Lebanon Daily News Brief 10/20/2021
US Energy Envoy Visits Beirut
US Senior Advisor for Global Energy Security Amos Hochstein is in Beirut to discuss sustainable solutions to Lebanon’s energy crisis. Hochstein has also been appointed to lead US-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel over maritime border disputes. [US State Department] The visit comes as Lebanon’s fuel shortages continue to afflict the country.
Central Bank Financial Audit to Resume
President Michel Aoun said today that consultants from Alvarez & Marsal will resume a financial audit of Lebanon’s central bank this week. The transparent audit of Banque du Liban has remained a central requirement for Lebanon to access billions of dollars in financial assistance. [National] Today an IMF executive director expressed hope that program negotiations with Lebanon to unlock assistance can begin before the start of the new year. [Reuters]
Judge Bitar Continues the Beirut Port Investigation
After Judge Tarek Bitar’s investigation into last year’s Beirut Port explosion had been temporarily suspended twice, Bitar has continued his probe and has rescheduled interrogations with two sitting members of parliament for October 29. Two other former ex-ministers have been issued arrest warrants for failing to appear. All four had previously filed legal complaints when they were called in for questioning. Former Prime Minister Hasan Diab is also scheduled for questioning at the end of the month. [Al Jazeera]
Human Rights Organization Concludes Syria not Safe for Return
Human Rights Watch released a report this week titled, “Our Lives Are Like Death: Syrian Refugee Returns from Lebanon and Jordan.” The report concluded that Syria is not safe for the return of refugees. HRW detailed cases of arrest and arbitrary detention, torture, kidnappings, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and sexual violence for those who returned to Syria. [HRW]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Firefight on Beirut Streets is a Warning to US and Lebanon
Howard writes, “Onlookers have warned about increasing instability in Lebanon in recent years. While the US has strongly supported security and humanitarian assistance for Lebanon, multiple administrations have attempted to pivot away from the Middle East to East Asia. The October 14 clashes are the latest reminder that proactive action must be taken immediately to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people and to reform their political system. The US must prioritize combating corruption and incentivize reform in Lebanon. The clock is ticking.”
Middle East Institute
Making Sense of the Beirut Clashes
Nassif writes, “If there’s one key takeaway from [last] week’s developments, it’s that observers, both domestic and foreign, should keep their eyes on the ball: shielding the port blast investigation and ensuring it continues unabated. Lebanon’s political establishment has mastered the art of diversion and manipulation, and Lebanese political parties are once again leveraging religious affiliations, identity politics, and threats of civil war to divert attention away from a publicly supported investigation that may implicate nearly all of them. For years, politicians have cemented their favorite, forcibly imposed tradeoff: civil peace and stability vs. justice and accountability. This approach has generally been successful — more particularly since the general amnesty law was passed in 1991 — and has often resulted in inconclusive or botched investigations as well as political reconciliations that favored maintaining the status quo over finding and acting upon the truth.”
The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies
Expanding the Prerogatives of Caretaker Governments in Times of Crisis
Baroud writes, “Caretaker governments became much more frequent and prolonged in recent years. While the average period to form a government was six days between 1989 and 2005, it increased to 100 days between 2005 and 2016,1 reaching up to a full year in two recent cases: Tammam Salam’s (2014) cabinet took 315 days to be formed, while Hassan Diab presided over a caretaker government for more than a year (from August 2020 to September 2021). The prerogatives of caretaker governments are, however, subject to different interpretations, and a point of controversy among Lebanon’s politicians. Given that Lebanon’s pressing economic and financial crisis often required critical decisions from Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s caretaker government, this brief seeks to clarify the prerogatives that the constitution, legal jurisprudence, doctrine, and academics assign to caretaker governments, as well as what citizens can expect from them.
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.