UNIFIL Mandate Renewed with LAF Support Provision

The UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2591 extends the UNIFIL mandate for another full year, recounting its efforts to support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in ensuring security and stability between the Litani River and the southern boundary with Israel (the Blue Line).

It restated a number of points that illustrate the challenges to its mission. For example, the Resolution condemned the attacks on the UNIFIL and threats constraining its safety, freedom of movement, and access along the Blue Line. In that regard, the Council called on Lebanon to expedite its investigations into the attacks against UNIFIL and “bring the perpetrators of these attacks to justice promptly.” A case brought in 1980 has only recently been settled by the Lebanese judiciary.

UNSCR 2591 also mentioned violations of the Blue Line by air (code for Israeli overflights) and land (code for Hezbollah and IDF excursions testing both sides), and called on all parties to respect the cessation of hostilities and fully cooperate with the UNIFIL. This is one of the core challenges to the UNIFIL’s capability to carry out its mission. It has not been granted permission by the Lebanese government to enter private property in pursuit of its investigations or probe the cross-border tunnels exposed by Israel two years ago. Additionally, Lebanese senior politicians have prohibited the LAF from various pursuits and arrests as in the case of the Hezbollah engineers captured by villagers in South Lebanon with rocket launchers, which were then returned and the men freed.

One would not be remiss in asking what role the UNIFIL can undertake under so many restraints.

The first defense of UNIFIL’s role is its relationship with the LAF which has endured for 15 years and raised the LAF’s profile as the most respected government institution in the country. A key element in this has been the regular tripartite meetings among the IDF and LAF, mediated by the UNIFIL, which have been a stabilizing factor in the region as the only forum between Lebanese and Israeli representatives. The UNSC encouraged the parties to expand these meetings in order to “resolve the conflict and build confidence.”

As a one-time measure, the UNSC asked the international community to take exceptional measures to support the Lebanese Armed Forces logistically and with non-lethal items (fuel, food, and medicine) for a period of six months, and within the limits of local resources. Putting support for the LAF on the agenda of the international community is critical for its survival until Lebanon achieves some degree of normalcy.

The Resolution did not exempt Lebanon’s leadership from its critical language: “Strongly urging the Lebanese political leaders to form, without further delay and with a sense of urgency, a new Government which can respond to the needs and aspirations of the Lebanese population and the current main challenges Lebanon is facing, in particular the reconstruction of Beirut, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the implementation of reforms, which are absolutely necessary to overcome and recover from the current and unprecedented acute social, economic, and humanitarian crises, expressing grave concern about the obstacles to the political process and implementation of the necessary reforms, and calling on the Lebanese authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the conduct of elections in 2022 according to the planned schedule…”

Finally, the UNSC made note of two enduring issues by calling on Israel “to expedite the withdrawal of its army from northern Ghajar without further delay in coordination with UNIFIL, which has actively engaged Israel and Lebanon to facilitate such a withdrawal; [and] Reaffirms its call on all States to fully support and respect the establishment between the Blue Line and the Litani River of an area free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and UNIFIL.” While resolving these points is clearly aspirational at this point, it is important to restate the basic mission of the UNIFIL in Lebanon.

One further note: it is past time for the UNSC to aggressively address the issue of smuggling across the Lebanese-Syrian border which continues to undermine and erode the Lebanese economy. Political forces on both sides are profiting from the pain of millions of Lebanese deprived of food, medications, and fuel that was subsidized in Lebanon and moved across the border where they are sold at a great profit.

The LAF is supposed to have responsibility for border security and the UNIFIL shares some of that role in the South, but the egregious behavior of the Lebanese political mafia in limiting the LAF’s freedom of action only deepens the trust deficit between the people and many in the leadership of the country.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 8/31/2021

DAILY NEWS


UNIFIL Mandate Extended With Extra Provision for Lebanese Army
Yesterday evening the UN Security Council extended the mandate for UNIFIL for another year through Resolution 1701. The Security Council adopted the 2591 decision, which adds exceptional measures including logistical support for the Lebanese army and supplies of fuel, food, and medicine for six months. [The 961]

Major General Abbas Ibrahim Leads Government Mediation Efforts
Yesterday in an effort to break political deadlock, head of General Security Major General Abbas Ibrahim led mediation efforts between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. Envoys from the two leaders shuttled back and forth between Baabda Palace and Miqati’s Beirut residence with lists of proposed candidates for key ministries, sources say. [The Daily Star] Hezbollah encouraged Ibrahim’s efforts to break the deadlock. [Naharnet]

Flour Millers’ Association Warns Production Will Cease Without Fuel
Today Lebanon’s flour millers’ association said in a statement that fuel shortages are threatening to halt bread production.The association called on Lebanese officials to “work quickly before it is too late” and that mills’ fuel oil supply has run out and production could cease as early as today. [Reuters]

Gas Station in Flames in Bcharre District
Last night a loud explosion was heard in Lebanon’s northern district of Bcharre, followed by a gas station in Hadath al-Jebbe going up in flames. Civil defense teams put out the fire and security forces are investigating the incident. [Al Arabiya]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Carnegie Middle East Center
Lebanon Needs an Emergency Stabilization Program
Amer Bisat

Bisat writes, “While a comprehensive reform plan will eventually be necessary, the country needs to immediately arrest its collapse. The nation’s fabric is effectively being torn apart. The economy is in a depression, inflation is startlingly high, the currency is imploding, there are widespread shortages in basic goods, the health system is failing, emigration is accelerating, civil disorder is rampant, and the Lebanese people are witnessing an alarming rise in sectarian tensions. Due to all of this, it is necessary to introduce an emergency stabilization program (ESP) that seeks to achieve basic—some would say rudimentary—objectives. These include ending the economic depression and injecting much-needed capital into the economy, reducing shortages of basic goods, bringing back core government services, stabilizing the currency, and controlling inflation. For this to be successful, the ESP must be politically feasible, simple enough to be rolled out quickly—in as short a period as one hundred days—and must show immediate results.”

Read more 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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 8/26/2021

DAILY NEWS


MTV Interview with Ambassador Edward M. Gabriel
In an interview with MTV yesterday, ATFL President Ed Gabriel reviewed current negotiations with JCPOA and noted that Lebanon will not be addressed in the talks right now. He also referenced efforts that the United States is making to help Lebanon, including $100 million in aid to be distributed through NGOs and multilateral agencies, letters of support and resolutions currently circulating in the US Congress, and added diplomatic pressure from the US and France on Lebanese politicians to form a government. [MTV]

CORRECTION: Part of Ambassador Gabriel’s interview was erroneously translated in Arabic. In his interview he suggested that given the time difference, if LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun had the opportunity to listen to his interview he would confirm what Ambassador Gabriel said, that the US has recently provided important aid to Lebanon. The Arabic translation misconstrues Ambassador Gabriel’s comments with regard to President Michel Aoun. No where in his interview did he refer to the president.

Miqati and Aoun to Meet Today After Postponed Meeting
Prime Minister-designate Najib Miqati planned to visit Baabda yesterday to submit his final cabinet lineup, but his meeting with President Michel Aoun was cancelled. The meeting was rescheduled for today and the two are expected to meet shortly. [Naharnet] Miqati said that he will not accept any changes, even if that means he must resign. Reports say that US-French pressure pushed Aoun to give up on insisting on certain “provocative” candidates. [Naharnet]

Lebanese Army Deployed Troops to the North
Violence in northern Lebanon this week has resulted in the deaths of two men. Heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades were used among rival groups’ fighting between the villages of Akkar al-Atiqa and Fnaidek yesterday. The Lebanese army deployed troops today to the area. [Reuters]

Bitar Issues Subpoena for Caretaker PM Diab
Judge Tarek Bitar, head of the Beirut blast investigation, has issued a subpoena for caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab after Diab failed to show up for questioning. the prime minister’s session is postponed to September 20. In July, Bitar had requested to question Diab and other top officials that have been given immunity. Bitar and other Lebanese protesters are calling for the immunities given to government officials to be lifted. [Reuters]

Emirates to Allow Extra Baggage For Those Traveling to Beirut
According to a statement released yesterday, Emirates airline will provide extra baggage for those traveling to Beirut starting this week until September 30, 2021. The offer is meant to allow customers to bring essential goods and medicines to friends and family in Beirut as Lebanon faces severe shortages. [Emirates]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Interzine
Renewable Energy in Lebanon Will Save Lives
Adnan Nasser

Nasser writes, “Lebanon is a top candidate for renewable energy. It possesses an abundance of natural resources and is blessed with climate advantages, such as 300 days of sun and enormous wind energy potential. Hydropower is Lebanon’s oldest form of alternative energy, and provided most of its electricity in the pre-civil war years. Most of the hydro plants were constructed during Lebanon’s “Golden Age,” during which the country produced an impressive 75% of its electricity from water. The Golden Age, however, is long gone. In 2010, hydroelectricity made up just 6.1% of Lebanon’s power grid. In response, people have demonstrated outside the energy ministry to protest the incompetence of their government. With no hope in sight, the Lebanese people are taking matters into their own hands by staging street protests…People do not have an infinite amount of time to sit around waiting for change. The Lebanese are in no mood to be told they must be more patient. Ultimately, a new course of action focused on green policy that sidelines the government must be taken to rescue Lebanon from its current state of collapse.”

Read more 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.

This Week In Lebanon: 8/21/2021

August 21, 2021
Parliament Session Yesterday on Fuel Subsidies
CIA Director Proposes Israeli Withdrawal from Shebaa Farms
Lebanese Security Forces Secure Fuel from Warehouses for Hospitals

Parliament Session Yesterday on Fuel Subsidies
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri held a session yesterday to respond to Lebanon’s severe fuel shortage. [Reuters] At the request of President Michel Aoun, the parliament was instructed to come to some sort of decision or action regarding fuel subsidies that Central Bank governor Riad Salameh decided to halt last week as the bank runs low on reserves. [Naharnet] Today, Salameh said the government decided to raise fuel import exchange rates from 3,900 pounds to the dollar to 8,000 to the dollar. [Reuters]

RESPONSE

“Three critical decision points are coming to a head this week: the latest attempt to form a government, insolvency of the subsidies program, and the issuance of the IMF Special Drawing Rights, potentially worth more than a billion dollars. Once again the Lebanese politicians face a choice: remain selfish in serving the priorities of their confessionally directed habits, or, wake up and form a reformist government capable of meeting the needs of the people. At a minimum, this would require rejecting the old subsidy prices drain on the budget and agreeing to the World Bank cash card system, to which they can then apply SDR monies to transparently and effectively help those in need.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


CIA Director Proposes Israeli Withdrawal from Shebaa Farms
During a recent visit to Lebanon, CIA Director William Burns reportedly proposed to have Israel withdraw from Lebanon’s occupied Shebaa Farms in effort to put an end to the border conflict. The area, situated in the Golan Heights, has been occupied by Israel since 1978 and has long been a source of tension along the southern Lebanon border. [The 961]

RESPONSE

“CIA Director William Burns is no stranger to Lebanon or the region. He knows it intimately and is well versed in the nuances of regional politics. If this initiative is true, it merits serious consideration by the Israelis. ‘Liberating’ Shebaa Farms is one of the false narratives concocted by Hezbollah as part of its ‘resistance’ role in defending Lebanon. Without that, it may have to fall back on other tropes to justify its military presence in the country. And Israel’s new government can take credit for reducing tensions while still controlling the Golan Heights from which it can still monitor activities in the surrounding areas.”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Lebanese Security Forces Secure Fuel from Warehouses for Hospitals
Amid Lebanon’s crippling fuel shortage, Lebanese security forces seized thousands of liters of fuel from warehouses in Beirut and Zouk Mosbeh and distributed the fuel to hospitals, bakeries, and other private generator owners. [The 961] Later in the week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah announced that a ship of Iranian fuel will set sail from Iran to Lebanon. [Reuters]

RESPONSE

“Fuel subsidies, smuggling, sanctions, and supply lines are the dominant themes in Lebanon news this week. The LAF has been recovering caches of fuel from hoarders and smugglers and distributing it to private generator operators, hospitals, and small businesses which serve the people directly. However, large shipments continue to be smuggled to Syria with periodic interceptions by citizens fed up with the ease with which smugglers operate. And now Nasrallah is negotiating on his own with Iran for diesel fuel for power generators and some vehicles, in contravention of sanctions on Iran and on the transshipments supposedly through Syria, which fall under Caesar Act sanctioning. Regrettably, Lebanon has no government willing to develop a sane policy to ensure gasoline and diesel deliveries adequate to the country’s needs.”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed 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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 8/16/2021

DAILY NEWS


Fuel Tank Explosion in Akkar
Yesterday’s fuel tank explosion in Akkar took the lives of at least 28 people and injured 79. Around 200 people were nearby when the tank exploded. Protesters blame Lebanese politicians as Lebanon’s fuel shortage continues to cause chaos at gas stations around the country. Some have called for President Michel Aoun to take responsibility and resign, including former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. [Reuters] Aoun said today that he will not resign and that he hopes a government will be formed in the next few days. [Naharnet]

AUB Hospital Close to Shutting Down Due to Fuel Shortages
Over the weekend the American University of Beirut Medical Center released a warning that it may be forced to shut down due to extreme fuel shortages. The AUBMC statement said that the lives of 55 patients dependent on respirators, including 15 children, and over 100 people on dialysis would be immediately in danger if fuel shortages caused the hospital to shut down. In its appeal, AUBMC urged the Lebanese government, the UN, and aid agencies to help. [AP] Yesterday AUBMC said the UN, WHO, the World Bank, and others stepped in and were able to supply fuel so that the hospital did not have to shut down today, and will have around a week of reserves. [AUBMC Statement]

US Ambassador Meets with Miqati and Aoun
Today US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea met with Prime Minister-designate Miqati and later President Michel Aoun to discuss the states of government formation talks. Ambassador Shea stressed the urgent need for government formation and steps toward reforms to keep Lebanon from slipping further into a humanitarian catastrophe. In her statement today she further expressed condolences over yesterday’s loss of life in Akkar. [US Embassy Beirut]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


Middle East Institute
Lebanon’s upcoming allocation of IMF Special Drawing Rights
Christophe Abi-Nassif

Abi-Nassif writes, “Unlike what is inaccurately reported in most Lebanese media, Lebanon’s share of the allocation is neither a grant nor a loan by the IMF. It is instead an asset that belongs to the Lebanese people. Fairly and transparently using this newfound liquidity can alleviate Lebanon’s explosive food and medical insecurity at a time when four in five Lebanese live in poverty and shortages of medication and critical medical supplies are threatening the entire health care system. Proceeds from a potential SDRs exchange can indeed help finance a targeted and direct cash transfer program to shield Lebanon’s most vulnerable citizens. The World Bank has been advocating for such a program for months and had developed a $246 million emergency social safety net project back in January. This project could be further expanded and complemented by increased, SDR-generated funding, a direction that many Lebanese civil society and diaspora organizations have been calling for given Lebanon’s rampant humanitarian disaster.”

Read more here

Carnegie Middle East Center
Enemies in the Gates
Michael Young

Young writes, “If Nasrallah knows that Lebanon is divided over the resistance, he can guess the strength of the backlash a future war with Israel might provoke. Does Hezbollah really feel it can pursue an approach in which its wars have to be fought in duplicate—one against an external enemy, first, followed by another against its domestic rivals?”

Read more here

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Lebanon’s Crisis and UNIFIL’s Mandate Renewal
David Schenker and Assaf Orion

Schenker and Orion write, “To make UNIFIL more effective and prevent dangerous destabilization in the south, the Security Council should review the force’s mandate more frequently, reallocate its resources to better fit its mission, make reporting more transparent and accurate, and hold the government and LAF accountable for their obstruction.”

Read more 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.

This Week In Lebanon: 8/13/2021

August 13, 2021
US Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Middle East Security Assistance
Patriarch Al-Rai Calls on Lebanese Army to Confront Hezbollah
Nasrallah Claims Ammonium Nitrate Used for Syrian Rebels
Opinion Piece: Enemies in the Gate

US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Security Assistance in the Middle East
This week the US Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism held a hearing on US security assistance in the Middle East. When asked about Lebanon and US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Mira Resnick said that “the LAF is one of our most capable partners in the Middle East” and that “without the LAF, Hezbollah fills the void and that is exactly the opposite of what we would like to see in Lebanon.” [US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations]

RESPONSE

“The LAF continues to be one of the best US military investments in the Middle East, assisting the one remaining institution in Lebanon capable of maintaining peace, stability, and the territorial integrity of the country. The US should double down on this worthwhile investment, which is providing the best antidote to Hezbollah hegemony.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Patriarch Al-Rai Calls On Lebanese Army to Confront Hezbollah
In a speech during Sunday Mass, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai called on the Lebanese army to “confront Hezbollah for the sake of Lebanon.” Following Hezbollah’s rocket attacks on Israel, the Patriarch called for the LAF to take control of southern Lebanon and prevent further missiles from being launched. He added that this was not for the sake of Israel’s safety, but for Lebanon’s. [VOA]

RESPONSE

“Lebanese political parties should stand with the Patriarch for his brave comments condemning Hezbollah. Their political domination has reached its limit with the Lebanese people and they need to make their voices heard loudly and clearly that they will not tolerate Hezbollah’s hegemonic actions any longer.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Nasrallah Claims Ammonium Nitrate Used For Syrian Rebel Forces
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah recently claimed in a speech that the ammonium nitrate that caused the Beirut Port explosion was being smuggled to rebel forces in Syria and that those who brought the chemicals to Lebanon were supporters of rebel forces. He further claimed that Judge Tarek Bitar has politicized the Beirut Port blast investigation and accused him of being biased. [The 961]

RESPONSE

“Where does Nasrallah’s recent claims leave the inquiring mind? Since Hezbollah and its allies have controlled the port for more than a decade, and Judge Bitar’s offense is to call for investigating politicians and officials, many from Hezbollah and its allies in government, can it be deduced that the resistance holds contradictory positions? Cognitive dissonance is what it’s called… inherently contradictory positions…not hard for a militia cum political force that has never really supported Lebanon’s sovereignty in light of Iran’s interests. No contradiction there…”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Opinion Piece

Enemies in the Gate by Michael Young
Carnegie Middle East Center’s Michael Young reviews Hezbollah’s actions in the past year and a half and shows areas where Lebanese have turned against the party. Referencing the group’s recent escalations on the border with Israel and growing domestic turmoil within Lebanon, Young asks, “Does Hezbollah really feel it can pursue an approach in which its wars have to be fought in duplicate – one against an external enemy, first, followed by another against its domestic rivals?” [Carnegie MEC]

RESPONSE

“Michael Young makes a persuasive case that Hezbollah has lost its sheen as the resistance force against Israel at Iran’s behest. Assassinating its critics; disabling the government, along with its complicit allies; fomenting violence along the boundary with Israel to upstage attacks by Palestinian groups; and using its political leverage to force the LAF to release the Hezbollah members and rockets from last week’s cross-border attacks, only serve to make a mockery of Lebanese independence and sovereignty. Civil strife may only be around the corner. And maybe that’s the plan…can’t have elections during civil conflict.”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed 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.

Lebanon – Caught in a Snare of Its Own Making

Are you still waiting to hear some positive political news about Lebanon? It’s clear that the humanitarian, medical, social, and economic news is all bad and getting worse. There are no updates yet from PM-designate Najib Mikati, tasked with producing the latest version of a government to be approved by his peers in the political oligarchy. Is no news good or bad?

The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai spoke out at his Sunday sermon. He challenged Hezbollah’s insistence on putting Lebanon at risk by engaging with the IDF in a battle of rocket fire into empty fields. Hezbollah’s exchanges with Israel are insults to the LAF, first by pressuring them to return the rockets and Hezbollah militia crew impounded by the Druze villagers of Chouaya; and then taking “retaliation” against Israel without warning the LAF of the potential firefight that could follow. Fortunately for Lebanon, Israel refused to take the bait.

The Patriarch’s alarm raised a storm of social media condemnation from Hezbollah’s supporters, causing President Aoun to defend the Patriarch and calling for calm for the sake of unity. The Patriarch shows no intention of backing down and he is speaking for a growing number of Lebanese who believe that Hezbollah’s disdain for the country’s sovereignty and stability should no longer be tolerated. However, in almost parallel statements from the protagonists, Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah claimed that “We are not looking for war and we do not want to head towards war, but we are ready for it” if necessary, echoing similar comments by Israel this past week.

PM-designate Mikati is facing the same challenges as his predecessor in attempting to negotiate the composition of the cabinet in a new government. President Aoun is once again insisting on naming the Ministers of Justice and the Interior, who have responsibility for the judiciary and the elections. Whether or not Mikati will agree or fold up his portfolio and return to Tripoli is uncertain. Some analysts see this as a holding action by Aoun to prevent a new government from proceeding with the elections on time.

Elections on time, without interference, and with independent international observers have been a consistent demand by the international community as one of the conditions Lebanon must meet to obtain external funding. Saudi Arabia is the most recent country to say that assistance to Lebanon is contingent upon the selection of an empowered reform government that would meet IMF requirements, hold transparent and free elections, and adopt budgetary and financial discipline.

There really is no hiding from these realities but the political oligarchy is doing its best. What a horrific year since the Beirut Port blast, the economic collapse, Covid, and emigration of the professional and skilled workforce. The people are speaking, from October 17, 2019 until today; their entreaties are being ignored. How much longer can the catastrophe be avoided?

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/31/2021

DAILY NEWS


Wildfires in Lebanon Continue for the Third Day in a Row
The wildfire that started on Wednesday in northern Lebanon continues to burn for the third day in a row. Lebanon’s military and firefighters are working to contain the fire but they report there are some areas they can’t reach. [France 24] The fire has spread across Lebanon’s border with Syria and unofficial estimates say 500 acres of pine forests in the region have been destroyed so far. Firefighters and air force helicopters have been working to put out the fire and Syrian helicopters have since joined in the efforts. Lebanon’s government is calling for urgent assistance from Cyprus. [AP]

New US House Resolution Introduced to Support Lebanon
On Wednesday US Representatives Darin LaHood (IL-18) and Darrell Issa (CA-50) introduced H. Res. 569, “Expressing continued solidarity with the Lebanese people after the devastating explosions at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and the continued efforts to form a secure, independent, and democratic Lebanon.” [Congress.gov] The resolution emphasizes the need for humanitarian assistance for the Lebanese people, supports the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and US goals to combat government corruption and pressure Lebanon’s government to make structural reforms upon the formation of a new cabinet. [LaHood]

Aoun Says He Will Give a Statement on Blast Investigation If Needed
Today President Michel Aoun told state prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat that he is ready to give a statement about the August 4 Beirut Port explosion if it’s needed. He said that “no one is above the law” and that justice can only be achieved through Lebanon’s specialized judicial branches. [Reuters] Yesterday Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said parliament was ready to lift the immunity given to officials surrounding the blast investigation. He did not give a timeline on when immunity would be lifted or how. [Asharq Al-Awsat]

Commander Gen. Aoun Addresses the Lebanese Army
Today as Lebanon nears the 76th anniversary of Army Day, Commander General Joseph Aoun encouraged the Lebanese Armed Forces and said do not allow anyone to “question your faith in your country and your institution.” He warned of upcoming challenges and to be ready to face them with “wisdom, patience, and deliberation.” [Naharnet]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


National Review
Economic Crisis Devastated Lebanon. Decentralized Finance Could Be the Answer
Hugo Dante

Dante writes: “As the birth of the lollar has shown, economic and institutional collapse has forced the people of Lebanon to fend for themselves, seeking out any solutions available to help overcome their harsh reality…The need for new solutions has even contributed to a “Bitcoin boom” in Lebanon, with Coindesk claiming that the Lebanese people could be moving as much as $1–$5 million in Bitcoin a month. However, accurate estimates are difficult to find. Bitcoin transactions can be slow and expensive, significantly limiting its adoption. But the underlying blockchain technology makes possible various innovations in Decentralized Finance (DeFi) that could help people in Lebanon and around the world access traditional finance and provide viable alternatives in the face of severe corruption and dire economic crisis…The crisis in Lebanon is a bleak reminder of the cost of corruption and institutional failure. As technology evolves, though, more and more alternatives will become available, helping individuals to overcome these challenges and preserve the value of their assets.”

Read more here

Beirut Port Blast: Why a Domestic Investigation Won’t Bring Justice
Cassia King

King writes: “When assessing the domestic investigation’s validity, the question to ask is not really if Bitar is a fair judge, but whether or not he is able to conduct a fair investigation within the constraints of the judicial system and pressure from Lebanon’s political elite. In the short-term, Lebanon needs an international investigation to take over the Beirut Port blast case…Victims [of the blast] and families of victims deserve justice and the culprits of these crimes that cost Lebanese lives and billions of dollars need to be held accountable. If an international investigation is refused, then immunities given to Lebanese authorities must be lifted to give Bitar a chance at conducting a full domestic investigation, though, as noted, political interference will likely infect the process. In the long-term, Lebanon’s judiciary needs systemic reform to ensure its independence. Taking Lebanon’s judiciary out of the hands of Lebanon’s executive branch is a necessary step to diminish the impact of sectarian power plays that have corrupted and diminished its credibility.”

Read more here


ATFL STATEMENT

ATFL Statement on H. Res. 569 Observing the August 4 Beirut Port Explosions

The American Task Force on Lebanon commends the US-Lebanon Friendship Caucus and its chairs, Representatives Darin LaHood of Illinois, Charlie Crist of Florida, Darrell Issa of California and Debbie Dingell of Michigan and their fellow members for introducing on Wednesday, July 28, H.Res. 569, “Expressing continued solidarity with the Lebanese people after the devastating explosions at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and the continued efforts to form a stable, independent, and democratic Lebanon.”

ATFL is pleased by the bipartisan support for the Resolution and will continue to work diligently with Democratic and Republican members to build additional support for it. As ATFL President Ambassador Ed Gabriel remarked, “This resolution sends a very strong message to the Lebanese people that their survival and that of Lebanon are in the interests of the United States. As importantly, it sends a clear message to Lebanon’s government that members of Congress are concerned with its inability to conduct a transparent and credible investigation of the explosions and ‘calls on the Government of Lebanon to conduct a credible, impartial, and transparent investigation into the cause of, and responsibility for, the August 4 explosions, and include impartial international experts as part of the investigation team.’”

Read the full statement


SPECIAL EVENT

ATFL will hold a virtual webinar on Thursday, August 5 from 11:30am to 1:00pm ET to mark the one-year anniversary of the August 4 Beirut Port explosions. The presentations will focus on four themes:

The threat of the rapidly declining socio-economic conditions on Lebanese society including the brain drain and social services;

Assessing the role of the international community in bringing pressure to bear on economic and political reforms;

The status of US-Lebanon relations and challenges to building relations with a potential new government;

And lessons from post-conflict stabilization strategies in developing survival options for Lebanon as a sovereign state.
US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea and President of the Lebanese American University are among our guest speakers. Others to be determined include EU and UN officials and other Lebanon experts and advocates.

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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/23/2021

DAILY NEWS


Lebanon to Stop Fuel Deliveries
Reports say that Lebanon’s Ministry of Energy and Water will stop delivering diesel amid the fuel crisis because its supplies have run dry except for limited emergency quantities. [Middle East Monitor] Iraq is expected to deliver one million tons of fuel to Lebanon to resume power plant operations after an agreement is signed this weekend. [The Daily Star]

UN Lebanon Envoy Speaks With UN Security Council
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka met with the UN Security Council yesterday to discuss the implementation of Resolution 1701 with the aim of enhancing Lebanon’s security and sovereignty. Wronecka reiterated the need for a “fully empowered government” in Lebanon that can work toward reforms and she praised the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces to maintain the country’s stability. [Arab News]

Former PM Najib Mikati Favored to Form a Government
Sources say that former Prime Minister Najib Mikati is the “most favorite candidate” to be named the new prime minister-designate. Parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to officially name the next prime minister-designate who will attempt to form a cabinet after former Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s resignation. [Daily Star]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring elections.”

Read more 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.

Lebanon Daily News Brief 7/22/2021

DAILY NEWS


Hospitals Warn Power Cuts Will Lead to Catastrophe
Today the syndicate of private hospitals in Lebanon warned of a looming catastrophe as power cuts increase and hospitals are running out of fuel to keep life-saving equipment operational. Power outages are lasting up to 23 hours per day in some parts of the country. [The Daily Star]

Lebanese MPs Sign Motion for Officials to Be Tried Through the Supreme Council
Some Lebanese MPs are supporting a motion that would allow officials surrounding the August 4 Beirut blast to be investigated and tried through a special judicial body, the Supreme Council. These officials include four ex-ministers that Judge Tarek Bitar has previously called in for questioning. If the motion passes and these ex-ministers are called into the Supreme Council, Bitar will be unable to charge them. Legal activists and blast victim family members have criticized this move as an attempt to obstruct accountability. [Al Jazeera]

Beqaa Industrialists to Support Lebanese Armed Forces
Yesterday the head of the Association of Industrialists in Beqaa announced that industrialists in the region will be helping support the Lebanese Armed Forces. Their efforts will focus on the maintenance of LAF vehicles. LAF Commander General Joseph Aoun approved and welcomed the move. [The 961]

OPINION & ANALYSIS


SDRs: For The People Or For The Government
Jean AbiNader

AbiNader writes, “While it is attractive to use the SDRs to alleviate the humanitarian needs of the Lebanese, it does not excuse the caretaker government or parliament from taking responsibility for economic reforms. This appears to be a calculated move by politicians to gain traction in the upcoming elections by rewarding their constituents with cash cards purchased at the cost of the country’s longer term economic stability and financial integrity. They are literally holding the cards at this point and the Lebanese people will only really win by changing the game in the spring elections.”

Read more 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.