A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 03-04/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 18th Day

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Lebanese women march with national flags during a demonstration near the Roman ruins in the eastern Bekaa Valley city of Baalbeck on October 26, 2019, on the tenth day of country-wide protests against tax increases and official corruption. (Photo by - / AFP)

A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 03-04/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 18th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
November 03-04/2019

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 03-04/2019
Lebanon’s President: We Have Drawn Up a 3-Point Plan
Aoun Urges Squares to Unite on Economy, Civil State and Anti-Corruption Fight
Lebanese flock to presidential palace in rally to support Aoun
Bassil Says People ‘Turned the Tables’, Slams ‘Corrupts, Thugs’
Lebanon’s Gebran Bassil joins pro-Aoun protest supporting ‘reform plan’
FPM Endorses Protesters Demands in Pro-Aoun Baabda Demo
Lebanon’s anti-government protesters return to streets, call for general strike
Lebanese keep protest alive in northern city of Tripoli
Israel pushing foreign allies to impose sanctions on aid to Lebanon: Reports
Lebanon’s Anti-Government Protesters Call for General Strike
Protesters Hold Central Demo in Beirut to Show ‘Unity’, Exert ‘Pressure’
Report: Lebanon to Have 24-Minister ‘Techno-Political Govt.’
Jumblat Decries ‘Empty Populist Stances’ after Aoun, Bassil Speeches
Strong Lebanon Bloc Cautions against Technocrat Govt.
Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV Says Twitter Accounts Suspended

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 03-04/2019

Lebanon’s President: We Have Drawn Up a 3-Point Plan
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 3 November, 2019
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Sunday that a three-point plan had been drawn up around tackling corruption, restoring the economy, and building a civil state. Aoun, who must now hold consultations with members of parliament to designate a new premier following the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said: “These three points are not easily achieved, we need your efforts, and we need a square filled both by you and the (anti-government) protesters to defend your rights. “Many are trying to be obstructive. This is why we need to make a huge effort,” said Aoun in a televised speech, addressing his supporters who converged on the presidential palace in Baabda to back him. Hariri resigned on Tuesday following unprecedented nationwide protests.Aoun has signaled support for a more technocratic government, saying in a speech after Hariri’s resignation that ministers should be chosen “according to their competencies and expertise, not political loyalties.”Hariri’s government has continued in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed. In his speech on Sunday, Aoun described corruption, a primary protestor grievance, as having become “nested” in the state. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and an object of ridicule by anti-government protesters, addressed supporters at the rally, pledging to root out corruption and hold all who had taken state funds accountable. “Be careful, we have long and difficult days ahead of us. We were racing against time to prevent a collapse but the corruption, squandering (of resources) and public debt beat us.”

Aoun Urges Squares to Unite on Economy, Civil State and Anti-Corruption Fight
Naharnet/November 03/2019
President Michel Aoun on Sunday said that “squares are plenty” in Lebanon and that “no one should think that there is a square against another.”
He was addressing via video link thousands of Free Patriotic Movement supporters who rallied near the presidential palace to voice support for his stances on the third anniversary of his election as president of the republic. “The people have lost confidence in their state and this is a big problem,” Aoun lamented. “We have drawn a roadmap of three points: (fighting) corruption, (fixing the) economy and (building a) civil state. The three of them are not easy to achieve,” the president added. “We want a square composed of you and of those who protested. These three points are your right and a lot are practicing obstruction,” Aoun went on to say.He added: “I love all of you and I mean all of you.”The demonstration near the presidential palace in Baabda comes after more than two weeks of widespread anti-government demonstrations. Another such anti-government protest is scheduled for later Sunday in central Beirut. The anti-government demonstrations have united people from the country’s many religious sects and factions against the political class. The leaders who have ruled Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war are widely seen as having tanked the economy. Aoun, one of the main targets of the protesters’ anger, gave a speech late Thursday proposing that Lebanon should move away from the decades-old sectarian political system. He said the country is at a “dangerous crossroads.”

Lebanese flock to presidential palace in rally to support Aoun
Reuters, Beirut/Sunday, 3 November 2019
A rally of support for Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun swarmed the country’s presidential palace on Sunday, a rebuke to broader protests that have demanded the wholesale ouster of the country’s elite and which have toppled the government. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Tuesday following unprecedented nationwide protests, deepening a political crisis and complicating efforts to enact badly needed economic reforms. A convoy of cars, some waving Aoun’s orange Free Patriotic Movement party flags and his portrait snaked across a main highway on Sunday while a sea of protesters marched to Baabda palace. They were joined by Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and an object of ridicule by anti-government protesters, who addressed supporters at the rally and called on them to refrain from accusing everyone of corruption, Lebanese news outlets reported. Some of the protesters demands are “destructive to the economy” and “uncompromising,” Bassil said, adding that “the slogan ‘everyone means everyone’ should be used to hold officials accountable and not for injustice.” “Be careful, we have long and difficult days ahead of us. We were racing against time to prevent a collapse but the corruption, squandering (of resources) and public debt beat us,” he said. Though no immediate estimate of the rally’s size was available, many thousands spread across a roadway leading to the palace. It was the biggest counter protest to the wave of demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since Oct. 17 and which have included Aoun’s removal among a set of sweeping demands. “We’re here to say to Aoun that we love you and renew our trust in you,” said Hiyam Khairat at the rally. In a televised speech, Aoun, who must now hold consultations with members of parliament to designate a new premier, said a three-point plan had been drawn up around tackling corruption, restoring the economy, and building a civil state. “These three points are not easily achieved, we need your efforts, and we need a square filled both by you and the (anti-government) protesters to defend your rights. “Many are trying to be obstructive. This is why we need to make a huge effort,” said Aoun. He described corruption, a primary protestor grievance, as having become “nested” in the state. Wearing a shirt emblazoned with Aoun’s face, George Barbar said he had driven from northern Lebanon to show his support: “If people don’t join hands with the president, there will be no Lebanon,” said Barbar.

Bassil Says People ‘Turned the Tables’, Slams ‘Corrupts, Thugs’
Naharnet/November 03/2019
Free Patriotic Movement chief and caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Sunday noted that the people have “turned the tables,” as he slammed political rivals as “corrupts” and “thugs.”“We had warned our partners that we would reach this stage and the people (who took part in the unprecedented popular revolt) acted before us and turned the tables and we are here to back them,” Bassil said at an FPM rally near the presidential palace in Baabda, reminding of his recent warning that the FPM would soon “turn the tables” in the country. “We are not all corrupt and thugs. The corrupts are those who built their castles from the money of the people and the thugs are those who blocked roads and asked for extortion money,” Bassil added. The FPM and its allies have accused Lebanese Forces supporters of “setting up checkpoints” that evoke the civil war era and of practicing extortion, claims that the LF and the protest movement have both dismissed as rumors. “The priority today is for delaying the financial collapse, not for speeding it up, and let us call for accountability to purify our policies and achieve our demand of building a civil state without toppling the system,” Bassil added. “We do not accept the end of the revolution with endurance of the corrupts and the departure of the upright officials,” he said. “We dare anyone to prove that we are part of any suspicious deal,” he went on to say. He added: “We moved from (the slogan) ‘all means all’ to ‘them alone’ because the main goal was the ouster of the president’s tenure but no one can eliminate us.”The pro-Aoun demo in Baabda comes after more than two weeks of massive nationwide anti-graft protests that brought down the government. Another such anti-graft demonstration is planned in Beirut to demand a complete overhaul of a political system deemed inefficient and corrupt.In Baabda, Aoun supporters said they backed the general demands of protesters nationwide, but insisted the president was the only man able to bring about reforms.

Lebanon’s Gebran Bassil joins pro-Aoun protest supporting ‘reform plan’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 3 November 2019
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Sunday joined thousands of people taking part in a rally in support of President Michel Aoun, and called on demonstrators to refrain from accusing everyone of corruption, Lebanese news outlets reported. Some of the protesters demands are “destructive to the economy” and “uncompromising,” Bassil said, adding that the slogan “everyone means everyone” should be used to hold officials accountable and not for injustice. A huge convoy of cars, some waving Aoun’s orange Free Patriotic Movement party flags and his portrait snaked across a main highway on Sunday while a sea of protesters marched to Baabda palace. It was the biggest counter protest to the massive wave of demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since Oct. 17 and which have included Aoun’s removal among its demands. “We’re here to say to Aoun that we love you and renew our trust in you,” said Hiyam Khair. Wearing a shirt with Aoun’s face, George Barbar said he had driven from northern Lebanon to show his support: “If people don’t join hands with the president, there will be no Lebanon,” said Barbar. A semblance of normality returned to Lebanon this week, with roads re-opening and banks opening to customers on Friday after being shut for two weeks, though restrictions were reported on foreign currency withdrawals and transfers abroad.

FPM Endorses Protesters Demands in Pro-Aoun Baabda Demo
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 03/2019
Supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement on Sunday flocked to the presidential palace road in Baabda from areas across Lebanon to show support for President Michel Aoun on the third anniversary of his election, and in the face of unprecedented protests against the entire political class.
“We tell all those who took to the squares that their demands are our demands and nothing separates us other than disinformation and those trying to exploit them,” Nicolas Sehnaoui — an ex-telecom minister and a former FPM deputy chief — told reporters at the rally. MP Asaad Dergham of the FPM’s Strong Lebanon bloc meanwhile told MTV that the FPM demo is not aimed at pitting a street against another and is not a “show of force.”
“We tell our brothers on the squares that we complete each other,” he added. Noting that the new government will comprise “less than 30 ministers” and that there is “no problem” with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri or any other candidate, Dergham stressed that the FPM “wants transparency and a state of institutions and will no longer accept bargains.”The National News Agency said the FPM demonstrators were calling for “a fight against corruption and the fulfillment of demands according to a legal mechanism and the president’s plan.”All parties must “go to parliament to legislate laws, recover the looted funds and lift bank secrecy,” NNA quoted the protesters as saying. The rally started at 11:30 am with a speech by President Aoun’s adviser Pierre Raffoul, who called for supporting the president and thanked the demonstrators for their stances and “honorable participation.”The rally was dubbed “O People of Loyalty”.
NNA meanwhile reported “fainting” cases among the demonstrators. “God, Lebanon and Aoun” and “Hela, Hela, Ho, We Love Jebran Bassil” were some of the slogans chanted by demonstrators. Some of the demonstrators had overnight camped in the area near the Baabda Palace to prepare for the rally. The pro-Aoun demo comes after more than two weeks of massive nationwide anti-graft protests that brought down the government.
Another such anti-graft demonstration is planned in Beirut to demand a complete overhaul of a political system deemed inefficient and corrupt. In Baabda, supporters of Aoun filled up a two-kilometer-long road leading to the presidential palace, an AFP correspondent said. Fans of the president waved large Lebanese flags and orange-colored banners of the political party he founded, the Free Patriotic Movement. “We are here, General. We won’t abandon you as long as we live,” one poster read, responding to a cross-sectarian movement calling for an end to his term.
Some Aoun supporters wore orange T-shirts while others held up portraits of the 84-year-old president. “General Aoun is a reformist and sincere man — not corrupt nor a thief,” said one supporter who gave her name as Diana.
“There has been corruption in the state for 30 years. The president isn’t responsible. He’s trying to fight against graft,” she said. In Baabda, Aoun supporters said they backed the general demands of protesters nationwide, but insisted the president was the only man able to bring about reforms.
“There were slogans against the president. That’s not fair,” said Hanna Nader, an unemployed man in his forties. More than 25 percent of the Lebanese live in poverty, the World Bank says. Economic growth in Lebanon has stalled in recent years in the wake of repeated political crises, compounded by an eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his cabinet would step down. But it is still unclear what a new government will look like and if it will include independent technocrats as demanded by demonstrators.Thousands of anti-government protesters flocked together in the northern city of Tripoli Saturday night, many from other parts of the country.

Lebanon’s anti-government protesters return to streets, call for general strike
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 3 November 2019
Lebanese protesters demanding the overthrow of their country’s ruling elite poured back onto the streets on Sunday in the largest numbers since the government was toppled and hours after opposing supporters of President Michel Aoun staged a rally. Protesters have poured into Riad al-Solh Square and Martyrs’ Square in central Beirut, with many of them confirming that they will continue with their protests until their demands are met amid calls for a general strike on Monday. The protesters called for the closure of all major roads across the country in order “to topple the government,” Al Arabiya correspondent reported.
Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Tuesday following unprecedented nationwide protests, deepening a political crisis and complicating efforts to enact badly needed economic reforms in Lebanon. On Sunday evening anti-government protesters flooded streets in Beirut and north and south of the capital, rejecting Aoun’s attempt to position himself as the guarantor of the protest movement and its anti-corruption drive. “All of them means all of them,” protesters chanted in central Beirut, a reference to the wholesale removal of an elite they accuse of pillaging the state and steering it into crisis. Earlier in the day, thousands of Aoun supporters had attended a rally just outside Beirut, some waving his Free Patriotic Movement party’s orange flags, engulfing a main road leading to the presidential palace. It was the biggest counter punch to the broader wave of demonstrations that have gripped Lebanon since October 17 and which have included Aoun’s removal among a set of sweeping demands. In a televised speech, Aoun, who must now hold consultations with members of parliament to designate a new premier, called for protesters to unify behind efforts to stamp out corruption, which he described as having become “nested” in the state. He said a three-point plan had been drawn up around tackling corruption, revitalizing the economy and building a civil state. The anti-government protests had largely subsided after Hariri resigned, with smaller groups remaining on the streets and pushing for core demands like the rapid formation of a government led by technocrats to carry out the badly needed economic reforms. “All that we have gotten so far is the government’s resignation. We still have a long way to go,” said Charbel al-Zaani, an engineer. “If the new government that is formed isn’t one that the people want, the revolution will return even bigger,” said Zaani. A semblance of normality returned to Lebanon this week, with roads re-opening and banks opening to customers on Friday after being shut for two weeks, though restrictions were reported on foreign currency withdrawals and transfers abroad.
Lebanon’s import-dependent economy has been hit by years of regional turmoil and a slowdown in capital flows that has put its foreign currency reserves under pressure.Aoun has signaled support for a more technocratic government, saying in a speech after Hariri’s resignation that ministers should be chosen “according to their competencies and expertise, not political loyalties.” Hariri’s government has continued in a caretaker capacity until a new one is formed. Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, which backs Aoun, has said Hariri’s resignation will waste valuable time in enacting measures needed to tighten state finances and convince foreign donors to release some $11 billion in pledged aid.
With Reuters

Lebanese keep protest alive in northern city of Tripoli
AFP, Tripoli, Lebanon/Sunday, 3 November 2019
Thousands of Lebanese flocked together in Tripoli on Saturday, an AFP reporter said, to keep a protest movement alive in a northern city dubbed “the bride of the revolution,” Despite its reputation for conservatism, impoverished Tripoli has emerged as a festive nerve center of anti-graft demonstrations across Lebanon since October 17. The movement has lost momentum in the capital since the government resigned this week, but in the Sunni-majority city of Tripoli late Saturday it was still going strong. In the main square, protesters waved Lebanese flags and held aloft mobile phones as torches, before bellowing out the national anthem in unison, the reporter said. “Everyone means everyone,” one poster read, reiterating a common slogan calling for all political leaders from across the sectarian spectrum to step down. Many people had journeyed from other parts of the country to join in.
Ragheed Chehayeb, 38, said he had driven in from the central town of Aley. “I came to Tripoli to stand by their side because they’re the only ones continuing the revolution,” he said. Leila Fadl, 50, said she had travelled from the Shiite town of Nabatiyeh south of Beirut to Tripoli to show her support.
“We feel the demands are the same, the suffering is the same,” she said. In Tripoli, more than half live at or below the poverty line and 26 percent suffer extreme poverty, a UN study found in 2015. On Tuesday embattled Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his cabinet would step down.
But it is still unclear what a new government would look like and if it would meet protesters’ demands that it include independent experts. Roads and banks have reopened after nearly two weeks of nationwide paralysis. Fahmy Karame, 49, called for a “rapid solution to the economic crisis.” “We’re waiting for a government of technocrats,” he said. In the Lebanese capital, hundreds protested on Saturday evening after a day of rain. “Down with the rule of the central bank,” they shouted at the top of their lungs, clapping their hands near the institution’s headquarters.Economic growth in Lebanon has stalled in recent years in the wake of repeated political crises, compounded by an eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria.

Israel pushing foreign allies to impose sanctions on aid to Lebanon: Reports
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 3 November 2019
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing foreign allies to impose sanctions on aid to Lebanon in order to pressure Lebanese officials to clamp down on Hezbollah’s missile-development activities, following reports that the Trump administration suspended millions of dollars’ worth of aid to Lebanon, according to several Israeli media outlets. During a meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin last week, Netanyahu reiterated Israeli suspicions, shared by Washington that Iran has been trying to equip Lebanon’s Hezbollah with precision-guidance systems. The US State Department informed congressional officials on Thursday of the suspension, which includes $105 million in security aid, according to the Wall Street Journal, however, officials said the State Department gave no reason for the cutoff of the funds. A State Department official had told Al Arabiya on Saturday that the Trump administration’s stance on suspending aid to the country was unchanged, stressing on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call on political leaders “to urgently facilitate the formation of a new government that can build a stable, prosperous, and secure Lebanon.” The holdup comes at a time when Lebanon is in political turmoil, with weeks of protests leading to the resignation of Saad Hariri from the office of prime minister. The Wall Street Journal cited a congressional official as saying that the Lebanese Armed Forces is “a critical institution” to the country’s stability, ensuring that Lebanon can carry out operations against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah smuggling networks. However, Washington has repeatedly expressed concern over the growing role of Hezbollah in the Beirut government, the armed Shia group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the US. Lebanon has been arguing with foreign donors over international aid for months. Before he resigned, Hariri failed to convince foreign donors to release $11 billion in assistance pledged at a Paris conference last year.

Lebanon’s Anti-Government Protesters Call for General Strike
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 3 November, 2019
Tens of thousands of Lebanese packed on Sunday into central Beirut for an anti-government demonstration hours after a rally was held in support of President Michel Aoun. The protesters called for a general strike Monday and for the government to speed up the political transition following Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation last week. Anti-government protests first erupted Oct. 17 to call for sweeping changes to the political system. The resignation of the cabinet was a first victory, but demonstrators have vowed to press ahead with their other demands. “All of them means all of them,” protesters chanted on Sunday in central Beirut, a reference to the removal of an elite they accuse of pillaging the state and steering it into crisis. Earlier Sunday, Aoun’s supporters gathered near Baabda’s presidential palace in a rally to express support for the president and his son-in-law FPM leader Gebran Bassil. Aoun addressed the Lebanese in a televised speech. “I call on you all to unite,” the president said. He said a roadmap had been drawn up to tackle corruption, redress the economy, and put together a civil government. “It won’t be easy, and we need your efforts,” he said. Bassil, who is Lebanon’s caretaker foreign minister, warned the pro-Aoun rally of “difficult days ahead” and said the country had been “racing against time to prevent a collapse.”

Protesters Hold Central Demo in Beirut to Show ‘Unity’, Exert ‘Pressure’
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 03/2019
Lebanon’s anti-corruption protesters were on Sunday flocking to Beirut’s Riad al-Solh and Martyrs squares to take part in a central demo dubbed “Sunday of Unity” and “Sunday of Pressure”. As protesters from across Lebanon joined demonstrators in downtown Beirut, the anti-corruption rallies continued in the northern city of Tripoli, the southern city of Tyre, the southern city of Sidon and the Mount Lebanon city of Aley. Activists had called for a million-strong protest in downtown Beirut. Other protesters also marched from the southern town of Kfar Rumman towards the city of Nabatiyeh.
Earlier in the day, thousands of Free Patriotic Movement supporters had rallied near the Baabda Palace in support of President Michel Aoun. Addressing the Baabda demo, Aoun called on citizens to unite behind reforms, after more than two weeks of nationwide anti-graft protests that brought down the government. Unprecedented cross-sectarian demonstrations have gripped Lebanon since October 17, demanding a complete overhaul of a political system deemed inefficient and corrupt. The cabinet stepped down on Tuesday, but protesters have said this was not enough. Along with its allies including powerful Iran-backed party Hizbullah, Aoun’s political party holds the majority in parliament. The FPM is now headed by his son-in-law Jebran Bassil, who has emerged as one of the most reviled figures in the protests. Before the cabinet resigned on Tuesday, Bassil was foreign minister. A proposed tax on calls via free phone applications such as WhatsApp triggered protests last month. But they soon morphed into a huge nationwide movement to denounce a raft of woes including a lack of basic services, a failing economy, and rampant sectarianism. On Tuesday, prime minister Saad Hariri announced his government would be stepping down.But it is still unclear what a new cabinet will look like, and if it will include independent technocrats as demanded by demonstrators. After around two weeks of closure, banks and some schools re-opened this week. But protesters have vowed to press ahead with their demands. On Saturday night, thousands of anti-government protesters had flocked together in the impoverished northern city of Tripoli to keep the popular movement alive. Several said they had traveled to the Sunni-majority city from other parts of the country, inspired by the after-dark street parties that earned it the title “bride of the revolution”. More than 25 percent of Lebanese citizens live in poverty, the World Bank says.The country’s economic growth has stalled in recent years in the wake of repeated political crises, compounded by an eight-year civil war in neighboring Syria.

Report: Lebanon to Have 24-Minister ‘Techno-Political Govt.’
Naharnet/November 03/2019
President Michel Aoun is expected to set the date of the binding parliamentary consultations to form a new government within 24 hours, sources said. “The government is expected to be comprised of 24 ministers and it will be techno-political, after a lot of parties rejected the formation of a purely technocratic government,” the unnamed sources told Kuwait’s al-Jarida newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri is insisting on returning to the premiership with his own conditions and he has rejected ceding the post to a figure that is close to him,” the sources added. “The sovereign portfolios – defense, foreign affairs, interior and finance – will go to non-provocative figures belonging to political parties or closely associated to them,” the sources said. “The other portfolios will go to independent, or technocrat, figures,” the sources added.

Jumblat Decries ‘Empty Populist Stances’ after Aoun, Bassil Speeches
Naharnet/November 03/2019
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Sunday lamented what he described as “empty populist stances,” shortly after President Michel Aoun and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil addressed a loyalist demo in Baabda. “We have returned to square one with empty populist stances that date back to 30 years ago. He had earlier slammed the ongoing delay in setting a date for the binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier. “At the peak of the political crisis that the country is facing and its economic and social repercussions, and after the protest movement toppled most of the political class if not all of it, someone is toppling the constitution under the slogan ‘formation before designation’ for the sake of the authoritarian interests of one person and an absurd political movement,” Jumblat tweeted, in an apparent jab at Aoun and Bassil. On Sunday, the Presidency said “the challenges that the new government will face require a quick but not a rushed approach towards the process of designating a new premier,” adding that “the date of the consultations will be announced soon.”

Strong Lebanon Bloc Cautions against Technocrat Govt.
Naharnet/November 03/2019
Parliamentary sources from the Strong Lebanon bloc have warned that any technocrat government “might be doomed to fail due to its limited jurisdiction, especially if it did not enjoy a political cover.”“It might not be able to deal with any security developments,” the sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “We cannot take risks during this period, especially that we are standing on the brink of the abyss,” the sources added.
“A strong government that can make quick achievements is needed,” the sources went on to say.

Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV Says Twitter Accounts Suspended
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 03/2019
The Hizbullah-affiliated al-Manar TV has protested that most of its Twitter accounts have been suspended. Al-Manar accused the U.S.-based social media platform of giving in to “political pressures.” “Account suspended,” one such Arabic-language account, @almanarnews, read late Saturday.
“There is no place on Twitter for illegal terrorist organizations and violent extremist groups,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP. The accounts in English, French and Spanish were also not available, but the Twitter handles of specific television shows seemed to be functioning.
Iran-backed Hizbullah is designated a “terrorist” group by the United States and several of its officials are under U.S. sanctions, but it is also a key political player in Lebanon. The group held three ministerial posts and a majority with its Christian allies before Lebanon’s cabinet fell this week after 13 days of mass anti-graft protests. Hizbullah is the only group not to have disarmed after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war, and it fought Israeli troops who occupied southern Lebanon until 2000. It has also been a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the neighboring country’s eight-year conflict.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 03-04/2019
Thabet Thabet Is Canadian Lebanese Patriot Held Hostage In Occupied Lebanon/Elias Bejjani/November 02/2019
Tighter US sanctions are weakening Iran’s grip on Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq: Hook/ Al Arabiya English/November 03/2019
Revolutionary leadership/Ahmad Saade/Annahar/November 03/ 2019
Protesters call for a general strike on Monday/Sally Farhat/Annahar/November 04/2019
Failure not an option as Iraq, Lebanon rebel against Iranian influence/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/November 03/2019
As Lebanon and Iraq Protests Flare, Iran Clings to Hard-Earned Sway/Agence France Presse/November 03/2019

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 03-03/2019

Thabet Thabet Is Canadian Lebanese Patriot Held Hostage In Occupied Lebanon
الحرية للمخطوف في لبنان الكندي اللبناني تابت تابت
Elias Bejjani/November 02/2019
http://eliasbejjaninews.com/archives/80128/elias-bejjani-thabet-thabet-is-canadian-lebanese-patriot-held-hostage-in-occupied-lebanon/
Mr. Tahbet Thabet is a Canadian – Lebanese citizen and a freedom peaceful advocate and activist.
Mr. Thabet was arbitrarily and unlawfully was arrested at the Lebanese Beirut airport few days ago while he was trying to enter Lebanon in a bid to visit his parents.
Up till today no one know where he is held, or why he was arrested and according to what charges. Based on its oppressive record the Lebanese authorities might fabricate a case of treason against him, as they do with many of the Lebanese Diaspora freedom advocates and activists.
We learned from unconfirmed resources that the Lebanese military authorities are not allowing him to see a lawyer or even meet with any visitor.
We call on the Canadian government and the Canadian embassy in Lebanon to follow up on Mr. Thabet’s case who is actually a hostage, no more no less.
We strongly believe that the Canadian Government, and the Canadian embassy in Lebanon both by law carry a legal and ethical obligation to ensure by all means that Mr. Thabet is not tortured and that he is set free and returned safely to Canada to be with his family.
Yes, Mr. Thabet has been very active on all the social media facilities in advocating for a free and independent Lebanon, and at the same criticizing and opposing the puppet subservient Lebanese authorises and officials. But he did not break any Canadian law and simply he was practising his own holy right in voicing his free and patriotic opinion in a very peaceful mean.
Meanwhile, we call on each and every free and patriotic Lebanese in the Iranian occupied Lebanon, as well in all Diaspora countries to consider Thabet’s case as their own. Yes as their own because each free and patriotic Diaspora Lebanese might confront the same hostage fate and be taken hostage when ever he or she decides to visit their home land at any time.
Once again Mr. Thabet is a genuine patriot and an active advocate for a free Lebanon.
It is worth mentioning that Mr. Thabet and before his immigrating to Canada has served in the Lebanese army as a Lebanese soldier.
We, call also on all the human rights’ organization, in Lebanon and world-wide to adopt Mr. Thabet’s case and work on freeing him as soon as possible.

Tighter US sanctions are weakening Iran’s grip on Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq: Hook
Al Arabiya English/November 03/2019
The recent tightening of US sanctions on Iran has weakened the regime’s grip on Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, raising the prospect of reform and peace across the region, America’s top Iran advisor told Al Arabiya in an exclusive interview.
The Trump administration has imposed a “maximum pressure” campaign – increasing targeted sanctions on the Iranian regime since leaving the Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018, which has succeeded in decimating its industrial sector, reduced its funding of conflict across the Middle East and offers hope for resolution of some of the region’s most long-standing conflicts, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook said in an interview in Saudi Arabia.
“We are sanctioning Iran on an almost weekly basis and there is still plenty left for us to do. And, unfortunately for the Iranian regime, this is the price that they are paying for an expansionist and revolutionary and violent foreign policy that has caused so much suffering,” said Hook, mentioning September’s attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, which the US has attributed to Iran, and attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Iranian-backed Houthis.
Hook said the US administration is making it harder for Iran to conduct foreign interference operations as “Iran doesn’t have the money that it used to.”
“This is money that the regime spends in places like Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen,” said Hook.
The Trump administration’s oil sanctions on Iran, which Hook described as unprecedented, have led to “a complete collapse of Iran’s oil sector.” Hook said US sanctions have collapsed Iran’s petrochemical, industrial metal, and precious metals sectors, as well. Meanwhile the administration announced Thursday that it imposed sanctions on Iran’s construction sector.
US President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has given “enormous leverage” to sanction Tehran, according to Hook.
“We’re going to keep imposing sanctions on Iran until we’re able to get a new and better deal to replace the Iran nuclear deal that we left,” said Hook.
Saudi Arabia, the first country to support Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, has borne the brunt of Iran having the largest missile inventory of any state in the Middle East, according to Hook. He said the US has responded to Iranian attacks by providing its ally with military assistance.
“These [Iranian] missiles find their way…into Saudi Arabia…After getting Iran’s oil exports to zero, there have been a number of attacks here in Saudi. We [The US administration] have increased the number of troops in this region by 14,000 since May and in October, we announced another 3,000 forces to Saudi Arabia alone,” said Hook.
Hook said the maximum pressure campaign isn’t limited to Iran, but countries like Russia and China.
“We have sanctioned Russia for its complicity in helping to illegally move Iranian oil to Syria. Some of [China’s] private companies started to import Iranian crude oil and they did not have a waiver to import that oil. And so we sanctioned them. This is a message to any country in the world, if their companies are considering importing Iranian crude oil, it’s not worth the risk,” said Hook.
Besides economic pressure, Hook said the US’ diplomatic isolation of Iran is spreading internationally.
“We have seen a number of Iranian diplomats expelled from Europe for conducting terror operations or terrorist attempted attacks. Morocco has severed diplomatic relations with Iran. We have seen a number of countries, especially the UK, France and Germany, identify Iran by name as responsible for attacking Saudi Arabia on September 14,” said Hook, adding that more countries need to identify Iran as the country behind the Saudi Aramco attacks.
While Yemen’s Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, the international community largely rejected the claim.
“When Iran asked the Houthis to claim responsibility for the attacks…It was a mistake for the Houthis to do that. I think they recognized it. They were embarrassed by it,” said Hook.
Hook said Iran’s strategy in Yemen is to do “what they accomplished 40 years ago in Lebanon with Hezbollah.”
“Iran has no legitimate interests in Yemen. And yet here, here they are in the middle of the civil war using this proxy to attack Saudi Arabia. They would like to turn the Houthis into their proxy right on Saudi’s southern border so that they’re able to attack at will – through the Houthis – Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE,” said Hook.
Hook blasted Tehran’s leadership as being “a corrupt religious regime that robs its own people blind” to pay for their proxies in Iraq and Lebanon, where recent demonstrations have called for Iranian presence to leave the countries.
“It’s no surprise that these same proxies [in Lebanon and Iraq] are as corrupt as the Iranian regime…We’re seeing these protests against corruption and a lot of the frustration and anger that we’re seeing and protesters is directed at Iran and its proxies,” said Hook.
Iran has accused the US and Arab states of stoking unrest in Lebanon and Iraq, as demonstrators in the countries call for reforms and the end of corruption.
“The Iranian regime and its proxies oppose these reforms because Iran and its proxies, wherever they go, always prioritize ideology and terror over the welfare of the people in that country,” said Hook.

Revolutionary leadership
Ahmad Saade/Annahar/November 03/ 2019
To the best of my knowledge, Lebanon is no sanctuary for human rights advocates, and the regime is no stranger to twisted methods of oppression.
Revolution is only sincere, honest and real in the hands of the masses – Bakunin
In this article, I seek to address a concern expressed by some “experts” and fractions of the population in regard to the revolution’s lack of leadership. Mainly, contrarily to the predominant opinion, I argue that the absence of a leader is an asset and not a liability or risk to the revolution. I will describe why a revolutionary leader would be ineffective but also a danger for the revolution.
To the best of my knowledge, Lebanon is no sanctuary for human rights advocates, and the regime is no stranger to twisted methods of oppression. We can expect that, in the case of the emergence of a revolutionary leader at this stage, the regime will use coercion, corruption or violence to get rid of this individual. Does one grow ahead for it to be chopped off?
The emergence of a revolutionary leader would be useless. Our people are fighting a long-established structured system of corruption, a spider’s web of oligarchs. Such a structure cannot be challenged by one, two or three honest men or women. They will be eliminated, one way or another. The establishment must be torn apart by the disorganized masses. Furthermore, is there anything more confusing than not being able to identify your enemy? The unfolding of a popular leader will only help the regime put a face on the revolution, and then get rid of it. The people must not give this privilege to the oppressor.
The emergence of a revolutionary leader would be a direct threat to the uprisings’ objectives. First, the elimination of this person, whether physically or through corrupting her (rendering her a traitor to the revolution), would be a major hit to the population’s morale. As History has repeatedly shown, this hit in morale will probably lead to a deceleration of revolutionary efforts. Second, let us not drown in the illusion of popular union. Indeed, people are more united than ever, but this union is not strong enough.
Sectarian, geographic and other types of tensions remain, and the emergence of a leader will only cause a feeling of alienation among other popular subgroups, hence division among protesters. Revolutionaries must remain conscious as not to use a “divide and conquer” strategy against their own selves, as honest and pure their intentions might be. Third, History does not swear to revolutionary leaders’ post-revolution goodwill. Assad, Castro, Gaddafi, Stalin, Mugabe and Mussolini (among many others) were all revolutionary figures once, individuals who ended up making history, not in the emancipation of their people, but in its oppression. Is it really what we want, to replace tyrants with new ones?
Nominating a leader at this stage would give him a sacred popular image, which in case of revolutionary success, will give him some kind of unquestionable right and predisposition to govern. In fact, aren’t the current Lebanese uprisings targeted at individuals who once fought for their people? Let us not replace a corrupt establishment with another. Leaders must emerge only after the despots go away, after the revolution, only when the people have the ability to rationally, and not emotionally, choose their representatives. Such is the democratic way to freedom, for democracy is the fruit of reason, not emotions.
It would be naïve to expect that this article will change the human tendency to look for and follow a leader. In their risk-averse nature, in fear of chaos, people find comfort in the organization hence in leadership. Consequently, and building on my aforementioned discussion, Lebanese revolutionary leadership must take a council form. This council should include representatives of all popular subgroups to prevent alienation. It should be large enough in order to minimize the potential damage in case of government reprisals against one of its members. Finally, it must be dynamic in its individual constituents, decentralized, much similar to a syndicalist structure, without any “superstars”.
*Ahmad Saade is a Doctoral Researcher in Economic Policy at Cranfield University. The Economics Group he belongs to is consistently ranked among the best in the world. His work is centered around Inequality, Poverty Alleviation and overall Political Economy.)

Protesters call for a general strike on Monday
Sally Farhat/Annahar/November 04/2019
From Lebanon’s far south to its far north, crowds filled the streets, blocking some areas including: Jal el-Dib, Ring Bridge, and Bliss Street.
BEIRUT: Demonstrators rushed back to the streets on Sunday and called for a general strike on Monday.
While schools will be closed and banks will be tentatively open, most universities did not issue any statement, meaning classes are still set to resume on Monday.
“I’ve been protesting since day one and I’m glad to see the Lebanese coming back on track and revolting again,” Tatiana Sibai told Annahar. “Time’s over, we are not leaving the roads until all our demands are met.”The country is six days post the fall of the cabinet. After Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned last Tuesday, protesters opened the roads and gave the government a few days to process their two remaining demands: the formation of a technocrat government and early elections. Nonetheless, the government has not yet responded to the cries of the the Lebanese.
Accordingly, protesters united once again on Ahad Al Daghet, which translates to Sunday’s pressure in English. From Lebanon’s far south to its far north, crowds filled the streets, blocking some areas including: Jal el-Dib, Ring Bridge, and Bliss Street.
Annahar Correspondent reported from Jal el-Dib that demonstrators were able to block the highway from its north to its south in sizable numbers despite the army’s attempt to prevent them, exceeding all expectations. Church bells rang while demonstrators chanted: Selmiye (peaceful) and thawra (revolution).
“Nothing drove me back to the streets, as I have never really left,” A protester at Ring Bridge said. “The spirit of the people today was refreshing, it seemed as if everyone was ready to start all over again. The government has resigned yet no PM was assigned, and we do not have any clue on what the new government would look like. This is why we need to stay in the streets to pressure the political class into creating the desired government in the fastest time frame possible and with our conditions.”
*TK Maloy and Paula Nawfal contributed to the article.

Failure not an option as Iraq, Lebanon rebel against Iranian influence
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/November 03/2019
With the disintegration of their respective governments, Iraq and Lebanon have passed the point of no return. Yet furious protesters won’t accept the months of prevarication that habitually accompanies the formation of new governments, as corrupt vested interests haggle to secure maximum personal benefit.
This goes way beyond choices of prime minister. Iraqi and Lebanese citizens demand that the rotten, corrupt political order be burnt to the ground and replaced by sovereign and accountable governing systems, offering them prosperity, dignity and hope.
Hassan Nasrallah and Hadi Al-Amiri’s struggles to prop up governments whose leading ministers are clamoring to be allowed to resign demonstrates the irreplaceable stake pro-Iranian elements have in upholding the ugly, sectarianized status quo. These seasoned terrorists will fight tooth and nail to thwart change.
Demonstrators know that if they back down it could take generations for another comparably united grassroots movement to emerge. Although many originally came out over issues of jobs, the cost of living and failing services, the protests evolved into an existential confrontation with the agents of Iran and their malign impact on society.
The protesters express fury that their countries have been stolen, rendered unrecognizable by chronic Iranian manipulation. In a society where the strong expression of emotion is taboo, protesters in Basra have hugged their national flag and openly wept at the miserable, humiliating state they have been reduced to. In the sacred Shiite city of Karbala, incensed citizens have burned the Iranian flag and beaten their shoes against images of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Lebanese protesters chant that they will no longer accept the narratives of sectarian discord propagated by leaderships whose tribalist worldviews have failed to evolve since the 1980s.
The Quds Force’s Qassem Soleimani has made multiple visits to Iraq in recent weeks, meeting paramilitary leaders to orchestrate the campaign against the protests from a Green Zone operations room. Senior Iraqi security personnel were astonished to attend a meeting due to be chaired by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, only to find Soleimani sitting in his place. Soleimani’s campaign included killing sprees by snipers and murderous attacks to break up protest camps and intimidate demonstrators. Army officers warnedcitizens against joining protests, with one declaring: “I swear by Allah that the militiamen and the snipers will kill you.”
Citizens have justice and weight of numbers on their side, but lack organizational direction. The creation of a loose cross-sectarian body representing protesters would be a huge step forward in sidelining corrupt factions that have perpetuated the sectarian discord.
The protesters express fury that their countries have been stolen, rendered unrecognizable by chronic Iranian manipulation.
Al-Amiri’s vision for “constitutional amendments” would mean the sidelining of Parliament and domination of the Iraqi state by pro-Iran elements; using paramilitary force to crush all opposition to Tehran-sanctioned dictatorship. We shouldn’t look for democratic roadmaps from someone with a CV built on sectarian cleansing and militancy, who, according to the constitution, should not even be allowed to participate in politics.
In comments inspired by his mentor Khamenei, Nasrallah blames the unrest on “agents of embassies,” claiming that a “political coup was being plotted in order to plunge the country into a vacuum.” He threatened that he had thus far prevented Hezbollah from genuinely flexing its muscles, but protesters would soon discover what the movement was capable of.
Nasrallah has already sent out his thugs to beat up congregations of female protesters, so is he threatening to ignite a Syria-style civil war? Nasrallah must know that such an eventuality would unite Lebanon against Hezbollah, including its erstwhile allies among the Christian population (about 40 percent of Lebanon’s population) and nationalist Shiites, whose eyes have been opened to the malign consequences of Iranian hegemony. Hezbollah may be armed to the teeth, but that won’t help it after the movement’s own actions render it a detested minority within a minority.
Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi has become a gigantic millstone around the necks of Iraq’s Shiite communities: Dominating local economies, acting like mafia gangs to extort money out of local people, and submerging these communities in the worst forms of organized crime. This was consciously inspired by how Hezbollah operates in Lebanon, where it exploits its control of institutions and distribution networks to exclude other economic actors.
With funding from Tehran drying up in the context of renewed US sanctions, Hezbollah fails to materially benefit even its staunchest supporters, who lost sons during Hezbollah’s bloody Syrian odyssey and its battles with Israel. Nasrallah’s grassroots is realizing that the movement cannot be depended on. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s long list of assassinations of journalists, politicians and national figures remains bitterly fresh in the collective Lebanese memory.
A new US State Department report again rates Iran as the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, spending an estimated $1 billion annually to bankroll overseas proxies. Tehran won’t peacefully relinquish Arab nations, which it regards as indivisible components of its “axis of resistance.” Protesters must unitedly pursue their shared aspirations at the national level, to avoid Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi and Hezbollah politically subverting these demands while forcibly regaining control of the streets.
The forthcoming battle will be bitterer than most people realize, yet it is unavoidable. Better it is waged now than after five or 20 years of Tehran’s theological vampires sucking the lifeblood from Arab nations. Syria and Yemen today lie in ruins (the direct consequence of Iran’s warmongering) and are unable to resist Tehran’s stifling embrace. Nevertheless, the ayatollahs should take heed of events in Lebanon and Iraq and know that, at some point in the future, their immense investments in exported arms and purchased political loyalties will be swept into the sea upon a tidal wave of popular anger. Tehran’s superficial regional supremacy will ultimately count for nothing, despite the millions of innocent lives squandered in pursuit of this goal. Instead of amassing staunch regional allies through policies of good-neighborliness, Iran will find itself mistrusted and shunned.
Iraq and Syria have undergone massive demographic displacements in Tehran’s favor. Allowing Iran to regain the initiative would entail its proxies embarking on new bouts of sectarian cleansing with a view to vengefully ensuring that Iran’s pre-eminence could never again be challenged.
This is an existential battle for the survival of national identity and sovereignty, vis-a-vis insidious creeping Iranian hegemony. It is now or never — do or die. The anti-Iran resistance movement of popular, peaceful protests must succeed. For those striving to regain their stolen nations, failure is not an option.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

As Lebanon and Iraq Protests Flare, Iran Clings to Hard-Earned Sway
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 03/2019
Iran has worked to turn sweeping anti-government protests in Iraq from a threat to its hard-earned influence over its neighbor into an opportunity for political gains, analysts say. In Lebanon too, where similar rallies against corruption and government inefficiency have broken out, Iran’s main ally Hizbullah has managed to maintain its influence. “Very clearly, Iran in both Lebanon and Iraq wants to protect the system and not allow it to fall apart,” said Renad Mansour, researcher at London-based Chatham House. In both countries “it considers the demands of protesters potentially destabilizing,” he told AFP.
In Iraq, many demonstrators calling for an overhaul to the political system over the past month have pointed at Tehran as its primary sponsor — a worrying accusation for Iranian officials. The leaders in Iran “are probably at peak influence and don’t want anything to change, because it’s exactly where they want to be,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.
For decades, Iran has carefully crafted ties to a vast range of Iraq political and military actors, from Shiite opponents of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein to Kurdish factions in the north and even Sunni tribes in the west.
It therefore can play a crucial mediating role in Iraq’s political crises, and Qasem Soleimani, who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, often visits Baghdad during such times. Tehran also backs many of the factions in Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force, which was formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State group. And it sells crucial electricity and natural gas to supplement Iraq’s gutted power sector and is Baghdad’s second-biggest source of other imports, from fruit to carpets and cars.
– ‘Palm of Iran’s hand’ –
The political and economic sway is perhaps more valuable than ever amid Washington’s efforts to isolate and economically handicap Iran. The leaders in Tehran “have absolutely everything to lose and will do anything to defend it,” said Knights. “In the course of that, they are exposing their hand and their allies, and building even greater anger towards them.” Since protests erupted on October 1 in Iraq, many demonstrators have accused Iran of propping up the corrupt, inefficient system they want to overthrow. One in five Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment stands at 25 percent, despite the vast oil wealth of OPEC’s second-largest crude producer. “All our leaders are in the palm of Iran’s hand,” said Azhar, a 21-year-old protester in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
In unprecedented displays of anti-Iran sentiment, demonstrators chanted “Out, out, Iran! Baghdad will stay free!”
Online footage showed Iraqis hitting pictures of Soleimani with their shoes, a severe insult in the region. The criticism caught Iran’s attention, and Soleimani has visited Iraq multiple times over the past five weeks to “advise” factions on how to respond, sources told AFP. “He’s running the show,” said a government official. “They agreed on a way to deal with protesters that allows the current political leadership to stay,” another source with knowledge of Soleimani’s visits said. One such meeting blocked a potential deal between paramilitary chief Hadi al-Ameri and populist cleric Moqtada Sadr to oust Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, sources said. But parties appear to have closed rank around the embattled premier again, maintaining the status quo. And amid the chaos of protests, several military commanders seen as close to the United States have been sidelined. “Iran has tightened its grip considerably and become much more bold,” said Knights.
– Lebanon erupts –
A week before the resumption of Iraq’s anti-government rallies on October 24, another Middle Eastern country erupted in anger at systemic corruption: Lebanon. Lebanon’s government is dominated by the allies of Shiite armed movement Hizbullah, through which Iran exerts significant influence.
“Hizbullah has never had it this good,” said Amal Saad, a Hizbullah expert and professor at the Lebanese University. But after rallies unexpectedly reached the party’s strongholds in Lebanon, “Hizbullah and Iran are in a precarious situation,” Saad told AFP. Criticism of the movement’s chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah even aired on the Hizbullah-run al-Manar TV, which was previously unimaginable for its propaganda arm. After initially backing the protests, Nasrallah said his party would not back the government’s resignation, which he said would lead to a dangerous political vacuum. Party loyalists have also launched counter-demonstrations, sparking scuffles with protesters and journalists. Despite the initial threat, said analyst Qassem Qassir, the party is as strong as ever. “It may have lost some morale or taken a hit in the media, but its strength remains,” Qassir told AFP.