Hezbollah illegally bringing Iranian oil to Lebanon

Special An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
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Updated 15 September 2021

Hezbollah illegally bringing Iranian oil to Lebanon

An Iranian flag flutters on board the Adrian Darya oil tanker, formerly known as Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. (AFP)
  • Iran-backed militant group says it will bring 3 million liters of fuel to Baalbek on Thursday, which could expose Beirut to US sanctions
  • Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister said he ‘did not receive any request to approve fuel importation’ undertaken by Hezbollah

BEIRUT: Despite the threat of possible US sanctions, Hezbollah has arranged up to 80 oil tankers carrying Iranian diesel fuel to arrive in Lebanon via Syria on Thursday.

The tankers are destined for Baalbek, about 67 kilometers northeast of Beirut, where the fuel will be discharged into tankers owned by the Iran-backed Hezbollah. The group has also organized a ceremony to celebrate the shipment, which is expected to contain 3 million liters of fuel.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the militant group, said in August that an Iranian fuel tanker will sail toward Lebanon “within hours,” warning Israel and the US not to intercept it. The move, Hezbollah said, was to help ease Lebanon’s crippling fuel shortage that has paralyzed the country for weeks.

Raymond Ghajar, Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister, said he “did not receive any request to approve fuel importation” undertaken by Hezbollah.

The delivery would violate US sanctions imposed on Tehran after former US President Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers three years ago. Hezbollah’s step is also likely to expose Lebanon to similar US sanctions.

Nasrallah said on Monday the Iranian ship docked on Sunday night in Syria’s Banias port and started to discharge diesel fuel in Syrian tankers that will arrive in Baalbek on Thursday.

“The vessel destined for Baalbek will arrive through Hermel,” Nasrallah said.

There are no legal border crossings in the region as Hezbollah allegedly uses the Hermel crossing for smuggling.

Al-Amana, a US-sanctioned company that belongs to Hezbollah, is expected to receive the transported Iranian fuel.

Nasrallah claimed he “spared Lebanon embarrassment by docking the ship in a Syrian port and not a Lebanese one.”

However, the arrival of diesel tankers in Lebanon will reveal the state’s vulnerability regarding the violation of its borders and the importation of fuel without its knowledge or approval. The US previously warned that any Iranian fuel ship that brings fuel for Lebanon would equate to “providing Hezbollah with funds.”

The US, the UK, and Germany are among a growing number of countries that recognize Hezbollah in its entirety as a terrorist organization.

Dorothy Shea, US ambassador to Lebanon, blocked the road for the Iranian initiative on Aug. 21 by informing Lebanon President Michel Aoun “of the US administration’s decision to help Lebanon obtain electricity from Jordan via Syria.” The plan would provide Egyptian natural gas to Jordan that can be transmitted to Lebanon via Syria.

She said: “Lebanon does not need Iranian ships,” and questioned whether “it was possible to count on Hezbollah to fairly distribute the fuel.”

According to Hezbollah, the Iranian diesel shipment “will be donated.” The group said it will aid “governmental hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, municipalities that handle the task of pumping water, fire brigades and the Lebanese Red Cross.”

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Hezbollah called on the representatives of these bodies to attend Thursday’s ceremony in Baalbek.

“A second diesel ship that will arrive within five days,” said Nasrallah, who also claimed a third ship destined for Lebanon had started loading gasoline.

He said the goal is “not to compete with importing companies or to make profits but to serve the people.”

Nasrallah also announced that the group will open the door for individual purchases with the start of winter.

“The price will be announced on Thursday and the diesel will be priced in Lebanese pound,” Nasrallah said. “There is also the cost of transportation and the international price. We will sell at prices lower than the cost because we are not seeking to make profits or losses. We will bear a part of the cost, which will be a donation from our side and the Iranian state.”

Diana Kaissy, an energy expert and advisory board member at the Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative, LOGI, an independent non-governmental organization based in Beirut, told Arab News: “A lot of opacity is prevailing on the Iranian diesel shipment.”

She said the 3 million liters is nothing compared to the market’s needs.

“But the problem is that the shipment did not obtain a permit from the energy ministry and the diesel will be sold at prices lower than the market price,” Kaissy said. “This means that there will be a competitor in the fuel market and therefore, a new cartel will emerge owning illegal weapons and selling fuel based on incorrect foundations.”

Hezbollah is trying to help the people with fuel but its execution is concerning.

“The situation is not clear,” Kaissy said. “Sales are made on the black market and there is a political party now openly creating a new black market under the pretext that the people need it and to put an end to monopoly. But who knows that this step will not create another monopoly?”


Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean
Updated 8 sec ago

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean

Turkey sends off new drill ship into eastern Mediterranean
ISTANBUL: Turkey’s president inaugurated the country’s newest and largest undersea hydrocarbon drill ship Tuesday that he said would head for a spot northwest of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean, which is not claimed by any other country.
“Our exploration and drilling in the Mediterranean is within our own sovereign dominion,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the ceremony in southern Mersin province, only to add: “We don’t need to seek permission or ratification from anyone.”
Turkey is embroiled in acrimonious disputes with Greece and Cyprus over maritime boundaries and offshore energy rights, which triggered high tensions in the eastern Mediterranean two years ago.
Erdogan said Tuesday the new Abdulhamid Han ship would begin drilling at the Yorukler-1 well about 55 kilometers (34 miles) off the coast of Gazipasa, in Antalya province.
“Neither the puppets nor the ones who hold their strings will be able to prevent us from getting our rights in the Mediterranean,” he said, in an apparent reference to Greece and Cyprus on the one hand, and their Western allies on the other.
In the summer of 2020, tensions escalated after Turkey sent a seismic survey ship escorted by warships to an area in the eastern Mediterranean where Greece claims exclusive rights to potential undersea oil and gas deposits. Greece sent its own warships to shadow the Turkish flotilla. Both countries later conducted military exercises as a show of force.
Turkey insists that small Greek islands near the Turkish coast should not be taken into account when delineating maritime boundaries, and accuses Athens of trying to grab an unfair share of the eastern Mediterranean’s resources.
The NATO allies routinely accuse each other of airspace violations. Turkey also claims that Greece has violated international treaties by militarizing eastern Aegean islands close to Turkey.
Turkey’s other drill ships — Fatih, Kanuni and Yavuz — are operating in the Black Sea where Turkey discovered natural gas reserves. All four ships are named after Ottoman sultans.

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August
Updated 09 August 2022

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August

Flights for West Bank Palestinians to Turkey to start at end of August
  • "We welcome efforts to facilitate travel for the Palestinian people," a US Embassy spokesperson told Reuters
  • But representatives of Palestinians, whose movement is routinely restricted by Israel, said they were not a party to the decision

JERUSALEM: Palestinians from the Israeli-occupied West Bank will be offered special flights from Ramon Airport, near the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, to destinations in Turkey, Israel’s Airports Authority said on Tuesday.
The move is Israel’s latest gesture to Palestinians, following pressure from the United States to ease travel for Palestinians as prospects for reviving long-stalled peace talks and establishing an independent Palestinian state appeared dim.
“We welcome efforts to facilitate travel for the Palestinian people,” a US Embassy spokesperson told Reuters.
But representatives of Palestinians, whose movement is routinely restricted by Israel, said they were not a party to the decision.
“Nobody consulted with us on this matter,” said Wasel Abu Yousef, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization. “What we seek is the return of Al-Quds International Airport to operate as the State of Palestine’s airport.”
Palestinians from areas Israel occupied in a 1967 war cannot fly from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport without special permission. They typically travel to Jordan to catch international flights, a trip that entails crossing through checkpoints and can take hours.
Under the pilot program, the flights will run twice a week starting at the end of August to Istanbul and Antalya on Turkish carriers Atlas and Pegasus and using Airbus A321 aircraft, the airports authority said.
These flights will not be offered to Palestinians from Gaza.
Ramon Airport, which opened in 2019, is about 300 km (185 miles) from Jerusalem and designed to take any planes re-routed from Ben Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv.
Foreign carriers such as Ryanair, Wizzair and Lufthansa began to fly non-stop to older Eilat airports in 2015 during winter months after Israel offered airlines 60 euros ($61) per passenger brought on direct flights from abroad.
But the COVID-19 pandemic largely halted those flights.
The airports authority said that for the first time, summer flights to various destinations in Europe from Eilat would start in the coming days. They include Batumi, Georgia and Larnaca, Cyprus on Israeli carrier Arkia, and Warsaw and Katowice on Poland’s Enter Air.
Pegasus in October will fly Israelis to Turkey with four flights a week, the authority said.


Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer
Updated 09 August 2022

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer

Iran releases Iranian-French academic Adelkhah on furlough -lawyer
  • Adelkhah was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges
  • She was moved to house arrest later, but in January was returned to jail

DUBAI: Iran has released Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah on furlough for five days, her lawyer told the Emtedad website on Tuesday, a day after Tehran and Washington wound up indirect talks in Vienna to revive a 2015 nuclear pact.
“We hope it (the furlough) will be extended,” Emtedad quoted Hojjat Kermani as saying.
Adelkhah, who is a resident of France and was arrested in 2019 while on a visit to Iran, was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. She was moved to house arrest later, but in January was returned to jail.
Adelkab has denied the charges. France has called them “politically motivated” and repeatedly called for the release of Adelkhah, a researcher affiliated with Paris’s prestigious Sciences Po University.
Iran does not recognize dual nationality, saying the case is an Iranian domestic legal matter.
In March 2020, Iran released Adelkhah’s partner, French academic Roland Marchal, who was detained along with her, after France freed Iranian engineer Jalal Ruhollahnejad, detained over alleged violations of US sanctions against Tehran.


Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor
Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. (File/AFP)
Updated 09 August 2022

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor

Turkish drone strike kills 4 in northeast Syria: Monitor
  • Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory

BEIRUT: A Turkish drone strike Tuesday killed at least four people in a northeast Syrian city held by Kurdish forces, the latest in a flurry of attacks, a war monitor said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack struck near a hospital in Qamishli, the defacto capital of a semi-autonomous Kurdish administration that runs large parts of the country’s northeast.
The four victims, all affiliated with the administration, were killed while they dug trenches near Turkey’s border in anticipation of a new offensive that Ankara has threatened to launch since May, the monitor said.
Ankara has launched successive military offensives in Syria. Most have targeted Kurdish militants that Ankara links to a group waging a decades-long insurgency against it.
Turkey has stepped up its drone strikes in Kurdish-controlled areas of Syria since a July 19 summit with Iran and Russia failed to greenlight a fresh offensive, according to Kurdish officials and the Observatory.
A Turkish drone strike on Qamishli at the weekend killed four people, including two siblings, said the Observatory.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have counted at least 13 of their members killed in several Turkish attacks since July 19.
Syria’s conflict that began in March 2011 has killed nearly half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population.


Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties
Updated 09 August 2022

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties

Egyptian FM, Kazakh deputy FM discuss bilateral ties
  • Shoukry praised Kazakhstan’s role in launching the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia
  • Tursunov emphasized the value that Kazakhstan places on relations with Egypt, and on the critical role that Cairo plays in the region

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry received Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Adil Tursunov in Cairo.

They discussed issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral relations. Shoukry praised Kazakhstan’s role in launching the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, which aims to enhance security and stability on the continent, particularly with regard to terrorism, drug trafficking and weapons of mass destruction.

He and Tursunov highlighted the significance of developing cooperation between their nations in various fields, following up on the phone call between their presidents in February.

Tursunov emphasized the value that Kazakhstan places on relations with Egypt, and on the critical role that Cairo plays in the region.