U.S. sanctions on Iran mean Damascus drivers queue for gas
Drivers in Damascus are queuing up for miles to get just a few gallons of gasoline after Iranian oil shipments to the war-ravaged country ended.
Syria consumes 100,000 barrels of oil a day and produces about 24,000 barrels, Mustapha Hammouriyyeh, head of the state fuel distribution company, told Al-Ikhbariyya TV. The country used to rely on the two million to three million barrels of oil it imported from Iran each month, but it hasn’t received a single shipment since October due to U.S. sanctions, he said.
“The economic war on Syria is huge,” said Hammouriyyeh.
The U.S. Treasury in November sanctioned an “international network through which the Iranian regime, working with Russian companies, provide millions of barrels of oil” to Syria. Iran has backed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad militarily and economically since the conflict in the country began in 2011, providing billions of dollars in credit lines to Syria to prop up its economy.
The U.S. says the sanctions aim to curb Iran’s influence in the Middle East and force the country’s leaders to renegotiate the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in May.
To cope with the shortage, Syria’s government imposed a limit of 20 liters (about 5 gallons) every 48 hours for each car after rumors of a price hike sparked a run on filling stations earlier in April. Lines stretching for miles at gas stations were observed in the capital. Some residents pushed cars with empty tanks while police tried to maintain order.
The Syrian cabinet decided on Sunday to decrease gasoline allowances for government-owned vehicles by half, state-run SANA news agency reported. The cabinet also urged the Oil Ministry to continue repairing oil wells and energy facilities in government-controlled areas.
Hammouriyyeh said there is still some fuel left in storage, but the quantities are limited, informs Bloomberg. The government is in the process of signing agreements for overland imports, he said. Syria shares borders with Iraq, OPEC’s second-biggest producer. It’s not clear whether Baghdad will risk violating U.S. sanctions to allow oil shipments into Syria.