A Moral Calling from the Pope to Lebanon’s Christian Leaders

And just like that, the Vatican is challenging Lebanon’s Christian leadership to do what’s best for Lebanon.

Most believe it would take a miracle, but maybe this is the beginning. After the noon prayer on Sunday, May 30, the Pope said “On July 1, I will meet in the Vatican with the main leaders of the Christian communities in Lebanon, for a day of reflection on the country’s worrying situation and to pray together for the gift of peace and stability.”

The “Christian communities” would be quite large if he includes the Orthodox and Protestant churches, other Catholics such as the Melkites, and the leader of the Maronite Catholic Church, Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, who has been actively calling for an international conference to begin the process of reconciliation and healing in Lebanon, free from external interference.

With the subsidies due to expire sometime in June, the holdup in Parliament of a World Bank assistance package, and the continued deterioration of the country’s economy, Lebanon continues to be on the brink of extensive disruption.

The lira is in free fall at an official exchange rate on the government’s platform of 12,000 to the dollar and approaching 12,800 on the informal exchange market, while imports are still priced somewhere between the government rate of 1,500 and the bank rate at 3,900 lira to the dollar.

Confused yet? Think of how hard it is for the Lebanese to cope daily with the uncertainty of access to money to pay for essential services. Even when they will regain access to their bank deposits by the end of June, as promised by the Central Bank, it will be limited at a rate that favors the banking sector.

The story about the Pope’s initiative was reported in the 961 which noted that “Earlier this week, Pope Francis sent a letter to President Michel Aoun hoping that the ‘Spirit of Wisdom’ would support Aoun in rescuing Lebanon. It is stipulated that Pope Francis would seek to unite the Christian leaders that have been politically divided and lead them towards working together to saving Lebanon as a top priority.”

Wisdom is not in short supply, only its acceptance. The path forward is clear. The IMF and the international community are waiting for a government that will serve the people and not the interests of a few. The people of Lebanon and the resident refugee population are suffering as their health and well-being become increasingly precarious.

Other calamities and disasters are pulling the world’s attention away from a country whose leaders have lost the sense of urgency and responsibility to unite even on the basic necessities of recovery and renewal.

As the Pope said on Sunday, “the meeting with Lebanon’s Christian leaders would be an opportunity to ‘pray together for the gift of peace and stability.’”

With perhaps a hint of irony, another report mentioned that “The Argentine pontiff has also picked up the metaphor from his predecessor describing Lebanon ‘as the message’ when it comes to coexistence, tolerance, and respect among people of all faiths.”

The suffering of the Lebanese, across all sects, strengthens his message and highlights the sadness of those around the world whose hearts feel Lebanon’s sorrow.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/26/21

DAILY NEWS


Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Briefing
Yesterday Najat Rochdi, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the UN Security Council’s Informal Expert Group on Women, Peace and Security on Lebanon’s state of crisis and the effect it is having on women. She urged that in order for recovery efforts in Lebanon to be sustainable, they must be inclusive of women. Rochdi further recognized the prominent role of women both in protests and political movements, and local peacebuilding and mediation efforts. [Naharnet]

S&P Global Report Says Bail-In for Depositors Likely
In a new report S&P Global said there is likely to be a “bail-in” for Lebanese bank depositors in order for the banking sector to absorb the costs of financial restructuring. This might look like paying depositors below-market exchange rates or converting their deposits into equity, the report said. [Al Arabiya] On Monday central bank governor Riad Salameh said depositors’ money was safe and announced a plan that would release $50,000 per deposited in June. [Reuters]

Nasrallah Comments on Aggression in Jerusalem
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah gave a televised speech yesterday, his first since a ceasefire was called between Israel and Hamas last week. He commented on hostilities in Jerusalem and said that any aggression on Jerusalem’s holy sites would mean regional war. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Bring the Planners Back! Displacement-Triggered Patterns of Urbanization and City Responses
Mona Fawaz, Mona Harb, Carla Al-Hage
The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/25/21

DAILY NEWS


Salameh Discusses New Dollar Withdrawal Plan
In an interview with Al Hadath yesterday, central bank governor Riad Salameh discussed a new plan that will allow depositors to finally access their US dollars in Lebanese banks. Starting in June, depositors will be able to withdraw $50,000 which means $25,000 in US dollar bills and the other $25,000 in Lebanese pounds at the market exchange rate. [Al Arabiya]

UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon Running Out of Funds
Amid Lebanon’s economic crises, the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon has run out of funding. The tribunal that was set up to prosecute perpetrators of PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005 is in financial trouble which puts future trials at risk. [Reuters]

Political Talks Resume Upon Hariri’s Return to Beirut
Talks have resumed between political leaders regarding the formation of a government upon Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s return to Beirut. Sources say Hariri and Free Patriotic Movement officials showed “flexibility” after a conversation with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. [Naharnet] In a statement from the UN office in Beirut, Deputy UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Najat Rochdi urged the formation of a government that is “competent, empowered, and representative of its people.” [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Standing Up For Lebanon – Recent US Words and Actions
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/24/21

DAILY NEWS


US Renews Military Assistance Commitment to Lebanon
Last week the US State Department and the Lebanese Armed Forces virtually held the inaugural US-Lebanon Defense Resourcing Conference. Delegations from both countries highlighted the strength of the US-Lebanese Armed Forces relationship and discussed priorities surrounding counterterrorism, border security, and defense institution building. The United States announced $120 million in foreign military financing assistance to Lebanon for the 2021 fiscal year. [US State Department]

Continued Political Debate Over Government Formation
After President Michel Aoun’s letter was read during last Friday’s parliamentary session in which he blamed Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri for delay in government formation, the session was adjourned and moved to Saturday. During Saturday’s session PM-designate Hariri said he would not form a government that gives preference to a political factions, including the president’s. [Reuters] Today Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri urged political leaders to resolve differences and acknowledge that Lebanon’s political crisis is “100% purely domestic and personal.” [Naharnet]

Water Shortages in Lebanon
Lebanon is facing serious water shortages and some Lebanese are saying that the government’s mismanagement is to blame. In the video above, BBC talks with some of the residents affected. [BBC]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Standing Up For Lebanon – Recent US Words and Actions
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Standing Up for Lebanon – Recent US Words and Actions

It is about time the Lebanese people had a bit of good news from the international community, and this past week the US delivered. There were two letters from members of Congress and an approval of an appropriation for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to help that national institution weather the economic downturn. Much of the momentum behind these positive developments was generated by the American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL) and other supporters of the bilateral relationship.

The first letter was generated by Chairman Gregory Meeks of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is co-signed by Ted Deutch, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and Global Counterterrorism, and other members of the subcommittee.

The letter was addressed is Secretary of State Antony Blinken and said, “We urge prompt and significant US action, in coordination with key international partners, to address the suffering of the Lebanese people and prevent Lebanon from economic collapse, posing further risks to the security and stability of the broader Middle East as well as US national security.” It notes that “As conditions worsen, internal Lebanese actors such as Hezbollah, along with other militias and criminal networks, and external forces such as Iran and Russia, cynically aim to leverage the fragmentation of the Lebanese state and society for their own gain.”

The Meeks letter’s listed four recommendations: formation of an international group of friends of Lebanon to develop a plan to stabilize the economy pending formation of a government capable of implementing reforms, attacking corruption, and completing an audit of the Central Bank; building an international humanitarian assistance fund that would be channeled directly to the people; supplementary support for the Lebanese Armed Forces; and completing an independent investigation of the Beirut Port explosion of August 4.

In conclusion, the letter stated, “We support policies that advance a strong and stable US – Lebanon relationship and a just, prosperous, and independent future for the Lebanese people.”

The second letter, from the US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus, echoed many of the points made in the Chairman Meeks letter, stressing the humanitarian and security repercussions of the current status of Lebanon. The Caucus, which was recently relaunched in the 117th Congress, has more than 20 members. Its letter was sent to President Biden as well as Secretary of State Blinken. It was co-signed by the four co-chairs of the Caucus, Representatives Darin LaHood, Charlie Crist, Darrell Issa, and Debbie Dingell, and other members.
The Caucus letter made the point that “Lebanon can again be an example of a stable, independent, and sovereign democracy in the Middle East. In partnership with the US and its allies, Lebanon can overcome the challenges facing it today. Success requires the commitment to forming a transparent and representative government protected from political corruption, implementation of economic reforms, and ensuring continued access to humanitarian resources for its people.”

On the security front, The U.S. Department of State and the Lebanese Armed Forces held their inaugural Defense Resourcing Conference on May 21, 2021. According to the State Department press release, “The delegations discussed the deteriorating economic, political, and humanitarian conditions affecting the Lebanese people and military.” As a result of the excellent cooperation between the US and Lebanon, the State Department renewed its commitment to the LAF by announcing $120 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Lebanon for fiscal year 2021, subject to Congressional notification procedures, which is a $15 million increase over prior-year levels.

As importantly, the two delegations “discussed ways to leverage the full range of authorities under US law through which the United States can provide additional assistance to the LAF as it grapples with the economic crises in Lebanon.” As an example of this cooperation, the US Defense Department plans “to transfer three Protector-class patrol boats to the Lebanese Navy, which, upon delivery in 2022, will enhance the Lebanese Navy’s ability to counter external and regional threats, and protect freedom of navigation and commerce in the maritime domain.” This is in line with the latest UNIFIL reauthorization directing the LAF to upgrade its naval capability.

Edward Gabriel, ATFL President, welcomed the letters and support for the LAF pointing out “Lebanon remains a priority for US despite all the turmoil in the region. Its American educational institutions, a relationship going back more than 150 years, and the bilateral ties between the military authorities are nourished by the more than 1.5 million Lebanese Americans. Lebanon’s survival and success must continue to be a priority for the US.”

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

This Week in Lebanon

May 23, 2021
US Congress Members Urge Support for Lebanon
International Support Group for Lebanon Meeting in Beirut
Syrian Voters Attacked on Their Way to Beirut

US Congress Members Urge Support for Lebanon
Members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Blinken this week urging the United States to respond to Lebanon’s deteriorating situation. They recommended coordinated aid to the country, support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, and for an independent investigation into last summer’s explosion at the Port of Beirut. [Al-Monitor]

ANALYSIS

“Chairman Meeks and the congressional co-signers reaffirm Lebanon’s importance on the agenda of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. They understand the multi-dimensional aspects of a strong US policy: firm international diplomacy advocating a government capable of addressing the needs of the Lebanese citizens, international aid for those who suffer from the effects of incompetent governance, and steadfast support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is dedicated to the protecting the rights of its citizens. This letter and a companion letter sent by the House US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus keep the Lebanon issue front and center with the Biden administration and offer a roadmap for stabilizing its US interests in the eastern Mediterranean and for curbing the influence of Iran.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


International Support Group for Lebanon Meeting in Beirut
The International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG) met in Beirut on Wednesday to assess Lebanon’s situation. The group took note of further economic and social decline in the country and called on political leaders to form a government. ISG also called for elections to occur on time and for impacts from any subsidy changes on economic and social well-being to be mitigated. [Naharnet]

ANALYSIS

“Once again the ISG has spoken out in support of the people of Lebanon, calling on the political leadership to undertake the reforms critical to the country’s survival, holding the elections on time, and maintaining humanitarian support for the populace. Is there any responsible world leader or organization that is not calling on the leadership to reform or step aside? It is exhausting to hear time and time again the need for transformation only to watch the oligarchy continue to ignore reality.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Syrian Voters Attacked on Their Way to Beirut
On Thursday Lebanese mobs attacked Syrian refugees and expatriates on their way to cast their vote at for the Syrian presidential election at the Syrian embassy in Beirut. The groups attacked were said to be organized to vote for President Bashar Assad and were identified by those chanting slogans in support of Assad and carrying banners with the president’s picture. [Arab News]

ANALYSIS

“The pent-up frustration of the Lebanese is being directed toward Syrians in Lebanon who are voting in the Syrian presidential elections at their embassy in Beirut. This has drawn the ire of opposition leaders and common people who can’t rectify why someone claiming refugee status would vote for Assad whose policies created the exodus from Syria in the first place. While the US and other countries are calling the election a sham, it is puzzling to understand the disconnect between those living on relief provided by the international community, and some who are supporting the regime that made them refugees in the first place.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Voices of Healing: the Work of the Near East Foundation to Support Business Recovery

ATFL has been gradually shifting its focus from humanitarian relief centered on medical supplies to supporting organizations involved in support efforts for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). We convene regular meetings to discuss opportunities, obstacles, and experiences that enrich the group’s understanding of how to most effectively support community businesses in Beirut and beyond. Several organizations in the group are well known: Anera, the Rene Moawad Foundation, the Near East Foundation, and Mercy Corps. Others are Lebanese groups that target specific community needs in mental health, the aging, and rural communities.

This series, Voices of Healing, puts a spotlight on those organizations that want to tell their stories and demonstrate that hope is still alive among the people of Lebanon. This information was provided by Andrea Crowley of the Near East Foundation (NEF).

NEAR EAST FOUNDATION – BEIRUT RAPID LIVELIHOODS RECOVERY PROGRAM

The devastating and destructive August 4, 2020 Beirut Port Explosion took lives, destroyed businesses, and displaced thousands. Critical community needs, such as hospitals, schools, businesses and homes, faced widespread damage. Eight months on from the explosion its impacts have been lost amid the overwhelming needs surrounding the health crisis, a worsening and severe economic crisis, and a protracted refuge crisis – causing a dangerous physical, psychological, and economic strain on the people of Lebanon.

Soon after the explosion, the Near East Foundation (www.neareast.org) mobilized with local partners to launch a rapid livelihoods recovery program, building onto its ongoing program in Lebanon, to provide aid to individuals and micro/small businesses in three highly impacted and vulnerable Beirut neighborhoods: Bachoura, Bourj Hammoud, and Karantina. With support from the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Elsa & Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation, and private funders, the Rapid Livelihoods Recovery Project addresses the nexus of relief and recovery, supporting safe shelter rehabilitation, small business recovery, and employment.

NEF has helped 130 micro/small businesses to recover losses and resume business activities through cash assistance and guidance focused on business adaptation and recovery. This includes support for mini markets, grocery stores, a butchery, mobile phone vendors, tailors, appliance stores, a pharmacy, and salons.

The cash assistance provided is unconditional, allowing flexibility for business owners to make decisions regarding the repairs of their business, recouping assets, and meeting the needs of their families.

NEF is also supporting 130 skilled workers to recover lost materials and secure employment, linking them to repair projects of vulnerable homes and businesses in the target areas using “cash for work” to subsidize their income while providing repair services free of charge. 100% of the skilled workers supported are the sole providers for their families.

Shouwshan in her upholstery shop in Beirut. Her shop was damaged, including the front door, walls, and display stands. She received a grant from NEF to help with the needed repairs so she could safely resume business operation. Image: NEF

 

George owns a mini mart in the Bourj Hammoud neighborhood of Beirut. He used his grant to help replenish products that were lost during the explosion so he could start selling as soon as he could. Image: NEF

Due to heightened currency fluctuation in Lebanon, grant distribution was temporarily paused earlier this year. During that time, the NEF teams conducted a rapid security risk assessment to determine when it would be safe to continue financial grant support and were able to resume grant support in early April 2021. In Beirut, grants are disbursed in USD to protect against the continued devaluation of the LBP. The NEF team continues to closely monitor the currency situation and its impact on the safety of project participants and project resources.

NEF conducts mid-term and endline assessments to measure impact to ensure impactful and responsive interventions that address both immediate and longer-term needs. Data collected also helps to determine if project participants under the Beirut Rapid Livelihoods Recovery project could be eligible to receive additional support from NEF’s broader livelihoods programs in Lebanon.

Critical to NEF’s approach is ensuring that coordination, complementarity, and transparency is prioritized to avoid duplication and effective use of resources. NEF’s response is closely coordinated with relevant stakeholders, working groups, and in partnership with local community organizations and other NGOs. This includes partnership and coordination with the American Task Force on Lebanon, SHIELD (a local livelihoods NGO), ANERA, ACTED, American University of Beirut – Urban Lab, Mercy Corps, the Danish Refugee Council, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), and the Bourj Hammoud Municipality in addition to the broader Referral Information Management System (RIMS).

NEF’s experience and impact in Lebanon dates back to 1918, when NEF first launched programs there focused on improving the long-term wellbeing of vulnerable Lebanese through technical and financial assistance to improve education, income, agriculture and food security, rural development, and access to finance. In recent years, NEF’s work in Lebanon has focused on providing livelihoods support for vulnerable Lebanese and refugees in poor communities (with a focus on women and youth), helping them to access the tools and resources to engage in safe ways to earn an income, support their families, and improve their lives.

NEF channels assistance through Siraj Centers, community-based livelihood hubs that offer technical training and essential resources – geared toward social and economic empowerment – for crises-affected people to recover their income and strengthen their local economies. NEF has Siraj Centers in Akkar, Tripoli, and Bekaa, and in 2021 opened a new location in northern Beirut. Last year, NEF expanded its business support services to include an accessible online learning platform – Siraj Digital (www.sirajdigital.com). Through Siraj Digital NEF will provide nonfinancial services tailored to business recovery and adaptation, addressing impacts of the Beirut port explosion and ongoing economic impacts of the health, financial, and refugee crises.

Since 2016, NEF has helped to launch 3,900 businesses and directly support over 18,000 people in Lebanon with support from Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and private funders. And while sustainable livelihood support is often seen as costly, a 2021 impact and learning assessment of NEF programs from 2016-2020 revealed a 2.6 return on investment, with revenue from project-supported businesses generating 28 billion LBP.

This video of two NEF-supported Lebanese entrepreneurs, Hanan and Hayat, provide an example of this work: https://vimeo.com/447133436

In early April 2021, the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Ambassador Dorothy Shea, visited one of NEF’s Siraj Centers in Akkar in recognition of NEF’s long-time partnership with the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

US Ambassador to Lebanon, Amb. Dorothy Shea, visits a NEF Siraj Center in April 2021. Image: NEF

NEF’s Rapid Livelihoods Recovery Project and broader program in Lebanon continues to evolve to facilitate safe pathways to livelihoods recovery, resilience, and ultimately self-reliance for vulnerable and marginalized people through inclusive, tailored, and community-driven initiatives.

For more information on NEF’s work in Lebanon, please contact Andrea Crowley, Director of Partnerships & Philanthropy, at acrowley@neareast.org.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/21/21

DAILY NEWS


US Congress Members Urge Support for Lebanon
Members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Blinken this week urging the United States to respond to Lebanon’s deteriorating situation. They recommended coordinated aid to the country, support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, and for an independent investigation into last summer’s explosion at the Port of Beirut. [Al-Monitor]

President Aoun’s Letter on PM-Designate Hariri Read in Parliament
Political squabbles continue as the Lebanon enters its ninth month without a government. Today a letter by President Michel Aoun was read during a parliamentary session in which Aoun blamed Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri for the delay and said Hariri is incapable of forming a Cabinet. [Reuters] The session was quickly adjourned after the letter’s reciting and a new session is scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 p.m. [Naharnet]

Attacks on Kataeb Party Offices in Tripoli
Yesterday afternoon Kataeb Party offices in Tripoli were attacked and burned by Syrian regime loyalists. The acts appear to be in response to earlier attacks on Syrian refugees and expats on their way to vote in Beirut, many of whom were said to be voting for Bashar al-Assad. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Podcast Episode – Anatomy of a Crisis: Controlling Hyperinflation in Lebanon

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/12/21

DAILY NEWS


EU is Preparing Sanctions on Lebanese Leaders
The EU is preparing sanctions against Lebanese political leaders who are seen as blocking government formation. This would be the first round of sanctions the EU has placed on Lebanon. EU officials are currently working on the criteria for who will be designated. Many Lebanese leaders have homes and bank accounts in the EU. [Reuters]

Seven Lebanese Sanctioned by the United States
Yesterday the US imposed sanctions on seven Lebanese who are linked to Hezbollah. The US Treasury Department called six of the seven Hezbollah’s “shadow bankers” who have transferred about $500 million for the group over the past decade.The seventh person sanctioned is Ibrahim Daher, who is a chief financial executive for Hezbollah. [Associated Press]

Solidarity March Through Beirut for Sheikh Jarrah Residents
On Tuesday Lebanese and Palestinians marched through Beirut in a demonstration showing solidarity with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah. The protesters started at the Mar Elias refugee camp and marched on to Chatila refugee camp. Activists hope that in addition to showing solidarity with Palestinians in East Jerusalem, their efforts will also raise awareness for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. [Middle East Eye]

Conversation with Henri Chaoul
Former government advisor Henri Chaoul spoke with CNBC about the Lebanese government’s mismanagement. Chaoul advised the government last year during its talks with the IMF. [CNBC]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Legal Limbo: Who is a Refugee in Lebanon?
Dima Mahdi
The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 05/11/21

DAILY NEWS


Maritime Border Talks Paused, Waiting on Lebanon
US-led maritime border talks between Lebanon and Israel were paused last week after President Aoun ordered the Lebanese delegation to halt their participation. Aoun took issue with the mediation’s starting point, which was to begin at the border lines already registered with the UN, namely the dispute over 860 square kilometers. [Reuters] There is a decree in Lebanon however approved by the caretaker prime minister and ministers of defense and public works that would extend the disputed area to 1,430 sq. km. But Aoun has yet to sign and approve the decree therefore it hasn’t been submitted to the UN. Regarding next steps the US says the ball is now in Lebanon’s court. [Al Arabiya]

Government Plans on Subsidies Start Panic Buying in Supermarkets
Government plans to remove subsidies on basic food items such as fuel, wheat, and medicine have stirred panic buying among Lebanese at supermarkets. It has caused prices of meat and chicken to spike and on Sunday cars lined up outside of gas stations to store up. Caretaker Prime Minister Diab has said the government will not lift subsidies before ration cards for Lebanese families are approved. [The Daily Star]

Drug Raid in Baalbek
Today the Lebanese army raided a drug manufacturing plan in Baalbek and confiscated drugs, machins and equipment used for narcotic production. [Naharnet]

Over 40 Tons of Fish Dead in Qaraoun Lake
Over 40 tons of dead fish have shown up on the banks of Qaraoun Lake in southern Lebanon. Activists and locals blame pollution coming from the Litani River that carries waste from industrial factories and sewage systems. The authorities don’t recognize this as the cause and say it may be disease.

Watch here

OPINION & ANALYSIS


FOCUS LEBANON: LIFE is Helping the Lebanese Help Themselves
Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.