Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Although much of the rationale presented by Lebanon blames the Syria refugee crisis as the main factor in its economic decline, its infrastructure and deficiencies predate this crisis. Recognizing why Lebanon’s infrastructure is inadequate and how it has failed to exploit earlier support commitments are important for understanding what can be done to advance the likely success of the new agreement.

This blog, the second of two, reviews articles by The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS) that survey how Lebanon’s budget process is unable to make badly needed capital investments in infrastructure and question the value of yet another donors conference in supporting Lebanon’s revival without a broader vision of Lebanon in the future.

A useful background is provided in an article that exam...

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A consistent message ATFL hears in meetings with US officials is that the Lebanese government has to be serious about reforms and tackle endemic corruption, administrative malaise, and bureaucratic obstacles. Since Prime Minister Designate Saad Hariri has staked his political future on the implementation of his Capital Investment Plan, relying on CEDRE pledges for funding, this message has greater gravity for Lebanon’s stability.

In a recent press release on the eventual Ministerial Statement, Hariri “pointed out that any government that would be formed will include in its ministerial statement all the reforms and projects of the CEDRE conference, stressing that all political parties have already agreed to this.” The ministerial statement describes the overarching program for the incoming g...

Thursday, November 15, 2018

There is not much that can be said to explain Hezbollah’s latest efforts to torpedo PM Designate Saad Hariri’s by insisting, at the last minute, on a ministerial portfolio for their allied Sunni members in Parliament. Even President Aoun insists that the previous configuration, arrived at after almost six months of consultations, is the preferred outcome. Acting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil suggested a solution in a meeting with the Prime Minister and Nabih Berri, Speaker of the Parliament, yet the outcome is still uncertain. Meanwhile, Lebanon continues its downward economic spiral and lags on enacting important legislation to deal with widespread unhappiness with the state of government services.

Insiders insist that Hezbollah is playing a long game to undermine the current government a...

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

President Michel Aoun must be gnashing his teeth as his erstwhile partner, Hezbollah, has created yet another obstacle to the formation of the government, insisting on the allocation of a ministerial position to its Sunni allies in the March 8 bloc. After coming within sight of a deal before this latest roadblock, Prime Minister designate Saad Hariri decided it was better to stay in Paris after expending enormous energy placating all of the demands so that a list was almost assured. Almost – until Hezbollah decided that no government was better for its interests, once again giving critics the opportunity to challenge its participation in any government.

Syria wasted no time in building on its success at the Istanbul meeting of Russia, Germany, France, and Turkey to dismiss the UN’s formula...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Iran seeks to consolidate its wartime investments into post-war business opportunities. With conflict areas winnowing down to pockets in the southwest, northeast, and northwest of Syria and its fortunes diminishing due to increased sanctions from the US and others, Iran is striving to claim rewards from a grateful Assad regime. It has signed several contracts over the past two years that give it a dominant role in the reconstruction of the power sector and other infrastructure sectors that may eventually put it in competition with Syria’s other benefactor, Russia.

As an article in Defense One puts it, beyond economic benefits, having a dominant role in Syria’s economy feeds into its strategy to become a powerful regional player and extends its strategic depth, making it less vulnerable to l...

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