A general view of the Suez Canal from Al Salam “Peace” bridge on the Ismalia desert road. (Reuters)

April 17, 2019

Egypt has prevented oil tankers heading to Syria to pass through the Suez Canal in past six months, Al Saudia Al-Aan news outlet cited Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis as saying last week.

Syrian sources have not yet denied the report.

Referring to Prime Minister Khamis’ comments, a number of Arabic media outlets have speculated on the reasons behind Egypt’s decision. Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar says the “highly unprecedented remarks” by Khamis could either mean a fuel crisis in Syria or Damascus’ failure in convincing Cairo to change its position.

Others speculated that the current oil shortage in Syria is due to its unpaid bills to Iran, which has stopped shipping oil.

Quoting Maytham Sadeqi, presented as a consultant to the Iranian Minister of Economy, Al-Akhbar denied reports that Tehran has suspended its oil exports to Syria for overdue debts.

Preventing Iranian oil reaching Syria has been going for months, Maytham Sadeqi has maintained.

Nevertheless, based on Al-Aan’s report, the Syrian Prime Minster says that the blockage started few days ago.

Al-Akhbar has also cited an “Iranian expert” as saying that the Islamic Republic’s oil tankers turned back after the Egypt blocked their way toward Syria.

However, the Egyptian authorities have repeatedly denied such reports.

In the meantime, Al- Iraqia news agency says that Iranian oil tanker trucks are passing through Iraq, and their number will be increased in coming days.

“1200 Iranian tankers loaded with oil products reached Syria through Iraq in the past week,” Al- Iraqia reports, adding, “The number of Iranian oil tankers are expected to reach 1500 per week, and after providing current Syrian needs, they will be fixed at 500 tankers per week.”

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported on Sunday, April 14, that the U.S. sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran have led to rationing gas in Syria.

Furthermore, Syria adopted new measures April 14 to curb fuel shortages that the regime has blamed on strangling Western sanctions on the war-torn country.

On Sunday, the Syrian government blamed fuel shortages on “economic sanctions” that are targeting the energy sector and “preventing the arrival of oil tankers in Syria”, in comments on the ministry’s Facebook page.

Moreover, Bloomberg reported las Sunday that U.S. sanctions on Iran are also hitting some of the Islamic Republic’s closest allies.

Based on a Bloomberg report, 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 Syrian fuel distribution company, told Al-Ikhbariyya TV.

The country used to rely on 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.

Damascus under Basha al-Assad, backed by Tehran and Moscow, controls almost two-thirds of Syria after a series of victories against rebels and jihadists since 2015, but the country’s main oil and gas fields in the northeast still remain out of government control.

Iranian authorities have not yet reacted to the news concerning Egypt’s decision.

Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or Tehran nuclear deal with Iran, and reimposed two batches of sanctions on Iran, including its shipping and oil exports.

RFE/RL

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.