Iran restricts supply of cheap oil to Syria, leaving ally in crisis

By | January 19, 2023

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Iran’s ambitions to position itself as a leading power broker in the Middle East have been dealt a fresh blow—this time by its own struggling economy and how it is crimping Tehran’s ability to supply cheap oil to allies such as Syria.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has used cash and discounted oil in a hearts-and-minds campaign to expand its influence in Syria and challenge regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iran and Russia are the main military sponsors of the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad, helping him to suppress an armed rebellion that began during the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

In recent weeks, Iranian officials have told their Syrian counterparts they would now have to pay more for additional shipments of oil as peak winter demand sets in, people familiar with the matter said, doubling the price to a market rate of more than $70 a barrel. Tehran also asked Damascus to pay in advance for the oil, refusing new requests for deliveries on credit, the people added—further buffeting a Syrian economy that depends on Iran for more than half its oil requirements.

The result is that Syria is suffering its worst shortage of fuel since the start of the civil war, according to analysts.

Every day, residents of the capital line up for hours near idle gas stations, according to Syrian media outlets. The cost of transport has surged, straining a struggling economy as prices of goods shoot higher. The government last month shut down some administrative offices for several days to save energy. Many factories are closing down as they struggle to find fuel to run generators amid a scarcity of electricity.

Worst hit are the poor, many of whom now burn wood and pistachio shells to cook and keep warm. Syrian households have historically relied on fuel to power their heaters, but prices have risen fivefold in the past year. That makes it unaffordable for most families already reeling from spiraling inflation and a local currency that fell to a record low last month.

With anger growing over the fuel shortages, some people are taking to the streets to protest despite fears of a government crackdown. [Continue reading…]

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