This Week In Lebanon: 01/08/2022


January 8, 2022

Lebanon’s PM Miqati issues rare criticism of Hezbollah
PM Miqati Says Will Convene Cabinet Within Days 
Building a Modern Republic

Lebanon’s PM Miqati Issues Rare Criticism of Hezbollah
 
On Monday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah delivered a speech where he labeled King Salman of Saudi Arabia as a terrorist and attributed the spread of Islamic extremism to the king. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati rebuked these comments and stated they do not reflect the sentiment of the Lebanese government or the Lebanese people.  [I24 News]
RESPONSE

“PM MIkati’s response to Nazsrallah’s speech was, ‘For God’s sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese people and stop the hateful sectarian and political rhetoric.’ It is clear that the Prime Minister and the Lebanese people have had enough. Hezbollah claims they are  part of the political fabric of Lebanon. If that is the case then they should act on it then and prove through their actions that they support the IMF negotiations, allow Judge Bitar to do his job, and find a solution to the maritime border issue rather than antagonizing countries in the region.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

PM Miqati Says Will Convene Cabinet Within Days

After a nearly three month standoff since October, Prime Minister Najib Miqati said after a meeting with President Michel Aoun that the Cabinet will be convened as soon as the 2022 budget is received, which he expects to happen, “within the next two days.”  [Reuters]

RESPONSE
 
“Why has PM Miqati waited so long to call for a cabinet meeting? Two motives are clear: he delayed attempting to cajole Amal and Hezbollah into dropping their opposition to the investigation of the Beirut Port blast and the need to pass a national budget. The latter is  a requirement of the IMF negotiations which Lebanon is desperate to complete. This dysfunctionality among the political elites does not serve Lebanon or the Lebanese people. Better to call out those opposed to moving forward so that the Lebanese will know who the true patriots are.”
 
-ATFL Vice President for Policy Jean AbiNader
Building a Modern Republic

In this op-ed, Kullna Irada outlines their vision for political success. Their philosophy is based on two foundational beliefs. The first is that there is a unified Lebanese identity that transcends confessional differences. The second is that rebuilding Lebanon requires a true republic that “reflects, protects, and cultivates” its citizens. Other key tenants include sovereignty, a restructured state, and an economy built to foster growth and social equity. [L’Orient Today]

RESPONSE
 
“This is an example of civil society efforts that have been going on since the garbage strike, if not before. Forward thinking citizens understand that there is no single, short term solution and are mobilizing for the longer term struggle to revitalize Lebanon as a republic. This begins with people defining their priorities by voting for candidates who pledge and then act to remove corruption, instill responsibility, act transparently, and put the needs of the people as a defining principle for government actions. We should support their vision and Lebanon’s future.”
 
-ATFL Vice President for Policy 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.

This Week In Lebanon: 1/8/2022

January 8, 2022

Lebanon’s PM Miqati Issues Rare Criticism of Hezbollah
On Monday, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah delivered a speech where he labeled King Salman of Saudi Arabia as a terrorist and attributed the spread of Islamic extremism to the king. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Miqati rebuked these comments and stated they do not reflect the sentiment of the Lebanese government or the Lebanese people.  [I24 News]

RESPONSE

“PM MIkati’s response to Nazsrallah’s speech was, ‘For God’s sake, have mercy on Lebanon and the Lebanese people and stop the hateful sectarian and political rhetoric.’ It is clear that the Prime Minister and the Lebanese people have had enough. Hezbollah claims they are  part of the political fabric of Lebanon. If that is the case then they should act on it then and prove through their actions that they support the IMF negotiations, allow Judge Bitar to do his job, and find a solution to the maritime border issue rather than antagonizing countries in the region.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

PM Miqati Says Will Convene Cabinet Within Days

After a nearly three month standoff since October, Prime Minister Najib Miqati said after a meeting with President Michel Aoun that the Cabinet will be convened as soon as the 2022 budget is received, which he expects to happen, “within the next two days.”  [Reuters]

RESPONSE
“Why has PM Miqati waited so long to call for a cabinet meeting? Two motives are clear: he delayed attempting to cajole Amal and Hezbollah into dropping their opposition to the investigation of the Beirut Port blast and the need to pass a national budget. The latter is  a requirement of the IMF negotiations which Lebanon is desperate to complete. This dysfunctionality among the political elites does not serve Lebanon or the Lebanese people. Better to call out those opposed to moving forward so that the Lebanese will know who the true patriots are.”

-ATFL Vice President for Policy Jean AbiNader

Building a Modern Republic

In this op-ed, Kullna Irada outlines their vision for political success. Their philosophy is based on two foundational beliefs. The first is that there is a unified Lebanese identity that transcends confessional differences. The second is that rebuilding Lebanon requires a true republic that “reflects, protects, and cultivates” its citizens. Other key tenants include sovereignty, a restructured state, and an economy built to foster growth and social equity. [L’Orient Today]

RESPONSE
“This is an example of civil society efforts that have been going on since the garbage strike, if not before. Forward thinking citizens understand that there is no single, short term solution and are mobilizing for the longer term struggle to revitalize Lebanon as a republic. This begins with people defining their priorities by voting for candidates who pledge and then act to remove corruption, instill responsibility, act transparently, and put the needs of the people as a defining principle for government actions. We should support their vision and Lebanon’s future.”

-ATFL Vice President for Policy 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 01/07/2022

DAILY NEWS

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Responds to Hezbollah’s Inflammatory Comments 
The KSA’s ambassador to Lebanon, Waleed al Bukhari, said via Saudi media sources that, “the kingdom’s relations with Lebanon are too deep to be affected with irresponsible and absurd statements.” The ambassador also called on the Lebanese government to counteract, ” activities that affect the kingdom and its neighbouring Gulf countries.” [Reuters]

Maronite Patriarch Warns That Government Paralysis Harms ‘National Parternship’
In a meeting with the French ambassador to Lebanon, Anne Grillo, the Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara al-Ra’i stressed the need for the Lebanese government to return to its normal function, adding that, “it is unacceptable to put obstacles in its way or to involve it in matter that it has nothing to do with and has no jurisdiction over, such as the issue of Judge (Tarek) Bitar, the thing that is harming national partnership.” [Naharnet]

Industry Minister Meets with Ambassador Shea
Minister of Industry George Bouchikian met with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea to discuss their bilateral economic relationship. Among the topics addressed was the training of Lebanese industrialists in the adherence and application of American standards and specifications. [L’Orient Today]

 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

What A Mess In Lebanon As Elections Bring Out The Best And The Worst!
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “In a sign of his frustration, President Aoun has called for an urgent dialogue centered around a financial recovery plan, administrative and financial decentralization, and a national defense strategy, which he said was the state’s responsibility to implement alone. This move hints at emerging friction between him and his allies within the heavily armed Hezbollah . . . At the same time, FPM head Gebran Bassil criticized Hezbollah-affiliated ministers for their role in the continued cabinet stalemate and called into question the viability of the Mar Mikhael agreement linking FPM, Amal, Marada, and Hezbollah. Others within that alliance were quick to defend the agreement but Bassil’s gesture exposes a liability in the current arrangement that may create opportunities for the opposition to take some seats away from the members of the alliance this May.”
Read More Here

Arab Center Washington DC
The Need For An International Development Fund For Lebanon
Nabeel Khoury

Khoury writes, “An international fund that pools and targets foreign aid and is managed by an independent board of directors is a rational solution when compared to the prevailing fragmentation and politicization of aid for Lebanon. To be sure, it would be an ambitious, complicated, and difficult project to undertake, especially politically. Donor countries do not historically like to hand off their funds for some other entity to control and disburse. The political will must be there before the mechanism could be set in place. The motivation can be humanitarian in nature, elicited by the dire situation—such as humanitarian disaster, as is the case in Yemen, and impending state failure with serious social, economic, and security consequences, as is the case in Lebanon. The established need, however, will not lead to a concerted effort to help unless big powers, or an international organization like the United Nations, suggest it and exert leadership and influence to make it happen.” 
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 1/06/2022

DAILY NEWS

Reconvening of Cabinet In Question, Not for Certain Say Sources 
According to Naharnet, several local newspapers and media outlets report that a new settlement regarding the resumption of Cabinet sessions may be underway, potentially even resolved, which could involve an ‘extraordinary legislative session’ in the Lebanese Parliament. “Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Shiite Duo sources said the phone call between Aoun and Berri took place at Miqati’s request and exclusively tackled the issue of launching an extraordinary legislative session. The sources also ruled out a ‘bargain’ between the port probe and government files while describing the Aoun-Berri-Miqati talks as “important.” [Naharnet]

Lebanese Schools, Universities to Reopen
During a joint press conference yesterday between the Health Minister Dr. Firass Abiad and the Minister of Education Abbas Al Halabi, they made an announcement confirming that schools and other educational institutions including universities will reopen on January 10th. Al Halabi added that the ministry will publish the numbers of Covid-19 in each school and education institution and distribute rapid tests to them. [The961]

Family of Amer Fakhoury Suing Lebanon and Its Intelligence Agency 
The family of Amer Fakhoury, who worked with an Israeli-backed militia in southern Lebanon until 2000, is suing the government of Lebanon, the General Directorate of General Security and its chief, Abbas Ibrahim, who is known for negotiating prisoner swaps and freeing captives, including US citizens. “By attempting to intervene and appear in the proceedings against Iran, the Lebanese government has become a full-fledged party and has subjected itself to the US Court’s jurisdiction. Thus, the plaintiffs have filed a supplemental complaint naming the Lebanese government as a defendant,” said Amer Fakhoury’s family in an official statement, as cited by Joseph Haboush. [Al Arabiya English]

 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

What A Mess In Lebanon As Elections Bring Out The Best And The Worst!
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “In a sign of his frustration, President Aoun has called for an urgent dialogue centered around a financial recovery plan, administrative and financial decentralization, and a national defense strategy, which he said was the state’s responsibility to implement alone. This move hints at emerging friction between him and his allies within the heavily armed Hezbollah . . . At the same time, FPM head Gebran Bassil criticized Hezbollah-affiliated ministers for their role in the continued cabinet stalemate and called into question the viability of the Mar Mikhael agreement linking FPM, Amal, Marada, and Hezbollah. Others within that alliance were quick to defend the agreement but Bassil’s gesture exposes a liability in the current arrangement that may create opportunities for the opposition to take some seats away from the members of the alliance this May.”
Read More Here

The National
Lebanon’s President Has Leverage But His Alliance With Hezbollah Isn’t Over
Michael Young

Young writes, “After 2005, when Syria’s army was forced to withdraw from Lebanon, those seeking Hezbollah’s negotiated disarmament were frustrated because the party had allied itself with Mr Aoun’s and Mr Bassil’s Free Patriotic Movement. This created a political stalemate in Lebanon that prevented progress in pushing the party to surrender its weapons. It would be premature today to assume that the Aoun-Hezbollah alliance is over. If anything, Mr Aoun is opportunistically holding up the possibility of a divorce to avoid such an outcome by ensuring that Mr Bassil can succeed him. However, for the first time the president has placed the formula for a defence strategy on the table – based on a Hezbollah that must be subordinate to the state, and therefore whose weapons, implicitly, must be integrated into a larger entity that retains paramount responsibility for defending the nation. The party, which is keen on preserving an independent military capability outside the confines of the state, mainly to benefit Iran, is unwilling to enter into a serious national discussion on the matter.”
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 1/05/2022

DAILY NEWS

PM Miqati Says Will Convene Cabinet Within Days
After a nearly three month standoff since October, Prime Minister Najib Miqati said after a meeting with President Michel Aoun that the Cabinet will be convened as soon as the 2022 budget is received, which he expects to happen, “within the next two days.” [Reuters]

Lebanese Lira Hits Record Low of 30,000 LL to 1 USD
The pound is trading at 30,000 LL on the black market, reaching a new low in Lebanon’s financial history. [Naharnet]

Labor Minister Opens Investigation Into Suspected Abuse of Migrant Worker in Circulated Video
In a statement, the Minister of Labor Moustafa Bayram announced the opening of an investigation into circumstances surrounding a widely-circulated video online depicting a man dragging a woman presumed to be a migrant domestic worker across the ground by her hair. The statement said, “After watching the video that shows a savage offense against a migrant domestic worker, the minister took initiative and opened a special investigation.” [L’Orient Today]

UNIFIL Urges Investigation Be Conducted on Bint Jbeil Incident 
UNIFIL called on Lebanese authorities to investigate a Tuesday night incident in the southern town of Bint Jbeil in which unknown perpetrators attacked a group of UNIFIL peacekeepers. According to Naharnet, “Local media reported that residents of the southern town of Bint Jbeil scuffled with Irish peacekeepers who they said were taking photographs of residential homes. The reports added that the U.N. force was not accompanied by Lebanese troops.” [Naharnet]

 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

L’Orient Today
Building a Modern Republic
Kulluna Irada

Kulluna Irada writes, “In recent months, there has been a debate on whether the optimal election strategy should involve a large “tent” coalition that includes “traditional” political figures that are part of the opposition, or whether it would be best to form smaller but more homogenous coalitions. Our main role is to help resolve divisions and actively engage as a facilitator/mediator while respecting the positions of the stakeholders. To the extent possible, we favor a unified opposition list (in each of the 15 election districts) with a core that includes as many of the new breed of leaders as possible. We believe this formula has historically proven effective including in recent syndicate elections. In that regard, we’ve been working with our partners to elevate the debate across two axes: first, helping articulate a political vision that truly reflects the October 17th spirit; and second using data and analytics to elucidate the regional- and electoral-law complexities to raise the chances of electoral success.”
Read More Here

The National Interest
Solving Syria’s Crisis Starts with Sanctioning Iranian Oil
Andrew J. Tabler & Matthew Zweig

Tabler and Zweig write, “Iran is sending fuel to Hezbollah because Lebanon is in the midst of a historic economic crisis that has led to a national energy shortage. The Biden administration says it wants to provide relief to Lebanon while showing Iran is not a true friend of the Lebanese people. Sanctioning Lebanese imports of Iranian fuel via Syria would cut off one source of supply, incentivize Lebanese imports from legitimate sources, and prevent Hezbollah from using the country’s energy crisis for its political benefit. Enforcing sanctions on Iranian crude and finished product into Syria would be an important first step to deny the regime its energy lifeline and, combined with other measures, incentivize it to make political concessions as part of UNSCR 2254, including the constitutional committee, release of detainees, and holding free and fair elections.”
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.

What a Mess in Lebanon as Elections Bring Out the Best and the Worst!

Shortly after UN Secretary General António Guterres left Lebanon on December 21, he posted a tweet, “The Lebanese people expect their political leaders to restore the economy, provide a functioning government, end corruption, & safeguard human rights. Political leaders do not have the right to be divided & paralyze the country.”

As if to validate his criticism, Lebanon’s politicians soon entered into another heated argument with significant implications for the May 15 parliamentary elections. According to its constitution, the president must be elected within five months of the new parliament’s seating, although this rule has been violated in the past when political leaders were unable to agree on a candidate. There were rumors in mid-2021 that Hezbollah now preferred aligning with the Christian Marada Party and its president Suleiman Frangieh Jr., grandson of the former president of Lebanon from whom he takes his name, as their preferred candidate following the convention that the president of the republic be a Maronite Catholic. This has now exploded into a war of words with other politicians, especially the incumbent president, Michel Aoun, as well as his son-in-law and proposed political heir, Gebran Bassil, who is head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Every contentious issue, from the Beirut Port investigation led by Judge Tarek Bitar, to the upcoming elections, and the state of diplomatic relations with the Gulf Arab states, has defined new redlines between the groups.

In a Christmas Eve interview, President Aoun said Lebanon had reached economic collapse as a result of “misdeeds, theft, corruption, and failures by the system” and that a much-needed “intellectual and practical” change would surely be implemented to correct it. According to the Al-Jazeera story, he later tweeted, “What the Lebanese people are suffering and living today is a result of deeds by those in power in the past who were entrusted with citizen’s lives.” This statement came after Parliament’s rejection of the FPM’s proposed changes to the election law which would have strengthened the opportunity for Christian voter participation. The opposition was led by two of FPM’s once close political allies, the Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

Disputes over the Beirut Blast investigation led by Judge Bitar have been festering for months and have also been blocking the Council of Ministers from re-convening and moving ahead with Parliament’s business, which may soon change after a nearly three month paralysis. The gridlock reflects the unwillingness of Amal and Hezbollah ministers to attend Cabinet meetings until Judge Bitar is removed from the case. This has caused a split within the ruling elite, as President Aoun and Prime Minister Mikati support Judge Bitar’s effort, while Amal and Hezbollah dismiss it as politically motivated in reaction to the subpoenas issued to some of their members.

This emerging split was also reflected by the controversy with the Gulf countries over resurfaced remarks made by the previous Minister of Information, George Kordahi, in which he criticized Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen years before he joined the government. This resulted in an economic and political boycott by a number of Gulf States. As Prime Minister Mikati and others tried to repair relations with the Saudis and the others, Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah called out the Saudis as the sponsors of worldwide terrorism, and of holding Lebanese nationals working in the Kingdom as hostages to its policies.

Not long after Nasrallah’s remarks were made, Prime Minister Miqati issued a statement saying that they, “do not represent the Lebanese government and the majority of the Lebanese and it is not in Lebanon’s interest to abuse any Arab country and Gulf countries in particular.”  A day later, President Michel Aoun also issued a statement, emphasizing his, “keenness on Lebanon’s Arab and international ties, especially with the Arab Gulf nations, topped by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

All of these and other currents of discontent have led key politicians to call for a new order in the existing political coalitions. Currently, the alliance between FPM, Marada, Amal, and Hezbollah control the Parliament’s agenda and is able to obstruct legislation, including prerequisite reforms needed for any future international investments. In a sign of his frustration, President Aoun has called for an urgent dialogue centered around a financial recovery plan, administrative and financial decentralization, and a national defense strategy, which he said was the state’s responsibility to implement alone. This move hints at emerging friction between him and his allies within the heavily armed Hezbollah. This also reflects a similar call last year from Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi for an international conference and his focus on a national dialogue to inspire a common agenda of support. Both Prime Minister Mikati and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri said that they would attend the national dialogue if invited.

Even more consequential were statements from the ruling triad of Speaker Berri, PM Mikati, and President Aoun regarding the need to hold elections on time. Any postponement would likely result in sanctions and other penalties from the US, UK, and Europe which have all made on-time and transparent elections a critical condition for continued support. At the same time, FPM head Gebran Bassil criticized Hezbollah-affiliated ministers for their role in the continued cabinet stalemate and called into question the viability of the Mar Mikhael agreement linking FPM, Amal, Marada, and Hezbollah. Others within that alliance were quick to defend the agreement but Bassil’s gesture exposes a liability in the current arrangement that may create opportunities for the opposition to take some seats away from the members of the alliance this May.

How this will play out in the coming months will define Lebanon’s future prospects for reforms and renewal. Even President Aoun, in the interview cited earlier, said it would take six to seven years for Lebanon to recover from its multiple crises. The World Bank and IMF are less sanguine and estimate 10-12 years. No matter what the scenario, the underlying reality is that steps and actions must be taken within a strategic vision that sees Lebanon for the Lebanese, not as a pawn of political and economic elites manipulating the system for the sake of their own interests and those of their external patrons.

The next steps are for the Council of Ministers to reassemble, debate the IMF agreement and national budget when they are completed, hold the elections on time, and implement a mapped out a reform agenda, otherwise Lebanon will simply not survive as the democratic, inclusive, multicultural state it aspires to be.

 

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 1/04/2022

DAILY NEWS

President Aoun, PM Miqati, Others Respond to Hezbollah’s Criticism of KSA
In a speech commemorating the death of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, Secretary General of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah addressed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia disparagingly as he said, “King, the terrorist is the one who has exported … Daeshi ideology to the world, and it is you.”  [Reuters] Not long after the remarks were made, Prime Minister Najib Miqati issued a statement saying that they, “do not represent the Lebanese government and the majority of the Lebanese and it is not in Lebanon’s interest to abuse any Arab country and Gulf countries in particular.” [L’Orient Today] A day later, President Michel Aoun also issued a statement, assuring his, “keenness on Lebanon’s Arab and international ties, especially with the Arab Gulf nations, topped by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” [Naharnet]

Lebanese Lira Reaches New Low: ~29,000 LL to 1 USD
“According to apps monitoring the black market rate, the pound was trading at 29,000 to the dollar on Monday afternoon, a record low.” [Naharnet]

National Head on COVID-19 Vaccines Not in Favor of Lockdown
Following Sunday’s statements made by Minister of Health Firass Abiad in which the possibility of another country-wide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic was raised, Rahman Bizri – the head of the national committee on COVID-19 vaccines – urged everyone to take the vaccine instead, adding that a lockdown would only provide a temporary public health solution at the expense of serious economic and educational consequences. [L’Orient Today]

 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Foreign Policy
The Human Cost of Normalizing Assad
Alex Lederman

Lederman writes, “Nine out of 10 Syrian refugee households in Lebanon now live in extreme poverty, with roughly half of all families food insecure, according to the United Nations. The COVID-19 death rate for Syrian refugees is four times Lebanon’s national average, as refugees struggle to access medical care. Refugees have been victims of hate crimes and their camps targets of arson attacks. Larger geopolitical dynamics are out of refugees’ hands, who just struggle to get by day to day. But they’re the ones who most bear the costs of these changes on the ground. Stuck between a bad situation and a worse one, some have decided to risk the journey home to Syria. That so many double back to Lebanon, however, is testament to their harrowing experiences.”
Read More Here

Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses
Lebanon: A Country Stuck in Multiple Crises
Jatin Kumar

Kumar writes, “Thus, in order to resolve these economic, political, diplomatic and humanitarian challenges, the Lebanese government needs to introduce reform measures immediately, without any further delay. These include restructuring the economic order, ensuring fiscal prudence, reforming the financial sector and recalibrating the monetary policy. Only with such measures in place, the country will be able to attract assistance from international organisations such as the IMF. On the diplomatic front, it is difficult to ascertain whether the resignation of Kordahi will aid in ending the diplomatic crisis, considering the influence of Hezbollah on Lebanese politics as a major source of condemnation by the Gulf countries. Furthermore, the extent and magnitude of the sectarian divide shall also have a major impact on the country through its direct implications for peace and development, thus having domestic and regional ramifications.”
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 1/03/2022

DAILY NEWS

Parliamentary Elections Set for May 15, Minister of Interior Decrees
According to an interior ministry statement on December 27, Lebanon’s parliamentary elections has been set for May 15, 2022. Expatriate voters will cast ballots on either May 6 or May 8, depending on their country of residence. [Reuters]

President Aoun Calls for National Defence Dialogue, Mar Mikhael Alliance Called Into Question
Lebanese President and founder of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement Michel Aoun last Monday called for an “urgent national dialogue” targeting the country’s defense strategy, widely thought to be in reference to Hezbollah’s weapons. [Reuters] “Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has announced that he would attend national dialogue if invited by President Michel Aoun, as he warned against the postponement of parliamentary elections.” [Naharnet] Ali Hassan Khalil – Amal Movement MP, former Finance Minister, and close political ally to Berri – defended the national partnership with Hezbollah, which came after FPM head Gebran Bassil criticized the role of Hezbollah-affiliated ministers in the current cabinet standoff and called the Mar Mikhael alliance between FPM and Hazbollah into question. [L’Orient Today] Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah said that his party, “is committed to the Mar Mikhael agreement and is willing to improve it in line with the national interest.” [L’Orient Today]

Lebanon Seizes Millions of Amphetamine Pills in Citrus Fruit Shipment 
Lebanese Authorities last Wednesday intercepted nine million captagon pills, thwarting a smuggling attempt involving citrus fruit bound for the Gulf, which is the latest high profile counter-narcotics operation publicized by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities. “We want to send a message to the Arab world about our seriousness and our work to thwart evil from harming our Arab brothers,” Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said. [Reuters]

Lebanon Ranked 1st In The Middle East In EF English Proficiency Index
EF Education, a Swedish international education company founded in 1995, released its yearly report on the English Proficiency Index as part of the company’s mission to promote English language education around the world. Within the Middle East region, Lebanon scored first out of 12 countries, measuring the most fluent English speakers in 2021. Additionally, the Index placed Lebanon in the 34th position worldwide for moderate proficiency with an EF EPI score of 536. [The961]

 

OPINION & ANALYSIS

The National Interest
How Turkey Can Be a True Ally to Lebanon
Adnan Nasser

Nasser writes, “When Turkish foreign minister Cavusoglu met with his Lebanese counterpart, Abdallah Bou Habib, they discussed ways to strengthen their bilateral relationship by developing economic sectors such as tourism, energy, and agriculture and by resolving the diplomatic crisis with Riyadh … Indeed, Lebanese politicians have shown a readiness to resume a state of normal relations with Riyadh and the other Gulf nations. However, recalibration of diplomatic ties must not mean Lebanese leaders should be let off the hook for corruption, nor should any international institution be forgiven for allowing years of economic mismanagement without any accountability.” 
Read More Here

 

Al Monitor
Lebanon Campaigns to Revive Tourism amid Economic Crisis
Hanan Hamdan

Hamdan writes, “The Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, in cooperation with Lebanon’s Economic and Social Council, launched Nov. 30 the #GiveLebanonABreak campaign, calling on Lebanese officials to stop their political bickering and give the Lebanese people a break in December to spend the holidays in peace…Some Lebanese were pleased with the campaign, sharing the promo video and using the hashtag, demanding a holiday ‘break.’ However, many criticized it, as they believed it was a naive and superficial campaign. Some even said it only targeted well-off families that have the luxury of overcoming the crises, and they have become very few in Lebanon.”
Read More Here

 

UNICEF Report
Violent Beginnings: Children Growing Up in Lebanon’s Crisis

Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid, the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) on Violence against Children, emphasizes, “Lebanon’s crisis threatens the present and the future of millions of children. Ensuring their protection from abuse, harm, and violence and safeguarding their rights are needed more than ever.”

Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Lebanon Representative says, “Children’s safety and wellbeing are intricately connected to every pillar of a well-functioning society … it takes a village – food, housing, healthcare, regular schooling, thriving families and functioning social services and institutions – to help children grow up free from harm. When society begins to crumble, children are left extremely vulnerable to abuse, violence and exploitation.”
Access the Full Report 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.