This Week In Lebanon: 8/28/2021

Saturday, August 28, 2021

August 28, 2021
US House Reps Urge Temporary Protected Status
Lebanon to Release World Bank Loan to Families in Dollars
Response to Brief on Beirut Port Reconstruction

US House Representatives Urge Temporary Protected Status Designation for Lebanon
House Representatives Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib are urging the Biden administration to designate Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). TPS would protect Lebanese people in the US from being deported on humanitarian grounds and allow Lebanese nationals on temporary visas to live and work in the US as Lebanon slips further into chaos. Dingell and Tlaib are circulating a letter in Congress to be sent to President Joe Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. [Al Jazeera]


“Given the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, the US should have contingency plans in place in case emergency measures are needed with short notice. TPS or DED could be one of the most useful means to helping Lebanese who are stranded in the US and have no immediate assurance for their safe return to Lebanon. It’s a measure President Biden can enact quickly that would provide thousands of Lebanese with temporary relief until it’s safe to go home.”

-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

Lebanon to Release World Bank Loan to Poor Families in US Dollars
On Monday, Lebanon’s government agreed to release tens of thousands of cash assistance in US dollars to poor families from the World Bank. The money comes from a $246 million loan from the World Bank that was originally approved by Lebanon in March, but was held up because Lebanon’s parliament insisted on issuing the funds to families in Lebanese pounds instead of dollars. The loan is meant to help over 160,000 families in Lebanon. [AP]


“After finding no easy way to circumvent World Bank standards for a proposed cash card program, Parliament has finally agreed to provide assistance to around 786,000 individuals through a prepaid electronic card. While this is good news for those in need, it once again shows the venality of members of Parliament and their allies who had blocked approval, hoping to benefit from a distorted exchange rate to enlarge their coffers. Some $200 million will be distributed via the cards leaving another $46 million to be negotiated. It was earmarked to improve the identification of beneficiaries and monitoring mechanisms for the distribution. We’ll see if the government can dodge that requirement as well. Still don’t know what the exchange rate will be for these fresh dollars via the electronic cards.”

-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Analytical Brief

The Race to Reset the Middle East’s Maritime Map by Michaël Tanchum
In an analytical brief on port construction in the Eastern Mediterranean, Professor Michaël Tanchum discusses the international competition to rebuild Beirut’s port one year after the blast. With growing interest from China in the port, Tanchum suggests that “the most effective way to offset China’s ambition may be to facilitate Mediterranean rivals France and Turkey to jointly rebuild Beirut’s port.” [Middle East Institute]


“While most of the attention focused on the Eastern Mediterranean is on gas exploration and exploitation, and Lebanon’s inability to coherently formulate an energy strategy, Chinese encroachment in the region, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, continues to advance from the Red Sea to the Mediterraneanreaching North Africa and Italy. The article does a very good job of linking Chinese ambitions to those of others in the region, indicating that the race for influence over the area is just heating up. Hope the US works with its partners in the EU and the GCC to limit China’s ambitions to commercial links.”

-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.