This Week In Lebanon: 8/21/2021

August 21, 2021
Parliament Session Yesterday on Fuel Subsidies
CIA Director Proposes Israeli Withdrawal from Shebaa Farms
Lebanese Security Forces Secure Fuel from Warehouses for Hospitals

Parliament Session Yesterday on Fuel Subsidies
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri held a session yesterday to respond to Lebanon’s severe fuel shortage. [Reuters] At the request of President Michel Aoun, the parliament was instructed to come to some sort of decision or action regarding fuel subsidies that Central Bank governor Riad Salameh decided to halt last week as the bank runs low on reserves. [Naharnet] Today, Salameh said the government decided to raise fuel import exchange rates from 3,900 pounds to the dollar to 8,000 to the dollar. [Reuters]

RESPONSE

“Three critical decision points are coming to a head this week: the latest attempt to form a government, insolvency of the subsidies program, and the issuance of the IMF Special Drawing Rights, potentially worth more than a billion dollars. Once again the Lebanese politicians face a choice: remain selfish in serving the priorities of their confessionally directed habits, or, wake up and form a reformist government capable of meeting the needs of the people. At a minimum, this would require rejecting the old subsidy prices drain on the budget and agreeing to the World Bank cash card system, to which they can then apply SDR monies to transparently and effectively help those in need.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


CIA Director Proposes Israeli Withdrawal from Shebaa Farms
During a recent visit to Lebanon, CIA Director William Burns reportedly proposed to have Israel withdraw from Lebanon’s occupied Shebaa Farms in effort to put an end to the border conflict. The area, situated in the Golan Heights, has been occupied by Israel since 1978 and has long been a source of tension along the southern Lebanon border. [The 961]

RESPONSE

“CIA Director William Burns is no stranger to Lebanon or the region. He knows it intimately and is well versed in the nuances of regional politics. If this initiative is true, it merits serious consideration by the Israelis. ‘Liberating’ Shebaa Farms is one of the false narratives concocted by Hezbollah as part of its ‘resistance’ role in defending Lebanon. Without that, it may have to fall back on other tropes to justify its military presence in the country. And Israel’s new government can take credit for reducing tensions while still controlling the Golan Heights from which it can still monitor activities in the surrounding areas.”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Lebanese Security Forces Secure Fuel from Warehouses for Hospitals
Amid Lebanon’s crippling fuel shortage, Lebanese security forces seized thousands of liters of fuel from warehouses in Beirut and Zouk Mosbeh and distributed the fuel to hospitals, bakeries, and other private generator owners. [The 961] Later in the week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah announced that a ship of Iranian fuel will set sail from Iran to Lebanon. [Reuters]

RESPONSE

“Fuel subsidies, smuggling, sanctions, and supply lines are the dominant themes in Lebanon news this week. The LAF has been recovering caches of fuel from hoarders and smugglers and distributing it to private generator operators, hospitals, and small businesses which serve the people directly. However, large shipments continue to be smuggled to Syria with periodic interceptions by citizens fed up with the ease with which smugglers operate. And now Nasrallah is negotiating on his own with Iran for diesel fuel for power generators and some vehicles, in contravention of sanctions on Iran and on the transshipments supposedly through Syria, which fall under Caesar Act sanctioning. Regrettably, Lebanon has no government willing to develop a sane policy to ensure gasoline and diesel deliveries adequate to the country’s needs.”

-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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 8/20/2021

DAILY NEWS


US to Assist Lebanon with Electricity
Yesterday President Michel Aoun’s office said that the United States will be assisting Lebanon with electricity provisions as the country faces severe fuel shortages. The assistance includes the provision of Egyptian natural gas to Jordan for generation into additional electricity that can be transmitted to Lebanon through Syria. It also includes the transfer of natural gas to Lebanon. [Reuters]

Aoun Calls on UN to Address Israel’s Airspace Violations
Israel conducted airstrikes on Syria Thursday night that reportedly killed four Hezbollah fighters. [Al Arabiya] In a meeting today with UN Special Coordinator Joanna Wronecka, President Michel Aoun called on the UN to address Israel’s violations of Lebanon’s airspace following the airstrikes on Syria. [Naharnet]

Miqati Reportedly Close to Resignation
Yesterday President Michel Aoun accused unnamed parties of seeking to obstruct the formation of a new government. The president’s office said in a statement, “several forces are working to prevent the creation of a government and are determined to push the country towards chaos in order to fulfill their political aims.” [Reuters]
Sources say that Aoun is still trying to obtain a “block one-third” in the cabinet line-up. Prime Minister-designate Miqat reportedly considered handing in his resignation, but was convinced to stay until after Friday’s parliamentary session. [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
Lebanon is a tinderbox, and Lebanese politicians have started dropping matches
Christophe Abi-Nassif and Jean AbiNader

Abi-Nassif and AbiNader write, “Left untreated, the situation in the coming weeks will, without a doubt, derail the prospects of a Lebanese recovery for many years, perhaps decades, and have destabilizing regional repercussions…More than ever before, constructive international engagement would warrant the following steps: Double down on humanitarian relief efforts to slow the pace of the collapse, shield the most vulnerable Lebanese citizens and refugee communities, and prevent a massive explosion of violence…Although essential, humanitarian efforts remain only a palliative for Lebanon’s symptoms rather than a cure for its structural and political ailments. Therefore, and as part of a unified and all-encompassing international effort, deploy every possible diplomatic tool and pressure to push toward the immediate formation of a government…Insist, with all means available, on holding the scheduled parliamentary elections in the spring of 2022. As importantly, coordinate a global monitoring and enforcement effort on the ground to ensure that both the elections and the buildup toward them are conducted fairly and freely.”

Read more here

Rusted Radishes: Beirut Literary and Art Journal
The Blast
Eveline Hitti

Hitti writes, “Across the city that night, medical teams had put aside their own loss and fears, gallantly hurling themselves into action. Demolished hospitals were evacuated. Flooded EDs were emptied. Operating rooms ran without reprieve. Decisions were made amidst unimaginable constraints. Physical wounds were closed, and moral ones opened. Today, almost six months post-Blast, the scars on my colleagues’ faces are barely noticeable. The displaced doors of our ED are back up on their hinges. The glass panes of my house have been replaced. Our passports are tucked back in the reachable safety of my bedroom drawers. While some wounds heal, others remain painfully visible. Resignations sit on my desk, leaving the line of medical teams facing the now raging pandemic thinned out and weary. For many, distance is the path to recovery. For others, it is clawing on to the promise of meaningful service in the land they were forced to leave once before.”

Read more here


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 8/19/2021

DAILY NEWS


Hezbollah Announces Iranian Fuel Ship On Its Way to Lebanon
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday that Iran will ship fuel oil to Lebanon within hours and that further ships would follow to help Lebanon through its fuel crisis. He warned the US and Israel that once the ship leaves Iran it is considered “Lebanese territory.” He did not say when or where the ship would arrive. [Al Jazeera]

Finance Ministry Pays Alvarez to Conduct BDL Forensic Audit
Yesterday Lebanon’s Finance Ministry paid the Alvarez & Marsal Company $150,000 to complete a full forensic audit of the Central Bank. Alvarez is reported to have already received all data and documents that they requested from the Banque du Liban. Upon caretaker Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni’s signing of the contract with Alvarez in the next few days, the company said it will finish its first preliminary report in 12 weeks. [The Daily Star]

All Coral Gas Stations to Close in Lebanon
Today a source from Coral confirmed that all of its gas stations will close. The source says that for a month the company has unable to secure credits for the fuel-loaded ships that are anchored in Lebanese waters. [The 961] Tomorrow Parliament will meet to discuss a response to Lebanon’s fuel shortage following the Central Bank’s decision to halt fuel subsides. [Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
“We will go to your homes and burn you there”: Akkar explosion compounds tragedy and public anger in Lebanon
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “The Tleil tragedy leaves us with four alarming signals and takeaways. First, the humanitarian disaster in Lebanon is no longer at the door. It’s in the middle of the house…Second, desertions in the ranks of Lebanese security forces may intensify in the weeks ahead, accelerating a trend that began months ago. Because of their deployment in the area to distribute the seized fuel, many Lebanese army soldiers were among the victims of the explosion…Third, sectarian rhetoric continues to escalate. In addition to deliberate political inaction, Lebanese political leaders are upping the tone of sectarian discourse and exchanging blame for the Tleil disaster, among others…Finally, amid the total collapse of state institutions and an impotent judiciary, Lebanese citizens are growing tired and desperate of the unmitigated and multifaceted crisis. Many broke into a Akkar politician’s house in the aftermath of the incident. Others continue to intercept fuel trucks — many of which are on their way to Syria — and distribute their loads to citizens. The slide toward violence in the country is palpable. ”

Read more here

Arab American Institute
The Lebanon I Love is Dying
Dr. James J. Zogby

Zogby writes, “I recall Gibran’s love poem to Lebanon as I see horrors that even he could not have imagined: widespread poverty; corrupt, feudal, sectarian elites dancing on the grave of the country in a vain effort to sustain their privileged roles; and an armed militia functioning as a state within a state — willing to use force to maintain its position. In the future, I want to write about the political situation in Lebanon. For now, I just want to remember what there is to love about the Lebanon that was (and I hope will be again) and damn those who are hell-bent on burying it.”

Read more here


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 8/18/2021

Daily News


Transformer Explosion in Beirut’s Electricity Grid
Last night the main transformer in Beirut’s electricity gird exploded in the Tariq al-Jadida neighborhood. Authorities called for residents to evacuate over concerns of another explosion while crews worked to quickly put out the residual flames and prevented the fire from reaching nearby fuel tanks and gas storage. No injuries were reported. [Al Arabiya]

Families Lay Victims of Akkar Fuel Explosion to Rest
Today families laid to rest the victims of the fuel tank blast in Akkar that killed 28 people and injured 80 on Sunday. Among the victims were soldiers and Akkar residents who were trying to get gasoline while Lebanon faces severe fuel shortages. [Naharnet] Parliament will meet on Friday to discuss the Central Bank’s recent decision to halt fuel subsidies. [Reuters]

Draft Cabinet Line-Up Circulates Media
Reports say Prime Minister-designate Miqati and President Michel Aoun may be close to an agreement on the new cabinet line-up and a draft list of names for the 24-seat cabinet is being circulated. [Naharnet] Another report says last-minute “horse trading” over key ministerial seats is causing further delay to the formation of a new government. Candidates for interior, energy, justice, and foreign affairs are said to still be in flux. [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
“We will go to your homes and burn you there”: Akkar explosion compounds tragedy and public anger in Lebanon
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “The Tleil tragedy leaves us with four alarming signals and takeaways. First, the humanitarian disaster in Lebanon is no longer at the door. It’s in the middle of the house…Second, desertions in the ranks of Lebanese security forces may intensify in the weeks ahead, accelerating a trend that began months ago. Because of their deployment in the area to distribute the seized fuel, many Lebanese army soldiers were among the victims of the explosion…Third, sectarian rhetoric continues to escalate. In addition to deliberate political inaction, Lebanese political leaders are upping the tone of sectarian discourse and exchanging blame for the Tleil disaster, among others…Finally, amid the total collapse of state institutions and an impotent judiciary, Lebanese citizens are growing tired and desperate of the unmitigated and multifaceted crisis. Many broke into a Akkar politician’s house in the aftermath of the incident. Others continue to intercept fuel trucks — many of which are on their way to Syria — and distribute their loads to citizens. The slide toward violence in the country is palpable. ”

Read more here

Arab American Institute
The Lebanon I Love is Dying
Dr. James J. Zogby

Zogby writes, “I recall Gibran’s love poem to Lebanon as I see horrors that even he could not have imagined: widespread poverty; corrupt, feudal, sectarian elites dancing on the grave of the country in a vain effort to sustain their privileged roles; and an armed militia functioning as a state within a state — willing to use force to maintain its position. In the future, I want to write about the political situation in Lebanon. For now, I just want to remember what there is to love about the Lebanon that was (and I hope will be again) and damn those who are hell-bent on burying it.”

Read more here


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 8/17/2021

DAILY NEWS


Gas Station Goes Up in Flames After Gunfire in Beirut
A gas station in the southern suburbs of Beirut went up in flames after being hit by heavy gunfire. Reports say that the group that opened fire on the Jabal Amel gas station were trying to refuel at the station before violence broke out. The Lebanese army was deployed to manage the situation and arrested some of the shooters. [The 961]

Hospitals in Northern Lebanon Face Power Outages
Hospitals in the northern Lebanon region of Akkar are struggling to operate while they face electricity cuts due to the ongoing fuel shortages. The critical power outages come only two days after a fuel tank exploded in the area, killing at least 28 people and injuring around 80 people more. The hospitals have been forced to scale back operations while power cuts last as long as 22 hours a day. [France 24]

Berri Calls for Parliamentary Session on Fuel Subsidies
Today Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for a parliamentary session on Friday to respond to Lebanon’s severe fuel shortage. [Reuters] At the request of President Michel Aoun, Parliament discussion should focus on a “position, action, or decision” on fuel subsidization following last week’s decision by Central Bank governor Riad Salameh to halt fuel subsidies. [Naharnet]

Continued Government Formation Talks
Following talks with President Michel Aoun today, Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati described the discussions as “positive,” but that there are still obstacles to work through. He did not give a timeframe for when a cabinet would be formed. [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Arab American Institute
The Lebanon I Love is Dying
Dr. James J. Zogby

Zogby writes, “I recall Gibran’s love poem to Lebanon as I see horrors that even he could not have imagined: widespread poverty; corrupt, feudal, sectarian elites dancing on the grave of the country in a vain effort to sustain their privileged roles; and an armed militia functioning as a state within a state — willing to use force to maintain its position. In the future, I want to write about the political situation in Lebanon. For now, I just want to remember what there is to love about the Lebanon that was (and I hope will be again) and damn those who are hell-bent on burying it.”

Read more here

Middle East Institute
Lebanon’s upcoming allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “Unlike what is inaccurately reported in most Lebanese media, Lebanon’s share of the allocation is neither a grant nor a loan by the IMF. It is instead an asset that belongs to the Lebanese people. Fairly and transparently using this newfound liquidity can alleviate Lebanon’s explosive food and medical insecurity at a time when four in five Lebanese live in poverty and shortages of medication and critical medical supplies are threatening the entire health care system. Proceeds from a potential SDRs exchange can indeed help finance a targeted and direct cash transfer program to shield Lebanon’s most vulnerable citizens. The World Bank has been advocating for such a program for months and had developed a $246 million emergency social safety net project back in January. This project could be further expanded and complemented by increased, SDR-generated funding, a direction that many Lebanese civil society and diaspora organizations have been calling for given Lebanon’s rampant humanitarian disaster.”

Read more here


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 8/16/2021

DAILY NEWS


Fuel Tank Explosion in Akkar
Yesterday’s fuel tank explosion in Akkar took the lives of at least 28 people and injured 79. Around 200 people were nearby when the tank exploded. Protesters blame Lebanese politicians as Lebanon’s fuel shortage continues to cause chaos at gas stations around the country. Some have called for President Michel Aoun to take responsibility and resign, including former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. [Reuters] Aoun said today that he will not resign and that he hopes a government will be formed in the next few days. [Naharnet]

AUB Hospital Close to Shutting Down Due to Fuel Shortages
Over the weekend the American University of Beirut Medical Center released a warning that it may be forced to shut down due to extreme fuel shortages. The AUBMC statement said that the lives of 55 patients dependent on respirators, including 15 children, and over 100 people on dialysis would be immediately in danger if fuel shortages caused the hospital to shut down. In its appeal, AUBMC urged the Lebanese government, the UN, and aid agencies to help. [AP] Yesterday AUBMC said the UN, WHO, the World Bank, and others stepped in and were able to supply fuel so that the hospital did not have to shut down today, and will have around a week of reserves. [AUBMC Statement]

US Ambassador Meets with Miqati and Aoun
Today US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea met with Prime Minister-designate Miqati and later President Michel Aoun to discuss the states of government formation talks. Ambassador Shea stressed the urgent need for government formation and steps toward reforms to keep Lebanon from slipping further into a humanitarian catastrophe. In her statement today she further expressed condolences over yesterday’s loss of life in Akkar. [US Embassy Beirut]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
Lebanon’s upcoming allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “Unlike what is inaccurately reported in most Lebanese media, Lebanon’s share of the allocation is neither a grant nor a loan by the IMF. It is instead an asset that belongs to the Lebanese people. Fairly and transparently using this newfound liquidity can alleviate Lebanon’s explosive food and medical insecurity at a time when four in five Lebanese live in poverty and shortages of medication and critical medical supplies are threatening the entire health care system. Proceeds from a potential SDRs exchange can indeed help finance a targeted and direct cash transfer program to shield Lebanon’s most vulnerable citizens. The World Bank has been advocating for such a program for months and had developed a $246 million emergency social safety net project back in January. This project could be further expanded and complemented by increased, SDR-generated funding, a direction that many Lebanese civil society and diaspora organizations have been calling for given Lebanon’s rampant humanitarian disaster.”

Read more here

Carnegie Middle East Center
Enemies in the Gates
Michael Young

Young writes, “If Nasrallah knows that Lebanon is divided over the resistance, he can guess the strength of the backlash a future war with Israel might provoke. Does Hezbollah really feel it can pursue an approach in which its wars have to be fought in duplicate—one against an external enemy, first, followed by another against its domestic rivals?”

Read more here

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Lebanon’s Crisis and UNIFIL’s Mandate Renewal
David Schenker and Assaf Orion

Schenker and Orion write, “To make UNIFIL more effective and prevent dangerous destabilization in the south, the Security Council should review the force’s mandate more frequently, reallocate its resources to better fit its mission, make reporting more transparent and accurate, and hold the government and LAF accountable for their obstruction.”

Read more here


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.

This Week In Lebanon: 8/13/2021

August 13, 2021
US Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Middle East Security Assistance
Patriarch Al-Rai Calls on Lebanese Army to Confront Hezbollah
Nasrallah Claims Ammonium Nitrate Used for Syrian Rebels
Opinion Piece: Enemies in the Gate

US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Security Assistance in the Middle East
This week the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism held a hearing on US security assistance in the Middle East. When asked about Lebanon and US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Mira Resnick said that “the LAF is one of our most capable partners in the Middle East” and that “without the LAF, Hezbollah fills the void and that is exactly the opposite of what we would like to see in Lebanon.” [US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations]

RESPONSE

“The LAF continues to be one of the best US military investments in the Middle East, assisting the one remaining institution in Lebanon capable of maintaining peace, stability, and the territorial integrity of the country. The US should double down on this worthwhile investment, which is providing the best antidote to Hezbollah hegemony.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Patriarch Al-Rai Calls On Lebanese Army to Confront Hezbollah
In a speech during Sunday Mass, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai called on the Lebanese army to “confront Hezbollah for the sake of Lebanon.” Following Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel, the Patriarch called for the LAF to take control of southern Lebanon and prevent further missiles from being launched. He added that this was not for the sake of Israel’s safety, but for Lebanon’s. [VOA]

RESPONSE

“Lebanese political parties should stand with the Patriarch for his brave comments condemning Hezbollah. Their political domination has reached its limit with the Lebanese people and they need to make their voices heard loudly and clearly that they will not tolerate Hezbollah’s hegemonic actions any longer.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Nasrallah Claims Ammonium Nitrate Used For Syrian Rebel Forces
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah recently claimed in a speech that the ammonium nitrate that caused the Beirut Port explosion was being smuggled to rebel forces in Syria and that those who brought the chemicals to Lebanon were supporters of rebel forces. He further claimed that Judge Tarek Bitar has politicized the Beirut Port blast investigation and accused him of being biased. [The 961]

RESPONSE

“Where does Nasrallah’s recent claims leave the inquiring mind? Since Hezbollah and its allies have controlled the port for more than a decade, and Judge Bitar’s offense is to call for investigating politicians and officials, many from Hezbollah and its allies in government, can it be deduced that the resistance holds contradictory positions? Cognitive dissonance is what it’s called… inherently contradictory positions…not hard for a militia cum political force that has never really supported Lebanon’s sovereignty in light of Iran’s interests. No contradiction there…”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Opinion Piece

Enemies in the Gate by Michael Young
Carnegie Middle East Center’s Michael Young reviews Hezbollah’s actions in the past year and a half and shows areas where Lebanese have turned against the party. Referencing the group’s recent escalations on the border with Israel and growing domestic turmoil within Lebanon, Young asks, “Does Hezbollah really feel it can pursue an approach in which its wars have to be fought in duplicate – one against an external enemy, first, followed by another against its domestic rivals?” [Carnegie MEC]

RESPONSE

“Michael Young makes a persuasive case that Hezbollah has lost its sheen as the resistance force against Israel at Iran’s behest. Assassinating its critics; disabling the government, along with its complicit allies; fomenting violence along the boundary with Israel to upstage attacks by Palestinian groups; and using its political leverage to force the LAF to release the Hezbollah members and rockets from last week’s cross-border attacks, only serve to make a mockery of Lebanese independence and sovereignty. Civil strife may only be around the corner. And maybe that’s the plan…can’t have elections during civil conflict.”

-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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 8/13/2021

DAILY NEWS


Fuel Reserves Reported to Run Out in the Next Three Days
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab called the Riad Salameh’s recent decision to end the central bank’s fuel subsidies illegal and discussed the development at an emergency Cabinet meeting yesterday. [AP] There are discussions going on to prepare a draft law that would allow the central bank to continue subsidizing fuel imports. [Naharnet] Today Lebanon’s oil directorate announced that oil importers must sell fuel quantities they had already purchased while they await the new fuel exchange rate announcement from the central bank. [Reuters] Head of the Association of Petroleum Importing Companies warned that importers’ fuel reserves will run out in the next three days. [The 961]

Progress in Government Formation Talks
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati reportedly made “speedy progress” yesterday in their government formation talks. [The Daily Star] Some sources reported that the distribution of ministerial portfolios is almost done. More talks will take place the next few days out of the spotlight and there is hope that a government will be formed next week. [Naharnet]

Israel Says it Took Down a Hezbollah Drone
The Israeli military announced yesterday that it took down a drone belonging to Hezbollah that crossed into Israel’s airspace from Lebanon on Wednesday. Reports said the drone was likely on a reconnaissance mission as it was unarmed. [Al Arabiya]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Lebanon – Caught In a Snare of Its Own Making
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “Are you still waiting to hear some positive political news about Lebanon? It’s clear that the humanitarian, medical, social, and economic news is all bad and getting worse. There are no updates yet from PM-designate Najib Mikati, tasked with producing the latest version of a government to be approved by his peers in the political oligarchy. Is no news good or bad?…There really is no hiding from these realities but the political oligarchy is doing its best. What a horrific year since the Beirut Port blast, the economic collapse, Covid, and emigration of the professional and skilled workforce. The people are speaking, from October 17, 2019 until today; their entreaties are being ignored. How much longer can the catastrophe be avoided?”

Read more here


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 8/12/2021

DAILY NEWS


Protests Follow Central Bank Governor’s Decision to End Fuel Subsidies
After yesterday’s announcement by Lebanon’s central bank governor that fuel prices would no longer be subsidized, protests erupted across the country and people began panic buying fuel at gas stations. [The 961] Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab called the Riad Salameh’s decision illegal and called for an emergency Cabinet meeting. [AP] A law surrounding the use of the bank’s mandatory reserves for fuel subsidies will reportedly be discussed at this meeting. [Reuters] President Michel Aoun held a meeting this morning with Salameh and the caretaker ministers of energy and finance where Salameh refused to reverse his decision. [Naharnet]

Parliamentary Session on Beirut Port Investigation Adjourned
Earlier this week Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri scheduled a session to discuss the Beirut Port investigation and three MPs that were charged. The session was forced to adjourn today however due to lack of attendance. Only 39 MPs showed up which was not enough to make quorum. Protesters say they will continue even with the session canceled and said they “will not grow tired until the immunities are lifted.” [Naharnet]

Miqati and Aoun Meet With No Major Progress to Report
Prime Minister-designate Nijab Miqati and President Michel Aoun met for the seventh time yesterday to discuss the cabinet line-up, but they did not appear to make any major progress. [The Daily Star] Aoun has proposed a reshuffle of four key ministries, which would result in control of the interior and justice portfolios. [The Daily Star] Miqati recently stressed that he “will not form a government that is similar to the previous ones.” [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Lebanon – Caught In a Snare of Its Own Making
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “Are you still waiting to hear some positive political news about Lebanon? It’s clear that the humanitarian, medical, social, and economic news is all bad and getting worse. There are no updates yet from PM-designate Najib Mikati, tasked with producing the latest version of a government to be approved by his peers in the political oligarchy. Is no news good or bad?…There really is no hiding from these realities but the political oligarchy is doing its best. What a horrific year since the Beirut Port blast, the economic collapse, Covid, and emigration of the professional and skilled workforce. The people are speaking, from October 17, 2019 until today; their entreaties are being ignored. How much longer can the catastrophe be avoided?”

Read more here


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 – Caught in a Snare of Its Own Making

Are you still waiting to hear some positive political news about Lebanon? It’s clear that the humanitarian, medical, social, and economic news is all bad and getting worse. There are no updates yet from PM-designate Najib Mikati, tasked with producing the latest version of a government to be approved by his peers in the political oligarchy. Is no news good or bad?

The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai spoke out at his Sunday sermon. He challenged Hezbollah’s insistence on putting Lebanon at risk by engaging with the IDF in a battle of rocket fire into empty fields. Hezbollah’s exchanges with Israel are insults to the LAF, first by pressuring them to return the rockets and Hezbollah militia crew impounded by the Druze villagers of Chouaya; and then taking “retaliation” against Israel without warning the LAF of the potential firefight that could follow. Fortunately for Lebanon, Israel refused to take the bait.

The Patriarch’s alarm raised a storm of social media condemnation from Hezbollah’s supporters, causing President Aoun to defend the Patriarch and calling for calm for the sake of unity. The Patriarch shows no intention of backing down and he is speaking for a growing number of Lebanese who believe that Hezbollah’s disdain for the country’s sovereignty and stability should no longer be tolerated. However, in almost parallel statements from the protagonists, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah claimed that “We are not looking for war and we do not want to head towards war, but we are ready for it” if necessary, echoing similar comments by Israel this past week.

PM-designate Mikati is facing the same challenges as his predecessor in attempting to negotiate the composition of the cabinet in a new government. President Aoun is once again insisting on naming the Ministers of Justice and the Interior, who have responsibility for the judiciary and the elections. Whether or not Mikati will agree or fold up his portfolio and return to Tripoli is uncertain. Some analysts see this as a holding action by Aoun to prevent a new government from proceeding with the elections on time.

Elections on time, without interference, and with independent international observers have been a consistent demand by the international community as one of the conditions Lebanon must meet to obtain external funding. Saudi Arabia is the most recent country to say that assistance to Lebanon is contingent upon the selection of an empowered reform government that would meet IMF requirements, hold transparent and free elections, and adopt budgetary and financial discipline.

There really is no hiding from these realities but the political oligarchy is doing its best. What a horrific year since the Beirut Port blast, the economic collapse, Covid, and emigration of the professional and skilled workforce. The people are speaking, from October 17, 2019 until today; their entreaties are being ignored. How much longer can the catastrophe be avoided?

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.