Lebanon Daily News Brief 12/20/2021

Monday, December 20, 2021


UN Secretary General Urges Lebanese Leaders to Prioritize Its People and Reform
“It is essential for leaders to put the people first, and implement the reforms needed to set Lebanon back on track, including efforts to promote accountability and transparency, and root out corruption,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres reiterated in a video message preceding his official visit to Lebanon. [Reuters]  “Seeing the suffering of the people of Lebanon, Lebanese political leaders do not have the right to be divided and paralyse the country,” he said in a press conference with President Michel Aoun. [France 24]

US Official: US Is Revising Its Approach to the Region
A US official, on condition of anonymity, shared several departures in its approach to the Middle East with journalists in Washington on Friday, commenting on a variety of sub-regions and issues. Referring to Lebanon, the official indicated the US’s intention to avoid, “any more failed states.” The US official also stated that the US is, “making clear that the only people that can save Lebanon are the Lebanese, and particularly the Lebanese political leaders who have to make hard choices to save their country.” He added, “An awful lot of work is going on behind the scenes on Lebanon as we move forward.” [Al Arabiya English]

Deputy PM: Lebanon May Reach Progress with IMF Between January and February
Citing Deputy Prime Minister Saadeh Al Shami, the Al-Jadeed station publicized his anticipation of a preliminary agreement concerning IMF financial assistance to Lebanon occuring sometime between January and February. [Reuters]



Washington Awash With Middle East Policy Scenarios
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, The Baghdad Conference brought together major regional players, including Iran, to discuss common economic development opportunities and needs. The US did not participate, but agreements and accommodations emerged from evolving trust among the participants. It is a beginning, and doesn’t rely u the whims of US presidential politics which, in recent years especially, has changed significantly from administration to administration. This has been a consistent weakness in US foreign policy as it is often dependent on policy directives that are prematurely reset with the installation of new Congresses and Presidents, depending on the election cycle. On the other hand, the Abraham Accords require a continued US military presence in the region in order to fulfill its underlying Anti-Iranian platform, since the economic benefits are secondary in the policy priorities. There are credible reasons to condone a militarized US presence in the region as hard power maintains necessary pressure on parties to be supportive or face consequences. This approach, however, must be exercised with careful consideration of US credibility since no president wants to return to a ‘boots on the ground’ scenario anywhere in the Middle East.”

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Malcom H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center

Enemies of the Good

Michael Young

Young writes, It’s true that Macron stumbled last year in thinking that the Lebanese political elite would readily go along with his initiative to push for economic reform and the establishment of a government that would work toward this end. However, this should not detract from the fact that Lebanon is highly fortunate to have retained a measure of French interest, because no one, absolutely no one, considers the country a priority today. At a time when the Lebanese are facing a financial and economic crisis of historical proportions—and that is the assessment of the World Bank—such concern is essential.”

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Center for Strategic and International Studies
CSIS Briefs: Lebanon’s Growing Humanitarian Crisis
Will Todman, Caleb Harper

Todman and Harper write, “Lebanon’s political quagmire will not end any time soon. The elections scheduled for Spring 2022 are unlikely to displace the corrupt political class, which has resisted necessary reforms to end Lebanon’s crises at every turn. Humanitarian aid will not solve Lebanon’s fundamental problems, but it could slow Lebanon’s collapse and open some space for political discussions with Lebanese officials to implement systems that better serve the needs of vulnerable people in Lebanon. Donors’ highest priorities should be to improve the effectiveness of the humanitarian aid they provide to support the creation of systems that will serve Lebanon’s longer-term needs. International actors disagree about the best way to respond to the needs of vulnerable communities in Lebanon, and there is a strong bias for the status quo after many years of humanitarian operations in the country. But needs in Lebanon have changed dramatically over the last couple of years. An independent review of the aid architecture is needed to provide a full understanding of the current challenges in Lebanon and how to optimize the international aid response and ensure it does not exacerbate issues.”

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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.