) major reforms related to the issue of electricity. The way it was accepted today – and it will be accepted by the Lebanese public, they will accept that we need diesel and gasoline, and this state (i.e. Iran) provided us (with those needs).
Tomorrow, we might return to (pre-existing) Iranian offers for the building of (power) plants in Lebanon as well, plants powered by gas. Let us talk in numbers: today we have, since the November (2019) crisis till the present day, spent $15 billion, between covering (government) subsidies and (taking into account) money that came in (to Lebanon) and money (that was) smuggled (abroad). This is while we actually only need $1 billion to build (power) plants and get rid of the entire (country’s) electricity (shortage) crisis! We spend $15 billion for (government) subsidies and to smuggle money abroad and many other things, yet we do not spend $1 billion to end (Lebanon’s) electricity problem!
We pay $3.5 billion yearly because we do not have electricity run on gas, nor have we built electricity plants for producing power. Today, this is the main problem, through which they (i.e. the US) were able (to harm Lebanon) via the electricity problem, (as) we had tied diesel oil to all our production sectors and (enabled a) a siege (to be imposed) on Lebanon. Lebanon was exposed to…what happened today (i.e. Nasrallah’s announcement) is that (a step was taken) to confront the economic siege, Lebanon was being exposed to an economic invasion just through (the exploitation) of diesel and gasoline. Therefore, all the sectors, during the months of September and October (2021)…there were plans in place to collapse Lebanon’s phone and internet (networks), (and plans were in place) to prevent the new academic year from starting (on time)…
All of this is because everything is tied to diesel oil (for everyday operation), hospitals are tied to diesel oil, bakeries are tied to diesel oil, schools, telecommunications, internet, and all these things today (depend on diesel oil). This crisis was expected to continue until we fall into a greater crisis after September and October. What is happening today is that we are carrying out an actual rescue of the (Lebanese) economy, we are saying that we want to put an economic plan on the table and consider it seriously, and that we (as a country) must not be a part of the projects of others anymore.