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Lebanese MP breaks ranks with his pro-US party, thanks Iran for fuel supply

Drivers wait in a long queue to get fuel at a petrol station under a billboard showing martyred Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Beirut, Lebanon. (Photo by AP)

A Lebanese lawmaker has broken ranks with his staunchly pro-American political party, thanking Iran for dispatching much-needed fuel shipments to the Arab country, which is grappling with a severe energy crisis, upon a request by the Hezbollah resistance movement.

In a recent interview to Al-Mayadeen, Cesar Maalouf, a member of parliament for the Lebanese Forces, chaired by senior Christian figure Samir Geagea, extended his gratitude to the “brotherly country” of Iran for “helping the Lebanese people” at a time when other countries have abandoned them.

“If our allies have sold us out and abandoned us, and are unable to help Lebanon, and a brotherly country named Iran wanted to help the Lebanese people — not only the Shias but all the Lebanese people — (by selling us fuel) at low prices and in exchange for the Lebanese Lira, should I thank this country or insult it,” said the Christian parliamentarian. “Of course I should thank it.”

The Geagea-led party has traditionally maintained a pro-US and anti-Iran and anti-Hezbollah stance.

The party that now holds 15 out of 64 Christian seats in the Lebanese parliament was previously a militia group that emerged from the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990).

“I did not ask for the Iranian fuel. I have just thanked Iran for standing with Lebanon,” the 43-year old lawmaker asserted. “At the same time, I asked the brotherly Arab states (in the past) —notably Saudi Arabia — (to help Lebanon),” he added.

“We are all going hungry. We are all being humiliated today. If you have a problem with Hezbollah and its weapons, put this problem aside. We are not talking politics right now. We are talking about the moral thing to do, the human thing to do. It is unacceptable that the Lebanese people get humiliated more than this at the petrol stations. We have fifty martyrs,” Maalouf said.

On Sunday Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the first vessel shipping Iranian fuel to Lebanon had sailed.

Earlier, he had warned the US and the Israel that the resistance movement would regard the vessels carrying Iranian fuel to Lebanon as Lebanese territory.

Hezbollah chief had on many occasions spoken about importing Iran’s oil to mitigate Lebanon’s dire fuel shortage, in case the government failed to deal with the crippling crisis.

‘Too little, too late’

Maalouf, during the interview with Al-Mayadeen, also ridiculed and rejected an offer by the US envoy in Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, to supply energy-starved Lebanon with electricity via alternative routes involving Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.

He called the offer “too little, too late”, which he said reflects the popular opinion in Lebanon that the US deliberately seeks to punish them and turn the tide against the Hezbollah resistance movement.

“First of all, I tell her (the US envoy) that this is too late. She should have supported Lebanon way before that. Lebanon has been sinking for a while. Lebanon has been sinking since the ‘October 17 revolution’ (in 2019). The Total (oil) Company was carrying out prospective studies for oil in Block No. 4. Who gave Total the order to stop and leave Lebanon under the pretext that there is no gas in Lebanon’s (territorial waters)? Who told (the US ambassador) that there is no gas in Lebanon? How is there gas in Cyprus, in Syria and in Turkey, but there is no gas in Lebanon,” the Lebanese lawmaker asserted.

He slammed the Americans for “putting pressure” on Lebanon and imposing sanctions to “make us starve, to humiliate us, and make us kneel down.”

On the possibility of Lebanon importing medicine from Iran, he said he would welcome it.

“If they want to send medicine from Iran to Lebanon, they are not telling the Lebanese people that this will be the only (products of) medicine (in the country). Whoever wants to buy Iranian medicine, let them buy it; and whoever does not want to, then they are free not to,” Maalouf said.

“If the price of the Iranian medicine is one dollar and the price of the European medicine is 30 dollars, and people do not have much money left, they will buy Iranian medicine. They will be buying it willingly; no one will be forcing them to. Even the diesel that will come from Iran. Whoever likes to buy it at a lower price to use it can do so, and whoever does not want to can buy American fuel! No one will prevent them from doing so,” he hastened to add.

‘Stoking chaos and civil war’

Maalouf, in response to a question whether the crisis in Lebanon was engineered to drag the country toward the economic crisis, said the country has “many enemies.”

“Whoever helps Lebanon is the friend, and whoever does not is the enemy. Let the Lebanese people be the judge in the matter. To some of those on Twitter who attacked me and said that I am jumping ship (i.e. changing political sides and allegiances), I do not jump ship. My position is clear. I am independent. I am a strong patriot,” he asserted, denouncing the online tirade against him.

On why his stance is different from that of his party, the Lebanese Forces member said he deems his people’s pain more important than his own political future.

“My future is not (to secure) a parliamentary seat. I am not a beggar for anyone’s parliamentary seat. My future is not to see my children being humiliated, or not being able to learn. It is not to see them applying for visas to emigrate from Lebanon. My future is the future of Lebanon’s generations. My future is not to become a (Lebanese) MP. This seat has no value for me. It does not change anything. Human dignity is the most important thing for me,” he said.

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