This Week in Lebanon

Monday, February 1, 2021
Heidi Ahmed
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JANUARY 22, 2021
US President Joseph R. Biden’s Inauguration
Confirmation Hearing for the Biden’s US Secretary of State Nominee
World Bank Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Financing

Biden Inauguration and Confirmation Hearing for New Secretary of State
On Wednesday, President Joseph R. Biden took the oath of office in front of the US Capitol. The full text of his inaugural address can be viewed here. On his first day he signed over a dozen executive actions including one that ended the 2017 travel ban that restricted travel and immigration to the US from mainly Muslim-majority countries. [CBS]

Biden’s pick for Secretary of State Antony Blinken testified this week at his confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He outlined a vision for revitalizing the United States’ foreign service and diplomatic corps. Blinken previously served as Deputy Secretary of State for the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017. [Politico]

ANALYSIS

“America this week celebrated the inauguration of a new President, and in what appears to be a fundamental shift in the way foreign policy will be conducted, President Biden’s nominee to become Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, impressed Senators at his confirmation hearing with humility and confidence in his new role. During a four and half hour hearing, committee members explored the universe of issues around the world. Although Lebanon was never questioned during the hearing, given our past experience working with Secretary-Designate Blinken we are confident in his interest and skill regarding Lebanon.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel

ANALYSIS

“What can Arab regimes and regional players take away from President Biden’s inaugural address and the testimony of Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken? First of all, they will not rush to change Trump’s policies without recognizing how some elements support the Administration’s goals while others will have to be reshaped or eliminated. Secondly, there will be a values-based core that will help define policies and alliances. Finally, while humility and confidence may be a defining goal in dealing with friends and foes alike, both Blinken and Biden expressed “We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” A tall order and one long overdue. We wish them well.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

World Bank Approves COVID-19 Vaccine Financing for Lebanon
Yesterday the World Bank approved the re-allocation of $34 million under the Lebanon Health Resilience Project towards the first COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Lebanon. The vaccines are expected to arrive early next month and the financing will cover vaccines for over 2 million individuals. [World Bank]

ANALYSIS

“Mobilizing to procure the COVID-19 vaccines with international assistance demonstrates that Lebanon’s government does have the capacity to act in concert with multilateral agencies when there is political will to take actions. The amount of vaccines being procured with the assistance of the World Bank will cover only half of the Lebanese populations, and the country on track to at least identify additional sources through the WHO and others. If the vaccines are distributed and inoculations made in a transparent and impartial effort, then Lebanon will have overcome at least one of its many challenges.”
-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.