Lebanon Daily News Brief 03/17/2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022


US Considers Removing Iranian Revolutionary Guards From Terrorist Designation 
According to Reuters, The United States is considering removing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from its foreign terrorist organization blacklist in return for Iranian assurances about reining in the elite force, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.” [Reuters]

Brother of BDL Governor Arrested, Creditbank Assets Frozen
Raja Salameh, the 61-year-old businessman and brother of Lebanon’s central bank governor, Riad, was arrested following an interrogation at the Baabda courthouse today. According to Reuters, “lawyer Nizar Saghieh of watchdog NGO Legal Agenda said that the illicit enrichment charge levelled against Raja Salameh, reserved for crimes involving public-sector employees, meant that Riad Salameh was likely to be charged with a crime himself.” [Reuters] The same prosecutor overseeing investigation of Salameh, Judge Ghada Aoun, issued a travel ban on Creditbank Chairman Tarek Khalife as well as an asset freeze order for all of the bank’s assets. [L’Orient Today]

Fransabank Closes All Branches
Following a judicial order freezing all of its assets, Lebanon’s Fransabank announced yesterday that it would close all of its branches, unable to meet client demands or pay public sector salaries. [Reuters]

IMF Mission to Visit Lebanon Before End of the Month
In a press briefing today, IMF spokesperson Gerry Rice said that another IMF staff mission is planned for this month still, and that the discussions are progressing well, but extensive work is needed in the period ahead. Lebanon’s challenges are deep and complex. They will require time and a commitment.” [Reuters]

Continued: L’Orient Today Publishes Full List of Candidates
According to L’Orient Today, “The deadline for candidates to register for the May 15 polls closed at midnight last night, with 1,043 having filed, according to the Interior Ministry, representing 77 more candidates than in 2018. Of those who filed, 155 were women, making up about 15 percent of the total, slightly higher than in 2018 when women candidates made up 11 percent of the total registered.” [L’Orient Today]

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Can The Lebanese Feed Themselves? Ask USAID.

Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “According to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), “Lebanon has the highest proportion of cultivable land, per capita, in the Arab world. Approximately 60% of citizens outside greater Beirut rely on agriculture—directly or indirectly—and related industries for some form of household income; yet, the Lebanese agribusiness sector is underutilized. Food insecurity is also a problem.” With poverty now afflicting more than 70% of the population, initiatives to restart the agricultural sector are increasingly being funded by international donors. USAID alone has several types of programs focused on improving agricultural production, marketing, and export . . . The agricultural community is cooperative but there are many steps involved in the export of agricultural products, from strengthening “food safety by upgrading food testing laboratories to comply with export market food standards, to making agribusiness more efficient and demand driven,” hopefully both increasing income generation and attracting new entrants into the sector.”

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L’Orient Today
As Elections Approach, Saudi Arabia Takes An Interest In Lebanon Once Again

Mounir Rabih 

Rabih writes, “The Wahhabi kingdom almost completely severed diplomatic ties with the land of the cedars on Oct. 29, 2021, recalling its ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari. But as the polls draw nearer, Riyadh appears to be taking an interest in Lebanon once again. Last week, Siniora met with a Saudi official in Paris. According to information obtained by L’Orient-Le Jour, the latter insisted on the need for the Sunnis to run in the elections so as not to leave the field open to Hezbollah, but remained vague about Saudi support in this regard. No one knows today how much Saudi Arabia is willing to get involved in the elections. Riyadh’s main allies in Lebanon, namely the Sunnis led by Siniora, the Progressive Social Party and the Lebanese Forces, all gave the same reply: “Saudis insist on a solid alliance of the former March 14 forces and on serious project,” according to a senior PSP official, who spoke to L’Orient-Le Jour on condition of anonymity.”

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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.