These days, the busy streets of the Lebanese capital Beirut are extremely hard to maneuver, not because of the thousands of tourists which used to flood its streets every summer, but rather because of the stretched queues of cars at gas stations trying to fill their tanks as Lebanon is no longer able to import fuel.
The economic crisis equally extends to other basic and vital commodities, from food to medicine, a calamity which is augmented by the fact that the country’s political elite have yet to admit to their failure or to try to address the crux of the problem: Lebanon’s non-existing sovereignty brought about by the regional pursuits of Iran-backed militia Hezbollah, and decades of running an unfeasible economic model, whose only operating system is a medieval clientelist system.
Leading Lebanese elite is perhaps the denier-in-chief Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s secretary general, whose recent televised speech was nothing less than a mix of delusion and deception as he spent over an hour vainly trying to abdicate his militia’s responsibility for Lebanon’s abysmal state of affairs. According to Nasrallah’s logic, or lack of, Lebanon’s ongoing crisis is entirely unrelated to either Iran’s expansionist plans, or its militia’s desecration of the region and looting of resources in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
The apex of Nasrallah’s absurdity came when he demanded the Lebanese government resolve the fuel crisis, and threatened to import Iranian fuel should the state fail to take action.
“We, within Hezbollah, will go to Iran, negotiate with the Iranian government... and buy vessels full of petrol and fuel oil and bring them to Beirut port,” Nasrallah said.
Yet Nasrallah’s coup du grace came when he announced, “Let the Lebanese state (dare to) prevent the delivery of petrol and fuel oil to the Lebanese people! … We can no longer tolerate these scenes of humiliation.”
The real farce is that Iran, like many countries who belong to the anti-western axis, don’t have the resources to refine its own oil, and thus suffers from its own fuel shortage.
In fact, the port of Beirut, as well as other legal and illegal border crossings into Syria, are controlled by Hezbollah, and there are already no restrictions to prevent them from importing Iranian oil into Lebanon – other than the fact that such a foolish move will bring about US sanctions on Lebanon, something which the Lebanese certainly wish to avoid.
Nasrallah spent his TV appearance deceitfully asserting that Lebanon’s economic downfall is the outcome of a continued western and Arab blockade, and part of a so-called punitive campaign to defeat the “axis of resistance” economically after it has failed to do so militarily. Coincidentally, Nasrallah failed to contextualize this so-called blockade within the actions of his Iranian patrons, who have for decades sponsored militias, such as Hezbollah, that have left the state institutions they occupy rotten, and provided a fertile ground for corruption and lawlessness.
In addition to externalizing the blame for Lebanon’s plight, Nasrallah went on to deny that the economic crisis is real, claiming that the ongoing shortage of fuel, medicine, and food products is due to cartels who are stockpiling these commodities to sell them at a higher price. Nasrallah also accuses the Lebanese political establishment of protecting these cartels and refusing to implement key economic reforms necessary to stop Lebanon’s collapse.
Ironically, Nasrallah sees himself and his paramilitary party, which have been in parliament since 1992 and government since 2005, to be outside the realm of blame or corruption. His criticism also does not include his political foes the likes of Saad Hariri and Walid Joumblatt, but rather speaker of parliament, and head of Amal movement, Nabeh Berri, his main Shia ally and Gebran Bassil the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement and President Michael Aoun’s son-in-law and political heir. Nasrallah does not miss a chance to remind his supporters as well as the general public that the crisis in Lebanon is far removed from his militia’s hegemony over the state but rather because of the corrupt system that he wishes to reform, or so he claims.
If one is to disregard the fact that Hezbollah has been running one of the biggest smuggling operations in the history of modern Lebanon, it is impossible to neglect that many of these cartels which Nasrallah mentions are connected in one way or another to their money laundering operations which are housed in areas controlled by Hezbollah – leaks from the hacking of Al-Qard al-Hassan earlier this year, a Hezbollah lending-house and key chain in the group’s pawn and money laundering network, provide ample evidence in support of this.
Nasrallah’s naive suggestions, such as growing potato and parsley, or buying Iranian oil, fail even the most basic checks of economic theory. The impact of purchasing the products in Lebanese pounds would be disastrous, with the government forced to print more money, leading to rapid inflation, and deepening the country’s catastrophic economic crisis.
Rather than importing Iranian oil to Lebanon, Nasrallah would be better of sending this oil directly to Syria, and putting an end to the smuggling ring he and his allies are running or, if he truly cares about reform, he would use his weapons to force the government – which he controls – to stop subsidizing Lebanon’s decaying economy and instead target those who deserve government aid.
Nasrallah’s Iranian oil stunt is yet another reminder that Iran and its cronies are not in the business of nation building, but rather their function is to parasitically live off the economies of the countries they occupy. The only way for Lebanon and the region to escape this nightmare is to refuse to normalize with Nasrallah’s suicidal logic.