This Week in Lebanon 11/11/2022

Friday, November 11, 2022
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November 11, 2022

Lebanon-Bound Fuel Trucks Destroyed in Air Strike Over Syria 
Taif Agreement is Best Solution to Lebanon Crisis, Saudi Arabia Stands by Us: Mikati
Lebanon’s Health Sector Worsens

Lebanon-Bound Fuel Trucks Destroyed in Air Strike Over Syria 
According to the Reuters, “At least two fuel trucks were destroyed in an air strike by an unidentified drone on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq late on Tuesday, Iraqi security and border officials told Reuters . . . Iran’s state-run Press TV channel confirmed the attack and accused the United States of carrying it out, saying ‘a convoy of 22 tankers carrying fuel to Lebanon crossing from Iraq to Syria was attacked by U.S. drones’ at the Syrian town of Albukamal.” [Reuters]

RESPONSE

This action underscores the need to quickly approve the Levantine Energy Deal, championed by the US, rather than some dubious offer from Iran. The Levantine deal will provide up to 8 hours of additional electricity for the citizens of Lebanon, and Lebanon’s Minister of Energy has stated that the deal is preferable to the transfer of fuel from Iran. But he and the Prime Minister must deliver to the World Bank an internationally acceptable electricity reform program that provides assurances to the World Bank concerning the sustainability of the project and begin the process of implementing an Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) to regulate the conduct of electricity power and reliability. The Lebanese government has taken nearly a year to deliver the necessary guarantees to the World Bank which will in turn provide the funding for the project. How much longer will the Lebanese people have to wait in darkness for their leaders to step up? 

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel 

Lebanon’s Civil Servants Are Leaving in Droves. They Won’t be Replaced Soon.
Richard Salame spoke with one civil servant who said, “In my office, we’ve reduced our schedule to one day per week”  because she and her colleagues feel transportation to the office is unaffordable. The source continued, “Even the employees who make it to the office don’t stay until the end of the shift because they have to pick up their kids from school—they can’t afford to pay for school transportation to take the kids home.” [L’Orient Today]

RESPONSE
While one can feel angst for the civil servants who are leaving Lebanon, it has a dual impact on the country: on the positive side, it reduces public expenditures on salaries, and on the negative side, it deprives the state of the very people they need to populate the agencies to ensure their operations. Of course, everyone has a story of ghost jobs and phantom employees who owe their jobs to their political overlords. But the fact remains that literally the best and brightest are leaving because they can find employment elsewhere, compromising Lebanon’s future prospects for a rapid rebirth once the politicians decide to act on behalf of the national interest.

-ATFL Vice President Jean AbiNader

Taif Agreement is Best Solution to Lebanon Crisis, Saudi Arabia Stands by Us: Mikati
Saudi Ambassador Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari and Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati both stressed the importance of the Taif Agreement to addressing Lebanon’s challenges in governance. Mikati expressed that this conference signifies Saudi Arabia’s continued engagement in Lebanon and the large number of participants, including political leaders such as Walid Jumblatt, Suleiman Franjieh, and many Free Patriotic Movement MPs, signify the wide support for the Taif Agreement. [Arab News]

RESPONSE

It’s a bit of a puzzle why some political parties are now speaking out against the Taif Accords. Since the agreement was only partially implemented and then weakened, how can you challenge something that has not been activated? A bicameral legislature, independent judiciary, non-sectarian lower house of parliament, and decentralization are some of the major reforms called for in the agreement. Who can argue against something that strengthens Lebanon’s sovereignty? Must be that clause about disarming militias. As a leading politician noted, it’s time to get on with electing a president and completing a government so that the country has a future for making reforms and getting on with re-building the state.

-ATFL Vice President Jean AbiNader