While Iraq suffer extreme heat, depressed oil revenues, continued instability and pandemic-related issues, the nation has pledged to provide oil aid following Beirut explosion
Rabat – On Thursday, August 6, Officials presented plans for Iraq to help Lebanon. Iraq announced it will provide oil to Lebanon in response to the Beirut explosion on August 4 that killed at least 157 and injured 5,000.
The Iraqi Red Crescent has already sent medical supplies to Beirut, but Iraq is expanding its assistance in the form of tankers carrying oil.
The new Iraqi oil minister, Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar, and Minister of Agriculture Muhammad Karim al-Khafaji are currently in Lebanon to lead a delegation of experts after having been welcomed by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
A statement by the Iraqi Oil Ministry announced that Iraq’s decision to help Lebanon is part of a “continuation of talks and contact between these two brotherly countries.” Abdul-Jabbar and Lebanese Minister of Agriculture Abbas Mortada also discussed furthering long-term cooperation between the two countries’ health, educational, agricultural and cultural sectors.
Iraq and Lebanon have experienced similar crises in recent years. Economic difficulties that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic have been exacerbated while public discontent continues to simmer in both capitals.
Basic essentials such as electricity and food have seen large price increases as both countries are besieged by political tribalism.
The blistering heat of the 2020 summer has meant citizens in Iraq’s south have had little choice but to risk COVID-19 infection or remain locked in their sweltering homes amid electricity shortages. In Lebanon, electricity blackouts can take as long as 22 hours as fuel shortages produce chronic power cuts.
Victims of geopolitics
Both Iraq and Lebanon have received little help as they faced severe difficulties importing energy because of geopolitical sanctions on their Syrian and Iranian neighbors.
Caught between the United States and its foes, both countries have seen their currency plummet amid a scramble for dollars and other foreign currencies. With little help from foreign countries, Lebanon has had to default on its international loans while Iraq is facing painful budget cuts due to plummeting oil revenues.
With both countries in crisis, foreign actors are eager to put pressure on leadership to reform political and economic structures. Meanwhile, many people in both countries lament government inaction and corruption. Amid the deepening political uncertainty, the recipe of reforms proposed by international institutions like the IMF and World Bank could result in even greater inequality between the rich and poor.
With little positive news on the horizon, Lebanon and Iraq appear to want to strengthen bilateral ties in the midst of a global landscape of division and competitive interests. On the bright side, however, Iraq’s provision of medical and energy aid to help Lebanon navigate the aftermath of the traumatic explosion could provide a symbolic first step towards greater regional cooperation.