Lebanon Daily News Brief 08/01/2022

Monday, August 1, 2022



Reports Indicate Lebanese and Israeli Governments Close to Brokering Deal Over Maritime Border
Visiting the Lebanese capital to conduct meetings with political leaders and stakeholders regarding the ongoing, US-mediated maritime boundary negotiations between the governments of Lebanon and Israel, the US State Department’s Senior Advisor for Energy Security, Amos Hochstein, has returned to Beirut. [AP News] After his meeting at Baabda Palace in particular, he said, “I remain optimistic that we can make continuous progress as we have over the last several weeks and I look forward to coming back to the region and being able to make the final arrangements . . . The atmosphere is positive and everyone was relieved after the meeting.” [Naharnet] In public remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Abdallah Bou Habib said, “There has never been optimism to the extent that there is today.” [Reuters]

Beirut Port Silos Partially Collapse
Eerily close to the second anniversary of the tragic Port of Beirut Explosion that killed more than 215 people on August 4th, 2020, a portion of the damaged grain silos collapsed yesterday, after Lebanese officials warned last week that such a structural failure would occur. [Reuters]

Secretary Blinken and Israeli Defense Minister Gantz Discuss Lebanon Border File
In a phone call between the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and Israeli Defense Minister, Benny Gantz, the two senior officials spoke about the ongoing, US-mediated negotiations between the Lebanese and Israeli governments regarding Lebanon’s southern maritime border and specifically on, the need to pursue an agreement on the maritime border between Israel and Lebanon and the necessary American involvement in it.” [Jerusalem Post]

Speaker of Parliament Reiterates IMF Reforms as the Condition to Calling Presidential Vote
On Saturday, Lebanese Speaker of Parliament, Nabih Berri, reiterated the position that he would not execute the protocol of calling for a session to elect a new president before the legislative body passes the necessary reforms that are pre-conditional to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial relief package. According to Reuters, “President Michel Aoun’s six-year term ends on Oct. 31, and top politicians have voiced concern about no successor being found – warning of even greater institutional deadlock given that Lebanon has also been without a fully functioning government since May.” [Reuters

First Ukrainian Ship Under Internationally-Brokered Safe Passage Leaves for Lebanon
Today, the Razoni became the first ship carrying Ukrainian grain to leave the port of Odesa, after an international deal was brokered guaranteeing its safe passage over international waters. This shipment from Ukraine, bound for the Lebanese port of Tripoli, is considered the first of its kind since Russian aggression began in the Eastern European country earlier this year. [AP News]


The Century Foundation
Why the United States Should Pay the Lebanese Army’s Salaries—Before It’s Too Late
Cate Brown and Thanassis Cambanis

Brown and Cambanis write, “The Biden administration should quickly make good on its plans to pay a portion of the Lebanese military’s salaries—demonstrating American commitment and propping up the most effective surviving institution in a collapsing state . . . Simply put, if Lebanon can’t pay its soldiers, those soldiers can’t hold Lebanon together.”

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Restoring Credibility: Is There Any Relief For Small Depositors?
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “Based on the findings of one poll after another running up to the elections, corruption was named as the greatest issue facing Lebanon. This has also held true in rankings looking at transparency and the overall business environment. This is partially due to the obfuscation of the bureaucracies that consider contracts as a legitimate means of supporting their community. Another reason is the lack of incentives for financial actors to do what is right – whether it relates to contracting, price controls, capital controls, or just doing their jobs transparently and dutifully. Of course, the lack of an independent judiciary looms in the background as a pall over the business environment as well – not being able to have recourse to the courts without bribes or favors dampens the enthusiasm of investors and businesses to put up the capital needed to get started or expand. If you are a bigger fish, you can always do business elsewhere, or choose to play the payoff game to suppliers, contractors, officials, and others who salivate at the prospect of your business. But what about those small depositors whose pensions and salaries were supposedly tucked away in the commercial banks? Well, until now, they are the real socio-economic losers in Lebanon. Able to withdraw only a fraction of their money and at unfavorable exchange rates, the middle and lower classes have seen their assets impounded by informal capital controls which only favored those who can move their money abroad.” 

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The Times of Israel
Hezbollah Hints It’s Ready For A War Over Gas — But Knows Lebanon Can’t Afford One

Emanuel Fabian

Fabian writes, “By beating war drums and ramping up military provocations, Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group has been doing everything to indicate it is ready to wage war with Israel over offshore gas extraction near a disputed maritime border between the countries . . . But some experts believe Nasrallah’s bluster and threats will not translate into significant action. Rather, they signify Hezbollah’s effort to regain popularity back home as Lebanon faces a major financial and social crisis, as well as to stay relevant as a threat to Israel.”

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Our New Lebanon
Speaker Series: Dr. Saade Chami
Sunday, August 7th, 2022 | 3:00 PM ET 

Our New Lebanon’s speaker series will feature Dr. Saade Chami, the Deputy Prime Minister in the caretaker government and principal architect of the Lebanese financial recovery strategy.

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.