Three US Senators have tabled a request calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to make Lebanon exempt from the Caesar Act, stressing the need to help the crisis-ridden state recover, according to a report by Naharnet.
The request, which was tabled by Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Chris Murphy, and Time Kaine, calls on the US State Department to allow Lebanon to import electricity from Syria to help alleviate the energy crisis in the country, despite the move being sanctionable under the Caesar Act.
“Lebanon’s power grid is connected only to Syria, and electricity imports from other regional states must occur through Syria,” a letter penned by the three senators to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was quoted by the Daily Star as saying.
Adding that, “the Lebanese government has previously attempted to purchase electricity through other states such as Egypt and Jordan, however, the Syrian government has not allowed these agreements to come to fruition.”
The trio went on to warn Pompeo that Lebanon had been left with very “few options to meet its immediate energy needs”.
For years, Lebanon’s state provider, Electricite du Liban, has been unable to provide 24-hour power across the country, but the electricity crisis has worsened rapidly in recent months, leaving many homes with blackouts as long as 22 hours per day in some parts of the country.
Most homeowners have turned to generators to fill the gap, but with a worsening economic and financial crisis, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are no longer able to afford the rapidly inflating cost of imported fuel.
The US administration has previously granted similar sanctions exemptions for Iraq, which has been hurt by Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, aimed at squeezing the Iranian economy. Moreover, Trump’s administration has said it would consider doing the same for Lebanon, according to Naharnet.
Lebanon Ambassador to Washington, Gabriel Issa, had earlier proposed a similar exemption for the purchase of Syrian electricity and submitted a formal request. It was not immediately clear when this proposal was submitted, nor if the request has been answered.
The Caesar Act, which took effect on 17 June this year, requires the US president to impose sanctions on members and allies of the Syria regime. The sanctions are intended to exert pressure on Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his affiliates, including Russia and Iran, to end the country’s nine-year civil war.