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Power shortage exacerbates in Damascus as Iran restricts cheap oil supply

January 24, 2023 at 5:10 pm

People light candles during power cuts due to the fuel shortage and problems in the supply of fuel, which is traded in dollars. [Houssam Shbaro – Anadolu Agency]

Demand on candles has grown due to severe power shortage in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and other areas under the Assad regime’s control amid a fuel crisis that disrupted not only power plants but also civilians’ generators.

With the start of the civil war in 2011, the electricity infrastructure in Syria was severely damaged by the intense attacks of the regime forces and internal conflicts. However, the power crisis has exacerbated since last month.

Meanwhile, electricity is provided uninterruptedly for 24/7 hours in areas under the control of the opposition in the northern regions, thanks to Turkish and Syrian private power companies.

Damascus is one of the regions under the control of the regime where most power cuts are experienced, according to local sources.

Anadolu reporters have taken photos of the streets in the city that were plunged into darkness.

READ: Syria: regime raises fuel prices as private company sells oil derivatives

In the capital, where hundreds of thousands of families live, electricity is provided for only one hour in 12 hours. However, in the districts where the Assad regime officials live in Damascus, power cuts last two hours a day, at most.

Power-deprived people of Damascus charge their batteries, electronic devices and phones with electricity provided two hours a day.

Locals pay electricity bills of about $3 per month for just 60 hours of consumption, while the salaries of civil servants average around $20.

Candles on demand

Due to the fuel crisis that has deepened since in December, locals cannot use power generators and have resorted to candles.

Thus, the demand for candles in the regime-controlled areas increased even more, doubling the price of candles that were sold for 500 Syrian liras ($0.19) each, in Damascus last month.

Families struggling with poverty need to light at least three or four candles a day. Some families with better financial situation are trying to light their homes with battery-connected led lights.

On the black market in Damascus, $1 is equivalent to about 7,000 Syrian liras.

Iranian restriction

The US Wall Street Journal reported on 15 January that Iran restricted the monthly supply of cheap oil to its ally, the Assad regime. Citing people familiar with the issue, the report said Iranian officials informed their Syrian counterparts of the new price of $70 per barrel due to high demand in winter.

Iran had previously sold oil to the Syrian regime for $30 per barrel, according to the same report.

READ: Iran oil cargo previously seized by US unloads in Syria

Syrian newspaper, Watan, which is known for being close to the Assad regime, quoted an anonymous Iranian source on 16 January, who denied the Wall Street Journal’s report.

There was no official statement from the Iranian authorities on the matter.

After the start of the civil war in Syria, Iran has sold oil to the Assad regime on favourable terms.

Damaged infrastructure

Sinan Hatahet, a senior researcher at the Istanbul-based Omran Centre for Strategic Studies, told Anadolu: “There were 13 power plants in the country before the civil war in Syria. Some 60 per cent of them were working with natural gas, 35 per cent with fuel and 5 per cent with hydroelectricity.”

He said the power plants and power grid infrastructure in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs and Damascus were badly damaged during the civil war. “That the fuel crisis in the regime-controlled area has peaked is the main reason for the deepening of the electricity crisis in the recent period.”

He continued: “There is no gas or fuel to run the power plants. Also, there is a great loss of energy in the production and distribution phase due to the lack of maintenance at power plants. These power plants need maintenance, but most of the spare parts needed are made in Germany and the West.”

Hatahet stressed that the Assad regime is not capable to restore the electricity sector in Syria to its pre-war condition.

YPG/PKK control most of energy resources in Syria

The YPG/PKK terror group continues to occupy more than 70 per cent of Syria’s oil resources with US support, which stands as the main reason for the electricity and fuel crisis in the country.

The YPG/PKK-occupied the eastern Deir Ez-Zor and north-eastern Hasakah provinces have the richest energy resources in Syria in terms of oil and natural gas.

Near the border with Iraq, Deir Ez-Zor is home to Syria’s largest energy resources.

In September 2017, the terrorist group YPG/PKK captured Koniko, the largest gas facility in the north-eastern countryside of Deir Ez-Zor. It also occupied Syria’s largest oil field, Al-Omar, in October same year.

The oil refineries in the country are under the control of the regime forces.

READ: Syria to temporarily close state institutions amid worsening fuel crisis

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.