The crisis has provided an opportunity for Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, the militant group Hezbollah, to present themselves as intervening where other powers have failed.
In recent weeks, Iran has sent fuel by tanker to Syria, where Hezbollah has organized caravans to take it to Lebanon. The whole operation defies US sanctions on buying Iranian oil and took place entirely outside the Lebanese state.
Visiting Lebanon last week, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said Iran was ready to build two new power plants in Beirut and southern Lebanon able to meet a third of the country’s electricity needs.
Critics say Iran and its allies are more interested in media stunts than actual aid, that the fuel it sent is low compared to Lebanon’s needs, and that the power plants are unlikely. Iranian proposals are ever built.
The United States has supported plans to send natural gas by pipeline from Jordan to Syria to Lebanon, or to transmit electricity produced in Jordan to Lebanon. But many details of those plans have yet to be worked out, including who will pay to repair the necessary infrastructure, so any benefit to Lebanon is months away at best.
Most Lebanese depend on private generators for electricity, but many have also been forced to cut this, or abandon it altogether, as fuel costs have skyrocketed.
Fatima Baydoun, 50, mother of three in Beirut, said her family could not afford electricity from a generator because her husband, a security guard, had been out of work since more than a year. Without government-supplied electricity, she cannot use the washing machine, and her family’s faucets are dry because the water pump is on.
“We try to sleep as early as possible,” she said.