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President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon

by Thierry Meyssan

Playing Deus ex machina, President Macron came to distribute the good and bad points to the Lebanese leaders. Sure of his superiority, he said he was ashamed of the behavior of this political class. But all this is just a bad play. Underhandedly, he is trying to destroy the Resistance and to transform the country into a tax haven.

JPEG - 28.1 kb

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, devoted one of his rare press conferences to the situation in a foreign country, Lebanon. He said: “Hezbollah cannot at the same time be an army at war with Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon. It must not believe that it is stronger than it is. He must show that he respects the Lebanese as a whole and he has shown the opposite in the last few days. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah will answer him on September 29.

Reacting to the explosion of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, the Lebanese people and the international press saw it as an accident due to the corruption of the port authorities. For our part, after analyzing the first clues, we immediately questioned the thesis of the accident and favored that of the attack. French President Emmanuel Macron was urgently on his way to Lebanon to save the country. Two days later, we broadcast on a Syrian television station, Sama, the hypothesis of the continuation of the operation to implement Resolution 1559.

The hypothesis of resolution 1559

What is it all about? The 2004 Franco-US resolution was drafted on the instructions of US President George W. Bush, based on a text written by then Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with the help of French President Jacques Chirac. It aimed to have the objectives formulated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized by the United Nations Security Council:
 to drive out the Syrian peace force resulting from the Taif Agreemen [1] ;
 to put an end to the Lebanese Resistance to imperialism;
 prevent the re-election of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

However, on February 14, 2005, Rafik Hariri, who was no longer Prime Minister and had just been reconciled with Hezbollah, was assassinated in a mega-attack in which Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar el-Assad, were accused of being the instigators. The Syrian peace force withdrew and President Lahoud renounced his candidacy.

In retrospect, it appears
 that the attack was not carried out with conventional explosives carried in a white van, as is still believed, but with a weapon combining nanotechnology and enriched nuclear fuel that very few powers had at their disposal at the time [2] ;
 that the international investigation carried out by the United Nations was in reality a secret CIA-Mossad operation directed against Presidents Lahoud and Assad as well as against Hezbollah. It was shattered during a huge scandal that brought to light false witnesses recruited and paid by UN investigators [3];
 that all charges against the suspects were dropped and that a UN body, abusively labeled the “Special Tribunal for Lebanon” without having the legal attributes, refused to examine evidence and sentenced two Hezbollah members in absentia.

In the end, no one dared to mention again the end of the Lebanese Resistance as stipulated by Resolution 1559.

This Resistance was formed around Shiite families during the Israeli invasion (Operation “Peace in Galilee”) in 1982. After the victory, this network gradually entered politics under the name of Hezbollah. At the time of its creation, it was fascinated by the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and backed by the Syrian army, as revealed by its secretary general in 2011, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. However, after the withdrawal of the Syrian peace force from Lebanon, it turned almost entirely to Iran. It returned to Syria when it realized that a defeat of Damascus at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood would not only destroy Syria, but also Lebanon. During all these years, it acquired both a gigantic arsenal and combat experience, so that today it is the formost non-state army in the world. Its successes and the means at its disposal have attracted many people who do not necessarily share its ideals. Its partial transformation into a political party has made it acquire the same flaws as other Lebanese political parties, including corruption.

Today, Hezbollah is not a state within the Lebanese state, but in many situations it is the state instead of chaos. Faced with this hybrid phenomenon, Westerners have reacted in scattered order: the United States has classified it as “terrorist”, while the Europeans have subtly distinguished, in 2013, its civilian side with whom they discuss its military side, which they also condemn as “terrorist”. To justify their decision to their public opinions, the West has developed a number of secret operations aimed at attributing to Hezbollah either attacks prior to its existence (against the military contingents of the US and France at the regional meeting of the allied secret services), or attacks abroad (notably in Argentina and Bulgaria).

Completing the implementation of Resolution 1559 [4] today means disarming Hezbollah and transforming it into a simple political party, as corrupt by Westerners as the others.

The French intervention

President Emmanuel Macron was the first head of state to travel to Lebanon after the explosion in the port of Beirut, where he visited twice. He pledged not to let the country down and to help it reform. He presented a “road map” that was agreed upon by all political parties. It provided for the formation of a mission government to carry out economic and financial reforms. However, Mustapha Adib, the Prime Minister-designate, found it impossible to achieve this and resigned. President Macron then called a press conference on September 27. He booed the entire political class and explicitly accused Hezbollah and the Amal movement and implicitly their ally, President Michel Aoun, of having thwarted his attempt to rescue Lebanon.

President Macron’s arguments convinced only those who do not know the history of Lebanon. On the contrary, our readers know [5] that this country has never been a nation and therefore could never be a democracy. It has been shared by various confessional communities since the Ottoman colonization that coexist there without mixing with each other. This division was institutionalized by the Constitution (1926) inspired by France, a proxy power. Then, its functioning at all levels of the state was set in stone by the United States and Saudi Arabia, during the Taif Agreement (1989) which put an end to the civil war. From this point of view, it is strange, to say the least, to blame political personnel for corrupting the state when it is a direct and inexorable consequence of the institutions imposed on them from abroad.

Above all, it is inadmissible to hear a foreign president posing as a lecturer and declaring that he is ashamed of the Lebanese leaders. Especially since this foreigner represents a nation that has a heavy historical responsibility in the current situation.

It seems that in practice, Lebanon’s sponsors intend to overthrow the corrupt political class they have set up and replace it with a government of technocrats trained in their best schools. This government will be in charge of reforming the finances, restoring the tax haven of Lebanon’s golden age, but above all not to break the confessional system so that the country’s dependence on its sponsors will continue. This country would thus be doomed to remain colonized without admitting it and to behead some of its leaders every thirty or forty years.

In the minds of President Macron’s backers, the unrest in Saudi Arabia has thwarted the plan for a free zone for billionaires, Neom. Lebanon should therefore be used again to escape its own tax obligations.

Let us recall, moreover, that when France established secular institutions, it immediately deprived all its colonies of them, considering that religion was the only way to pacify the peoples it controlled. Lebanon is the only country in the world where a Shiite mullah, a Sunni mufti and a Christian patriarch can impose their views on political parties.

President Macron’s repeated attacks against Hezbollah are precisely in line with my hypothesis: the ultimate goal of the West is to destroy the Resistance and transform Hezbollah into a party as corrupt as the others.

Indeed, according to Emmanuel Macron, the current Hezbollah is at the same time a “militia”, a “terrorist organization” and a political party. Yet, as we have seen, it is in reality both the first non-governmental army dedicated to the struggle against imperialism and a political party representing the Shiite community. It has never been responsible for terrorist actions abroad. According to Macron, it has created “a climate of terror”, inhibiting other political formations. However, Hezbollah has never used its gigantic arsenal against its Lebanese rivals. The brief war of 2008 did not pit it against the Sunnis and Druze, but against those who housed spy centers of foreign powers (notably in the archive premises of FuturTV).

During the press conference, reference was also made to the demand of Hezbollah and Amal to choose the Minister of Finance. This apparently preposterous request is vital for the Resistance. Not to plunder the state, as some imply, but to circumvent US sanctions against the Resistance. Saad Hariri, after opposing it, rallied to it as soon as he grasped what was at stake. This is why, contrary to what President Macron claimed, the failure of the government formation is not attributable to Hezbollah or any other Lebanese formation, but to the French will to break the Resistance.

At the time of the election of President Jacques Chirac, the Saudi proxy, Rafik Hariri, heavily financed his election campaign, causing a memorable incident in the French Constitutional Council. Similarly, during the election of President Emmanuel Macron, Saad Hariri (son of the former president) financed his campaign, albeit on a smaller scale. So when Mr. Macron announced that the international community would save Lebanon financially if it applied its roadmap, Saad Hariri demanded a return on investment, namely 20% of the future sums. After consultation with his main donor, the US-Israeli Henri Kravis, [6] Emmanuel Macron refused and threatened sanctions against the three presidents of Lebanon (of the Republic, the Assembly and the Government).

France calculates on the basis of its historical knowledge of the region. However, it has not understood some of its evolutions, as its failures in Libya, Syria, and in the Iran-US negotiations attest. While it is concerned about Turkey’s influence in Lebanon, it overestimates that of Saudi Arabia and Iran, underestimates that of Syria and ignores that of Russia.

For those who observe precisely what is happening, France is not honest in its concern for Lebanon. Thus, President Macron’s trips had been preceded by the circulation of a petition calling on France to restore its mandate over Lebanon, that is to say, to recolonize it. It was quickly established that this spontaneous petition was an initiative of the French secret service. Or that the French president’s second trip was the centennial of the proclamation of Greater Lebanon by General Henri Gouraud, leader of the French Colonial Party. It is not very difficult to understand what France hopes to get in return for its action against the Resistance.

Posted in Middle East, France, LebanonComments Off on President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon

President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon

by Thierry Meyssan

Playing Deus ex machina, President Macron came to distribute the good and bad points to the Lebanese leaders. Sure of his superiority, he said he was ashamed of the behavior of this political class. But all this is just a bad play. Underhandedly, he is trying to destroy the Resistance and to transform the country into a tax haven.

VOLTAIRE

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JPEG - 28.1 kb

The French President, Emmanuel Macron, devoted one of his rare press conferences to the situation in a foreign country, Lebanon. He said: “Hezbollah cannot at the same time be an army at war with Israel, a militia unleashed against civilians in Syria and a respectable party in Lebanon. It must not believe that it is stronger than it is. He must show that he respects the Lebanese as a whole and he has shown the opposite in the last few days. Sayed Hassan Nasrallah will answer him on September 29.

Reacting to the explosion of the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, the Lebanese people and the international press saw it as an accident due to the corruption of the port authorities. For our part, after analyzing the first clues, we immediately questioned the thesis of the accident and favored that of the attack. French President Emmanuel Macron was urgently on his way to Lebanon to save the country. Two days later, we broadcast on a Syrian television station, Sama, the hypothesis of the continuation of the operation to implement Resolution 1559.

The hypothesis of resolution 1559

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-
-

What is it all about? The 2004 Franco-US resolution was drafted on the instructions of US President George W. Bush, based on a text written by then Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with the help of French President Jacques Chirac. It aimed to have the objectives formulated by US Secretary of State Colin Powell recognized by the United Nations Security Council:
 to drive out the Syrian peace force resulting from the Taif Agreemen [1] ;
 to put an end to the Lebanese Resistance to imperialism;
 prevent the re-election of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.

However, on February 14, 2005, Rafik Hariri, who was no longer Prime Minister and had just been reconciled with Hezbollah, was assassinated in a mega-attack in which Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and his Syrian counterpart, Bashar el-Assad, were accused of being the instigators. The Syrian peace force withdrew and President Lahoud renounced his candidacy.

-
-
-

In retrospect, it appears
 that the attack was not carried out with conventional explosives carried in a white van, as is still believed, but with a weapon combining nanotechnology and enriched nuclear fuel that very few powers had at their disposal at the time [2] ;
 that the international investigation carried out by the United Nations was in reality a secret CIA-Mossad operation directed against Presidents Lahoud and Assad as well as against Hezbollah. It was shattered during a huge scandal that brought to light false witnesses recruited and paid by UN investigators [3];
 that all charges against the suspects were dropped and that a UN body, abusively labeled the “Special Tribunal for Lebanon” without having the legal attributes, refused to examine evidence and sentenced two Hezbollah members in absentia.

In the end, no one dared to mention again the end of the Lebanese Resistance as stipulated by Resolution 1559.

This Resistance was formed around Shiite families during the Israeli invasion (Operation “Peace in Galilee”) in 1982. After the victory, this network gradually entered politics under the name of Hezbollah. At the time of its creation, it was fascinated by the Iranian anti-imperialist revolution and backed by the Syrian army, as revealed by its secretary general in 2011, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. However, after the withdrawal of the Syrian peace force from Lebanon, it turned almost entirely to Iran. It returned to Syria when it realized that a defeat of Damascus at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood would not only destroy Syria, but also Lebanon. During all these years, it acquired both a gigantic arsenal and combat experience, so that today it is the formost non-state army in the world. Its successes and the means at its disposal have attracted many people who do not necessarily share its ideals. Its partial transformation into a political party has made it acquire the same flaws as other Lebanese political parties, including corruption.

Today, Hezbollah is not a state within the Lebanese state, but in many situations it is the state instead of chaos. Faced with this hybrid phenomenon, Westerners have reacted in scattered order: the United States has classified it as “terrorist”, while the Europeans have subtly distinguished, in 2013, its civilian side with whom they discuss its military side, which they also condemn as “terrorist”. To justify their decision to their public opinions, the West has developed a number of secret operations aimed at attributing to Hezbollah either attacks prior to its existence (against the military contingents of the US and France at the regional meeting of the allied secret services), or attacks abroad (notably in Argentina and Bulgaria).

Completing the implementation of Resolution 1559 [4] today means disarming Hezbollah and transforming it into a simple political party, as corrupt by Westerners as the others.

The French intervention

President Emmanuel Macron was the first head of state to travel to Lebanon after the explosion in the port of Beirut, where he visited twice. He pledged not to let the country down and to help it reform. He presented a “road map” that was agreed upon by all political parties. It provided for the formation of a mission government to carry out economic and financial reforms. However, Mustapha Adib, the Prime Minister-designate, found it impossible to achieve this and resigned. President Macron then called a press conference on September 27. He booed the entire political class and explicitly accused Hezbollah and the Amal movement and implicitly their ally, President Michel Aoun, of having thwarted his attempt to rescue Lebanon.

President Macron’s arguments convinced only those who do not know the history of Lebanon. On the contrary, our readers know [5] that this country has never been a nation and therefore could never be a democracy. It has been shared by various confessional communities since the Ottoman colonization that coexist there without mixing with each other. This division was institutionalized by the Constitution (1926) inspired by France, a proxy power. Then, its functioning at all levels of the state was set in stone by the United States and Saudi Arabia, during the Taif Agreement (1989) which put an end to the civil war. From this point of view, it is strange, to say the least, to blame political personnel for corrupting the state when it is a direct and inexorable consequence of the institutions imposed on them from abroad.

Above all, it is inadmissible to hear a foreign president posing as a lecturer and declaring that he is ashamed of the Lebanese leaders. Especially since this foreigner represents a nation that has a heavy historical responsibility in the current situation.

It seems that in practice, Lebanon’s sponsors intend to overthrow the corrupt political class they have set up and replace it with a government of technocrats trained in their best schools. This government will be in charge of reforming the finances, restoring the tax haven of Lebanon’s golden age, but above all not to break the confessional system so that the country’s dependence on its sponsors will continue. This country would thus be doomed to remain colonized without admitting it and to behead some of its leaders every thirty or forty years.

In the minds of President Macron’s backers, the unrest in Saudi Arabia has thwarted the plan for a free zone for billionaires, Neom. Lebanon should therefore be used again to escape its own tax obligations.

Let us recall, moreover, that when France established secular institutions, it immediately deprived all its colonies of them, considering that religion was the only way to pacify the peoples it controlled. Lebanon is the only country in the world where a Shiite mullah, a Sunni mufti and a Christian patriarch can impose their views on political parties.

President Macron’s repeated attacks against Hezbollah are precisely in line with my hypothesis: the ultimate goal of the West is to destroy the Resistance and transform Hezbollah into a party as corrupt as the others.

Indeed, according to Emmanuel Macron, the current Hezbollah is at the same time a “militia”, a “terrorist organization” and a political party. Yet, as we have seen, it is in reality both the first non-governmental army dedicated to the struggle against imperialism and a political party representing the Shiite community. It has never been responsible for terrorist actions abroad. According to Macron, it has created “a climate of terror”, inhibiting other political formations. However, Hezbollah has never used its gigantic arsenal against its Lebanese rivals. The brief war of 2008 did not pit it against the Sunnis and Druze, but against those who housed spy centers of foreign powers (notably in the archive premises of FuturTV).

During the press conference, reference was also made to the demand of Hezbollah and Amal to choose the Minister of Finance. This apparently preposterous request is vital for the Resistance. Not to plunder the state, as some imply, but to circumvent US sanctions against the Resistance. Saad Hariri, after opposing it, rallied to it as soon as he grasped what was at stake. This is why, contrary to what President Macron claimed, the failure of the government formation is not attributable to Hezbollah or any other Lebanese formation, but to the French will to break the Resistance.

At the time of the election of President Jacques Chirac, the Saudi proxy, Rafik Hariri, heavily financed his election campaign, causing a memorable incident in the French Constitutional Council. Similarly, during the election of President Emmanuel Macron, Saad Hariri (son of the former president) financed his campaign, albeit on a smaller scale. So when Mr. Macron announced that the international community would save Lebanon financially if it applied its roadmap, Saad Hariri demanded a return on investment, namely 20% of the future sums. After consultation with his main donor, the US-Israeli Henri Kravis, [6] Emmanuel Macron refused and threatened sanctions against the three presidents of Lebanon (of the Republic, the Assembly and the Government).

France calculates on the basis of its historical knowledge of the region. However, it has not understood some of its evolutions, as its failures in Libya, Syria, and in the Iran-US negotiations attest. While it is concerned about Turkey’s influence in Lebanon, it overestimates that of Saudi Arabia and Iran, underestimates that of Syria and ignores that of Russia.

For those who observe precisely what is happening, France is not honest in its concern for Lebanon. Thus, President Macron’s trips had been preceded by the circulation of a petition calling on France to restore its mandate over Lebanon, that is to say, to recolonize it. It was quickly established that this spontaneous petition was an initiative of the French secret service. Or that the French president’s second trip was the centennial of the proclamation of Greater Lebanon by General Henri Gouraud, leader of the French Colonial Party. It is not very difficult to understand what France hopes to get in return for its action against the Resistance.

Posted in France, LebanonComments Off on President Macron’s bad play in Lebanon

Lebanon under seige after port explosion and no end in sight

By PressTV – Iran 

By Robert Inlakesh

The Beirut port explosion, which occurred on the 4th of August, killing at least 190 people and making 300,000 others temporarily homeless, took the world by storm. But despite the outpour of concern for Beirut since the explosion, Lebanon’s suffering has been largely ignored by the Western corporate media and there has been a complete blackout on the nature of Lebanon’s despair as caused by Western-imposed sanctions on Lebanon.

Beyond the Beirut port explosion, which eliminated Lebanon’s sole lifeline to the country, Lebanon had already long been in a state of economic decline. In the first half of this year the annual debt rose by 8.9% annually, to settle at 93.40 billion. The local currency debt also increased 12.96% by February 2020. The inflation rate is currently around 56.5% monthly, compounded by the fact that Lebanon experiences rolling blackouts and food shortages. This was of course all before the explosion, which devastated the port by which 70% of Lebanon’s economy is processed.

But perhaps the most often ignored impact on Lebanon’s economy is the impact left by the sanctions, which have been applied by Western countries on the country. Even the likes of Britain maintain an arms embargo on Lebanon, with EU sanctions — over the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005 — also imposing asset freezes and restrictions. The US also has participated in maintaining sanctions against Lebanon, the latest of which has seen the sanctioning of over 90 individuals, who are alleged to have connections to Lebanese Hezbollah. But perhaps the worst of all sanctions that have been imposed are the sanctions on neighboring Syria.

The sanctions against Syria, which again are upheld in the most militant of ways by the EU and US, are directly squeezing Lebanon also. The latest of which is the Caesar Act, which targets anyone willing to provide support to the Syrian government in four key areas: Oil and gas, military, aviation, and construction. In addition to making living conditions worse for the average Syrian, it has also significantly “hurt Lebanon,” as the former vice-governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank, Nasser Saidi had warned prior to the imposition of the sanctions on the 17th of June. Saidi had also stated prior to the sanctions having been initiated, that business between the two countries would become “more problematic and expensive.”

On top of this, French President Emmanuel Macron is now threatening sanctions on Lebanon if the country does not follow through with French demands for its envisioned reformations of government. The way in which France is attempting to impose its will is also becoming all the more problematic, as the president has begun verbally attacking Hezbollah. Hezbollah was perhaps the main target of the French president’s latest speech on Lebanon’s failure to form a government, which forced the newly appointed Prime Minister Mustapha Adib to resign.

However, the main attack on Hezbollah was focused on its involvement in the Lebanese politics, but rather the nature by which Hezbollah’s armed wing conducts its struggles against Daesh, Israel, and Takfiri groups in Syria.

This harsh punishment of Lebanon by the international community, whilst Lebanon is enduring the fallout from the Beirut port blast, economic collapse, terrorist insurgent attacks in the north and an escalation along its southern border with Israel, is criminal. The Lebanese people are enduring worse conditions economically than ever before and as a result there has already begun an exodus of young people from the country.

If France was serious, as well as other Western nations, in ending the suffering of Lebanon, it would have ensured the easing of economic restraints. But as usual, the anti-Hezbollah rhetoric seems to indicate that the supposed help coming from France, and others, is as usual conditioned on weakening the resistance in Lebanon.

Sanctions are specifically aimed at causing such distress amongst the civilian population, that they oust their governments or turn on said political party. This tactic, however, is tantamount to a war crime and demands that a government completely bend to the whims of a separate sovereign power, or watch their people starve and grow discontent with their rulers.

Hezbollah calls US sanctions on Lebanon ‘act of aggression’

Hezbollah calls US sanctions on Lebanon ‘act of aggression’

Lebanese Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem says US sanctions on Lebanon are an act of aggression and a failed attempt to “bring Lebanon to its knees.”

After all, when we look at the involvement of France specifically in the country at this time, we have to keep in mind that France is not only Lebanon’s former colonialist occupying power, but also the Western superpower which created Lebanon with all of its sectarian flaws. The confessionalist system was set up to the benefit of France and to become a strategic Christian stronghold, a project set up and then left to sail into the abyss. Now France wants to come back to pick up the pieces and demand that Lebanon clear itself of Hezbollah, the Party which liberated their lands from the Israeli occupier and defeated the Zionist entity in 2006.

Hezbollah has done for Lebanon what the rest of the world refused to do in Lebanon’s hour of need, having only been necessary due to the failure of the so-called civilized Western powers and the international community which never came to fight for what was right in Lebanon, instead always imposing their will.

(Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent.)

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Lebanon under seige after port explosion and no end in sight

Hands off Lebanon: Macron’s Self-serving ‘New Pact’ Must Be Shunned

by RAMZY BAROUD

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

French President, Emmanuel Macron, is in no position to pontificate to Lebanon about the need for political and economic reforms. Just as thousands of Lebanese took to the streets of Beirut demanding “revenge” against the ruling classes, the French people have relentlessly been doing the same; both peoples have been met with police violence and arrests.

Following the August 4 blast which killed over 200 people and wounded thousands more, the irony was inescapable when Macron showed up in a bizarre display of “solidarity” on the streets of Beirut. Macron should have taken his roadshow to the streets of Paris, not Beirut, to reassure his own people, burdened by growing inequality, rising unemployment and socio-economic hardship.

However, the French show went on, but in the Middle East. It was a perfectly choreographed scene, engineered to be reminiscent of France’s bygone colonial grandeur. On August 6, Macron stood imperiously amidst the ruins of a massive Beirut explosion, promising aid, accountability and vowing to never abandon France’s former colony.

A young Lebanese woman approached the French President, tearfully imploring him “Mr. President, you’re on General Gouraud Street; he freed us from the Ottomans. Free us from the current authorities.”

It is unconvincing that all of this: the sudden visit, the pleas for help, the emotional crowd surrounding Macron, were all impromptu events to reflect Lebanon’s undying love and unconditional trust of France.

Macron could have easily assessed the damage caused by the devastating explosion at the Beirut port. If the thousands of images and endless video streams were insufficient to convey the unprecedented ruin created by the Hiroshima-like blast, satellite and aerial footage certainly would have.

But Macron did not come to Lebanon to offer sincere solidarity. He came, like a ‘good’ French politician would – to exploit the shock, panic and fear of a dumbstruck nation, while it is feeling betrayed by its own government, bewildered and alone.

“I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact. I am here today to propose a new political pact to them,” Macron said.

Certainly, Lebanon is in urgent need of a new pact, but not one that is engineered by France. Indeed, France was never a source of stability in Lebanon. Even the end of formal French colonialism in 1946 did not truly liberate Lebanon from Paris’ toxic influence and constant meddling.

Alas, devastated Lebanon is now receptive to another bout of ‘disaster capitalism’:  the notion that a country must be on its knees as a prerequisite to foreign economic takeover, political and, if necessary, military intervention.

If the words of the woman who beseeched Macron to ‘liberate’ Lebanon from its current leadership were not scripted by some clever French writer, they would represent one of the saddest displays of Lebanon’s modern politics – this woman, representing a nation, calling on its former colonizer to subjugate it once more, in order to save it from itself.

This is the crux of ‘disaster capitalism’.

“In moments of crisis, people are willing to hand over a great deal of power to anyone who claims to have a magic cure – whether the crisis is a financial meltdown or … a terrorist attack,” wrote the acclaimed Canadian author, Naomi Klein, in her seminal book “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”.

The political fallout of the explosion – whatever its causes – were triggered perfectly from the perspective of those who want to ensure Lebanon never achieves its coveted moment of stability and sectarian harmony. Unprecedented in modern history, the country’s current economic crisis has dragged on interminably, while the ruling classes either seem to have no answers or are, largely, not keen on finding any.

On August 7, a United Nations-backed tribunal was scheduled to issue its final verdict regarding the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri. Hariri’s killing, also by a massive blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005, has torn the country apart and, somewhat, placed Lebanon at the hands of foreign entities.

Whether the now postponed verdict was going to further divide Lebanese society or help it achieve closure, is moot. The port explosion will surely renew the French-led Western mandate over the country.

On August 6, four former Lebanese prime ministers called for an ‘international investigation’ into the causes of the blast, hoping to win political leverage against their political opponents, setting the stage for another sectarian and political crisis.

Local forces are quickly scrambling to position themselves behind a winning political strategy. “We have no trust at all in this ruling gang,” leading Lebanese Druze politician, Walid Jumblatt, said. He, too, is demanding an international investigation.

Times of national crisis often lead to unity, however temporary, among various communities, since mass tragedies often harm all sectors of society. In Lebanon, however, unity remains elusive, as most political camps have allegiances that transcend the people and nation. People often hold onto their clans and sects due to their lack of trust in the central government. Politicians, instead, are beholden to regional and international powers – as in Macron’s France.

But France should not be the last lifeline for the Lebanese people, despite their desperation, anger and betrayal. France is currently involved in two of the ugliest and protracted conflicts in the Middle East and West Africa: Libya and Mali. Predictably, in both cases, Paris had also promised to be a force for good. While Libya has essentially been turned into a failed state, Mali persists under total French subjugation. It is no exaggeration to argue that France is currently involved in an active military occupation of Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Lebanon should be aware that its current tragedy is the perfect opportunity for its former colonial masters to stage a comeback, which would hardly save Lebanon and her people from their persisting calamity.

Macron’s bizarre and dangerous political act in the streets of Beirut should worry all Lebanese, at least those who truly care about their country.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on Hands off Lebanon: Macron’s Self-serving ‘New Pact’ Must Be Shunned

Secret document: Saudis, ‘Israel’ working together to provoke war in Lebanon

Joyce Chediac

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Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

Only a day after major ISIS defeats in Syria and Iraq indicated that fighting may be winding down, an extraordinary series of events raised the danger of a new war, this time against Lebanon. These events began on Nov. 4 when Saudi Arabia destabilized Lebanon’s government by forcing Prime Minister Saad Hariri’ to resign, and led to the Saudi government false claim on Nov. 7 that Lebanon had “declared war” on that kingdom.

Secret documents made public by Israeli TV Channel 10 indicate that this provocative war scenario was  coordinated by Saudi Arabia and Israel to instigate a new Middle East war, with Lebanon the target, vilified as a proxy of Iran. This provocation follows a huge Israeli military exercise held in September simulating an invasion of Lebanon designed specifically to target the Lebanese group Hezbollah. This was Tel Aviv’s largest military drill in 20 years, involving all branches of the Israeli military.

While Washington has branded the Lebanese group Hezbollah “terrorist,” progressives in the Middle East see the group as a defender of Lebanese sovereignty.  Twice, in 2000 and 2006, it kicked Israeli troops out of Lebanon.  Hezbollah has fought alongside the Syrian government not only to prevent the dismemberment of this neighboring Arab country, but also to prevent ISIS from invading Lebanon and terrorizing the people there. Iran, also vilified by U.S. imperialism and its clients, has provided crucial political, material and military support needed to defeat ISIS.

The events are as follows:

On Nov. 3, the last ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria fell. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel seek to dismember Syria, and have assisted ISIS.

In a measure never seen before in the international arena, on Nov. 4 under orders from the Saudi regime, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced from Saudi Arabia on Saudi TV his resignation as PM. He assailed Iran for interfering in Lebanon, and claimed that Hezbollah was trying to assassinate him.

Hours later, Ryadh said it intercepted a Yemeni-fired missile over its capital. For years the  Saudi regime, armed by the U.S., has been bombarding the people of Yemen, indiscriminately killing civilians.

While the Yemenis say the missile they fired was made in Yemen, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed claimed, “It was an Iranian missile, launched by Hezbollah,”  and constituted “act of war by Iran.”

On Nov. 7, the Saudis, furthered the escalation, and accused Lebanon of “declaring war” against it.

At the same time, in a bid to consolidate power, the Saudi regime arrested hundreds inside the kingdom on charges of corruption, including some of the country’s most high-profile princes and businessmen.

Leaked cable shows Saudi-Israeli coordination

The corporate media has long given the impression that Israel and Saudi Arabia are on opposite sides.  That is for public consumption. Both regimes are propped up and armed by Washington so that they can slam liberation struggles and independent governments in the Middle East and keep this oil rich area “safe” for Exxon Mobil  and JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Now there is a smoking gun showing that Israel and Saudi Arabia are working together to bring war to Lebanon.

On Nov. 7, Israeli Channel 10 news published a leaked diplomatic cable sent to all Israeli ambassadors throughout the world concerning the above events. The classified embassy cable, written in Hebrew, shows that Tel Aviv and Riyad are deliberately coordinating to escalate the situation in the Middle East. These documents provide the first proof of direct collaboration between these two U.S. clients.

The cable was leaked by Barak Ravid, senior diplomatic correspondent for Channel 10 News.  The communiqué, he said, was sent from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem on Nov. 6 to all Israeli embassies. It instructed Israeli diplomats to to do everything possible to rev up diplomatic pressure against Hezbollah and Iran. The communication urged support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, and for Israeli diplomats to appeal to the “highest officials” in their host countries to expel Hezbollah from Lebanese government and politics,” according to zerohedge.com.

Resignation leaves Lebanon vulnerable to attack

In Lebanon, Hariri’s resignation is seen as having been forced by the Saudis in order to destabilize the Lebanese government, foment discord and leave Lebanon vulnerable to Israeli attack.  Many have pointed out that the resignation statement was written in a style used by the Saudis. The resignation shocked even Hariri’s closest aides. The Lebanese army denied any assassination threat.

Lebanon’s unwieldy political system is easily destabilized.  Put together by the French colonizers in 1925, it mandates that government posts, and parliamentary apportionment, be based upon the country’s different religious groupings. The current government, with Hariri as MP, and Hezbollah’s Michel Aoun as president, took office last year. It ended years of government deadlock, and last month it produced Lebanon’s first budget since 2005.

Hariri, who has dual Saudi-Lebanese citizenship and financial interest in Saudi Arabia, is regarded as “the Saudi’s man” in Lebanon. The irony of a Lebanese PM railing against Iran for interfering in Lebanon’s affairs when he just resigned in Saudi Arabia on Saudi TV reading a Saudi-written statement has not been lost on anyone.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has announced that he will not decide whether to accept or reject the resignation of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri until Hariri returns to Lebanon to explain his reasons. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has called on the people of Lebanon to remain calm.

Why is Hezbollah being targeted?

Israel, which shares a border with Lebanon, has long wanted to contain Lebanese sovereignty and even to annex its territory. The Israeli military bombed southern Lebanon for decades from land, sea and air.  In 1982 a massive Israeli invasion killed tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians, while Israeli troops occupied southern Lebanon for 18 years.  In 2006 Israel bombs targeted Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and fighter planes peppered the south with a million cluster bombs that still kill and maim.

Israel seeks to destroy Hezbollah because it is a formidable fighting force, and the only group that prevents Israel from doing as it wills in Lebanon. Hezbollah fighters and their allies kicked Israeli troops out of Lebanon in 2000, ending the 18-year occupation, and repelled an Israeli ground invasion of Lebanon in 2006, forcing it to retreat.

This week’s dangerous and provocative developments seek to counter the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq with war in Lebanon. Whether imperialism and its agents will be able to do this, however, is far from certain. The beleaguered people of the Middle East have been inspired by the victories against ISIS, and remain determined to fight for their rights.

Posted in Middle East, ZIO-NAZI, Lebanon, Saudi ArabiaComments Off on Secret document: Saudis, ‘Israel’ working together to provoke war in Lebanon

Macron meets Hezbollah

By: Steven Sahiounie,

Lebanon has been faced with political upheavals, and the huge explosion which destroyed the Beirut Port.  Steven Sahiounie of MidEastDiscourse asked a noted expert on Lebanon, Dr. Marwa Osman, to explain the recent visit of French President Macron to Beirut, and what it portends.  

Steven Sahiounie (SS):  Recently, France’s President Macron met with Mohammed Raad of Hezbollah. Do you think France is changing their position on Hezbollah?

Marwa Osman (MO):  I don’t think it is a matter of position, rather a matter of a realistic view to the Lebanese political arena. Who hold the majority in the parliament? Who has the greatest public support in Lebanon? By far, the answer is Hezbollah and its allies. So it would be an absolute waste of time if Macron had decided to bypass the resistance in Lebanon while trying to find a solution to the economic and political deadlock in the country. Mind you, the Americans were not happy about this meeting, as it was the first meeting ever held between any Hezbollah member with a French President, yet this Mohammad Raad is a member of parliament that we are talking about and the head of a Lebanese political bloc that represents along with its allies the majority of the Lebanese parliament, so why wouldn’t he meet with Macron? The confusion is only there because the Americans did not like it because of the Beirut Barracks explosion of 1983 which the resistance never claimed responsibility for anyways.

SS:  Lebanon chose a new Prime Minister on the very day President Macron arrived. Do you think his visit put pressure on the choice?

MO:  Yes, it seems that everyone wanted to save face before Macron arrived because he promised the Lebanese presidency help at the international level in the form of a donors’ conference in October, and for this to take place there has to be a viable Lebanese government in place before then. Add to that the corona virus pandemic and the existential threat of a non-existent economy on the country made it also an emergency to have a government in place asap. Until now there has been no government announced but it was reported by Lebanese media that the current designated Prime Minister is set to provide the presidency with a list of names for his cabinet which should be approved soon.

SS:  Macron has given a deadline to the Lebanese politicians and threatened them with sanctions. Isn’t that interference in Lebanon’s sovereignty?

MO:  That is blatant and clear violation of political norms and international law too. As no state has a unilateral say in what other states can or cannot do. Yes, I do agree that we need anti-corruption plans put in place asap and reforms at the level of the judiciary system and the constitution and that we need to hold all those responsible accountable, but that is strictly a Lebanese internal matter and no other state or head of state has a say or even a right to give his or her opinion about this matter. Our justice system is capable of covering all the anti-corruption cases, we just need a political decision. Better yet, we need to completely remove politics from the judiciary system and that can only happen when we become a full secular state with a “one province electoral law”, which means abolishing the sectarian system of election in the country.

SS:  The tension between the Israeli occupation and Hezbollah is on the highest level since the 2006 war. Do you think “Israel” is preparing for war on Lebanon?

MO:  Israel is always at war with Lebanon, it has always been a case of cessation of hostilities, there never was peace. How can there be peace when the Israeli regime keeps violating our airspace, occupying our land and waters and assassinating our men? Every day we wake up to the sounds of fighter jets in our airspace and all day every day we are constantly harassed with spy drones that keep buzzing so loud it drives us crazy, Israel is always on high alert waiting for the next round to carpet bomb Beirut any chance it gets. However, a full out war is currently out of the question for several reasons. First, Israel knows that the rules of the game have changed especially after the resistance gained great experience from fighting off terrorism in Syria alongside the Syrian Arab army and the Russian army inside Syria. Second, Israel needs full US support to pursue a war on Lebanon and that is not an option at the moment because Trump is indulging himself in pre-elections campaigning that he has not time or desire to cause any damage to his electoral campaign and third the Israeli regime is suffering from high covid19 exposures that would keep its hands tied in the event they risked a war anytime soon.

SS:  After visiting Lebanon, Macron headed for Iraq.  What was the goal of that visit and dose France has designs on the Middle East?

MO:  Macron popping for a visit in Baghdad as the first head of state to visit the Iraqi capital since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office should not come as a surprise. The French president claimed to back Iraq’s sovereignty all the while his US allies still occupy the country. However, by playing Lawrence of Arabia in Iraq, Macron aims to fill the vacuum left by an isolationist America to boost France’s clout in west Asia. President Macron has seen the vacuum in question as an opportunity. He now acts as if he is Europe’s foreign policy leader by default and thinks that he has to run the show because there is a diplomatic-relations gap in the Western world. However, by trying to court all sides, Macron risks drawing a blank with one of them. Success in Lebanon might burnish his reputation as a consummate negotiator, however, skepticism is brewing about France’s ability to play a leading role in west Asia, where the US, Russia and their allies have traditionally called the shots.

Dr. Marwa Osman has a PhD in Management, a MBA on “The Effect of Politics on the Foreign Direct Investment in Lebanon”, is a University Lecturer at the Lebanese International University and Maaref University, and is the Host of the political show “The Middle East Stream” broadcast on Press TV.

Posted in France, LebanonComments Off on Macron meets Hezbollah

After the Beirut blast: Hezbollah and Iran walk a tricky line

by: Daniel Brumberg 

In the wake of the August 4 mega-explosion that leveled parts of Beirut, there is one silver lining on an otherwise dark cloud: the possibility that the blast might catalyze a sustained effort to refashion Lebanon’s political system. But there are two key obstacles to such change. The most elemental is the conviction of the ruling class that its political survival depends on sustaining the tattered power-sharing system. The second hurdle is the regional environment, wherein the goal of Iran, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia is to ensure that Lebanon’s fragile balance of power does not shift in ways that could undermine their geostrategic interests. The challenge facing all of these countries—and their Lebanese allies—is how to secure their long-standing relationships in the face of grassroots demands in Lebanon for restructuring the country’s politics.

The Beirut port blast has accentuated this vexing dilemma. Still, it remains to be seen how the key domestic and regional players will react as the international community responds to the humanitarian disaster facing Lebanon. Of all these protagonists, Iran has the most to lose. After all, its geostrategic interests depend on protecting its relationship with Hezbollah. In the face of growing internal and international pressures, Hezbollah and Tehran must tackle a basic challenge: how to shield their vital relationship while avoiding steps that might further erode Hezbollah’s domestic credibility. The way they walk this tricky path will play no small role in the unfolding drama to shape Lebanon’s confessional order.

The economic logic of political survival in Lebanon’s confessional system

At least two related domestic factors have helped to sustain that system. The first is the fear of all the key leaders that any bid to rework it would provoke another civil war. The second is the tight meshing of the economy with confessionalism. Power sharing in Lebanon pivots around a protracted cease-fire between 18 confessional groups. The latter share power because each sect assumes that a truly democratic system will give its rivals the means and votes to impose their domestic and foreign agendas on the country. Beyond fear, what glues the system together is the capacity of all leaders to use public and private funds to purchase the political support of their followers. Power flows through a vast, deeply corrupt patronage system that is partly subsidized by foreign governments. The costs that come with this system have been partly responsible for Lebanon’s ballooning public debt, which stands at over $90 billion.

Power flows through a vast, deeply corrupt patronage system that is partly subsidized by foreign governments. The costs that come with this system have been partly responsible for Lebanon’s ballooning public debt.

Lebanon’s port has played a role in this system. Because it is at the center of the import-export economy that provides Lebanon with 80 percent of its goods, control over the port has been divided between different factions. The harbor’s fiefdoms allow each group to secure payoffs before goods go into the country, providing a lucrative channel of patronage and corruption. Thus it is hardly surprising that while requests were made for the government to investigate the tons of ammonium nitrate stored in the port since 2014, no action was taken. Doing so could have exposed all the factions to scrutiny from a government that was partly complicit in the problem in the first place.

Tens of thousands of Lebanese have taken to the streets to protest the massive corruption and foreign backed Ponzi schemes that have fueled this system. Yet no one knows how to replace “Grand Theft Lebanon” with a system that will rescue the country from financial ruin while also preventing those groups that control patronage from aiming their guns at the thousands of Lebanese who have bravely defied the ruling elite in their quest for real democracy.

Dangerous foreign liaisons

The capacity of Lebanon’s confessional leaders to sustain the patronage system is closely tied to and constrained by their financial, political, and geostrategic links to outside players. Such liaisons can prove dangerous and even fatal. Late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s efforts to advance his political and business relationships with Saudi Arabia and other states (including France) helped to set the stage for the February 2005 bombing that ended his life—and 21 others. His son Saad’s very reasonable assumption that agents from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah organized the assassination may have guided his bid to depart from his father’s risky regional diplomacy by acquiescing to Hezbollah’s push for a commanding position in government. Hariri’s policy provoked retaliation from Saudi Arabia and its new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), who effectively took Saad Hariri hostage in November 2017. But MbS’s wager that this bold move would deter Iran and Hezbollah only strengthened the latter’s resolve to consolidate the movement’s political position, a project that has depended on an uneasy alliance between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun.

The capacity of Lebanon’s confessional leaders to sustain the patronage system is closely tied to and constrained by their financial, political, and geostrategic links to outside players.

Hezbollah has used the leverage afforded to it by this alliance to protect its special relationship with Iran. This partnership extends far beyond common military and geostrategic spheres. With Iran’s backing (estimated at $700 million yearly), in March 2019 Hezbollah’s control of key economic and governmental entities, such as the Ministry of Health, has given the movement a vital source of patronage. Its economic influence has been further strengthened by smuggling operations across the Syrian Lebanese border, by funds generated through a network of Hezbollah-linked businesses and, as recent reports show, by profits gained through global drug sales and related money laundering operations. No Lebanese faction can match these enormous resources, a fact that has earned Hezbollah both respect and contempt. Indeed, Hezbollah’s leaders have long grappled with the risky business of shielding its financial, political, and strategic ties with Tehran and Damascus while defending its oft-contested assertion that the movement is a national player that is committed to Lebanon’s sovereignty.

Hezbollah defends its turf

If the August blast has complicated Hezbollah’s ability to walk this fine line, it suffered several setbacks well before the explosion. One hurdle came in late 2019 and early 2020 when it tried to clamp down on public protests, some of which included members of the Shia community. Another was in May 2019 when, in the wake of the sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration, Hezbollah reduced funding for its militia of 20,000 to 30,000 regular troops, its huge cadre of civilian employees, and its TV station, Al-Manar. Roughly a year later, the White House imposed a new set of sanctions. While targeting the Assad regime, reports suggest that the secondary effects of the June 2020 sanctions associated with the Caesar Act undermined Hezbollah’s practice of using Lebanon’s central bank to secure, at subsidized prices, basic commodities such as fuel, which it had then  smuggled to its ally in Damascus. One month later, the Trump Administration put two Hezbollah members of parliament on its sanctions blacklist, bringing the total number of Hezbollah leaders to 50.

While it is hard to assess the precise impact of these sanctions on Lebanon’s economy, Hassan Nasrallah’s assertion that US sanctions were “starving both Syria and Lebanon” was not totally off base. Indeed, the sanctions fanned the flames that have consumed the ailing banking sector and the collapsing currency. But to the sure consternation of Hezbollah’s leaders, US sanctions also fed the conviction of a growing number of political activists—including some from the Shia community—that Hezbollah was largely responsible for Lebanon’s suffering.

To the sure consternation of Hezbollah’s leaders, US sanctions also fed the conviction of a growing number of political activists—including some from the Shia community—that Hezbollah was largely responsible for Lebanon’s suffering.

Given such perceptions, it is hardly surprising that Hezbollah’s leaders strenuously denied any responsibility for the August 4 explosion. Nasrallah was emphatic: “I categorically deny the claim that Hezbollah has arms cache, ammunition or anything else in the port.” Warning his rivals that they would “not achieve any result” by blaming Hezbollah, he added an implicit threat: Hezbollah, he declared, is “greater and more noble than to be taken down by some liars, inciters, and [those] who are trying to push for civil war.” At the same time, he tossed critics a bone by calling for a full investigation and denouncing the corruption, nepotism that led to it. But these clashing messages only further enraged protesters, some of whom carried effigies of Nasrallah with a noose around his neck as they stormed government ministries.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this fury, Nasrallah has not uttered one word that would suggest the he might support the protesters’ demands for comprehensive political change. To do so would not only align him with demands that could undermine the very political system upon which Hezbollah’s power rests, but it would also create deep consternation within the movement’s leadership as well as within Hezbollah’s wider social base. For while its followers have called for reforms to fight corruption, they remain strongly committed to Hezbollah’s survival as Lebanon’s largest and most powerful militia and political movement.

The August 18 verdict of the special UN tribunal charged with investigating the murder of Rafic Hariri in 2005 will not change such calculations. On the contrary, the tribunal’s decision to convict only one Hezbollah operative will probably reassure Nasrallah that he can continue to pay lip service to the high demand of reform while taking whatever steps necessary to preserve the political status quo.

Iran’s leaders back Hezbollah and the “Lebanese people”

Like Hezbollah, Iran wants to pose as a defender of Lebanese society while ensuring that its ally remains the country’s dominant political and military power. Following the explosion, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman warned that “some countries” were trying to “politicize the blast for their own interests.” Insisting that the “blast should not be used as an excuse for political aims,” he telegraphed Iran’s primary concern, namely that such efforts are aimed at undercutting Iran’s Lebanese friends.

This clever if unconvincing pitch for rising above “politics” came in tandem with statements by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterating Iran’s readiness to provide humanitarian aid. Zarif’s August 14 visit to Beirut—during which he asserted that the “state and the people of Lebanon … must decide the future of Lebanon and how to move things forward”—underscored the pragmatic realism of two leaders who have been largely eclipsed by their hardline rivals. Indeed, Rouhani and Zarif might see in the Lebanese crisis an opportunity to reassert their role in defining Iran’s regional diplomacy. But with their wings already clipped, and in the face of continued US-Iranian tensions, they have little room for maneuver.

Rouhani and Zarif might see in the Lebanese crisis an opportunity to reassert their role in defining Iran’s regional diplomacy. But with their wings already clipped, and in the face of continued US-Iranian tensions, they have little room for maneuver.

In sharp contrast to the above messages, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Hossein Salami framed Iran’s position in distinctly ideological and even sectarian terms. Because they are “the great stars of resistance in the Islamic world,” all “of our abilities will be mobilized to help the Lebanese people.” For the IRGC, the interests of the people and those of the resistance (i.e. Hezbollah) must be made inseparable. Thus, from the IRGC’s vantage point, it is essential to ensure that Iranian humanitarian aid to Lebanon is distributed in ways that enhance Hezbollah’s position. With some 300,000 left homeless by the blast, the escalating spread of COVID-19, and a partial collapse of the health system, the movement’s ability to leverage Iranian assistance has been further weakened. Nevertheless, for the IRGC, the survival of Hezbollah and the political system that has enabled it is an existential priority.

Hopes for a new U.S. policy?

President Macron’s August 6 visit to Beirut illustrated the paradox of reform in Lebanon. For within hours of declaring that the entire political system must be transformed, Macron held talks with all the key factional leaders. As in other divided societies, in Lebanon the road to change is controlled by the very political bosses who have sustained the system. They cannot be circumvented, even though engaging them gives these leaders the means to obstruct change. This is Lebanon’s catch-22.

While there is no simple solution to this conundrum, the prospects for change will remain slim so long as foreign states unconditionally support Lebanon’s factional leaders. What is needed, among other things, is a multilateral diplomatic effort that diminishes the incentives for foreign powers—not least of which are Iran and the United States—to wage their geostrategic disputes through the arena of Lebanon’s confessional rivalries. A reduction of these regional tensions could provide a necessary—if far from sufficient—context for fostering a much needed internal dialogue in Lebanon on how to move beyond the current stalemate.

For now, the prospects for this kind of diplomacy look grim. Having failed to gain the UN Security Council’s support for a renewal of the arms embargo on Iran, the Trump Administration now proposes to reimpose “snapback” sanctions. This policy plays into the hands of Iranian hard-liners and Hezbollah, both of whom want to avoid a military conflict with the United States and Israel while still reaping the political benefits of continued US-Iranian tensions. The recent publication of investigative reports in the European press that suggest a circuitous link between Hezbollah and the purchase of the chemicals that exploded on August 4 will keep Hezbollah on the defensive while emboldening its domestic critics. These developments are sure to further stoke Lebanon’s internal conflicts.

Perhaps the best that can be hoped for now is a massive effort by the international community to help Lebanon overcome its humanitarian crisis. The November 3, 2020 US elections could also invite a revival of talks between Iran, the United States, and the international community. Even if a Democratic Biden-Harris administration emerges, however, it would still have to contend with a regional order that has invested heavily in the very leaders who want to preserve Lebanon’s political system by hook or by crook.

Posted in LebanonComments Off on After the Beirut blast: Hezbollah and Iran walk a tricky line

ISIS Planned Plot in Beirut, Terrorists’ Cell Discovered and Arrested by Lebanese Intel

By Fabio Giuseppe Carlo Carisio 

After alleged Nukes against Beirut, Israeli Phosphorus Bombs Fell on Lebanon Borders

VT:  VT personnel, in two security conferences, one in Baghdad (January 2014) and Baghdad (December 2015) presented to regional governments the simple truth, that ISIS and al Qaeda, along with dozens of other fake terror groups are a manifestation of world organized crime.

They exist in the region sponsored by Israel and Saudi Arabia but primarily aided by the CIA, MI 6, RAW and Turkish military intelligence. Their primary goal is looting nations and fomenting human suffering.

This is important for several reasons, key among them that the ISIS organization in Lebanon, Islamic Wahhabist, is controlled by the Saudi Embassy, is aligned with Israel and is strongly backed by the current government in Beirut.

Going after ISIS is a first challenge to the Israeli nuclear attack and to the role France has offered as protector of Lebanon as a platform against Syria.

French policy in the region has many experts now looking at Macron’s actions as trying to save Netanyahu from prison and demonstrate that as with Trump, Macron himself is deeply compromised and a threat to France.

from Al Manar TV

The Lebanese Army Command’s Orientation Directorate issued a communiqué on Saturday, indicating that “the Army Intelligence Directorate managed to arrest members of a terrorist cell linked to the ISIL terrorist organization that was in the process of carrying out security activities inside Lebanon.

”The communiqué added that the investigations showed that the commander of that cell is the terrorist in hiding, Khaled Al-Talawi, whose car was used by the perpetrators of the Kaftoun crime, which occurred on 8/21/2020.The terrorists used the car to move to Kaftoun, Koura, when they were stopped by the municipal police. Consequently, the militant criminals opened fire, killing three municipal policemen.

The Lebanese army has arrested a terrorist cell linked to ISIS, it said on Saturday. The cell was reportedly carrying out operations inside Lebanon. “The terrorist cell members were arrested in a series of security operations in the North and Bekaa regions on different dates, and it was found that they had received military training and collected weapons and war ammunition,” the army said in a statement.

Lebanese soldiers and civilians gather near the site of an ISIS-claimed twin bombing in the area of Burj Al Barajneh in Beirut’s southern suburbs on November 13, 2015

The commander of the cell was identified as Khaled Al Talawy, the army said. ISIS has been damaged to the point that it does not hold any territory in Syria or Iraq any more. But its fighters still operate in some parts of Syria and Iraq, mostly in the vast uncontrolled border areas.

In 2015, Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah declared war on ISIS after the extremists launched an offensive in northern Lebanon. The Shiite militia once fought an Al Qaeda-linked and other rebel groups along the border that connects Lebanon and Syria. Its leader Hassan Nasrallah vowed to eradicate ISIS’ presence in the country and its threat has been minimal for the most part.

The Lebanese army also fought ISIS but did not engage in joint operations with Hezbollah for fear of angering the international community. Washington classifies the Iran-backed Hezbollah as a terrorist group. The Lebanese Shiite group has had a strong presence in northern Lebanon since 2015 after it defeated Syrian Sunni rebels who had controlled local villages and towns.

ISRAEL ON WAR WITH LEBANON. US AIRSTRIKES BREAK CEASEFIRE IN SYRIA

x 10.656 Views The US aistrikes killed at least 40 jihadists but violated the … Leggi tuttoISRAEL ON WAR WITH LEBANON. US AIRSTRIKES BREAK CEASEFIRE IN SYRIAgospanews.net

Many rebels, alongside thousands of Sunni refugees fleeing violence and Hezbollah’s control over their towns, took shelter on the Lebanese side of the border strip.

Hezbollah has provided critical military support to President Bashar Al Assad during Syria’s six-year-long war. Its Lebanese critics oppose Hezbollah’s role in the Syrian war. North-east Lebanon was the scene of one of the worst spillovers of Syria’s war into Lebanon in 2014, when ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked militants attacked the town of Arsal.


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Nazi’s characteristic Beirut hypocrisy

Israel in general does not help anyone. When they occasionally do it’s strictly for PR purposes. Israel is strictly opportunistic, installed by world vulture Rothschild. Israel is an arm of imperialism, not a Jewish state or a safe haven for Jews. Jews were the first to be sacrificed in the creation of “Israel” and they continue to be sacrificed through false flags to blame “Israel’s” so called enemies.

Hezbollah has arms and fighters because there is a pressing and urgent need to defend Lebanon against Israel’s military invasions and incursions.

The massive explosion which devastated Beirut earlier this month was nothing short of a catastrophe.

Some 220 people lost their lives and, according to the BBC, as many as 300,000 people are now homeless as a result.

This is a devastating blow from which it will take Lebanon’s capital city a long time, probably years, to recover.

Among the most nauseating of responses to the blast was seeing representatives of the state of Israel sending “condolences” and fake offers of humanitarian assistance.

As my colleague at The Electronic Intifada, Tamara Nasser, put it: “Israel, the destroyer of Lebanon was attempting to pose as its savior.”

This ghastly vision was utterly contemptible for anyone who knows the history of Israeli involvement in Lebanon.

Israel, the Imperialist military outpost is not designed to assist the world in good.

The Zionist state has left a long, bloody trail of dead bodies, displaced people and shattered lives, having invaded its northern neighbor many times since the settler-colonial entity established itself — upon the mass graves of Palestinians — in 1948.

In the 1950s, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, secretly articulated plans to occupy Lebanon by force and transform it into a puppet sectarian state ruled as a Christian supremacist entity in alliance with Israel, the Jewish supremacist entity.

In order to meddle in and stoke the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), Israel armed, trained and supplied puppet Christian Maronite militias in Lebanon, including the brutal sectarian Lebanese

Forces led by Bashir Gemayel. In 1978, Israel invaded directly in order to attack the Palestine Liberation Organization, occupying much of South Lebanon.

Israeli forces were soon forced out after stiff resistance by Palestinian fighters, but they soon headed back across their northern border.

In 1982, Israel carried out a full scale invasion of Lebanon in an attempt to crush the PLO’s military, political and cultural presence once and for all.

The Siege of Beirut 1982

More than 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinian people were killed during this brutally aggressive war, including as many as 3,000 Palestinian refugees who were butchered by Israel’s Maronite allies in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps under the watchful eye of Israeli troops, who fired flares into the night sky to light the militia’s way.

Minister of Defence, later Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, was found by an Israeli Commission of Inquiry to have “personal responsibility” for allowing this massacre to take place.

The Israelis reached and laid siege to Beirut, before being pushed back by stiff resistance and diplomatic pressure.

However, South Lebanon remained illegally occupied by Israel until 2000, when the Lebanese resistance led by Hezbollah drove its forces out once and for all.

Butcher of Beirut

Nevertheless, in 2006, Israel attacked Lebanon yet again, and another 2,000 people were killed in the massive offensive.

Hezbollah succeeded in driving the Israeli troops out of Lebanon once more, but the country was again devastated.

Since then, Israel has carried out almost daily border violations, including fly-overs with drones and warplanes.

Israeli politicians frequently threaten to bomb Lebanon “back to the Stone Age”, kill civilians and systematically eradicate the country’s civilian infrastructure, all of which are classed as war crimes.

On top of all of this, Israel’s spy agencies have now been planting stories in the international media pushing the dubious and unproven conspiracy theory that the explosion in Beirut this month was caused by Hezbollah.

As investigative journalist Gareth Porter explains in his most recent article: “Israeli officials have exploited the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut this August to revive a dormant propaganda campaign that had accused the Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah of storing ammonium nitrate in several countries to wage terror attacks on Israelis.”

Netanyahu GIF | Gfycat

Israeli spy agencies, wrote Porter, have “planted a series of stories from 2012 to 2019 claiming Hezbollah sought out ammonium nitrate as the explosive of choice for terrorist operations.

According to the narrative, Hezbollah planned to covertly store the explosive substance in locations from Southeast Asia to Europe and the US — only to be foiled repeatedly by Mossad.”

There is a slight problem with this Israeli narrative: none of it seems to be true.

“In each one of those cases, however, the factual record either contradicted the Israeli claims or revealed a complete dearth of evidence,” insisted Porter, whose entire article is well worth reading.

In the wake of the Beirut explosion, global and regional powers – the US and Israel first among them – are exploiting the febrile atmosphere in the country, and the understandable anger of the Lebanese people at their politicians, in order to push for Hezbollah to disarm. This is a longstanding goal in any case.

Israel is not designed to ‘help’ or aid anyone…it is an opportunist in every given case. Israel is one of the vultures..

However, as veteran Palestinian journalist and commentator Abdel Bari Atwan wrote recently, “Like the Syrian regime, Hezbollah will prove impervious to pressure to disarm or exit the political scene.”

Hezbollah has arms and fighters because there is a pressing and urgent need to defend Lebanon against Israel’s military invasions and incursions.

This is something that the Lebanese army simply cannot do.

Only a couple of weeks before the Beirut explosion, Israel’s highly undiplomatic Ambassador to the United Nations made a thinly veiled threat to destroy the very same port that was devastated by the blast during his country’s next war with Lebanon.

Moreover, Moshe Feiglin, the appalling former deputy speaker of Israel’s parliament, reacted with obvious joy to the deadly blast, calling it a “spectacular pyrotechnics show” and a “wonderful celebration”.

So who were the Israeli President and army trying to fool when they claimed with characteristic hypocrisy that they wanted to “reach out” and “transcend conflict” by helping Lebanon to recover from the Beirut explosion?

Whoever the intended audience was, very few people in Lebanon believed them, that’s for sure.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, LebanonComments Off on Nazi’s characteristic Beirut hypocrisy

Quick Thoughts: Ziad Abu-Rish and Maya Mikdashi on Lebanon’s Multiple Crises

By : Ziad Abu-Rish and Maya Mikdashi

Beirut, Lebanon: Protesters gather at central bank. Lebanon is plunged in its worst economic crisis and deflation has risen in a country with one of the world’s major foreign debts (30 December 2019). Photo by Karim naamani via Shutterstock.

[The COVID-19 crisis arrived in Lebanon on the heels of widespread protests that commenced in late 2019 against the country’s political system and elites. Lebanon today is beset by a resurgence of coronavirus infections, and in addition to the public health crisis is facing the prospect of genuine economic collapse. Jadaliyya Co-Editor and Quick Thoughts series editor Mouin Rabbani interviewed Ziad Abu-Rish and Maya Mikdashi, both Jadaliyya Co-Editors, to get a better understanding of the context and consequences of Lebanon’s multiple crises. The Quick Thoughts series provides background, context, and detail to issues that are, or should be, currently in the news.]

Mouin Rabbani (MR): Lebanon has seen a series of protests since 2019, predating the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic reverberations. Can you tell us a little about those protests and where they stand today? 

Ziad Abu-Rish and Maya Mikdashi (ZA & MM): Lebanon has featured episodic protests and strikes for the last several years. While the demonstrations that began in October 2019 were a major turning point in the politics of the country, they also drew on the networks, experiences, successes, and frustrations of these previous instances of mobilization. These included a myriad of campaigns and other forms of mobilization by public school teachers, retired military personnel, community activists, and municipal voters—not to mention the 2015 garbage protests and the 2019 protests by Palestinian refugees.

Beginning 17 October 2019, Lebanon featured an intense wave of popular protests that were variously referred to as the “October Uprising” or “October Revolution.” They quickly expanded in terms of both geographic range and numerical strength, and effectively shut down business as usual throughout much of the country for months. At one point an estimated two million people were on the streets of various cities and towns, representing approximately one-third of the total population of Lebanon. While large-scale rallies, marches, encampments, and roadblocks lasted into January 2020, those that subsequently continued taking to the streets began to focus on more direct symbols and spaces of the government and status quo: parliament; various ministries; the central bank; the national electricity company; and the office of the Association of Lebanese Bankers.

This was partly a function of strategic shifts by activist groups and their coalitions, some of which were formed prior to the uprising and others during it. It was also due to violent repression by security forces as well as party loyalists. Thereafter, activist precautions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the government ban on public gatherings (part of the declared state of emergency on 15 March 2020) effectively muted the demonstrations. Episodic protests have reappeared in much more disparate and smaller numbers since June 2020. Yet, by then the intensifying economic crisis, stalling tactics by the government and politicians, and episodic violence on the part of the security forces had worn down much of the population’s capacity for direct collective action.

MR: What were/are the main drivers of these demonstrations, what are the protestors’ objectives, and do they have widespread support among the Lebanese population?

ZAR & MM: The October-January mass mobilizations encompassed a range of grievances vis-à-vis the status quo in Lebanon. They primarily took aim at the unresponsiveness of successive governments, parliaments, and main political parties more generally to address long-articulated calls for accountability, transparency, and social justice. In terms of immediate demands, first and foremost was the call for the government to resign (which it eventually did on 29 October 2019). There was also relative consensus around demands for an independent judiciary, which in turn was related to the desire of many for the full and equal application of the Lebanese constitution and of the 1989 Taif Accord that officially ended the 1975–1990 civil war and underpinned the post-war political order. Another currently somewhat-resurgent demand has been for early parliamentary elections, which in turn raised the issue of restructuring the electoral law.

There were also more systemic demands articulated and debated. Some called for an end to the confessional distribution of political office and related positions. Others demanded a rethinking of the development model as well as economic and fiscal policies that have increased poverty and unemployment, weakened purchasing power, encouraged corruption, and enriched a very small percentage of the population at the expense of the rest. Lebanon has one of the highest wealth inequality ratios in the world: between 2005 and 2014, the richest one percent claimed twenty-five percent of total national income; in 2017, twenty percent of the entire domestic banking deposit base was concentrated in 0.1 percent of all deposit accounts. Also important were feminist and anti-racist demands that challenged gender, sexual, racial, and other hierarchies inherent in the Lebanese political system, its legal edifice, and daily practices in the public, private, and domestic sectors.

It would be difficult to claim there was agreement on the majority of specific demands advanced during these numerous protests. There is nevertheless general agreement that the political elites as a whole have failed to produce a meaningful postwar order in Lebanon—one in which the average Lebanese can live in dignity and have a say in the policies that shape their everyday lives as well as long-term aspirations. The complete rejection of these political elites was palpable both in the rhetoric of protesters as well as the near-total withdrawal of these elites from public and media appearances for about two months.

MR: What are the main economic and political elements of Lebanon’s current crisis? How has the political establishment sought to address these, and do you think they are in a position to implement a successful strategy that preserves their position and power?

ZAR & MM: Lebanon today can be described as featuring a set of multiple and overlapping crises. These include developmental, infrastructural, fiscal, and currency crises. Developmentally, revenue generation has come to standstill and its over-reliance on attracting external financial flows through the service sector (primarily banking and real estate) has meant that its distribution was quite lopsided. The electricity, water, waste management communication, and transportation infrastructures of the country are dilapidated. Electricity is rationed, the potable water supply is inconsistent, while cellphone and internet services are expensive and inadequate. Fiscally, the government is unable to balance its budget, due to the combination of an annual debt servicing burden equal to a third of the annual state budget and a taxation system that is overly reliant on indirect taxes (e.g., customs and excise) as opposed to direct taxes (e.g., income tax). Politically-backed smuggling networks through both the ports and land borders—not to mention official exemptions for politicians and their allies—also deprive the state of much of these (already insufficient) indirect taxes. More recently, the government has been unable to pay its bills for many of the privatized services such as traffic light administration and waste management, leading to breakdowns in service. The government has also delayed or failed to make payments to public and private hospitals it has contracted with, causing disruptions to the health care system.

Despite being a dollarized economy, there is a massive shortage of foreign exchange in the country. This is affecting its ability to import not only luxury goods but also basic foodstuffs, fuel, and medical supplies. This is to say nothing of the fact that banks increasingly limited dollar withdrawals and eventually locked people out of their dollar deposits. One cumulaive effect of this dramatic shortage of foreign exchange has been the rapid depreciation of Lebanese lira. While the official rate remains at 1500 Lebanese lira per 1 US dollar, the (black) market rate is today approximately 8000 liras and climbing. In other words, the lira has lost more than eighty percent of its value. The banking sector’s locking of depositors out of thier dollar accounts is reflective of one of the single-most dramatic instances of wealth destruction in recent history; by most accounts the banks have squandered a large portion of their dollar deposit base. They did so by paying out extravagant shareholder dividends and executive bonuses, and more generally by making bad investments. More recently, they have allowed clients with powerful connections to transfer their wealth out of the country while simultaneously denying ordinary depositors access to their dollars.

These “bad investments” by the banking sector have been a structural feature of the post-war Lebanese political economy. They primarily involve collusion between government officials, the central bank, and the banking sector around an agenda of profiteering from public debt and financial engineering schemes. Furthermore, we contend, with others, that delays in addressing the economic crisis should be understood as a political and economic choice to foist the burden of bankruptcy onto ordinary citizens and non-citizens through inflation and other tactics. It of course bears emphasizing that many politicians and their associates are major shareholders in Lebanon’s top-tier banks. 

These developmental, fiscal, infrastructural, and currency crises predate the October uprising. Yet many politicians and banking executives have attempted to re-write history by claiming the “real” crisis began with the protests. A careful assessment of public statements, currency tracking, central bank statistics, and banking practices throughout 2018 and 2019 reveals a different story. Well before the uprising, many banks were incentivizing borrowers to convert their lira-denominated loans to dollar-denominated ones, while also making cash withdrawals or international transfers from dollar-denominated accounts more difficult. On the other hand, according to one 2018-19 estimate, seventy-one percent of the workforce was employed in the service sector, and forty percent of the workforce was informally employed (i.e., no access to social security benefits, minimum wage, work hour regulations, or fringe benefits). That same survey found that only fifty-five percent of the population was covered by any (public or private) health insurance plan. Furthermore, the months leading up to the October uprising featured gas station strikes protesting the government’s inability to secure dollars for fuel imports, and public sector employees complaining about chronic salary delays. What the uprising did was confront politicians and their business allies head on. The latter in turn responded by trying to shift the blame to the protesters while also scrambling to protect their assets. This is precisely the intra-elite struggle and debate transpiring today: devising acceptable mechanisms to distribute the financial losses and political blame.

There is also a political crisis, which has two main features. First, the ability of leading political parties to cooperate and collude with one another to keep the overall system working has run aground. Second, the ability of leading political parties to maintain their hegemony over their respective constituencies has been greatly eroded. This is not to say that a breakdown in the social order or regime collapse is inevitable.

We could of course reframe the question of political crisis and center the majority of the population by simply pointing to the fact that the political system is unresponsive to the basic needs, daily lives, and life-span horizons of the majority. Whatever savings elder segments of the populations had, were wiped out by the continuously rising cost of living, the recent currency depreciation, or the banks’ de facto confiscation of dollar deposits. Young adults have few options for professional development or upward social mobility—to say nothing of employment in a service-based economy largely dependent on the unstable influx of tourists, diaspora visits, and regional or international media outlets and humanitarian industrial complexes. Each successive parliament and government have failed to deliver on promises to improve infrastructure, expand employment, arrest the rising cost of living, and address corruption. Moreover, any economic crisis is also itself a political crisis: the economy, however liberal, open, and laissez-faire, is a function of economic policies and governing practices.

While these multiple crises form the backdrop and context for many of the grievances and mobilizations that animated the October-January uprising, many worry that the continued intensification of these crises may once again resuscitate Lebanon’s political elite in the name of stability. Others argue that only a broad-based elite coalition can enact a set of policies necessary to abate the crises, even if it also perpetuates their hold on power and resources to reinvigorate patronage networks. In the unequal terrain of Lebanon’s political economy and vastly differential access to what funds remain in the country, we—like several others—worry that the rapid impoverishment of the population is laying the groundwork for the hardening of clientelist and dependency networks between established (and perhaps, new) politicians and their publics. It is worth noting that such networks have in fact become cheaper to maintain, even if available funds are scarce. 

MR: Is the current crisis organically related to Lebanon’s confessional power structure, and if so is there a serious prospect of increased sectarian tensions?

ZAR & MM: We do not believe the current crises are organically linked to confessionalism and/or sectarianism in Lebanon, nor are they merely a function of the regional and international system. These crises are the result of home-grown policies and decisions by those in control of the top levels of the state bureaucracy, designed to maximize their political power and economic privilege at the expense of the general population. They have, of course, been supported by regional and international allies as well as multilateral institutions. But it is possible to conceive of a confessional political system in Lebanon that is at the same time a little more responsive to the needs of the people. So the real question has to do with the incentive structures and cost-benefit analysis that those in power face in deciding how to conduct themselves in the absence of any kind of legal constraint or meaningful popular accountability. 

A prominent way in which confessionalism does directly impact state policy is the distribution of certain public sector employment and government contracts in the name of proportional “sectarian representation.” Major government works projects, including power plants, waste management facilities, and other infrastructure, are divvied up among leading politicians, their allies, and broader networks. Meanwhile, sectarian parity in government employment, save for top-level jobs, is actually not required since the Taif Accord. But employment in the government sector and the distribution of government projects and infrastructure contracts is a major way that politicians cultivate sectarian bona fides and patronage networks. While we are supportive of a robust public sector and believe the solution to this problem lies in reform and massive reinvestment in the public sector rather than privatization, we also hold that employment in the public sector should not be based on sectarian parity, as this only increases the ability of sectarian leaders to entrench their networks within the state.

If the October uprising has shown us anything, it is that the sectarian card has its limits as an instrument of rule and mobilization. It is less a constant feature than it is a repertoire in the political toolbox of existing parties and officials. This is not to say that the political system, whether through the apportionment of political office according to sectarian quotas or the adjudication of personal status matters by religious and state institutions, is irrelevant to the political economy of the country. But it is to say that there is no shortage of cross-sectarian collusion among political parties and government officials. The fundamental dividing line between ruler and ruled is one of class and access to state resources, the nature of such rule is shot through with patriarchal and heteronormative hierarchies, and divisions among the ruling political parties are ultimately about international alliances and different perceptions of what constitutes an existential threat.

While sectarianism itself may not be a primary factor in the current crisis, the structural conditions of the Lebanese state are critical. The Troika system of power-sharing—specifically the division of executive authority between the offices of the presidency, premiership, and parliamentary speakership—has engendered an environment where broad-based consensus among politicians is necessary for any major policy. This has more to do with the institutional reorganization of the Taif Accord than with confessionalism or sectarianism. Even if the president, prime minister, and speaker of parliament hailed from the same sect, the structural problem of distributed executive power and consensus-building (often through bartering) would persist.

The uprising and the current period reveal a truism about Lebanon: sectarianism is most often a strategic mechanism to access scarce resources. Indeed, sometimes one has to participate in sectarian networks in order to access what are supposed to be public goods. Such networks are currently less able to perform this function. The fact that sectarian discourse is in this period less effective with protestors and the public at large, and the fact that protests were against all political elites and sectarian leaders, demonstrates yet again that Lebanese citizens are not “ride or die” for their sectarian leaders. Rather, their support is contingent on these networks being able to perform particular functions that meet their needs. In this sense, we should also explore specific sectarian networks and political parties to understand these dynamics, as they do not all operate at the same capacity, resonance, constraints, or scales.

MR: How do you assess the COVID-19 situation in Lebanon?

ZAR & MM: As of 15 July 2020, Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health has confirmed a total of 2542 COVID-19 cases, and thirty-eight deaths, since the first case was confirmed on 21 February. For the last four months, government officials and many international observers have claimed the COVID-19 pandemic is under control in Lebanon, especially given the total estimated population of six million residents. That assertion was always problematic, for at least three reasons. First, there was very little one could do to verify the statistics provided by the Ministry of Public Health, or the claims of public and/or private hospitals to be COVID-19 ready. This is not to deny the efforts that were made with respect to testing, tracing, quarantining, and otherwise identifying/containing the spread of the virus. However, we were never given consistent data, for example concerning the number of available hospital beds and ventilators, nor provided with the proper context to measure the broader picture (e.g., the total number and geographical distribution of tests). Second, accessto and the quality of healthcare are endemic problems in Lebanon. This is due to the effectively privatized nature of the health care system and its marked discrepancies with respect to costs, the legal status of patients (e.g., citizens, refugees, migrant laborers), and regional variations. Third, there is nothing “under control” about the economic dislocations and psychological pressures caused by the government-imposed lockdown in Lebanon.

This is not to challenge the idea that a lockdown was necessary. But it is to highlight the fact that it was not accompanied by any meaningful social safety net. While the pre-existing crises discussed earlier certainly facilitated such problematic responses, the government and leading political parties could have used the COVID-19 crisis to turn a corner and, even if only temporarily, demonstrate a genuine interest in the well-being of the population. Instead, as soon as the political utility of the lockdown abated (i.e., mass protests were nullified), the government completely re-opened the country, placing a higher premium on the influx of foreign currency and resumption of general economic activity than on public health, which was placed at dangerous risk. The fact that Lebanon has now featured three consecutive days of record-breaking increases in new COVID-19 cases—coupled with revelations the healthcare workers in several hospitals have tested positive and that many hospitals are in fact insufficiently prepared to respond to the pandemic—highlights the fact that the worst is yet to come.

MR: There has recently been increased media attention to the fate of migrant workers in Lebanon. Could you tell us more about these dynamics and how these are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic? 

ZAR & MM: Lebanon is a multinational space. Approximately one-third of residents in Lebanon are not citizens but rather refugees, migrant laborers, foreign expats, and children of Lebanese mothers who are structurally excluded from Lebanese citizenship. Each of these groups has a different social, economic, legal, and bureaucratic relationship with the state. In the case of migrant laborers, who primarily hail from East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, racism forms an additional and significant dynamic.

As the economic crisis has deepened, racist and xenophobic language directed at migrant laborers has flourished. A US professor teaching at the American University of Beirut (AUB), a Syrian man working in construction, and an Ethiopian woman working as a domestic laborer are all technically “foreign workers” and temporary residents. However, labor laws and contractual rights apply to them differently, as do societal practices of racism, classism, and segregation. Nationalist, racist, and xenophobic discourses targeting foreign workers in Lebanon have increased in response to economic catastrophe. Of course, these discourses do not target US academics, French advertising executives, or British humanitarian workers—when perceived to be white—but rather, those perceived to be black and brown. Some Lebanese go so far as to scapegoat migrant laborers and their remittances to families abroad as a major source of the country’s foreign exchange crisis.

Most migrant laborers in Lebanon operate within the kafala (sponsorship) system: a set of laws, policies, and practices that tie the employee’s ability to legally work to specific employers, and giving the latter immense power over the employee’s everyday life, bodily health, financial security, and legal status. The kafala system excludes these migrant laborers from the Labor Code and standard labor protections and benefits, while also operating with little-to-no oversight. The result is systematic human rights abuses. Migrant labor activists in Lebanon have described the kafala system as a form of “modern slavery”, and there is a growing campaign to abolish it entirely

Both COVID-19 and the economic crisis have put a stress test to the kafala labor system. For example, many upper- and middle-class Lebanese families are currently expelling their domestic workers from their homes because these families can no longer (or will no longer) pay their salaries or repatriation. There is no shortage of testimonials of cars pulling up in front of the Ethiopian Embassy as migrant laborers are forced out and left to fend on their own (in some cases without their belongings). Other migrant workers recently expelled, laid off, or simply seeking respite have taken to camping outside their respective embassies. Hundreds of South Asian sanitation workers have organized petitions and strikes demanding payment in dollars (as previously agreed) or in Lebanese currency at the market rather than the official rate. Some have demanded to be repatriated to their home countries. Consider that their 150-dollar monthly salary, now paid in Lebanese lira at the official rate, is worth a mere thirty dollars. These and other sanitation workers have been brutally suppressed by company managers, who in some instances invite in security forces and in others literally torture and imprison dissenters. At the same time, over two-hundred Syrian sanitation workers have been quarantined after approximately 140 of them tested positive for COVID-19. These statistics reflect the well-known overcrowded living quarters and precarious working conditions imposed by the sanitation company.

The publicity of these actions—the literal dropping off of women on the street and the entry of security forces into the living quarters of sanitary workers—are a portal through which to imagine what the relationship between the employing family or company and the employee look like in private, during what some analysts refer to as prosperous times. None of this is news to anyone that has followed the struggles of migrant workers in general and domestic workers in particular over the past several decades. We can add to this the complete lack of any proper statistics, resources, or guidelines for protecting, testing, and treating migrant workers (or refugees) for COVID-19. The fate of these two sets of labor migrants—domestic workers and sanitation workers—reveal the intersections between political economy and institutional and social hierarchies, and how they have in turn been amplified by both economic crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For years migrant workers have been active in speaking out and organizing their ranks. Mutual aid networks have sprung up to help alleviate the particular challenges of domestic workers, sanitation workers, and other forms of labor organized under the kafala system. As has been amply demonstrated across the globe, structurally subordinated communities experience COVID-19’s effects in compound fashion.

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