Syrians queue at a petrol station amid crippling shortages, April 2019
Syria’s Assad regime has cut fuel supplies amid the 118-month conflict, economic crisis, and international sanctions.
The Petroleum Ministry announced a reduction in 24% of fuel and 17% of diesel as the regime struggles to obtain supplies, either from the Kurdish autonomous area in northeast Syria or from abroad. It set no date for the lifting of the cut.
Residents in regime-held territory, including the capital Damascus, have faced long queues and rising prices for years. But the situation has been compounded since the autumn with cuts in subsidized petrol.
With funds constricted by a banking crisis in Lebanon and the US imposing sanctions over the regime’s crimes against humanity, Damascus has struggled to fill tenders for oil, wheat, sugar, rice, and other essentials.
Most of Syria’s oil and gas fields are in the northeast, controlled by a Kurdish authority and the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces who expelled the Islamic State between 2017 and 2019. There has been some trade between the Kurdish and regime areas; however, the flow of oil has reportedly been restricted in recent months, as the regime continues to insist that it will regain control of “every inch” of Syria.
The regime has been reliant since 2012 on Iranian supplies through a line of credit worth billions of dollars. But Tehran is facing its own economic crisis and US-led sanctions, and the line was only renewed last autumn after protracted negotiation.
In September, the regime admitted the crisis through Petroleum Minister Bassam Touma, “The tightening of the American siege and their barring of imports from arriving forced us to reduce distribution of gasoline by 35%.”
With most Syrians making less than $100 each month, the cost of one liter of unsubsidized gasoline is 1,050 Syrian pounds ($0.37) on the black market while the subsidized price is 450 Syrian pounds ($0.16).
The Petroleum Ministry declared on Sunday:
These measures are because of delays in the arrival of fuel products supplies because of the unjust US sanctions against our country. They are to ensure that we can continue to secure the needs of our citizens and manage the available reserves as best as possible.
The head of the regime’s fuel products distribution, Ahmed Shamaat, said the reduction will be temporary, insisting fuel will arrive “soon… depending on circumstances”. But he gave no date for the restoration of supplies.
Vanessa Beeley, an activist embedded with the Assad regime, reported a 2 km (1.25 mile) queue for fuel in the Mezzeh district in southern Damascus, near the Presidential Palace.
Kayed Youssef, a government employee in Damascus, said he has not used his car in ten days. “I only move it in extreme necessity.”
Fuel has not arrived in the city of Sweida in southwest Syria since Thursday.