Lebanese analyst on Iran fuel to Beirut & Lebanon’s shrinking economy


Lebanese political analyst and regular talk show fixture Salem Zahran comments on Hezbollah’s game-changing plan to buy fuel from Iran in Lebanese pounds, and explains how Lebanon’s economy was “built on a lie” and now “shrinking back to its natural size”.

Source: NBN channel via Kalam Siyasi (YouTube)

Date: June 27, 2021

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Lebanese political analyst, Salem Zahran:

I’ll simplify things and say them outright. We used to import around $21 billion worth of goods, from caviar and all kinds of international brands to wheat, medicine and fuel. We’re now at $11 billion, and soon we’ll be importing close to $7 billion.

What do we really have here? We used to pay $5.8 billion, close to $6 billion for fuel, $1.2 billion for medicine, so now we have $7 billion. As for wheat, our bill isn’t that large there, it’s only around $180 million, but if we take the details surrounding its import into account, we’d be at $250 million.

Of (all) these (imports) – and believe me when I say this – Iran is ready with regards to (selling) fuel (to Lebanon in exchange for Lebanese pounds)…and Sayyed (Hassan) Nasrallah…when the Sayyed said that the mechanism is ready it means that the work is done…

Host: …he’s practically saying that we’re just waiting for the go ahead?…

Salem Zahran:.

…this (holds up a paper) memo will be released on Monday, and we’ll talk about it in a bit, we’ve already secured the special approval, and this is the first time it’s shown on air…

Host: …so this memo was published at the appropriate time?

Salem Zahran:

It might have helped, but even if this memo wasn’t published, and I do know a bit of information… if this memo wasn’t published on Friday, the fuel would’ve gone out from Iran on Saturday.

Host: What about the Iranian embassy’s tweet that left a lot of room for misinterpretation?

Salem Zahran:

It was misunderstood in Arabic. “When the fuel ships arrive…” meant “when they arrive”, and not “they just set sail”; they were actually replying to the (American) ambassador.

Host: But you’re saying they (the Iranian ships) will arrive?

Salem Zahran:

Of course! Sayyed (Nasrallah) isn’t saying just “I promised you”. He’s saying “I promised you” in the first speech, then in the second speech “I’ve readied the silos, proper mechanisms, etc…, and whenever I give the okay they’ll begin transporting (the fuel), then (they will) arrive here and they’ll be at the gas stations.”

Host: But in the first speech he was saying that in case the government…

Salem Zahran: Now after three months…

Host: …if the government doesn’t play its part in this matter, then we are ready to fill this void.

Salem Zahran:

If this special approval (to pay for fuel imports) had not been issued (by the Lebanese government), Hezbollah would have been ready to give the go ahead for the (Iranian) fuel transportation ships, and they would have arrived on Monday and the fuel would have been in gas stations(throughout Lebanon) . You and I both know that (in such a scenario), it would matter little to people (regardless of whether they) love Hezbollah or hate it, (that the fuel is from Iran), when their car runs out of gas in the middle of the road, or when their generator runs out of fuel, or when their kid is crying because he can’t use the ventilator for his asthma.

Host: Even despite all the cries we’ve heard opposing such a move?

Salem Zahran:

Don’t pay them a lot of attention…with regards to fuel, if you go tomorrow to Iran, using Lebanese Pounds, (you will obtain what the country direly needs). Tomorrow you also have a Russian team (coming) to discuss the (refurbishment of Lebanese) refineries, and I’m telling you already that they won’t allow (the Russians) to do anything with regards to the (reconstruction of the) port (of Beirut)…and I’m a friend of Russia.

Host: But there is a detailed offer that Dr. Hassan Moukalled discussed in our last episode.

Salem Zahran:

I know what I’m talking about. They’ll make the offer, and others have offered before them, but no one will accept and no one would dare to (accept).

Host: Would they dare (to accept offers) regarding other issues? Like the refinery?

Salem Zahran:

No one would dare accept anything, except when the freefall (of Lebanon) begins, when we no longer have any money in the (Central) Bank of Lebanon, and the country is in chaos…

Host: So you mean in a couple of years from now?

Salem Zahran:

Maybe before, especially if the Americans keep pushing the country (downhill). So now you have a Plan B. Let’s suppose that the government can no longer import fuel, now you have fuel, (and) the refinery is also ready.

Now as for medicine, the (Lebanese) Health Minister is in Turkey right now, and is supposed to go to Iran after that. I know what I’m saying won’t appeal to many, but this is our reality. The medicine (national import) bill that is at $1.2 billion, if you go to Turkey – and let’s not say Iran so that people won’t react negatively to this – the bill would drop from $1.2 billion to $600 million, and after that to $300 million. The Lebanese economy is shrinking back to its natural size, and the Lebanese should get used to – as Sayyed Nasrallah said – fastening their seatbelts.

Every person that is going on the air and saying we should “retrieve the money stolen from us” is right to say so, but if they (also) say that once we retrieve that money we’ll go back to being the ‘Switzerland of the East’ is a liar. Because our economic size was built on a lie, and this lie is over.


So you’re saying this bloating is over, along with the role that had been assigned to Lebanon, and which they needed Lebanon to play?…So now we stand before a new Lebanon, and we’re waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to come together so that we can see what shape they’ll form. 

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