Lebanon Daily News Brief 11/11/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Lebanese Parliament Fails to Elect President Once Again
According to the National, Lebanon’s parliament failed to elect a president on Thursday when it convened for a fifth electoral session to elect a new head of state. It was the first session since the end of previous president Michel Aoun’s term.” [
The National]

PM Mikati: IMF Deal Still Reachable without President or Fully Formed Government
According to Reuters, “Lebanon could still finalise a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout despite having no president and no fully-empowered government, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Thursday.” [
Reuters]

Stray Bullet Strikes MEA Plane on Approach into Beirut Airport
According to AP News, “A stray bullet hit a Middle East Airlines jet while landing in Beirut on Thursday, causing some material damage. No one among the passengers or crew was hurt, the head of the Lebanese airline company said.” [
AP News]

USAID Announces $50 million Supporting Matriculation to AUB, LAU, NDU
According to Naharnet, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power announced Thursday that USAID will provide $50 million for Lebanese and refugee students to attend the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanese American University (LAU), and Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU).” [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Innocent Victims Of Beirut’s Politics
Jean AbiNaderAbiNader writes, “Lebanon’s fragility is underscored by its gravely weakened education and health sectors; the miserable condition and cost of public transportation; its devalued economy; and the ongoing threats to its security and stability. Anyone who says that these are temporary conditions has not been in the streets of Lebanon lately. Consider the cholera-infested areas of the north, Lebanese dumpster diving in Beirut, or the littered streets and beaches. While there is some agreement that a consensus president is needed, the lack of agreement on implementing the IMF reform package is less reassuring . . . The hollowing out of state institutions and protections of civil and human rights will delay the reconstructing of a credible, professional public sector. The first needed remediation is a package of social support services that are inclusive, equitable, and transparent. As of now, the social contract between the state and its employees is frazzled, fraught with omissions, exclusions, and nepotism, and subject to the whims of political leaders ensuring their survival by pandering to their constituents.”

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Brookings
Hezbollah’s Dilemmas
Daniel L. BymanByman writes, “The Lebanese Hezbollah is no longer the same organization that in 2006 battled the Israeli army to a standstill: the group today is more global, but has a weaker domestic position than in the past. For the last decade, Hezbollah has focused its formidable energies on helping its longtime ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, win the country’s civil war. As that conflict winds down with Assad secure in power, Hezbollah is pulled in many competing directions. Lebanon itself is in crisis, with Hezbollah’s own legitimacy declining. Iran is pushing Hezbollah to be even more expansive, continuing to help fight Israel and to bolster militant groups in Iraq, Yemen, and other countries. Hezbollah retains its enmity towards Israel and remains a dangerous threat, but the group appears careful to avoid activities that might escalate into all-out war. The United States can put more financial pressure on Hezbollah and otherwise attempt to weaken the group, but the group’s fate will ultimately depend on Lebanese and regional dynamics, with the group exercising considerable influence in Lebanon and the region, though not necessarily seeking greater conflict with Israel or the United States. Until the Lebanese themselves put their own house in order by reducing corruption, engaging in economic reform, and improving transparency, there will be limits on how much the United States can, or should, engage with Lebanon.”

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L’Orient Today
Why is the Mediterranean Basin Warming Twice as Quickly as the Global Average?
Lyanna AlameddineAlameddine writes, “Snowfall in the middle of the desert, sandstorms, extreme heat, prolonged drought, uncontrolled rainfall: severe weather is increasingly affecting the Middle East. As the COP27 climate conference continues in Sharm el-Sheikh, we shed light on climate issues facing the region.”

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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 11/09/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

LAF Trains Against Bank Heists
According to Al-Monitor, “The Lebanese army held a training exercise Tuesday that was seemingly in response to the string of bank heists in the country. The army training simulated a ‘security incident’ at a bank. The purpose was to ‘detain the perpetrators.’ US and British trainers assisted with the exercise, the army said in a tweet.” [
Al-Monitor]

USAID Administrator Power Announces $72 Million in Humanitarian Aid to Lebanon
According to Reuters,The United States pledged $72 million in humanitarian assistance to Lebanon on Wednesday aimed at helping to feed hundreds of thousands of Lebanese struggling to put food on the table, the director of USAID Samantha Power said during a visit to Lebanon. Power said the aid would allow 660,000 new beneficiaries to be added to the list of people receiving support from the United States Agency for International Development.” [
Reuters]

Lebanon-Bound Fuel Trucks Destroyed in Air Strike Over Syria 
According to the Reuters, “At least two fuel trucks were destroyed in an air strike by an unidentified drone on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq late on Tuesday, Iraqi security and border officials told Reuters . . . ran’s state-run Press TV channel confirmed the attack and accused the United States of carrying it out, saying ‘a convoy of 22 tankers carrying fuel to Lebanon crossing from Iraq to Syria was attacked by U.S. drones’ at the Syrian town of Albukamal.” [
Reuters]

Vaccination Campaign Against Cholera Launched in Lebanon
According to Al-Monitor, “Lebanon began its campaign to roll out cholera vaccinations last weekend in the country’s northern governorate of Akkar, the epicenter of the outbreak . . . Four-thousand prison inmates and officials have already been vaccinated from a stock of over 13,000 vaccinations donated by France last week. Another 600,000 doses from UNHCR and the World Health Organization are expected to arrive in Lebanon on Wednesday, to be distributed to Lebanese and Syrians in areas with the highest infection rates.” [
Al-Monitor]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

L’Orient Today
Is Life in Lebanon Still Cheaper Than Before the Crisis for Those Who Have ‘Fresh Dollars’?
Philippe Hage Boutros and Fouad Gemayel

Hage Boutros and Gemayel write, “Earlier this year, a survey published by the German organization the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung suggested that only 13.6 percent of Lebanese have access to fresh dollars, half of them through their salaries, paid either partially or fully in foreign currency. This portion of the population is considered privileged given that its purchasing power is preserved or has even increased since the onset of the financial crisis in Lebanon in 2019. This was particularly true in 2020 when consumer prices were slow to keep pace with the depreciation of the Lebanese lira. The picture, however, is more nuanced today. Dollar earners are still privileged, but their purchasing power is increasingly inching toward where it was pre-crisis. Two years ago, they could afford some luxuries they could not have before. Today, however, they find themselves once again conscious of the prices of some goods. In order to offer a clearer image of the current situation, L’Orient-Le Jouranalyzed the figures published by the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) considering the lira-dollar exchange rate on the parallel market to obtain a price trend in real value. At first glance, it appears that in September 2020, the purchasing power of a dollar earner in Lebanon on a stable monthly income had increased 2.2 times compared to September 2019. In September 2022, this same income was worth only 1.6 times what it was three years ago. On closer inspection, the conclusions are more nuanced.”

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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 11/08/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Egypt to Send 17 Tons’ Worth of Cholera Vaccines
According to the National, “Egypt will send 17 tonnes of medicine and vaccines to help tackle Lebanon’s deadly cholera outbreak. The aid will arrive by military plane in Beirut on Wednesday morning, the Egyptian embassy in Lebanon said. The mission said Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati requested help with the outbreak — its first in three decades — from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi at the recent Arab League summit in Algeria.” [
The National]

USAID Administrator Power in Lebanon for Three-Day Visit
According to Al Arabiya English with reporting from Joseph Haboush, “USAID director Samantha Power arrived in Beirut on Tuesday for a three-day visit aimed at providing support to the Lebanese people, more than half of whom are in need of some form of food aid.” [
Al Arabiya English]

Interior Minister Affirms National Security Amid Presidential Vacuum
According to the Arab News, “Following a meeting with the Central Internal Security Council, caretaker minister Bassam Mawlawi said security is something all Lebanese require and ‘it is the duty of security bodies to maintain it using all available means’.” [
Arab News]

PM Mikati States Lebanon’s Vulnerability to Climate Change at COP27
According to L’Orient Today, “Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Tuesday that Lebanon is vulnerable to climate change effects that could trigger a crash in Lebanon’s gross domestic product, exacerbating its current crises. Speaking at COP27, the UN conference being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the premier pledged Lebanon’s commitment to prioritizing adaptation measures, the state-run National News Agency reported.” [
L’Orient Today]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Arab News
Lebanese Forum Delegates Unite on Implementing All Terms of Taif Agreement
Najia Houssari

Houssari writes, “The terms of a 1989 deal negotiated in Saudi Arabia to end Lebanon’s civil war and return political normalcy to the country must be implemented in full, a former minister has claimed. Rashid Derbas’ comments echoed those of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri who said on Monday that the Taif Agreement acted as a constitution providing equality among the Lebanese people.
Their remarks followed a recent forum, organized by the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Al-Bukhari and held at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the accord. Speakers at the gathering unanimously pointed out the need to apply provisions of the agreement still to be enacted and they reiterated their objections to amending them.”

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The Policy Initiative
Disaster Governance and Aid Effectiveness: the Case of Lebanon’s 3RF
Sophie Bloemeke and Mona Harb

Bloemeke and Harb write, “Two years after the Beirut Port blast destroyed one-third of Lebanon’s capital and killed more than 220 people, two of the main champions and designers of the aid architecture that now governs the recovery process left their positions in Lebanon to lead reform programs abroad. They leave behind a structure known to a few as the “3RF” – the Reform, Recovery, and Reconstruction Framework – albeit one that is largely invisible to the majority of Lebanon’s population. The 3RF is a platform established by the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank in 2020 as an institutional response to the Beirut Port explosion, which aims to provide “a framework of key actions to support the recovery and reconstruction of Beirut,” relying on “inclusive institutional arrangements” that bring together the government, international partners, the private sector, and civil society organizations (CSOs). Based on a mixed-methods study using primary data from 24 interviews, participant observation, and desk research, we conducted a study on how the 3RF has performed to date. We examined the 3RF’s effectiveness in terms of initiating reforms, institutional strengthening, and adaptability to the political context, focusing on the inclusion of CSOs, particularly at the Consultative Group level (which grouped selected CSOs) and at the sector coordination level (through working groups). The study makes two arguments. First, although it includes adaptive and effective institutional arrangements that may enable reforms, the 3RF is furthering civil society fragmentation. Second, international organizations’ incoherence and competition is consolidating the political status quo. In this article, we examine and describe three interconnected sets of structural constraints that limit the performance of the 3RF: (1) donors’ competing agendas and the platform’s institutional incoherence, (2) political stalemate and the Lebanese Government’s lack of political will, and (3) the insufficient involvement of CSOs in decision-making processes. Before expounding on these constraints, we offer an overview of the 3RF.”

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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 11/14/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Caretaker Prime Minister Meets with IMF, Regional Leaders
According to Naharnet, “Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held meetings Monday in Sharm el-Sheikh with International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif.” [
Naharnet]

Mass Return of Refugees from Lebanon to Syria
According to AP News, “Scores of Syrian refugees headed home Saturday from eastern Lebanon in the second convoy in less than two weeks as Beirut attempts to organize a mass refugee return to the war-torn country. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the ‘voluntary return’ Saturday included 330 Syrians who left from the eastern Bekaa Valley to Syria’s western Qalamoun region.” [
AP News]

Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Hosts Forum on Taif Agreement
According to the National, “Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari organised a forum at the Unesco Palace in Beirut on the 33rd anniversary of the conclusion of the Taif Agreement, which ended 15 years of civil war in Lebanon, under Arab and international sponsorship . . . ‘We desperately need to embody the formula of co-existence that was addressed by the Taif Agreement, especially with regard to the preservation of Lebanon’s identity and Arab belonging,’ Mr Bukhari said. The forum on Saturday was attended by 1,000 political, business and academic figures.” [
The National]

‘Surprise’ Candidate May Emerge in Upcoming Presidential Election Session
According to Naharnet, “As several Free Patriotic Movement lawmakers announced that their parliamentary bloc will not cast blank votes in Thursday’s presidential election session, an independent MP told ad-Diyar newspaper that a ‘surprise’ candidate will be voted for in the session. Sources close to Hezbollah meanwhile told Asharq al-Awsat daily that they rule out any breakthrough in the presidential file before the end of the year, seeing as ‘things are linked to domestic and foreign circumstances’.” [
Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

The Policy Initiative
Distorted Social Contract: The Dangerous Trajectory of Social Protection Systems in Lebanon
Sami Zoughaib

Zoughaib writes, “As Lebanon’s financial and economic crises deepen, the severe shortcomings in the country’s formal social protection system have left the population increasingly abandoned and vulnerable. Capitalizing on this grim reality, the political elites have doubled down on their regime of social privileges, aiding the select at the disadvantage of the rest. They activated informal patronage networks for their loyalists and privileged select civil servants, particularly the military. The large majority of the country that is disenfranchised, those without political significance, are left to suffer. Left behind, more and more people have sought to flee Lebanon through people-smuggling sea routes, a tragic option that has left hundreds dead so far. The failure of authorities to respond seriously to the social disaster cannot be justified with the excuses of financial constraints or technical ineptitude. The central bank generously spent from its reserves an amount equivalent to the current size of the economy (~$20 billion) on regressive subsidies, quixotic attempts to prop up the exchange rate, and transfers of capital abroad. The National Social Protection Strategy, a document that details how the country can move beyond the current system of social privileges and onto one of social protection rights, was further delayed by the Mikati government.”

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AP News
Eastern Mediterranean: A Natural Gas Hub Worth Exploring – Analysis
Dr Md. Muddassir Quamar

Dr. Quamar writes, “The international energy market has witnessed serious upheavals since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Europe, which significantly depended on Russia for its energy security, has been struggling to find alternative sources. The sanctions on Russia’s oil industry by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) has led to serious churn in the global energy supplies, already seething with shortages due to sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, the civil war in Libya, and the debilitating impact of Covid-19 on demands. This has led to rise in global energy prices, making the post-pandemic economic recovery even more daunting, including in the US and European countries. The OPEC+ decision on production cuts taken on 5 October 2022, therefore, provoked sharp reaction from President Joe Biden who blamed Saudi Arabia, warning it of “consequences” for siding with Russia. The Kingdom, on the other hand, responded by underlining its longstanding commitments to stability of the global energy market and denied political manoeuvring. While the geopolitical tensions over the global energy production and supplies are unlikely to reduce anytime soon, the existing situation has underlined the need for finding alternative sources of energy. The quest for alternatives has also been accelerated by the growing international concern over global warming and environmental degradation. The focus is on finding alternatives both in terms of clean and renewable sources and newer producers and suppliers.”

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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.

 

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Lebanon Daily News Brief 11/04/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

US Treasury Issues Sanctions on Parties Affiliated with IRGC, Hezbollah 
According to Naharnet, “The U.S. has imposed sanctions on a group of individuals, firms and vessels connected to an oil smuggling outfit said to benefit Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. More than a dozen companies, six individuals and 11 vessels flagged from around the world — from Djibouti to Panama — are included in the sanctions package, for allegedly participating in a scheme that included blending and exporting sanctioned Iranian oil.” [
Naharnet]

LAF Dismantles Narcotics, Munitions Manufacturing Facility in Baalbek Farm
According to L’Orient Today, “A small workshop manufacturing various drugs was discovered in a farm located in the village of Hoch Barda, in Baalbeck, the Lebanese Army announced Friday in a statement.” [
L’Orient Today]

Recent Flooding Incidents in Lebanon Sparks Controversy for Ramco, Ministry of Public Works
According to L’Orient Today, “On Wednesday night, the Civil Defense said that following heavy rains during the day it had rescued two citizens who were stuck in their cars on the Ghazir coastal road and the Jounieh highway, respectively . . . Ramco, the company contracted to collect solid waste in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, on Thursday responded to caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamieh’s criticisms after a second spate of street flooding in these areas in two weeks, saying the problem of roads flooding ‘did not start today’.” [
L’Orient Today]

Brawl Erupts at MTV Studio on Popular Program, Sar El Waet
According to Arab News, “Security guards fired warning shots in a desperate attempt to stop a brawl that erupted during filming of the popular Lebanese talkshow ‘Sar Al-Waqt’ — Arabic for ‘It’s About Time.’ A video circulating online shows members of the Free Patriotic Movement political party fighting with the channel’s security staff inside the MTV studio, prompting host Marcel Ghanem to cut the live feed and call for a break. The brawl was finally halted after Lebanese troops stepped in to calm the situation.” [Arab News]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

L’Orient Today
What Room for Maneuver Does the Mikati Government Have?
Salah Hijazi

Hijazi writes, “There is no new president, and the government is a caretaker cabinet. After former President Michel Aoun’s term of office expired Oct. 31, and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati failed to put together a new cabinet, the country is for the first time facing a double vacuum at the executive level. The vacuum is likely to persist, with no sign of Parliament being able to reach a consensus on a new head of state, the 14th president of the republic since independence. The situation is all the more worrying for a country grappling with an economic and financial crisis, which demands the implementation of an action plan as soon as possible. Amid the chaos, one question is now on everyone’s lips: what room for maneuver does the caretaker cabinet have to govern the country?”

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AP News
Conflict, Crisis Fuel Cholera Surge Across Mideast Hot Spots
Kareem Chehayeb

Chehayeb writes, “Cholera has swept across Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq as the countries struggle with devastated infrastructure, turmoil and housing large populations of people who have been displaced by conflict. Lebanon last month reported the first cholera case in nearly 30 years. The bacterial infection has surged globally across dozens of countries this year, with outbreaks in Haiti and across the Horn of Africa as well as the Mideast. The outbreaks of hundreds of thousands of cases driven by conflict, poverty, and climate change are a major setback for global efforts to eradicate the disease.” 

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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 11/03/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Parliament Decides Mikati Government May Proceed with Caretaker Duties
Based on a statement issued by the Lebanese Speaker of Parliament, the parliament decided that the incumbent cabinet led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati – which entered into caretaker status following last May’s parliamentary elections – may proceed with its caretaker duties, after former President Michel Aoun reached the expiration of his term without an elected successor. Several MPs clarified that while Mikati’s caretaker cabinet can continue to manage current affairs, it may not meet except in exceptional situations. [
L’Orient Today]

New Official Rate Mired in Uncertainty as Aoun Departed Presidency without Approving the ’22 Budget
According to AP News, “Spokespeople from the Finance Ministry and central bank told the AP that they did not modify their decrees that put forth the new currency peg [altering the official rate from 1,500 LL to 15,000 LL against the USD], but they cannot go into effect unless the budget does as well. Another advisor added that [Former President Michel] Aoun did not see the budget law as meeting The International Monetary Fund’s expectations, but didn’t want Lebanon to be without a budget. Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak the press, they added that the delay would allow budget to pass but without the president’s endorsement.” [AP News]

Berri Sets Date for Next Presidential Election Session in Parliament
According to Naharnet, “Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for an election session on Thursday, November 10. He said he hoped these sessions won’t turn into a ‘theatrical show’.” [
Naharnet]

LAF Commander in Chief Addresses Presidential Vacuum
In a speech delivered today by the Commander in Chief of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun, he warned that, “the country’s entry into a period of presidential vacancy, along with the ongoing political tensions, could lead to attempts to exploit the situation in order to undermine security . . . We will not allow the exploitation of the situation and the transformation of our nation into an open field for any security incident or suspicious actions . . . We have never accepted any breach of security in the past and we will never accept it in the future.” [L’Orient Today]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Arab News
Lebanon Needs A True Election To Find Its Next President

Lynn Zovighian

Zovighian writes, “While the Lebanese Constitution defines governance mechanisms for state institutions, most state entities are personality-centered fiefdoms rather than institutional. For example, there is a historical national habit to fixate on the prime minister and not the government; the speaker of the house and not the parliament; and the president and not the presidency. The constitution also assumes that a person who holds a seat of power is governing based on an institutional mandate because that is what legitimate and competent rule ought to imply . . . Michel Aoun became president in 2016 at the 46th session of parliament after 45 attempts to vote in a new head of state had failed. It took more than two and a half years. As has become a national habit, a candidate won because a deal was struck. For a deal to go through, the interests of key powerbrokers must be empowered with measurable benefits. The loss of time helps build negotiating power. Emile Lahoud was a deal. Michel Suleiman was a deal. Aoun was a deal . . . In other words, Lebanon has never experienced presidential elections. And the governance is so broken that the people do not even ask for it. The expectation is just not there. Because why pontificate when nothing will change? This old Lebanese adage also has a habitual track record. However, just because it might — perhaps — not be feasible to have a well-governed, transparent and professional election of the next president in Lebanon today, that does not mean we should not be asking for a better practice.”

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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 11/02/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

US, Lebanon Confirm Maritime Agreement Guaranteed Despite Netanyahu Victory
According to Reuters, “Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati on Wednesday said that U.S. guarantees would protect a maritime border deal with Israel should Israel’s conservative former premier Benjamin Netanyahu win a majority in elections.” Mikati said, “We’re not afraid of a change in the authorities in Israel. Whether Netanyahu wins or someone else, no one can stand in the way of this (deal).” [
Reuters]

Two Depositors Hold Up Bank in Hazmieh
According to L’Orient Today, “At least five people — including two depositors, one of whom was armed — infiltrated Crédit Libanais’ Hazmieh branch on Wednesday to demand the return of one of their group’s deposited funds, according to live images broadcasted on social media by the Spotshot news platform.” [L’Orient Today]

Arab League Urges Lebanon to Implement Reforms, Elect President
At the Arab League’s closing during its summit in Algiers, the multilateral body urged the Lebanese parliament to elect a new president of the republic aswell as to implement necessary reforms. [
L’Orient Today]

Roof Collapses at Tripoli Public School, Teenage Student Dies
According to Naharnet, A 16 years old schoolgirl died Wednesday after the ceiling of her classroom collapsed at a public school in Tripoli . . . Protestors blocked the road in Jabal Mehsen accusing the authorities of neglect.” [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

L’Orient Today
Amid The Cholera Outbreak, Lebanon’s Municipalities Shoulder The Burden

Mohamed El Chamaa

El Chamaa writes, “As Lebanon grapples with its first cholera outbreak since 1993, municipalities say they are bearing most of the financial and medical burden. This is especially true in the northern governorate of Akkar, where the vast majority of the country’s 400 confirmed cases are located . . . Lebanon’s municipalities are overstretched amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has slashed budgets, decimated the value of the Lebanese lira and limited their resources. Municipal authorities are now struggling to tackle the additional pressure of cholera. Their limited resources stem from the way municipalities are structured. According to Mona Harb, a professor of urban studies and politics at the American University of Beirut, city governments can only earn revenue through a few direct streams, such as issuing building permits and collecting municipal taxes . . . Indeed, many of the Akkar towns visited by L’Orient Today in recent days to observe the cholera response were low-income and low-density. Buildings are no more than three to four stories tall and there is little ongoing construction, which would generate the kind of income municipalities need to collect from building permits. Other sources of revenue include transfers from the state through the Independent Municipal Fund, an intergovernmental grant system funded through eleven taxes and fees collected by the Finance Ministry. However, this payment is delivered, on average, every three years instead of annually. Additionally, overall revenue is barely enough to cover administrative costs, let alone public services and, now, a cholera outbreak.”

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Al Monitor
Will Israel’s Netanyahu Upend Lebanon Gas Deal, Iran Policy?

Ben Caspit

Caspit writes, “As of this writing some 15 hours after the polls closed, opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have won Israel’s Nov. 1 elections and is set to make a dramatic comeback as prime minister, just 18 months after being ousted by the previous balloting. With a majority of votes counted, the one remaining uncertainty is the survival of the leftist Meretz party, which is teetering on the electoral threshold. If the final tally gets Meretz into the Knesset, Netanyahu’s solid majority will drop from the currently projected 65 seats in the 120-member chamber to 62 or 61, the minimal majority he needs to form a government. Such a slim majority would make running the affairs of state a nightmare even for such an accomplished politician as Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving premier . . . Let us begin with the Lebanon gas agreement, which Netanyahu is unlikely to actually overturn. Regardless of his statements impugning the legitimacy of the deal and his conduct since his 2019 corruption indictment and amid his ongoing trial, Netanyahu’s geopolitical understanding remains keen. Netanyahu clearly knows the agreement is good for Israel. He realizes that abrogating it would harm Israel’s national security, its economic interests, the future of its Mediterranean gas exploration and its credibility. Netanyahu is also aware of the potential backlash from Washington should he damage the agreement that the Biden administration worked so hard to mediate. He will probably criticize the agreement and talk about improving it, but he will not rescind it.”

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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 11/01/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

UNICEF Urges for Water Reform in Lebanon, Critical to Fight Against Cholera 
According to the in-country representative of UNICEF, Edouard Beigbeder, the UN repeatedly warned authorities against deteriorating sanitary conditions, which has created the conditions for the more than 1,447 estimated cases of Cholera that Lebanon is now facing, leaving 17 dead so far. [LOrient Today]

Electricite du Liban (EDL) Begins Higher Rates for Electricity
According to Reuters, “Power will now be priced at 10 U.S. dollar cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for the first 100 kWh consumed, and 27 cents per kWh for consumption above that, the EDL spokesperson said.The higher end of the new tarrif is roughly half what people pay for subscriptions to private generator services that have filled the power gap for decades.” [Reuters]

Russia to Donate Wheat, Fuel to Lebanon
According to Naharnet, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has officially authorized a wheat and fuel grant to crisis-hit Lebanon, media reports said. The grant consists of 25,000 tons of wheat and ten tons of fuel oil. Caretaker Public Works and Transport Minister Ali Hamieh was informed of the approval overnight and the delivery date will be revealed within the next two days, the reports added.” [
Naharnet]

Lebanon Seizes Captagon Pills in Another Smuggling Attempt
According to Arab News, “[In the southern Lebanese city of Ghazieh,] Lebanese security forces seized over five million captagon pills hidden inside construction material [officially bound for Sudan via Ivory Coast], the interior minister said Tuesday, in the latest bust of the amphetamine-type stimulant.” [Arab News]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

L’Orient Today
The Six-Year Dusk
Élie Fayad

Fayad writes, “On Feb. 6, 2006, Michel Aoun and Hassan Nasrallah convened in Beirut’s southern suburb of Mar Mikhael to sign a memorandum of understanding that radically changed the political landscape and course of events in Lebanon. Nearly a year after the political and diplomatic earthquake that the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri caused in Lebanon, this new Free Patriotic Movement-Hezbollah alliance gradually broke the tremendous “Libanist” response that the March 14, 2005 uprising instilled in the country. The term “Libanist” must be construed here as a sovereignist assertion in the face of external tutelage and as a nascent promotion of the idea of belonging to a Lebanese state that transcends sectarian allegiances. What does the Mar Mikhael agreement involve to have crucially contributed to such a turn of history in just one decade? It is simply an ordinary sharing of roles between two actors dominated by a terrible thirst for revenge: for the centuries-long oppression targeting the region’s Shiites on the one hand, and on the other, more for the personal humiliation Aoun suffered at the hands of an abhorred Christian political establishment. Some would add that there were institutional motivations linked to the desire to restore the prerogatives that the Taif Agreement “stripped” the president of.”

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Al Monitor
Lebanon’s Worsening Health Sector Leaves Patients Suffering
Rodayna Raydan

Raydan writes, “Throughout Beirut and other regions, adults and children struggle for survival in a country crippled by poverty and debts, who share one thing in common — their fight against illness and a struggle to stay alive. ‘It’s mentally, morally and physically exhausting,’ is how breast cancer patient Rima Khodr described her days to Al-Monitor. ‘Cancer can be treated, but the economic collapse in Lebanon is turning it into a death sentence.’ Most Lebanese diagnosed with cancer cannot afford to start treatment or get their hands on medicine that are imported and sold at high prices.” 

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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 10/31/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Former President Michel Aoun Departs Baabda Palace Upon Expiration of Term 
On Sunday, October 30th, 2022, Michel Aoun departed Baabda Palace for the last time as President of Lebanon. Serving as head of state since 2016, his timely departure was triggered by the expiration of his six-year term, and is part of an emerging constitutional crisis due to the lack of a formed government and the lack of an elected president. [Reuters

Caretaker Prime Minister Ignores Presidential Decree, Asserts Cabinet’s Legitimacy to Take Over As the Interim Executive Power
According to Arab News, “[Caretaker Prime Minister] Najib Mikati said that the country’s constitution allows for his administration’s use of presidential powers, and that he does not seek conflict in the crisis gripping Lebanese politics. The comments followed a last-gasp attempt to dissolve Mikati’s caretaker government by Aoun, 89, shortly before his term ended on Sunday. However, both Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri effectively ignored the decree.” [Arab News

Lebanon Receives First Cholera Vaccines from France
According to Reuters, “Lebanon took delivery on Monday of its first vaccines to combat a worsening cholera outbreak – together with sharply worded criticism of the crisis-hit country’s crumbling public health infrastructure from donor nation France. By Sunday, cases of cholera – a disease typically spread through contaminated water, food or sewage – stood at 1,447, with 17 deaths, since the first were recorded in the country a month ago, the health ministry said.” [Reuters]

Cypriot Delegation to Lebanon Addresses Maritime Boundary
According to the Cypriot special envoy to Lebanon, Tasos Tzionis, “There is no problem between Lebanon and Cyprus that cannot be resolved easily,” alluding to the maritime boundary agreement separating the two ‘neighboring’ countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, which Lebanon and Cyprus signed in 2007 without the enforcement of Lebanon’s government or the ratification of Lebanon’s parliament. Tzionis was in Beirut last week as part of a Cypriot delegation. [
Reuters]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center
President Michel Aoun Has Left Office After the End of His Six-Year Term
Michael Young

Young writes, “President Michel Aoun has left office after a highly contentious six-year term. During that time, the president was often in conflict with leading members of the political class, most prominently Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. This allowed Aoun to portray himself as a lone figure fighting the corruption of the politicians. Such an image would have been more convincing had the former president not devoted so much of his energies to advancing the political fortunes of his son in law Gebran Bassil, whom he had hoped would succeed him . . . Aoun’s hope that Bassil would be president after him was also one of the major sources of tension with Najib Mikati, the prime minister-designate. Mikati was tasked with forming a government after parliamentary elections last May, but moved with little conviction on that front. He felt it was better to run out the clock on Aoun’s term at the head of a caretaker government, thereby avoiding the conditions Bassil was trying to impose on the new government. Bassil’s hope was that he could use his sway over such a government as leverage to get himself elected president, or bring in someone of his choice, thereby setting up his own election in six years’ time. Bassil’s advantage was that his father in law had to sign any decree establishing a new government. With Aoun now gone, the situation has changed.” 

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Arab News
Lebanon’s Outgoing President Leaves Behind Power Vacuum, Slams Judiciary, Political Opponents

Najia Houssari

Houssari writes, “Lebanon’s outgoing head of state Michel Aoun on Sunday launched a blistering attack on his political opponents and the country’s judiciary as he bowed out of the presidential palace . . . Exiting one day before his mandate expired without a designated successor — deepening the country’s political crisis — he blasted the judiciary for failing to do its job and accused judges of taking bribes . . . In a letter to parliament, he called on it not to entrust the caretaker government with the powers of the president, since it had failed to elect a new president within the constitutional deadline . . . Escorting him to his home on Sunday, Aoun’s supporters raised olive branches, FPM banners, and Lebanese flags in addition to pictures of Aoun in his military uniform when he was army chief in the 1980s.”

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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 10/28/2022



 

DAILY NEWS

Lebanon to Receive Massive Shipment Of Iraqi Gas

According to the L’Orient Today, “Lebanon has just received some of the fuel required for Electricité du Liban to run its power plants. This shipment was originally scheduled to be delivered in August under an agreement inked in July 2021 with Iraq, which now represents the state power provider’s only source of fuel. A 30,000-ton gasoil shipment is expected to ensure around three hours of state power supply per day, caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayad told al-Mayadeen TV channel on Wednesday evening.” [L‘Orient Today]

Next Wave Of Syrian Repatriation Scheduled For Next Week

According to L’Orient,Caretaker Minister of Social Affairs, Hector Al-Hajjar said Thursday morning that a ‘second batch’ of Syrian refugees will leave Lebanon next week, Thursday during a meeting with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail, the state-run National News Agency reported. Hajjar said that ‘the first batch of Syrian refugees that left Lebanon yesterday included about 750 people, and these numbers are encouraging.'” [L’orientToday]

US President Biden Commends Historic Maritime Deal Achievement 

According to Naharnet, “Lebanon and Israel formally concluded a ‘historic”‘ maritime border deal on Thursday in the presence of U.S. officials, U.S. President Joe Biden said.’Both parties took the final steps to bring the agreement into force and submitted the final paperwork to the United Nations in the presence of the United States,’ Biden said in a statement.[Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Eurasia Review
Israel, Lebanon Finalize ‘Historic’ Maritime Border Demarcation Deal
Najia Hussari

Hanin Ghaddar writes, “The maritime border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel, mediated by the US under the auspices of the UN, reached its final official stage on Thursday, with both sides unilaterally signing the proposal without any contact between them at the headquarters of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon in Naqoura. Lebanon handed over a copy of the agreement to US mediator Amos Hochstein, signed and approved by President Michel Aoun. Another copy was handed over to the UN, represented by its Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka. French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo was also present in Naqoura.”

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Texas National Security Review
How To Make The Most Of The Israeli-Lebanese Maritime Deal
Hanin Ghaddar

Hanin Ghaddar writes, “After years of stalling and hedging, a major economic collapse in Lebanon, multiple unstable governments in Israel, and threats of violence, the United States has successfully brokered a maritime border agreement between Beirut and Jerusalem. War has been averted, and everyone is happy. At least for now.”

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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.