Lebanon Daily News Brief 03/23/2022
KSA, Kuwaiti Ambassadors to Return to Beirut
According to Naharnet, the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari will return to his mission in Beirut. The Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon will also return to Beirut, following a recent statement issued by Prime Minister Najib Mikati expressing Lebanon’s commitment to repairing its ties with the Gulf. [Naharnet]
Cabinet to Summon BDL Governor In Next Session
The Cabinet decided that it would summon Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh for a discussion related to Lebanon’s banks in its next session. [L’Orient Today]
Lebanon to Import Wheat from India
According to Reuters, “Lebanon is planning a tender to import 50,000 tonnes of wheat from India but the timing depends on the Lebanese central bank opening the necessary credit line, the economy minister told Reuters, as Beirut seeks alternatives to Ukrainian grain.” [Reuters]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Lebanon’s Elections: Who’s In And Who’s Out?
AbiNader writes, “Lebanon’s politicians speak volumes of their intentions, yet all they have to show for it is their mastery of procrastination, denial, thuggery, abstentions, and other tactics from their corruption toolkit, ensuring that any threats to their priorities are mitigated. As Ibrahim Johari has documented, there are significant obstacles imposed on new entrants to politics as well as to voters, themselves. The Arab News article observes that less than half of all registered candidates survive to get on a ballot, being unable to find a list that will include them. Although in some districts the election regulations do allow for both individual and list-based voting, independent candidates without more unified backing ultimately face an arduous challenge . . . With the registrations now complete, emerging questions are increasingly concerned with the possibility of the election‘s postponement should Hezbollah, Amal, and the Free Patriotic Movement come to the conclusion that their alliance will lose its majority position in Parliament after May 15th.”
The Wall Street Journal
A Crisis in U.S.-Middle East Relations
Maksad writes, “After the last major attack this January, the U.A.E. didn’t hear from U.S. senior administration officials, and when Gen. Frank McKenzie, America’s top commander in charge of the region, paid a visit over three weeks later, Mohamed bin Zayed, the country’s de facto leader, refused to meet with him. Concerns about America’s commitment had morphed into feelings of abandonment and anger. Then when Mr. Biden wanted to call to ask for help lowering oil prices weeks later, his U.A.E. counterpart was unavailable to take the call. The Biden administration’s behavior toward the Gulf Arab states contradicts its National Security Strategy, which emphasizes revitalizing America’s alliances and partnerships. Team Biden has two mistaken assumptions: that the rise of China and return of Russia as great-power rivals necessitates a recalibration from the Middle East to Southeast Asia and now to Eastern Europe, and that achieving detente with Iran, beginning with a nuclear deal, would make the region more stable.”
Will Russia’s War in Ukraine Lead to Starvation in Lebanon?
Nasser writes, “Lebanon’s government is bankrupt and is dealing with a cornucopia of problems, exacerbated by the financial crisis that started in 2019 and the 2020 Beirut blast that left hundreds dead and thousands injured. To make matters worse, the explosion destroyed the mammoth size grain silos that once boasted to carry 100,000 tons of grain. This means that Lebanon, which had the capacity to feed itself for three to four months prior to the explosion, can now only feed itself for a little over a month. The depletion of food reserves has only brought the cost of consumer goods higher, increasing the burden on both citizens and the government. Salam has issued warnings about Lebanon’s dire financial situation, especially since the central bank subsidizes wheat at 100 percent of its cost. At current international prices, the Lebanese central bank is spending close to $20 million a month. In a statement made to the press, Salam said the state is working with traditional partners like the United States, Romania, and other international donors to help secure 50,000 tons a month of wheat. Yet Lebanon’s partners have been demanding that it reform its political system and tackle corruption before any new aid will flow to the country. In this predicament, however, the Lebanese people are suffering due to their leaders’ unwillingness to do the right thing.”