Thursday, September 27, 2018

The annual country report on Lebanon published by the US State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism begins with a clear statement, “Lebanon was a committed ally in the defeat-ISIS fight during 2017, and its ground forces represented one of the most effective counterterrorism partners in the region. It is worth reviewing in light of the recurring charges that Lebanon does not do enough to prevent terrorism and terrorism-related financing.

The United States provided security assistance and training to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and worked with Lebanon’s defense and law enforcement organizations, such as the Internal Security Forces (ISF), to build its counterterrorism capabilities.” The report also notes that “Lebanon is a member of the Global Coalition...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

On August 30th the UN Security Council renewed the mandate of the UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) for a year. UN Security Council members expressed serious concerns, according to VOANews.com,“that violations of the cease-fire agreement between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict and urged international support for Lebanon’s armed forces and their stepped up deployment in the south and at sea.”

Rodney Hunter, the USUN Mission’s political coordinator, told the UN Security Council during its meeting that twelve years after the council imposed an arms embargo “it is unacceptable that Hezbollah continues to flout this embargo, Lebanon’s sovereignty, and the will of the majority of Lebanese people.”

The centerpiece of UNIFIL’s mandate is UNSC Resolution 1701, which limit...

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The siege of Idlib has focused the world once again on the humanitarian and moral tragedy of Syria, this time in response to the likely high cost of rooting out the remaining extremist militias in the north. The proposal of the Astana partners – Russia, Turkey, and Iran along with Syria –  to lock in a compromise alternative that will lessen the civilian casualty toll, limit the number of new refugees fleeing into Turkey, and protect the Assad regime from increased international sanctions is marginally credible.

In an article published in Defense One, Representative Adam Kinzinger (Rep. IL), an Air Force veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, noted in exasperation that “We [the US government] cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the horrific reality in Syria right now. We cannot isolate ourselves f...

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

There are mixed assessments of Lebanon’s economy ranging from desperation to optimism, and depending on one’s choice of indicators, any judgement can be justified. The only real consensus seems to be that the Central Bank (BDL) is the glue that holds Lebanon’s economy together, so when Riad Salame, the Governor speaks, it’s smart to pay attention.

In a recent CNBC interview, he challenged reports that Lebanon’s economy has been greatly weakened by a shrinking GDP fed by lower rates of tourism, remittances, and investment, the lack of a government, and the continued impact of border closures and Syrian refugees. However, Salame acknowledged that “faster progress in political reconciliation and economic transparency as crucial to meeting the country's desperate need for better infrastructure,...

Thursday, September 6, 2018

While government formation continues to sputter, calling up any number of conspiracy theories, PM Saad Hariri has given it his best shot, submitting a draft ministerial team makeup to President Michel Aoun this week. It has been reported that infighting among Christians and Druze is the core disagreement over the government’s composition. In the meantime, Lebanon faces yet another challenge in recalibrating its work with UNWRA after the withdrawal of US foreign assistance to Palestinian refugees, replaced by contributions from several Gulf countries. Although UNWRA schools started as scheduled, there is still a great deal to be done if the financing transition is to take place without further harm to Palestinians in camps and elsewhere.

As mentioned earlier this year, the Druze and the Futu...

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