Iran’s credit lines: impact on the Syrian fuel crisis
Enab Baladi – Muhammed Fansa
The recent visit of the President of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, to Tehran activated the “new version of the line of credit”. As a result, four tankers arrived on Syrian shores last June, containing a total of 3.3 million barrels of oil. This raises questions about the real impact of the incoming quantities on the fuel crisis, in contrast to the scale of oil needs in regime-controlled areas.
Al-Assad met with his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, during an official visit to Tehran on May 8, during which Khamenei said that “the relationship between Iran and Syria is fateful, and we must not let it weaken, but rather strengthen it as much as possible,” according to the Syrian newspaper close to the regime, al Watan.
After the visit, the arrival of Iranian tankers began in light of a stifling fuel crisis in regime-held areas. On June 17, the same newspaper announced the arrival of two oil tankers from Iran, describing them as “the first signs of activation of the new line of credit”. The first tanker carried 250,000 barrels, while the second carried 1.5 million barrels of crude oil.
On June 16, Banias refinery general manager Mahmoud Qassem announced the imminent arrival of the third tanker loaded with around 300,000 barrels of oil, noting that “breakthroughs” in the oil derivatives crisis would be seen by citizens early next week.
On June 29, a source from the port of Baniyas reported that on the same day, a fourth tanker was due to arrive at the oil port, loaded with one million barrels of crude oil, and would be unloaded as soon as it entered the port. harbor estuary.
Iran’s oil deliveries to Syria in June totaled 3.3 million barrels of crude oil, while the country’s daily crude oil requirement is 200,000 barrels (6 million barrels per month), according to Syrian regime government officials. Daily national production is estimated at 20,000 barrels, according to regime Prime Minister Hussein Arnous on April 13, 2021.
Relative decrease in the crisis during the summer
The government of the Syrian regime anticipated a “breakthrough” in the fuel crisis after the arrival in mid-June of the first two tankers supposed to supply the stations in large quantities. The Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources said that the increased quantities dispensed would have a positive impact on reducing the time to receive gasoline notifications and reducing congestion at filling stations.
A video posted on July 5 via a local network shows a long queue at a gas station in Aleppo, northern Syria. Despite repeated promises by officials of breakthroughs from the oil crisis that would be reflected in most other sectors, imports of petroleum derivatives into the governorates have not improved. In addition, residents of regime-held areas saw no improvement in the availability of gasoline and diesel, nor a drop in black market fuel prices, as monitored by the Enab Baladi.
In a conversation with Enab Baladi, oil researcher and engineer Saad al-Sharaa, describes the relationship between the arrival of oil supplies and the improvement of the fuel situation in Syria as a “direct relationship”, despite the great need for crude oil on a monthly basis . He considers that the fuel market will experience a “relief”, especially as the demand for heating diesel decreases relatively during the summer compared to the winter.
As al-Sharaa said, the regime relies primarily on oil supplies from AANES-controlled areas east of the Euphrates, such as the al-Omar oil field, but estimates that there are hundreds of tanks arriving at oil refineries in Homs every week. and Baniyas that do not even cover the oil needs of the region.
Last month, local network Global reported that Iran’s line of credit is not a solution to the fuel crisis but rather “prevents a catastrophe” that would cripple people’s lives and the economy. The report also points out that the economic feasibility of the Iranian line is to provide the minimum amount of fuel necessary to guarantee the minimum electricity necessary to maintain production and to provide hours of lighting that “would not transform the lives of people in a hell”.
What does Iran gain in return?
The Syrian regime’s government last month announced the start of Iranian oil supplies based on the activation of the “new line of credit”. At the opening of the first renewable energy investment conference, Syrian Prime Minister Hussein Arnous said: “Soon oil shipments will start arriving in Syria, as the procedures for (the new line of credit ) are complete”, but without declaring the row value.
Damascus is relying on the new “Iranian line of credit” to deal with the escalating fuel and energy crisis which has been renewed since last February and has led to a serious transport crisis and price hikes. prices for the majority of materials and raw materials, alongside global inflation and soaring prices of basic foodstuffs resulting from the Russian war against Ukraine.
A line of credit is a type of financial facility and concessional loans granted by banks and financial institutions according to a fixed limit on the amount that can be withdrawn as long as the repayment date is met. The line of credit may also be increased once its balance has been exhausted by agreement between the parties. The concept of this line differs in the Iranian-Syrian case, because the Syrian regime does not have the financial capacity to repay its debts.
The first line of credit opened by Iran to Syria was established in 2013 with a value of $1 billion in concessional interest, followed by another line of $3 billion to finance the country’s oil and gas needs. derivatives. In 2015, a new line of credit of 1 billion dollars was opened, while the last line was stopped three years ago without giving reasons.
In exchange for the line of credit, Iran benefits from new acquisitions on Syrian territory. Under the latest line of credit, he was granted sectors 19 and 20, which represent geographical areas located south of the city of al-Bukamal, reaching the Syrian-Iraqi border where Iran has built the military base. Imam Ali, according to the researcher.
According to al-Sharaa, Iran now has maritime links between the port of Latakia and the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas under the line of credit. Iran is also seeking to better control the port of Latakia facing Russia, as well as the Syrian phosphates extracted from the vicinity of the city of Palmyra, in central Syria.
Recently, an Israeli report emerged about Israel allowing Iran to transfer oil to Syria as part of a US-sponsored deal to “rekindle” the nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers. The report said that if Israel agreed to transfer oil, it would be subject to full US oversight and Iranian transparency to ensure the mechanism was not used for arms transfers.
Researcher Saad al-Sharaa said these reports of a US-Israeli deal that arose about two months ago before the start of nuclear talks in Qatar were US pressure on Israel to “pacify” with Iran before start negotiations. One of those pressures was his demand that Israel stop airstrikes targeting Iranian militias, except when “absolutely necessary,” pending the conclusion of negotiations.
Faced with the intense political movement and the failure of the talks in Vienna, the media adviser to the Iranian nuclear team, Mohammad Marandi, announced on June 27 that Qatar would host the talks on the basis of the choice by Iran. of Qatar “as our friend”, according to Marandi.
The two-day round of indirect talks in Qatar between Iran and the United States ended with European disappointment, expressed by the EU coordinator for the talks, Enrique Mora, on Twitter on June 29, when he said: “Two intense days of indirect talks in Doha. Unfortunately, the progress hoped for by the EU team as coordinator has not yet been made”.