In Focus |Does the regime’s response to Homs refinery blasts reflect transparency or justification for future actions?
Explosions were heard in the central Syrian city of Homs on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, and the fire was seen from several close areas and villages sweeping the area surrounding the refinery, which indicates the size of the huge fire, as the state television immediately and unusually relayed live footage of the fires.
The media coverage witnessed televised statements made by the Minister of Oil, the Governor of Homs as well as senior officials in the energy and public services sector, which reveals a remarkable change in the coverage approach where the regime often carries out censorship policy for reporting disasters and it always either denies or downplays the seriousness of the reports talking about any matter occurs inside the country, so what has changed this time?
First, the Assad regime suffers from a stifling fuel crisis, in terms of supplying, refining and distributing and is facing severe criticism for the apparent corruption, mismanagement and inability to tackle matters, which has caused bad repercussions even on government institutions, some of which have been affected by these problems.
Reporting and replying this very incident comes to show the population residing in the regime-controlled areas the hardships it is suffering from, which is a positive step and comes in the right framework towards enhancing transparency, but it may face other criticisms of mismanagement in terms of the precautionary measures the regime takes.
Second, on the day after the bombing, on the morning of Wednesday January 20, 2021, the Assad regime raised the price of fuel, as the price of 95 octane gasoline reached 1,300 Syrian pounds and the government-supported diesel to 475 Syrian pounds, whereas what was relayed on the state TV. and the manner of treatment would justify the increasing of the prices and appease the public outrage among both the loyalists and critics.
Third, oil facilities suffer in general from erosion and weakness of their structure, as it is difficult to be maintained in the absence of the necessary competencies, as a result of the departure of a large number of displaced employees of these institutions, including senior oil and mechanical engineers working in oil installations. The regime's media has repeatedly highlighted the repeated maintenance of the Baniyas and Homs refineries, in an attempt to show that these two facilities are responsible for the disruption of supply operations. This opens the door to the possibility of transferring the refinery management to a Russian, Iranian, or even Syrian private sector with foreign expertise, which is an expected event in light of the weak capabilities and the regime’s need for resources.
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies