Lebanon Daily News brief 8/2/2021

DAILY NEWS


Cabinet Formation Still Stuck on Interior and Justice Portfolios
Today Prime Minister-designate met again with President Michel Aoun in Baabda to discuss the cabinet line-up and warned that this will be an “open-ended” timeframe. He further stated that he was hoping the formation process would be faster. [Naharnet] Aoun is reportedly still demanding the interior and justice portfolios while Miqati is attempting to assign the interior portfolio to a “neutral” and “reliable” person whether or not they are Sunni or Christian. [Naharnet]

Gunmen Kill Two During Hezbollah Commander Funeral
Yesterday gunmen opened fire and killed at least two people at the funeral of a Hezbollah commander in Khaldeh, a Lebanese town along the coast of southern Lebanon. The Lebanese military were deployed in Khaldeh and said in a statement they would shoot anyone carrying a gun in the streets. Media reports say that the violence is rooted in personal and sectarian vendettas. [Al Jazeera] Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah warned of impending strife if the gunmen don’t come forward. [Reuters]

One Year After the Port Blast Mental Health is a Concern
One year after the August 4 Beirut Port blast experts are concerned about mental health in Lebanon. The head of public relations at the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care says that the center has seen a fourfold increase in patients for free mental health care since the Lebanon’s financial crisis began spiraling in October 2019. Many patients that come into the center are dealing with mental trauma directly related to the port blast. [Reuters]

USAID Launches Five-Year Program in Lebanon
The US Agency for International Development recently launched a five-year program in Lebanon called “Promoting Sustainable Livelihoods.” The program will put $10 million toward efforts to improve the livelihoods of 126,000 residents across more than 130 municipalities in Lebanon. It will be implemented by a consortium of eight organizations and headed by the Rene Moawad Foundation. [RMF]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Arab News
A Year After Beirut Port Atrocity, Time for a New Sovereign Lebanon
Baria Alamuddin

Alamuddin writes: “The lesson of the Aug. 4 atrocity is that accepting the Nasrallah-Aoun regime means accepting leaders who think nothing of murdering their own citizens. If we allow Lebanon to continue fragmenting, it opens the door to catastrophes of an infinitely greater magnitude than the port explosion. This disaster must be our wake-up call for inaugurating a new Lebanon. There is no salvation for a system that is rotten to the core. Our only salvation is through collectively banishing those who colluded in Lebanon’s downfall and who remain wedded to a medieval and inherently corrupt sectarian system.”

Read more here

SPECIAL EVENT


ATFL will hold a virtual webinar on Thursday, August 5 from 11:30am to 1:00pm ET to mark the one-year anniversary of the August 4 Beirut Port explosions. The presentations will focus on four themes:

The threat of the rapidly declining socio-economic conditions on Lebanese society including the brain drain and social services;

Assessing the role of the international community in bringing pressure to bear on economic and political reforms;

The status of US-Lebanon relations and challenges to building relations with a potential new government;

And lessons from post-conflict stabilization strategies in developing survival options for Lebanon as a sovereign state.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and President of the Lebanese American University are among our guest speakers. Others to be determined include EU and UN officials and other Lebanon experts and advocates.

REGISTER 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 7/31/2021

DAILY NEWS


Wildfires in Lebanon Continue for the Third Day in a Row
The wildfire that started on Wednesday in northern Lebanon continues to burn for the third day in a row. Lebanon’s military and firefighters are working to contain the fire but they report there are some areas they can’t reach. [France 24] The fire has spread across Lebanon’s border with Syria and unofficial estimates say 500 acres of pine forests in the region have been destroyed so far. Firefighters and air force helicopters have been working to put out the fire and Syrian helicopters have since joined in the efforts. Lebanon’s government is calling for urgent assistance from Cyprus. [AP]

New US House Resolution Introduced to Support Lebanon
On Wednesday US Representatives Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Darrell Issa (CA-50) introduced H. Res. 569, “Expressing continued solidarity with the Lebanese people after the devastating explosions at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and the continued efforts to form a secure, independent, and democratic Lebanon.” [Congress.gov] The resolution emphasizes the need for humanitarian assistance for the Lebanese people, supports the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and US goals to combat government corruption and pressure Lebanon’s government to make structural reforms upon the formation of a new cabinet. [LaHood]

Aoun Says He Will Give a Statement on Blast Investigation If Needed
Today President Michel Aoun told state prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat that he is ready to give a statement about the August 4 Beirut Port explosion if it’s needed. He said that “no one is above the law” and that justice can only be achieved through Lebanon’s specialized judicial branches. [Reuters] Yesterday Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said parliament was ready to lift the immunity given to officials surrounding the blast investigation. He did not give a timeline on when immunity would be lifted or how. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

Commander Gen. Aoun Addresses the Lebanese Army
Today as Lebanon nears the 76th anniversary of Army Day, Commander General Joseph Aoun encouraged the Lebanese Armed Forces and said do not allow anyone to “question your faith in your country and your institution.” He warned of upcoming challenges and to be ready to face them with “wisdom, patience, and deliberation.” [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


National Review
Economic Crisis Devastated Lebanon. Decentralized Finance Could Be the Answer
Hugo Dante

Dante writes: “As the birth of the lollar has shown, economic and institutional collapse has forced the people of Lebanon to fend for themselves, seeking out any solutions available to help overcome their harsh reality…The need for new solutions has even contributed to a “Bitcoin boom” in Lebanon, with Coindesk claiming that the Lebanese people could be moving as much as $1–$5 million in Bitcoin a month. However, accurate estimates are difficult to find. Bitcoin transactions can be slow and expensive, significantly limiting its adoption. But the underlying blockchain technology makes possible various innovations in Decentralized Finance (DeFi) that could help people in Lebanon and around the world access traditional finance and provide viable alternatives in the face of severe corruption and dire economic crisis…The crisis in Lebanon is a bleak reminder of the cost of corruption and institutional failure. As technology evolves, though, more and more alternatives will become available, helping individuals to overcome these challenges and preserve the value of their assets.”

Read more here

Beirut Port Blast: Why a Domestic Investigation Won’t Bring Justice
Cassia King

King writes: “When assessing the domestic investigation’s validity, the question to ask is not really if Bitar is a fair judge, but whether or not he is able to conduct a fair investigation within the constraints of the judicial system and pressure from Lebanon’s political elite. In the short-term, Lebanon needs an international investigation to take over the Beirut Port blast case…Victims [of the blast] and families of victims deserve justice and the culprits of these crimes that cost Lebanese lives and billions of dollars need to be held accountable. If an international investigation is refused, then immunities given to Lebanese authorities must be lifted to give Bitar a chance at conducting a full domestic investigation, though, as noted, political interference will likely infect the process. In the long-term, Lebanon’s judiciary needs systemic reform to ensure its independence. Taking Lebanon’s judiciary out of the hands of Lebanon’s executive branch is a necessary step to diminish the impact of sectarian power plays that have corrupted and diminished its credibility.”

Read more here


ATFL STATEMENT

ATFL Statement on H. Res. 569 Observing the August 4 Beirut Port Explosions

The American Task Force on Lebanon commends the US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus and its chairs, Representatives Darin LaHood of Illinois, Charlie Crist of Florida, Darrell Issa of California and Debbie Dingell of Michigan and their fellow members for introducing on Wednesday, July 28, H.Res. 569, “Expressing continued solidarity with the Lebanese people after the devastating explosions at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and the continued efforts to form a stable, independent, and democratic Lebanon.”

ATFL is pleased by the bipartisan support for the Resolution and will continue to work diligently with Democratic and Republican members to build additional support for it. As ATFL President Ambassador Ed Gabriel remarked, “This resolution sends a very strong message to the Lebanese people that their survival and that of Lebanon are in the interests of the United States. As importantly, it sends a clear message to Lebanon’s government that members of Congress are concerned with its inability to conduct a transparent and credible investigation of the explosions and ‘calls on the Government of Lebanon to conduct a credible, impartial, and transparent investigation into the cause of, and responsibility for, the August 4 explosions, and include impartial international experts as part of the investigation team.’”

Read the full statement


SPECIAL EVENT

ATFL will hold a virtual webinar on Thursday, August 5 from 11:30am to 1:00pm ET to mark the one-year anniversary of the August 4 Beirut Port explosions. The presentations will focus on four themes:

The threat of the rapidly declining socio-economic conditions on Lebanese society including the brain drain and social services;

Assessing the role of the international community in bringing pressure to bear on economic and political reforms;

The status of US-Lebanon relations and challenges to building relations with a potential new government;

And lessons from post-conflict stabilization strategies in developing survival options for Lebanon as a sovereign state.
US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and President of the Lebanese American University are among our guest speakers. Others to be determined include EU and UN officials and other Lebanon experts and advocates.

REGISTER 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 7/29/2021

DAILY NEWS


Government Formation Talks Center on Interior Portfolio
Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati and President Michel Aoun met in Baabda today to discus Miqati’s new cabinet line-up that he submitted yesterday. [Naharnet] Reports say that the main obstacle to the formation of a government is a debate over who will get the interior portfolio. They add that Aoun has repeatedly demanded that portfolio and currently Miqati has allocated it to a Sunni official. [Naharnet]

Wildfire in Northern Lebanon Continues to Burn
The wildfire that started yesterday in northern Lebanon continued to burn today and has spread across Lebanon’s border with Syria. An estimated 500 acres of forests in the region have been destroyed so far. Firefighters and air force helicopters have been working to put out the fire and Syrian helicopters have since joined in the efforts. Lebanon’s government is calling for urgent assistance from Cyprus. [AP]

Miqati’s Priority After Government Formation is IMF Funds
Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati’s first priority after forming a government will be to resume talks with the IMF in order to unlock up to $4 billion in soft loans. To access these funds the IMF demands that a credible cabinet is formed and that the previously discussed reforms are implemented. [The Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


National Review
Economic Crisis Devastated Lebanon. Decentralized Finance Could Be the Answer
Hugo Dante

Dante writes: “As the birth of the lollar has shown, economic and institutional collapse has forced the people of Lebanon to fend for themselves, seeking out any solutions available to help overcome their harsh reality…The need for new solutions has even contributed to a “Bitcoin boom” in Lebanon, with Coindesk claiming that the Lebanese people could be moving as much as $1–$5 million in Bitcoin a month. However, accurate estimates are difficult to find. Bitcoin transactions can be slow and expensive, significantly limiting its adoption. But the underlying blockchain technology makes possible various innovations in Decentralized Finance (DeFi) that could help people in Lebanon and around the world access traditional finance and provide viable alternatives in the face of severe corruption and dire economic crisis…The crisis in Lebanon is a bleak reminder of the cost of corruption and institutional failure. As technology evolves, though, more and more alternatives will become available, helping individuals to overcome these challenges and preserve the value of their assets.”

Read more here


SPECIAL EVENT

ATFL will hold a virtual webinar on Thursday, August 5 from 11:30am to 1:00pm ET to mark the one-year anniversary of the August 4 Beirut Port explosions. The presentations will focus on four themes:

The threat of the rapidly declining socio-economic conditions on Lebanese society including the brain drain and social services;
assessing the role of the international community in bringing pressure to bear on economic and political reforms;
the status of US-Lebanon relations and challenges to building relations with a potential new government;
and lessons from post-conflict stabilization strategies in developing survival options for Lebanon as a sovereign state.

US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and President of the Lebanese American University are among our guest speakers. Others to be determined include EU and UN officials and other Lebanon experts and advocates.

REGISTER 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 7/28/2021

DAILY NEWS


PM-Designate Miqati Submits Cabinet Line-Up
Today Prime Minister-designate held talks with President Michel Aoun and submitted his cabinet line-up to form a new government. [Naharnet] One sources said that the line-up includes a list of 24 ministers that would form a “techno-political” government including 18 technocrats and six political ministers. [Naharnet]

Wildfire Breaks Out in Northern Lebanon
A wildfire broke out in northern Lebanon today and took the life of a 15-year old when it reached nearby residencies in the Akkar province. The fire spread over four miles in the mountainous region while firefighters and the military worked to put it out. [AP]

Forensic Audit of the Central Bank to Begin Soon
Reports say that Alvarez & Marsal will begin an extensive forensic audit of all of Banque Du Liban’s accounts in the next few days. The audit is required to receive financial assistance from the international community, notably from the IMF. The consultancy has reportedly received all the required documents and data that the central bank had previously withheld. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
A Mikati Government Will Not Save Lebanon
Hanin Ghaddar

Ghaddar writes: “On July 26, ten days after the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, former premier Najib Mikati was chosen to form a new government in Lebanon. Claiming he enjoys international support from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, and other countries, Mikati pledged that he will name a cabinet as soon as possible. Yet despite being nominated by President Michel Aoun and winning votes from 72 of parliament’s 128 members, he represents the same fundamental problem that plagued previous attempts to form a legitimate, effective government—namely, the political class persists in proposing options that represent their own elite interests rather than pursuing the serious institutional reforms the country and the people so desperately need…If Mikati is able to form a government, its mission will likely be to sidestep serious reforms, oversee the election of its hand-picked replacement, and otherwise preserve the status quo. This entails managing Lebanon’s slow-motion collapse, not reversing it. After all, Mikati is no outsider—a billionaire from Tripoli, he has always been part of the corrupt order, repeatedly using his political influence to grow his businesses and assets.”

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 7/27/2021

DAILY NEWS


Prime Minister-designate Miqati Begins Efforts to Form New Government
Today Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati said that he would hold continuous meetings with President Michel Aoun until a new government is formed. [Naharnet] Sources say that the two have not yet gone into details regarding the cabinet line-up. [Naharnet] Miqait’s team members said that he is considering using the potential $900 million from the IMF for the building of two power plants in Deir Amar and al-Zahrani to help Lebanon’s electricity problem. [France 24]

The British Museum Will Restore Artifacts Damaged by Beirut Blast
The British Museum said it will help restore ancient glass artifacts from Lebanon that were damaged in the August 4 Beirut Port blast. The artifacts were stored in a display case at the American University of Beirut’s Archaeological Museum when the explosion shattered them into hundreds of pieces, mixed in with broken window glass. Out of 74 glass vessels, only 15 can be salvaged and only eight are deemed safe to travel to London. [Al Arabiya]

New Online Platform for the National Social Security Fund
Lebanon’s National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is creating a new website for the country’s social security services. The new platform is meant to create a more efficient process and allow Lebanese to take care of their inquiries online instead of needing to personally visit NSSF centers. The project is funded with help from the European Union. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Drowning in Corruption, Lebanon’s Water Supply Dribbles to a Halt
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “The availability of water for 1.7 million residents dropped in 2020 by 80% from 43.6 to 9 gallons of potable water a day. This has resulted in an increase of 35% in the price of private sector bulk water supplies, while the cost of bottled water has doubled. And where does the blame lay? There are no dollars to buy chlorine or spare parts for the municipal water systems – suppliers insist on being paid in real money, not Lebanese lira. Hard to blame them. Then there are the intermittent power supplies and blackouts interrupting the treatment, pumping, and distribution of water. That’s the government’s responsibility since it controls contracting and maintenance of the public water supply. And, about 40% of the safe water supply is wasted through faulty, corroded pipes and water being illegally diverted. Bad luck maybe, but more likely negligence on the part of the municipal and regional water authorities for ignoring or avoiding these issues for the past 20 years…Will 40 of Lebanon’s million/billionaires each please transfer $1 million to UNICEF, which is not a Lebanese entity, to enable UNICEF to carry out its commitment ‘to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for children and families at this critical time for Lebanon?'”

Read more here

The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Lebanon’s National Vaccination Plan: Public and Private Perspectives

Following LCPS’ recent Government Monitor focusing on Lebanon’s COVID-19 response and the national vaccination plan, LCPS researcher Ali Taha interviews Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri and Dr. Georges Ghanem to investigate different aspects of the vaccination campaign from two perspectives: the public and private sectors.

Read the interviews 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.

Lebanese Daily News Brief 7/26/2021

DAILY NEWS


Former Prime Minister Mikati Named Prime Minister-Designate
Today former Prime Minister Najib Miqati was named Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate after securing 72 votes in parliamentary consultations. Miqati stressed that he would follow the French initiative in the formation of a new government. He said that if he “didn’t have specific foreign reassurances” he would not have moved forward. [Naharnet]

Lebanon Asks for UNIFIL Mandate to Be Extended
Today during talks with the UN Undersecretary-General for Peace Operations, President Michel Aoun asked for the UNIFIL mandate to be extended. He asked that no modifications be made to UNIFIL’s number or its missions in southern Lebanon. [The Daily Star]

MPs Withdraw Support for Beirut Port Special Council Motion
After last week’s parliamentary motion to try officials surrounding the Beirut Port blast through a special judicial council, dozens of MPs have removed their names. The petition was signed by over 50 MPs initially but pressure from activists and the media has led led to MPs to back out. Only 23 names are left in support of the motion. The motion would have opened a parallel investigation to Judge Tarek Bitar’s and legal activists say it would keep certain officials from being held accountable. [The 961]

Tripoli Man Self-Immolates Amid Dire Conditions
A man in Tripoli set himself on fire in desperation to protest the deteriorating living conditions in Lebanon. The Islamic Medical Association rescued the man and took him to Al-Salam Hospital. Food prices have increased 50 percent from ten days ago and Lebanese are struggling to put food on the table. [The 961] Today caretaker Economy Minister Raoul Nehme asked importers to lower their commodity prices. [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Drowning in Corruption, Lebanon’s Water Supply Dribbles to a Halt
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “The availability of water for 1.7 million residents dropped in 2020 by 80% from 43.6 to 9 gallons of potable water a day. This has resulted in an increase of 35% in the price of private sector bulk water supplies, while the cost of bottled water has doubled. And where does the blame lay? There are no dollars to buy chlorine or spare parts for the municipal water systems – suppliers insist on being paid in real money, not Lebanese lira. Hard to blame them. Then there are the intermittent power supplies and blackouts interrupting the treatment, pumping, and distribution of water. That’s the government’s responsibility since it controls contracting and maintenance of the public water supply. And, about 40% of the safe water supply is wasted through faulty, corroded pipes and water being illegally diverted. Bad luck maybe, but more likely negligence on the part of the municipal and regional water authorities for ignoring or avoiding these issues for the past 20 years…Will 40 of Lebanon’s million/billionaires each please transfer $1 million to UNICEF, which is not a Lebanese entity, to enable UNICEF to carry out its commitment ‘to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for children and families at this critical time for Lebanon?'”

Read more here

Middle East Institute
Mitigating the darkest hour: Lebanon’s struggle for power
Jessica Obeid

Obeid writes, “Lebanon is steadily plunging into total darkness. Decades of political bickering, weak governance, and vested interests have taken their toll on the power sector and are developing into economic and humanitarian crises. A long-term strategy focused on improving the sector’s governance is needed. In the short term, however, immediate actions such as distributed renewable energy and out-of-the-box financing mechanisms should be taken to avoid the darkest hour.”

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 7/23/2021

DAILY NEWS


Lebanon to Stop Fuel Deliveries
Reports say that Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy and Water will stop delivering diesel amid the fuel crisis because its supplies have run dry except for limited emergency quantities. [Middle East Monitor] Iraq is expected to deliver one million tons of fuel to Lebanon to resume power plant operations after an agreement is signed this weekend. [The Daily Star]

UN Lebanon Envoy Speaks With UN Security Council
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka met with the UN Security Council yesterday to discuss the implementation of Resolution 1701 with the aim of enhancing Lebanon’s security and sovereignty. Wronecka reiterated the need for a “fully empowered government” in Lebanon that can work toward reforms and she praised the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain the country’s stability. [Arab News]

Former PM Najib Mikati Favored to Form a Government
Sources say that former Prime Minister Najib Mikati is the “most favorite candidate” to be named the new prime minister-designate. Parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to officially name the next prime minister-designate who will attempt to form a cabinet after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s resignation. [Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring 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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/22/2021

DAILY NEWS


Hospitals Warn Power Cuts Will Lead to Catastrophe
Today the syndicate of private hospitals in Lebanon warned of a looming catastrophe as power cuts increase and hospitals are running out of fuel to keep life-saving equipment operational. Power outages are lasting up to 23 hours per day in some parts of the country. [The Daily Star]

Lebanese MPs Sign Motion for Officials to Be Tried Through the Supreme Council
Some Lebanese MPs are supporting a motion that would allow officials surrounding the August 4 Beirut blast to be investigated and tried through a special judicial body, the Supreme Council. These officials include four ex-ministers that Judge Tarek Bitar has previously called in for questioning. If the motion passes and these ex-ministers are called into the Supreme Council, Bitar will be unable to charge them. Legal activists and blast victim family members have criticized this move as an attempt to obstruct accountability. [Al Jazeera]

Beqaa Industrialists to Support Lebanese Armed Forces
Yesterday the head of the Association of Industrialists in Beqaa announced that industrialists in the region will be helping support the Lebanese Armed Forces. Their efforts will focus on the maintenance of LAF vehicles. LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun approved and welcomed the move. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring 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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/21/2021

DAILY NEWS


President Biden Extends Executive Order 13441
In a letter to Congress yesterday, President Joe Biden said he will continue a declaration of national emergency with respect to Lebanon in accordance with Executive Order 13441. He added that Iran’s arms transfers to Hezbollah continue to undermine the country’s sovereignty and contributes to regional instability. This is the fourteenth year that a national emergency for Lebanon will be extended. [Al Arabiya]

Lebanese Families Spend Five Times Minimum Wage on Food
A report for the Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut found that Lebanese families are spending around five times more for food than the minimum wage. The report estimates that a family of five spends more than 3.5 million Lebanese pounds per month on food alone, not including water, electricity or cooking gas. The national minimum wage in Lebanon stands at 675,000. [France 24]

Speaker Berri Seeks Out Former PM Najib Miqati For New Government
Media reports say that Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri is working to convince former Prime Minister Najib Miqati to step in as prime minister once again. Miqati previously refused the position citing cooperation challenges with President Michel Aoun after former PM-designate Saad Hariri suggested Miqati’s nomination. [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring elections.”

Read more here

Al Jazeera
A Country in Freefall: What Future for Lebanon?
Marwan Bishara

Bishara writes, “The way forward cannot be the way back. In fact, there is no viable alternative for a radical Lebanese solution to Lebanon’s debilitating debacle. This entails the people in the streets and civil society activists turning their popular and civic power into political power by organising non-sectarian political parties, and helping democratically change the despicable sectarian system that is at the centre of the country’s woes, in favour of a true Republic of Lebanon. This may be hard and may take long to accomplish, but there are no shortcuts and no easy magical solutions to building a functioning democracy.”

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 7/20/2021

DAILY NEWS


Parliamentary Consultations for PM to Begin Next Week
Following Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s resignation last week, President Michele Aoun announced yesterday that parliamentary consultations to name a new prime minister will begin on Monday, July 26. [Naharnet] The consultations will begin with a meeting between President Aoun and former Prime Minister Najib Mikati. The full consultation schedule can be viewed on The 961 link. [The 961]

Lebanese Prosecutor to Question Riad Salameh
A Lebanese prosecutor has called in central bank governor Riad Salameh for questioning on August 5 on allegations of embezzlement, money laundering, and tax evasion. [Reuters] Yesterday it was also announced that anti-corruption judges in France will take over a French investigation of Salameh to look into criminal allegations including laundering millions of dollars through purchasing high-end real estate in France. The judges would have the ability to confiscate his assets. [NYTimes]

Israel Fires Artillery Shells After Rockets Fired From Southern Lebanon
In response to two rockets that were fired from southern Lebanon, Israel fired 12 artillery shells at the Wadi Hammoul area. The Lebanese army said it found three launching pads for grad rockets there and disabled a rocket that had been prepared for firing. There were no casualties or injuries reported on either side. [Al Jazeera]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
Hariri has (finally) stepped down. Here’s what happens next.
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “Lebanon today faces one of three options. The base case absent any political breakthrough — or imposed solution — consists of a dangerously accelerating socio-economic collapse, social unrest, and security threats. Under this option, the impotent caretaker government led by Hassan Diab will continue operating in a political vacuum with no agency, ability, or credibility to counter the multiple crises…The second option entails the nomination of a consensus candidate in line with Lebanon’s destructive post-2008 consensual democracy. In this case, establishment parties will scramble to find a bland candidate that is acceptable by Hariri, President Michel Aoun, Hezbollah, and the myriad foreign players involved in the Lebanese political stalemate. This attempt would nevertheless recreate a Diab 2.0 government, unable to carry out much-needed reforms…the third and only viable option remains a truly independent and competent transitional government (head and members) with exceptional legislative powers, able and willing to implement reforms and manage the collapse. Entertaining other options will continue to waste more precious time.”

Read more here

Foreign Policy
In Lebanon, the Wheels of Justice Do Not Grind
David Schenker

Schenker writes, “16 years after the Hariri assassination, the work of the tribunal is done. It is now time for those states that underwrote this titular exercise in accountability to actually hold the killers to account. Europe has long been reticent to designate all of Hezbollah as the state-capturing terrorist organization it is, so this will undoubtedly prove a heavy diplomatic lift for Washington. Still, as the tribunal concludes, it’s difficult to imagine a better time to press the issue. If the Biden administration can’t convince its European partners to act, perhaps it could persuade these states to at least direct their tribunal contributions to a cause that would better help Lebanon—such as that of the World Food Program, which (along with the World Bank) is currently feeding a considerable portion of the Lebanese population suffering, in large part, due to Hezbollah.”

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.