A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 07-08/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 22th Day


A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 07-08/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 22th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
November 07-08/2019

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 07-08/2019
Students Press On with Demands as Anti-Government Protests Grow
Lebanon: New Government to Take Shape within 48 Hours
Hariri Holds Talks with Aoun in Baabda
Lebanon’s Hariri meets Aoun, says will continue talks
Protesters Rally outside EDL and Saniora, Choucair Houses
Berri Says Fully Keen on Hariri’s Re-Designation as Premier
Financial Prosecutor Interrogates Saniora for 3 Hours
Shehayyeb Dismisses ‘$9 Million’ Suspicions, Urges Students to Limit Demos to Afternoon
Protesters block Bank of Lebanon entrance, prevent staff from entering building
Iranian military chief: ‘Enemies’ using protests in Iraq, Lebanon to harm Iran
UN expresses concern over rising Iraq protests death toll
Financial Prosecutor Orders Graft Probes as Protests Enter 4th Week
Cars Queue at Gas Stations amid Renewed Exchange Rate Crisis
Bteish Issues Memo on Pricing in Local Currency
Jumblat Says PSP Not Involved in Upcoming Government
Financial Prosecutor Presses Charges against Customs Head

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 07-08/2019
Students Press On with Demands as Anti-Government Protests Grow
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 07/2019
Thousands skipped universities and school for the second day on Thursday joining nationwide anti-government demonstrations that continued for the 22nd day against a corrupt political class. Pupils carrying their schoolbags picked up the baton from thousands of women who ignited the main protest site in Beirut on Wednesday evening by banging pots and pans to demand their rights. In Tripoli, where mobilisation has been relentless since the protests erupted on October 17, demonstrators planned to take down the giant portraits of politicians plastered all over the city’s buildings. Grievances initially focused on poor infrastructure and abysmal public services quickly grew into an unprecedented nationwide push to drive out an elite protesters say has ruled the country like a cartel for decades. Thousands of university and high school students streamed into the streets of Beirut and other towns to boost the protests. “All of them, all of them are thieves,” chanted one pupil, perched on the shoulders of a schoolmate outside the education ministry. Setting off coloured flares and waving Lebanese flags, students blocked off traffic to demand the wholesale removal of the current political class and its sectarian-based power-sharing system.”What if we had a young, educated, ethical and competent political leadership?” was the question asked on one placard.
Political posters
“We go to school, we work hard and in the end we pick up diplomas so we can just hang around and stay at home doing nothing,” said Marwa Abdel Rahman, 16. Youth unemployment stands at more than 30 percent in Lebanon, from which many young people were seeking to emigrate until last month’s rallies created a rare moment of national hope and unity in a country often characterised by its divisions. What started as a spontaneous, apolitical and leaderless popular movement, is becoming increasingly organised, with activists coming together to synchronise marches and stunts across the country. After blocking off roads for days, protesters have switched to preventing access to institutions seen as the most egregious examples of mismanagement and corruption. Students in Tripoli blocked employees from clocking in for work at the telecommunications ministry building. “We want to keep up the pressure on our corrupt political leaders, who are not addressing our demands,” said Samir Mustafa, an unemployed 29-year-old. Prime Minister Saad Hariri tendered his government’s resignation on October 29 in response to pressure from the street. The cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity but efforts to form a new line-up seem to be stalling, with each faction in the outgoing coalition arrangement seeking to salvage some influence. “They want to name a prime minister from the old guard, from the corrupt class,” Mustafa ranted. “We will continue to block banks and key administrations until the president and the parliament fall,” he said.
Women lead
The World Bank on Wednesday warned that the failure to quickly form a government that meets protesters’ demands could lead to an even sharper economic downturn. President Michel Aoun is reported to remain bent on keeping Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, his son-in-law and arguably the most reviled politician among the protesters, in a key position. For his part parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a veteran player whose supporters tried to disrupt the protests last month, has not publicly commented at all on the protests sweeping the country. In a country where weapons are widespread and leading political parties routinely resort to hired thugs, the protests — and attempts by the security forces to quell them — have been remarkably bloodless. On Wednesday night, thousands of women staged a candle-lit rally on Martyrs Square, banging pots and pans with wooden spoons to set downtown Beirut abuzz. The commotion, broadcast live on several television channels, turned contagious and for several minutes residents could be heard across the city chiming in from home with their own utensils. “Revolution is a woman,” read one of the banners in the crowd, which launched into a rousing rendition of the national anthem, adapting the lyrics to include women.

Lebanon: New Government to Take Shape within 48 Hours
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 07 November/2019
President Michel Aoun is yet to announce the beginning of binding parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, while ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that caretaker Premier Saad Hariri stressed that wasting time would not help Lebanon’s deteriorating political and financial crises. Other sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the new government has started to take shape, amid extensive meetings between parliamentary blocs to determine whether the cabinet would be solely formed of technocrats or of representatives of the main political blocs along with technocrats. The sources expected that these proposals would be developed within the next 48 hours, adding that the ongoing efforts were coordinated with a group of civil society representatives, who expressed their openness to dialogue. One of the points to be decided is whether Hariri would head the new cabinet. The ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that he was not very enthusiastic about returning to the premiership and that he would not offer any concessions. If Hariri is not appointed, the sources said that he would support a “moderate figure” and would use all his international and domestic influence to salvage the country from the economic crisis. Meanwhile, member of Hariri’s al-Mustaqbal Parliamentary Bloc, MP Samir al-Jisr, said that politicians should listen to the people and work for the benefit of the country. In a television interview, Jisr said that the street protests did not topple Hariri, but the latter responded to the opinion of people and tried to find a way out. Hariri resigned last month, declaring he had hit a “dead end” in trying to resolve a crisis unleashed by huge protests against the ruling elite.

Hariri Holds Talks with Aoun in Baabda
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri held talks with President Michel Aoun Thursday afternoon at the Baabda Palace. “I visited the president for consultations on the issue of the government and we’ll continue the consultations with the rest of the parties,” Hariri said after the meeting. MTV said the meeting was held at “President Aoun’s request.”This is the first meeting between Aoun and Hariri since the premier submitted his government’s resignation last month. Hariri has held two meetings with Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil in recent days. Bassil is Aoun’s son-in-law and his successor as FPM leader. The president has delayed the binding parliamentary consultations to pick a new PM in a bid to secure consensus on the shape of the new government.

Lebanon’s Hariri meets Aoun, says will continue talks
Reuters, Beirut/Thursday, 7 November 2019
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met President Michel Aoun on Thursday and said after the meeting he would continue to hold talks with the head of state and other parties. Hariri resigned as prime minister last week.
“I came to talk to his Excellency the President and we will continue the consultations with other parties,” he said, adding that this was all he wanted to say.

Protesters Rally outside EDL and Saniora, Choucair Houses
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Lebanon’s anti-corruption protesters on Thursday staged a demo outside the headquarters of state-run Electricite du Liban in Beirut’s Gemmayze area to denounce chronic power cuts and an institution seen as a symbol of Lebanon’s dysfunctional political system. Protests were also held outside ex-PM Fouad Saniora’s house on Beirut’s Bliss Street and outside his office in the Sidon district town of al-Hlaliyeh. Saniora on Thursday gave a three-hour testimony before Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim in the case of “the $11 billion spent between 2006 and 2008,” the National News Agency said.
Protesters on Bliss Street later headed to the area outside the house of caretaker Telecom Minister Mohammed Choucair in Hamra. Al-Jadeed TV meanwhile reported that three protesters smashed the glass façade of the Kababji restaurant on Hamra Street despite an attempt by other demonstrators to stop them. Saniora and his son have been accused of owning shares in the restaurant chain. Kababji issued a statement Thursday denying that the restaurant is owned by “any incumbent or former premier, minister or MP.”In the northern city of Tripoli, where mobilization has been relentless since the protests erupted on October 17, demonstrators took down politicians’ portraits from city buildings and replaced them with the Lebanese flag. Protests meanwhile continued in Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square, Tripoli’s al-Nour Square, Sidon’s Elia roundabout and other areas across Lebanon.

Berri Says Fully Keen on Hariri’s Re-Designation as Premier
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday said that he is fully keen on the re-designation of caretaker PM Saad Hariri as premier.
“I’m insisting on his designation because it is in Lebanon’s interest and I support Lebanon’s interest,” Berri told NBN television. Hariri tendered his government’s resignation on October 29 in response to pressure from unprecedented, massive and cross-sectarian street protests that have entered the fourth week now. The cabinet has stayed on in a caretaker capacity but efforts to form a new line-up seem to be stalling, with each faction in the outgoing coalition seeking to salvage some influence. Hariri met President Michel Aoun Thursday and said that consultations were ongoing with all political players but gave no details. The World Bank on Wednesday warned that the failure to quickly form a government that meets protesters’ demands could lead to an even sharper economic downturn.

Financial Prosecutor Interrogates Saniora for 3 Hours
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Former premier Fouad Saniora on Thursday gave a three-hour testimony before Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim in the case of “the $11 billion spent between 2006 and 2008,” the National News Agency said. The hearing session was held in the presence of Saniora’s lawyer – ex-minister Rashid Derbas. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Saniora had said that he would not attend the session. “”I am a man under the law, I fully trust what I have done for the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese, I would have done the same today if I were the prime minister,” added Saniora. On Wednesday, the financial prosecutor had asked Saniora to “show up at his office at the Justice Palace on Thursday morning,” the National News Agency reported. But State Prosecutor Ghassan Ouweidat later told NNA that “due to the failure to inform ex-PM Fouad Saniora of the date of the hearing session… it has been decided to reschedule the session to Thursday, November 14.”Earlier this year, Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah called for a probe into what he claimed were missing state funds amounting to $11 billion dollars. He was indirectly pointing a finger at former PM Saniora. He submitted financial documents to the judiciary that he claimed could “land many people in jail, including former prime ministers.”Saniora later described the issue of the “missing” $11 billion as a “farce,” as he announced that those “setting up mini-states inside the state” are the real corrupts, in an apparent jab at Hizbullah. Saniora said the 11 billion dollars in question were spent on interest hikes, treasury loans for Electricite Du Liban, and wage hikes and recruitment expenses for the armed forces.

Shehayyeb Dismisses ‘$9 Million’ Suspicions, Urges Students to Limit Demos to Afternoon
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Caretaker Education Minister Akram Shehayyeb on Thursday attributed “claims about the loss of $9 million in the file of refugee education” to “a shortage in funding according to UNICEF.”“To boost transparency over the file, I sent a memo to the Central Inspection Board asking it to look into the file to unveil the truth,” Shehayyeb said at a press conference. “The process of distributing funds earmarked for refugee education which the ministry receives from donor nations through UNICEF is subject to a mechanism that is pre-defined by UNICEF,” Shehayyeb added, noting that the said mechanism is subject to audit by “an independent international auditing firm tasked by the U.N. Commenting on the student demonstrations that have engulfed Lebanon in recent days as part of the massive anti-corruption protests, the minister advised students to “return to schools until 2:00 pm everyday and rally instead in the afternoon.”“This is your right and this would be a healthy approach that would preserve your educational course and academic year. Students are the builders of the future and the country and their right to express their opinion is sacred,” Shehayyeb added. Thousands of students took to the streets across Lebanon Thursday to demand a better future as anti-government protests now entering their fourth week continued to spread. Pupils carrying their schoolbags picked up the baton from thousands of women who ignited the main protest site in Beirut on Wednesday evening by banging pots and pans to demand their rights.
Grievances initially focused on poor infrastructure and abysmal public services quickly grew into an unprecedented nationwide push to drive out an elite protesters say has ruled the country like a cartel for decades.
Thousands of university and high school students streamed into the streets of Beirut and other towns to boost the protests. “All of them, all of them are thieves,” chanted one pupil, perched on the shoulders of a schoolmate outside the education ministry.
Setting off coloured flares and waving Lebanese flags, students blocked off traffic to demand the wholesale removal of the current political class and its sectarian-based power-sharing system. “What if we had a young, educated, ethical and competent political leadership?” was the question asked on one placard.

Protesters block Bank of Lebanon entrance, prevent staff from entering building
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/English Thursday, 7 November 2019
Protesters blocked the entrance of a branch of the Bank of Lebanon in Tripoli on Thursday, and prevented staff members from entering the building. The move came amid continued disruption on the twenty-second day of protests across Lebanon. In Akkar in north Lebanon, students staged a sit-down outside of their high schools, reported Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA). Students also protested elsewhere in the country, including in Batroun. On Wednesday, students had protested in front of the Ministry of Education in Beirut, giving renewed momentum to the protests during their third week.
In government, the speaker of parliament and leader of the Amal political party Nabih Berri reportedly met with Salim Sfeir, the Head of the Lebanese Banks Association, according to the NNA. Lebanon’s banks have suffered during the crisis, with many remaining closed.
Ratings agency Fitch further downgraded on Wednesday one of Lebanon’s largest lenders, Byblos Bank, due to its substantial exposure to the country’s central bank. Berri, alongside his ally Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, have criticized the protests and refused to resign. President Michel Aoun last week called for a non-sectarian government, but demonstrators continue to call for the resignation of the entire cabinet after Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s resignation.

Iranian military chief: ‘Enemies’ using protests in Iraq, Lebanon to harm Iran
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya/English Thursday, 7 November 2019
Iran’s army chief of staff Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said on Thursday that the “enemies” are looking to bring on “mercenary governments” in Iraq and Lebanon through anti-government protests in the two countries, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency. “In recent days, the enemies have conspired in Iraq and Lebanon to exploit the rightful demands of the people and bring on mercenary governments, but the [Shia] clergy and the people foiled their plot,” said Bagheri. “The enemies think that they can harm the Resistance Axis with these plots,” he added. The “Resistance Axis” is the term Iran uses to describe its network of proxies, allies, and terrorist organizations in the region. Iran sees anti-government movements in Iraq and Lebanon as a threat to its influence in the two countries. Iranian officials have repeatedly accused the US and Arab states of being behind the unrest in Lebanon and Iraq since the start of the protests. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei criticized the Iraqi and Lebanese protesters on October 30, saying that “those who care in Lebanon and Iraq” should focus on, and prioritize, improving security in the countries before anything else. The protests in Iraq and Lebanon are fueled by local grievances and mainly directed at political elites, but they also pose a challenge to Iran, which closely backs both governments, as well as powerful armed groups in each country. An increasingly violent crackdown on protestors in Iraq and an attack by Hezbollah supporters on the main protest group in Beirut have raised fears of a backlash by Iran and its allies.

UN expresses concern over rising Iraq protests death toll
Staff writer, Al Arabiya/English Thursday, 7 November 2019
The United Nations expressed its concern over the rising death toll and injuries during the ongoing protests in Iraq. “The Secretary-General expresses his serious concern over the rising number of deaths and injuries during the ongoing demonstrations in Iraq. Reports of the continued use of live ammunition against demonstrators are disturbing,” a UN spokesperson said in a statement. “The Secretary-General urges all actors to refrain from violence and to investigate all acts of violence seriously. He renews his appeal for meaningful dialogue between the Government and demonstrators,” the statement added.
More than 260 Iraqis have been killed since the start of October in the largest demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.

Financial Prosecutor Orders Graft Probes as Protests Enter 4th Week
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/November 07/2019
Lebanon’s financial prosecutor on Thursday ordered sweeping investigations into suspected corruption and waste of public funds by senior officials, the state National News Agency reported. The move comes as a nationwide protest movement over poor services, economic woes and official corruption enters its fourth week with demonstrators hoping to expel an elite they say has ruled the country like a cartel for decades. Financial prosecutor Ali Ibrahim has launched probes into customs authority chief Badri al-Daher over suspected “waste of public funds,” NNA reported. It said he had ordered an inquiry into “all the ministers of successive governments since 1990.” Protesters have been demanding an overhaul of the political elite, which has hardly changed since the end of the country’s devastating 1975-1990 civil war. The prosecutor’s decision came after lawyers brought a case against the officials in question over alleged misappropriation or use of public funds for personal purposes, along with “abuses of power which caused significant damage to Lebanese citizens,” the agency said. Authorities have proposed similar probes in recent days to show they are fighting corruption, but that has done little to calm public anger. On Thursday, the financial prosecutor questioned former premier Fouad Saniora for three hours over $11 billion allegedly spent during his period in office from 2006 to 2008, the NNA said. Saniora has in the past denied all accusations of misappropriation of public funds. On Wednesday, the financial prosecutor filed a lawsuit against a senior Beirut airport official over alleged money laundering and bribery, NNA reported. Last month, another prosecutor pressed charges against former prime minister Najib Miqati over allegations he wrongly received millions of dollars in subsidized housing loans, charges he denies.
Lebanon is ranked 138th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2018 corruption perceptions index, with key sectarian leaders accused of running demi-fiefdoms. President Michel Aoun, who has pledged various reforms to combat corruption, gave assurances Wednesday that the next government would be made up of ministers free of any suspicion of corruption. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 under pressure from the street, but his government has stayed on in a caretaker capacity and leaders are continuing to haggle over the make-up of the next one.

Cars Queue at Gas Stations amid Renewed Exchange Rate Crisis
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Vehicles were on Thursday queuing at gas stations in Beirut and Sidon after station owners said they would soon run out of stocks due to a renewed dollar exchange rate crisis. “The fuel problem has not been resolved because those who should resolve it – the central bank and the Energy Ministry – have not come up with a complete solution but rather half a solution,” the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners and the Syndicate of Fuel Tanker Owners and Fuel Distributors said in a joint statement. “Instead of implementing PM Saad Hariri’s commitment towards the sector on securing 100% of the price of fuel in Lebanese lira, Banque du Liban has only provided 85%, and moreover it has imposed a 0.5% commission and demanded a 30-day freezing of funds in its accounts, which has created an unbearable additional cost,” the statement said. “We will continue to sell the existent stock until it runs out,” the statement added. On September 30, the central bank said it would facilitate access to dollars for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine. “Banks that issue letters of credit for the importation of petroleum products (petrol, fuel oil and gas), wheat and medicine will be able to ask the Banque du Liban to ensure the value of such credits in U.S. dollars,” the central bank said.The mechanism requires that a “special account” be opened at the central bank, and at least 15 percent of the value of the credit be deposited in it in U.S. dollars, as well as the full value in Lebanese pounds, it said, adding that the central bank would take 0.5 percent from each transaction. Lebanon has had a fixed exchange rate of around 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar in place since 1997.

Bteish Issues Memo on Pricing in Local Currency
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Caretaker Economy Minister Mansour Bteish issued a memorandum related to local currency pricing, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. The statement requires all merchants and providers of services in Lebanon to comply with pricing goods and services exclusively in Lebanese currency in accordance with the provisions of the Consumer Protection Law. The statement added that take legal measures will be taken against violators.

Jumblat Says PSP Not Involved in Upcoming Government
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat slammed the authority’s intent to “revive” a settlement related to the presidency post, adding that his party will not participate in the upcoming government. He said the authority continues to look for gains despite mass protests thronging the streets for the past 22 days demanding to overhaul the political class. “In the midst of the constitutional violation and at the height of socio-economic risks and at the height of the popular movement, they (authority) consult and meet on how to improve and beautify the previous settlement that devastated the country accompanied by almost daily threat that what is happening is a conspiracy,” said Jumblat in a tweet. “It is time to get out, but we will not be with you not today nor tomorrow,” he added.

Financial Prosecutor Presses Charges against Customs Head
Naharnet/November 07/2019
Financial Prosecutor Ali Ibrahim pressed charges of “squandering public funds” against Director General of the Lebanese Customs Badri Daher. Reports said that Daher is expected to hold a press conference at 4:00 p.m.On Wednesday, Daher said in a statement addressing the Lebanese that he is free of any accusations fired at him through media platforms.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 07-08/2019
Students call for universities to close two days in a row/Chiri Choucai/Annahar/November 08/2019
Lebanon’s complex web of corruption and its legality/Christina Farhat/Annahar/November 07/2019 Last
Lebanon’s private sector registers slowest 3-year decline in business conditions/Massoud A Derhally/The National/November 07/2019
Lebanon: student strikes and occupying offices maintains pressure on politicians/Sunniva Rose/The National/November 07/ 2019
Lebanon’s Richest Need To Take a Haircut/Dan Azzi/Bloomberg/November 07/2019
Khamenei’s Principle for Iraq, Lebanon: Change is Forbidden/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/November 07/2019
Middle East: The Anti-Iran Revolution is Well Underway/Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute/November 07/2019
Are We Seeing A New Wave of Arab Spring Uprisings in 2019/Michael Young/Carnegie/November 07/2019

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 07-08/2019
Students call for universities to close two days in a row
Chiri Choucai/Annahar/November 08/2019
BEIRUT: After the announcement of reopening universities in Lebanon as the nationwide revolution entered its 18th day, many university students found themselves unable to balance classes and assignments while participating in protests and decided to take action.
Lebanon has witnessed over the past two days, a student revolution consisting of university and school students who filled the streets of Beirut, Jounieh, Saida, Tripoli, and many more regions with a demand from the government to fasten the pace on the cabinet formation.
Starting from the American University of Science and Technology (AUST), which announced its official closing yesterday, Wednesday, October 6 till Tuesday October 12 “in the light of current conditions”, after a large number of students protested in front the university gates. The students continued to march towards Balamand University and the Saint Joseph University in order to pressure university administrations on closing as well.
“After the decision that was taken of opening all universities, a large number of us students were against this decision.” Ahmad Najdi, an AUST student told Annahar, “We as students see that as soon as the education institutions open, they are trying to tell us life is back to normal and many parents will pressure students to get out of protests on ground.”
Today, the student revolution took a wider scale as it started at the lower gates of the Lebanese American University (LAU) with students chanting “We will not continue our education before the corrupt system falls”. The students continued towards the Haigazian Univeristy which closed for the day, and then towards the American University of Beirut and finally reaching Riyad El Solh Square.
Lea Faqih, an LAU student told Annahar: “I personally asked the university if I could be absent due to my participation in the protests and they said I could. Later, professors sent me an email with exams, assignments, and presentations deadlines. We can’t go to universities during the day and protest during the night. There’s no option, we have no solution for our futures except for protesting. We won’t be negotiating with the university about any demands except for closing. I have six major courses, two jobs, and an internship at a school. There’s no way i could balance all that and protest.”
The universities that took the official choice of closing in Beirut are still only AUST, Beirut Arab University, and Lebanese International University. As for other universities, classes and faculties remained open causing many students to miss out on important material.
AUB’s Secular Club President, Dany Rachid, explained how the student’s inability to participate in important decision making processes has influenced their protest. “We want our voices heard because they deserve to be. There’s a revolution happening in the country, and we are a group that has been active for 12 years, and we believe that the sectarian system oppresses us and simply doesn’t work, we want to change the system and create a democratic country.”
“The idea that we want to close universities is not because it puts pressure on the government, but a right for us to protest. Especially, that as students we believe in the revolution,” student Mohammad Mazloum told Annahar, “We are students asking for education, not for war. It’s our job as the new generation of youth to take back the power because it’s our time. This is an independent revolution, and we do not want any political affiliation, we want new faces and professionals to represent us and we definitely don’t want to leave Lebanon.”
As for USJ students, the Student Body President at the Amicale Law Faculty, explained to Annahar how protesting is a culture they wanted to preserve at the university. “The 2000’s student revolution started from us which lead to the 2005 revolution that freed Lebanon, it started by our previous alumni at USJ. It’s our national duty to participate in the revolution. We represent Lebanon first in everything; our priority is to fix the situation in Lebanon. Our demands are first, to fasten the pace for electing a Prime Minister and a cabinet of professionals that is able to help the country, and second to return stolen money and prosecuting all corrupt leaders.”

Lebanon’s complex web of corruption and its legality
Christina Farhat/Annahar/November 07/2019 Last
Lebanon, run under a confessionalist power-sharing governance structure, has long been subject to nepotism, systematic patronage, judicial failures, electoral fraud, bribery, cronyism, and clientelism.
BEIRUT: While one may find themselves jogging their memory to recall Lebanon’s seemingly ever-shifting political post-war alliances, remembering the names of the country’s politicians will render itself a much easier task – they’ve been largely the same for thirty years.
Lebanon, run under a confessionalist power-sharing governance structure, has long been subject to nepotism, systematic patronage, judicial failures, electoral fraud, bribery, cronyism, and clientelism.
Transparency International ranked Lebanon the 138th least corrupt nation out of 175 countries in 2018. Corruption rankings in Lebanon averaged 115.25 from 2003 until 2018, reaching a peak of 143 in 2017, when the country was recovering from a period of political deadlock, and a record low of 63 in 2006.
While the international donor community holds their breath as their 11 billion USD in CEDRE funds are dangling just out of the Lebanese government’s arm’s length, and an impending sense of economic doom looms in the distance, millions of protestors have flooded the streets in a display of social dynamism and cohesion that disproved the accepted “given” of a divided, sectarian, Lebanese civil society. At the core of protestor’s demands? Combating corruption.
In-part due to political instability, Lebanon has failed to establish necessary integrity frameworks to fight corruption. Lebanon’s confessional power-sharing structures provoke quid-pro-quo arrangements, and patronage networks, in the public sector, having dire ramifications on the plummeting economy, and Lebanon at-large.
While the national anti-corruption campaign gained traction, it has been highly politicized in the past few years. The campaign has only tackled two corruption cases since 1992. With parliamentarians floating comfortably above the law, prosecution of the President and Ministers requires the consent of the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers, comprised of eight senior Lebanese judges, and seven deputies chosen by the parliament.
Dr. Paul Morcos, Attorney at Law, Legal Consultant, and University Professor, told Annahar that the legal framework to address corruption is present, with an entire chapter of the Lebanese penal code dedicated to addressing crimes related to bribery and public funds embezzlement, and law 44-2015 addressing money laundering and terrorist financing.
Despite the assumption that all forms of corruption are underhanded, some aspects of corruption are legal due to the absence of existing legislation, non-reform of existing legislation to address current applications, and/ or a precedent of lack of implementation.
“We have the laws, they exist, but they need to be reformed. They need to be updated and renewed to address new challenges,” Morcos told Annahar.
Morcos went on to distinguish between verbal public approval, and legal consent, of political leaders in addressing the fight against corruption.
“Perhaps most importantly, we have to have the political will to fight corruption. Despite having the verbal, publicly proclaimed, approval of political leaders, we don’t have their legal consent yet. You can’t act consistently in the judiciary if politicians are against fighting corruption while publicly claiming they are with fighting corruption,” Morcos told Annahar.
On the Judiciary
Morcos insists that a law originating in the judiciary, and passed by parliament, is necessary to maintain the independence of the judicial body.
“We need a law to preserve and maintain the independence of the judiciary and such law should be originated from the judiciary committee and voted on in parliament. However, said ‘corrupt’ politicians will likely have no interest in passing such as law, as they have an incentive to keep their interests isolated,” Morcos told Annahar.
Morcos recommends legislation be put in place to eliminate conflict of interest post-judgeship mirroring that of the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The former disallowing employment after the Supreme Court in the event of retirement (justices serving lifelong appointments), while the latter implements a Supreme Court judge retirement age of 70 with no explicit law stopping the judges from taking up post-retirement jobs, but no judge taking a job in practice.
“In the meanwhile, the judiciary can produce an ethical code of conduct, or document, stating, or undertaking, their independence, as individuals. For example, if you talk about the high judicial council members, they could be banned from engage themselves and/or undertaking any political, or administrative positions, in the state after they resign. This will give them autonomy and independence in the present,” Morcos told Annahar.
Dr. Morcos acknowledged that it would be difficult, but not impossible, to compel the parliament to enact laws guaranteeing the independence of the judiciary.
“There were new laws enacted last year related to whistleblowing and electronic transactions in other fields. Such laws that are very old should be subject to reform and should be done by a special committee or subcommittee each and every time you have political priorities prevailing so you don’t have any inconsistencies in the legislative process for reform.” Morcos told Annahar.
On Legislative Reform
Despite the Lebanese constitution stating that every Lebanese citizen has the right to hold public office, and that “no preference shall be made except on the basis of merit and competence,” the public sector has been dominated by the same families for decades. “We need new electoral law that results in fairer representation, which is lacking in the new electoral law that was passed last year. We must form a new government, first from technocrats, and then receive legislative empowerment from the parliament to enable the new government, itself, to enact a new electoral law through a legislative decree. Some say this is unconstitutional and impossible after Taif but under the current circumstances I think it’s possible,” Morcos told Annahar.
While this is a critical constitutional matter, one option for reforming the legislative branch is passing a legislative decree and calling for new elections based on a law enacted by the current parliament to reduce this mandate.
“This is the best way to reform and reconstitute a legislative branch. At that time you can give a chance for civil society to be represented and to enable the civil society to fight for such anti-corruption laws- this is the best way.” Morcos told Annahar. Acknowledging the challenges arising from this recommended course of action, especially due to the leaderless nature of protests, Morcos’s outlook remains principally positive. “This is very difficult but not impossible if people on the street are organized and have an advocacy plan based on specific requests you might reach this goal.” Morcos told Annahar.
On Banking Secrecy
Despite the existence of legislation requiring that the President of the Republic, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, and the President of the Council of Ministers, judges, and public servants to disclose their financial assets in a sealed envelope to their relevant councils, this information is not readily available to the public. In light of the protests, a recent debate on lifting banking secrecy has been framed incorrectly. Existing legislation already addresses this matter.
“The problem is presented incorrectly. Banking secrecy is no longer an obstacle for fighting corruption. It was true in 2001 when we lacked anti-money laundering legislation, but, since then, we have new legislation enacted in 2001 and amended it regularly until we passed a new law in 2015.” Morcos told Annahar. The outlined crimes of corruption trigger the lift on banking secrecy automatically-banking secrecy is not a method to fight corruption.
“Law number 44 explicitly includes the crime of corruption in addition to illicit enrichment and embezzlement of public funds. In case of such crimes occurring, banking secrecy is automatically lifted and the special investigation commission at BDL has a right to investigate and no banking secrecy will stand in their way. Of course, you need a reform in legislation as a whole but saying that banking secrecy is the obstacle is wrong.” Morcos told Annahar.

Lebanon’s private sector registers slowest 3-year decline in business conditions
Massoud A Derhally/The National/November 07/2019
The slower deterioration in operating conditions was partly driven by a softer fall in output at Lebanese private sector firms in October
Lebanese protesters demand the president make parliamentary consultations immediately to facilitate the formation of a new government that replaces the recently resigned cabinet. They also demand the formation of a technocratic government with no political affiliation. EPA
Lebanon recorded its slowest decline in business activity in three years, although its economy continues to shrink and may feel the brunt of social unrest that has gripped the country for the past three weeks in forthcoming months, according to the latest data released by IHS Markit and Blom Bank, the country’s largest bank by market capitalisation. The Blom Lebanon Purchasing Managers index recorded a headline rate of 48.3 in October, up from 46.3 in September, however the results could be different as data collection during the survey, ended earlier than planned on or before October 17, due to the closure of business amid nationwide protests in the country. A reading above 50 indicates an increase in economic activity, whereas a rate below 50 indicates contraction.
Lebanon’s economy has been shrinking since mid-2013 and the country has been rocked by the largest protests since the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri which forced Syria to withdraw its troops after a 29-year presence there.
The survey showed a decline in output was the slowest since January 2016 with a softer contraction in October’s total new orders domestically, while new export orders fell at the same pace as September.
The country’s economy has grown between 0 and 0.5 per cent since the beginning of the year, said Blominvest Bank general manager Fadi Osseiran.
“The operations of private sector companies since the protests are paralysed,” Mr Osseiran said. “Therefore, the materialisation of economic cost of the business impasse is expected in November’s PMI, noting that every day of closure will have an additional cost on the economy.”
Lebanon’s economy is projected to slow to 0.2 per cent this year, from about 0.3 per cent in 2018, according to International Monetary Fund estimates made before the resignation of prime minister Saad Hariri last month. Mr Hariri stepped down over disagreements with members of his national unity government on reforms demanded by protesters who blame Lebanon’s political elite for widespread corruption and nepotism, that they say contributed to the country accruing $86bn of public debt equivalent to 150 per cent of gross domestic product.
Lebanon registered an outflow of capital estimated at about $3 billion in the first nine months of the year, due to its deteriorating economic climate and heightened political tensions, according to the Institute of International Finance.
Rating agencies have downgraded the country and some of its top banks into junk or non-invetsment grade.

Lebanon: student strikes and occupying offices maintains pressure on politicians
Sunniva Rose/The National/November 07/ 2019
President has not set date for parliamentary consultations to nominate new prime minister.
Lebanese students have walked out of classes to join protesters all over the country for the past two days, staging sit-ins and marches against corruption and leadership. They have urged leaders to quickly form a new government of technocrats as Lebanon teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. President Michel Aoun has yet to set a date for parliamentary consultations to nominate a new prime minister-designate since Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 after nearly two weeks of nationwide anti-government demonstrations.
Students protested throughout Lebanon on Thursday carrying placards demanding that politicians speed up the formation of a new government, the state-run National News Agency reported. The have called for corrupt officials to be held to account. In some cases, the army blocked students from protesting while in others, local authorities co-operated.
In Batroun, a coastal city north of Beirut, the mayor temporarily gave students access to the inner courtyard of the town hall, where he gave a speech in support of their demands.
A student protester holds up a placard as she shouts slogans during ongoing protests against the government in front of the education ministry in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Lebanese protesters are rallying outside state institutions and ministries to keep up the pressure on officials to form a new government to deal with the country’s economic crisis. A student protester holds up a placard as she shouts slogans outside the Education Ministry in Beirut. AP
On Wednesday evening, thousands of women took part in protests in Beirut, carrying candles as they marched downtown, while others banged pots and pans in front of Parliament. Protesters also gathered in front of public institutions they considered to be corrupt, such as the state-run utility company Electricite du Liban. Local media reported that one man was injured in scuffles with the police when they tried to stop protesters from entering a hotel that is being built on Beirut’s only public beach. Meanwhile, the Lebanese judiciary started action on high-profile corruption cases. A financial prosecutor took steps against the director of Lebanese Customs, Badri Daher, for squandering public funds. The prosecutor also questioned former prime minister Fouad Siniora for about three hours over $11 billion (Dh40.4bn) spent when he was in office between 2006 and 2008. Caretaker Justice Minister Albert Serhan told The Daily Star that street pressure was the reason many of these years-old cases were suddenly going ahead. Demonstrations against specific institutions are a shift in strategy as protesters came under fire for blocking motorways.
“On the long term, blocking roads was not a good idea because it made people very irritable as they could not function normally,” said Michael Young, editor of Carnegie’s Middle East Diwan blog.
“This shows a certain amount of flexibility and imagination when it comes to dealing with the authorities, while the political class is stuck in a daze and does not know how to act. Mr Aoun “continued his contacts to determine the date of parliamentary consultations to nominate a new prime minister” before meeting Mr Hariri in the afternoon, NNA reported on Thursday. Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri meets with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon November 7, 2019. Dalati Nohra/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri meets President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda. Dalati and Nohra, HO
The delay has been caused by the insistence of the president’s son-in-law and caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, to be included in the new government despite his unpopularity with protesters. Mr Bassil has said that if he were removed, Mr Hariri, who is widely expected to lead the new government, should also go. The delay in starting parliamentary consultations is “outrageously long considering the ongoing crisis”, Mr Young said. “There is no good solution but they cannot let this linger forever.”On Wednesday, the World Bank called for a new Cabinet to be formed quickly and said it expected the effects of a recession in 2019 to be even more significant than an earlier projection of a 0.2 per cent contraction. Lebanese banks, which have limited access to US dollars for several months, reopened on November 1 after protests prompted them to close.
Cash withdrawals remain capped and clients must pay a small fee, depending on the bank, to take out US dollars.
The Lebanese pounds and American dollar are used interchangeably in Lebanon. The nationwide shortage of dollars has severely affected businesses, which have tried to force clients to pay in dollars. But the Economy Ministry issued a circular on Thursday warning them that they could be prosecuted for failing to use only the local currency for trade.It remains unclear how long Lebanon will remain without a government. As power-sharing is divided among the country’s 18 sects and governments must include representatives of major religious groups, political bickering and power vacuums are common.
Despite the constitutional practices in place since the end of the civil war in 1990, whereby by the president begins parliamentary consultations as soon as the government resigns, the constitution does not give a time limit for him to do so, said Sami Nader, director of the Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Lebanon. “What politicians are trying to do is to come up with a settlement before the parliamentary consultations take place,” Mr Nader said.”Unfortunately, this is how it works in Lebanon. Institutions such as Parliament are just a cover to deals made outside between big players.”

Lebanon’s Richest Need To Take a Haircut
Dan Azzi/Bloomberg/November 07/2019
Those who benefited from sky-high interest rates have to give up some of their millions.
At the root of the economic grievances fueling Lebanon’s mass protests lies what looks like a regulated Ponzi scheme. The problem will not be solved by a change of government—even with a cabinet of experts—or by injections of capital from friendly Arab states: it will require tougher measures, including a compulsory haircut for many of the country’s richest citizens.
For decades, Lebanon depended on remittances to sustain its economy and the lira peg. Fixed at 1507.5 lira to the U.S. dollar since 1997, the peg resulted in an overvalued currency, relative to the country’s productivity. This gave the Lebanese a higher income and standard of living than in any neighboring Arab country, allowing them to spend on travel, cars, clothes, and gadgets. During the 2008 credit crisis, Lebanon had a reverse capital flight to its perceived safety. Rich Lebanese expats stopped trusting foreign banks and moved their money home, helping to create a balance-of-payment surplus of $20 billion between 2006 and 2010. This surplus was squandered on real-estate development and government waste, resulting in a bubble, the remnants of which can today be seen in the shiny, vacant towers dotting the Beirut skyline. Starting in 2011, the surplus morphed into a persistent annual deficit. It wasn’t until 2016 that the Banque du Liban recognized the danger signs. The central bank initiated a series of so-called “financial engineering” transactions, which were equivalent to swapping lira for fresh (that is, attracted from overseas) dollars at exorbitant interest rates reaching 14-30%.
Most of the lira thus printed by BDL was recognized as revenue, giving banks record profits, despite a stagnant economy. The two top banks alone made over $1 billion in 2016 in these artificial profits; the bonuses paid to senior managers were in real cash.
The interest owed to earlier depositors was sourced from new investors. Neither local nor foreign analysts picked up on this, even though the mechanism was suspiciously similar to what an infamous Italian immigrant did in Boston a century ago. All employed Lebanese have benefited from this particular variant of the Ponzi scheme: the dollar peg meant that their salaries are worth more than in a floating-currency regime. Due to the crowding-out effect, the main losers are the youth, among whom the unemployment rate is almost 40%. In the Lebanese paradigm, unemployed youth are expected to emigrate, find jobs elsewhere and transmit remittances—in effect, to continue funding the scheme. But this has become increasingly difficult as job opportunities overseas have dwindled.
Most analysts have been too distracted with traditional metrics, such as government debt worth nearly $90 billion, and have been neglecting the fact that BDL has borrowed $110 billion from Lebanese banks—out of $170 billion in total deposits. Half the dollar deposits in Lebanese banks are now with BDL, with the rest in lira. There is just no way for BDL to return this money.
Meanwhile, the astronomically high interest rates have created a cohort of millionaires and decamillionaires. But their account values are just computer entries, produced by compounded rates of return with no productive investment yielding real returns on the other side. Which is why, as bank deposits increased artificially, real liquidity shrank. The real dollars in BDL reserves, plus bank deposits with custodial accounts, amount to around $40 billion: in other words, there’s only one dollar of liquidity for every $3 dollars of claims. This would normally not be a problem in fractional banking, except that all these liabilities are in a foreign currency that BDL cannot print nor generate locally.
The good news is that almost all this debt is internal. This makes the solution quite simple: a national restructuring that equitably distributes losses, clawing back the phantom returns. Less than 1% of depositors, or 24,000 accounts, account for nearly $90 billion, with the average account worth $3.5 million. (Assuming each millionaire has three or four accounts, a common practice in Lebanon, we may be talking about no more than 6,000-8,000 account holders.) But the owners of these phantom-money accounts spend some of it in the real world—on a Bentley, say—which consumes BDL reserves. Similarly, any Lebanese earning in lira consumes BDL reserves every time they go on vacation to Greece or buy an imported product. How to fix the problem? The central bank can start by imposing capital controls on transfers overseas and curtail cash withdrawals; some banks are already doing this, but it would be more efficient and equitable if BDL made it compulsory for all. Capital controls would only stanch the bleeding. Healing the wound would require more drastic measures, such as a haircut on all accounts above $1 million. (The extent of the haircut would depend on where BDL is prepared to start cutting: the larger the account, the deeper the cut can be.) This may require a ministerial decree, possibly even parliamentary approval. Legislators could call it a deferred tax, if that makes it politically more palatable. This will not be as catastrophic as it sounds. A Lebanese who deposited $10 million 10 years ago, at 12%, holds $31 million today. With a 50% haircut, they would have $15.5 million, a quite reasonable return of 4.5%. Lebanon officials may balk at trying something no other country has attempted before, but since their problem is sui generis, the solution can hardly be otherwise.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
*Dan Azzi is an Advanced Leadership fellow at Harvard University. He previously served as chairman and chief executive officer at Standard Chartered Plc’s Lebanon-based subsidiary.

Khamenei’s Principle for Iraq, Lebanon: Change is Forbidden
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/November 07/2019
Linking the revolutions in Iraq and Lebanon with regional plots and developments is a corrupt thinking. This is what the internal situation in both countries says, as well as the opinions, attitudes, and actions that accompany and describe these situations.
But the corrupt thinking stems from a corrupt consciousness, a conspiratorial consciousness mixed with a deep desire to use both countries and their events in regional conflicts.
In the revolutionary situations of Iraq and Lebanon, theories of all kinds cannot hide a blatant Iranian role, not in a conspiratorial sense, but in a sense that seeks to be objective. It can be demonstrated in Hassan Nasrallah’s words and deeds, as in Ali Khamenei’s tweets.
Tehran, which has a tense relationship with its territory and with the world, cannot act as a state that respects its borders, nor does it have the characteristics to work within the conditions of peace.
Change in Iraq, as well as in Lebanon should be rejected, because, according to the Iranian point of view, these two countries are strategic locations for Iran. In war and tension, sacrificing a war position becomes a luxury that the commander of warriors cannot afford.
This explains events in the Arab Mashreq since international concerns have arisen over Iran’s nuclear program. For example, in the summer of 2003, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a resolution requiring Tehran to “immediately and completely cease” its uranium enrichment activities, to sign the Additional Protocol to the NPT, and to allow immediate “unconditional” inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities. In 2004, the extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud’s tenure was a means to insist on excluding any change in Lebanon.
The same desire, but to a greater extent, was that of the Syrian regime that was appalled by the US invasion of Iraq: the same year, in 2004, Al-Qamishli rebelled against Assad’s rule, and UN Resolution 1559 was passed to make Lebanon a normal country.
The most flagrant and dangerous example was the involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in suppressing the Syrian revolution. Change is forbidden within the Iranian spheres of influence. It is forbidden as long as Tehran is at war or in tension. Tehran, by its very nature, is always in this situation.
With differences in size and importance, we fall on the same principle in previous imperial experiments.
In modern Egyptian history, there is the “February 4, 1942” incident, when the English forced King Farouk to hand over the government to the leader of Al-Wafd, Mustafa al-Nahas. They did so out of fear of a government that would be sympathetic to the Axis during World War II, thus to prevent those from benefiting from Egypt’s strategic positions and the Suez Canal.
The Soviet empire knew more than one experiment: Hungarian reformist demands in 1956 and the Czechoslovakian demands in 1968, which were suppressed by the tanks of the Warsaw Pact.
In Poland, in late 1981, General Wojciech Jaruzelski declared customary rulings in an attempt to crush the newly formed Solidarity Union. Later, in 1990, Jaruzelski apologized to the Poles for doing so. He said that he was forced to block the Warsaw Pact’s intervention.
The policy of rejecting the change in the imperial world was ruled by, at least since 1968, what became known as the Brezhnev Doctrine. This principle, which coincided with and justified the invasion of Czechoslovakia, argued that any threat to any socialist system, in any country of the Eastern camp, was a threat to the whole camp.
This is why the countries of the camp could face such threats with repression. Twenty years later, Mikhail Gorbachev renounced this principle, and the Warsaw Pact countries collapsed.
Iran’s situation with the Levant is not much different. The American retreat has indeed provided it with exceptional opportunities. But this is not enough. The problem that arises in Iraq first and then in Lebanon is that Iran cannot build alternative situations to those that it undermines.
It carries a penniless and beleaguered imperial project that succeeds in undermining and fails to build.
In addition to the problem of Iran, there is the problem of its wings, whether in Iraq or Lebanon. These wings want to seize power in their own countries and don’t want to do so at the same time. They own, control, but are not held accountable. Such a situation is always explosive, especially in the face of severe economic crises.
After standing up to other sectarian and ethnic forces, Iraq indicates that the dispute has reached the Shiite environment itself. In Lebanon, disharmony emerged for the first time between Hezbollah and its environment, and between the party and some of its allies.
This project, represented by its leadership in Tehran or its extensions in Baghdad and Beirut, is not open to politics. Whenever a thousand Iraqis or Lebanese gathered in a square, the Iranian-sponsored powers expressed fear and distress.
It is a situation that only survives in a margin between tension and violence, accompanied by economic decline: if this project prospers, the demands of the people calling for change go with the wind. The change will happen with the defeat of the principle of Khamenei.

Middle East: The Anti-Iran Revolution is Well Underway
كون كوغلين/معهد كايتستون: الثورة المضادة للثورة الإيرانية في مسارها الصحيح والفاعل في دول الشرق الأوسط
Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute/November 07/2019

The nationwide protests taking place in both Arab states [Lebanon and Iraq] are also driven by a burning desire to end Iran’s blatant attempts to turn them into de facto fiefdoms of Tehran.
The protests, moreover, could not have come at a worse time for Iran, where the economy is in freefall as a result of the wide-ranging sanctions that have been introduced by Washington.
Local protesters are now making plain that their dislike for Iranian meddling in their affairs could soon spell the end for Tehran’s ambition to become the region’s dominant power.
The nationwide protests taking place in Lebanon and Iraq are driven by endemic government corruption and a burning desire to end Iran’s blatant attempts to turn them into de facto fiefdoms of Tehran. Pictured: Anti-government demonstrators in Beirut, Lebanon, on November 3, 2019.
Iran’s attempts to expand its malign influence throughout the Middle East have suffered a severe setback as a result of the unprecedented anti-government protests that have erupted in Lebanon and Iraq in recent weeks.
The most obvious source of discontent in these two key Arab states has been the endemic corruption that has taken hold in both Beirut and Baghdad; in both countries, it has been the prime motivation in persuading tens of thousands of demonstrators to take to the streets.
The desire to end corrupt practices and force the governments in Beirut and Baghdad to undertake a radical overhaul of their respective countries’ governments is, though, only part of the story.
The nationwide protests taking place in both Arab states are also driven by a burning desire to end Iran’s blatant attempts to turn them into de facto fiefdoms of Tehran.
Iran’s attempts to seize control of the political agenda in Lebanon dates back to the early 1980s, when Iran established its Hezbollah militia in the southern part of the country to launch a series of terrorist attacks against Israeli forces operating in the area. Since then, Hezbollah — with Iran’s backing — has gradually extended its influence in the country to the point where Hezbollah is now widely recognised as Lebanon’s most influential political organisation.
Iranian interference in Iraq’s affairs, by contrast, is of more recent provenance, and can be traced back to the sectarian violence that erupted throughout the country following the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. More recently, Iran has been able to expand its influence in Baghdad by taking advantage of the recent campaign to defeat ISIS, where Iranian-backed Shia militias — the so-called Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) — fought against the predominantly Sunni militants who supported ISIS.
After defeating ISIS, the PMF militias have remained active in Iraq, thereby enabling Tehran to expand its influence in Baghdad.
Now, thanks to the determination and bravery of anti-government protesters, Iran’s designs of regional domination in the Middle East are rapidly unravelling.
The most obvious sign that Iran is coming under intense pressure to protect its Middle East assets has been the appearance in Baghdad of Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). As the man who is personally responsible for exporting Iran’s Islamic revolution throughout the Arab world, Mr Soleimani travelled to Iraq in a desperate bid to prevent the country’s pro-Iran prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, from resigning.
Since anti-government protesters took to the streets last month, Mr Soleimani has been a frequent visitor to Baghdad. The day after the protests began, Mr Soleimani is reported to have chaired a meeting with top Iraqi security officials in Baghdad, a role that is normally fulfilled by the country’s prime minister. The following day, more than 100 people were killed at the hands of unidentified snipers and members of Iran-backed militias such as the PMF.
Unfortunately for Iran, its strong-arm tactics have made little impression on the protesters, despite the fact that the death toll from the protests in Iraq now stands at around 250. Last Friday saw the biggest protests in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein, with thousands gathering in central Baghdad. Elsewhere, protesters attacked the Iranian consulate in the Shi’ite holy city of Karbala, where they scaled the concrete barriers surrounding the building before removing the Iranian flag and replacing it with an Iraqi one.
There have also been attacks on PMF militia bases in Nasiriyah and Diwaniyah, where 12 demonstrators were killed when the headquarters of the Iranian-backed Badr Organisation was set alight.
In Lebanon, meanwhile, there have been reports of Hezbollah fighters attacking peaceful protesters as Iran tries desperately to prevent its most important proxy in the Middle East from falling out of its orbit.
The protests, moreover, could not have come at a worse time for Iran, where the economy is in freefall as a result of the wide-ranging sanctions that have been introduced by Washington.
The sanctions mean that the ayatollahs have already had to cut back on their funding of proxy militias around the Arab world. Local protesters are now making plain that their dislike for Iranian meddling in their affairs could soon spell the end for Tehran’s ambition to become the region’s dominant power.
*Con Coughlin is the Telegraph’s Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Are We Seeing A New Wave of Arab Spring Uprisings in 2019?
Michael Young/Carnegie/November 07/2019
A regular survey of experts on matters relating to Middle Eastern and North African politics and security.
Ishac Diwan | Chaire Monde Arabe at Paris Sciences et Lettres, professor at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.
Definitely yes. As we enter the winter of 2020, this wave of public discontent is likely to engulf other countries. The main difference with the first wave in 2011 lies in the underlying economic conditions. Back in 2011, oil prices were at a peak and economies were growing at their fastest pace in decades. With the collapse in oil prices after 2014, the economic situation is now much more difficult. Growth has slowed, public debts have risen, and unemployment is higher. Ruling regimes now have fewer resources to finance their clientelism. So while a yearning for dignity fueled the earlier uprisings, today’s protests are propelled much more by hunger.
The second wave has learned lessons from the first: No longer content with displacing aging autocrats, protesters are targeting the deep state. They are avoiding getting divided along identity lines; and they are demanding the organization of meaningful new elections. The challenge for each country is to find a path toward a political and economic transition that can satisfy the street. So far, even democratizing Tunisia has not yet discovered a way forward. History is on the march again, but what comes next is anyone’s guess.
Rasha al-Aqeedi | Editor in chief of Irfaa Sawtak, nonresident fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute
Unemployment may have been the catalyst for the sporadic demonstrations and sit-ins throughout 2019 in Iraq. However, other events, such as the demotion of Lt. Gen. Abdulwahab al-Sa‘di of the elite Counterterrorism Service, and the government’s deadly response to peaceful protests on October 1, convinced a generation that has not yet seen stability or comfort that the status quo must end. Coupled with the familiarity of free speech and protests which, ironically, is largely due to democracy, Iraq’s Generation Z and millennials took to the streets to demand more than a better life. What they want is radical change. The post-2003 order which followed the U.S.-led toppling of Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship failed to deliver a stable, secure, and prosperous Iraq, despite significant oil revenues. The new Iraq took pride in one aspect of democracy, which was the right to protest. So, when tens of unarmed protesters were killed by snipers deployed with Iranian advice and blessing, there was nothing left to show for.
Iraq’s youths are rejecting an entire political system that they perceive to be beyond redemption. The protests are not an “Arab Spring” nor are they part of a regional uprising wave. They reflect a very specific Iraqi context that is not found in Tunisia, Algeria, or Egypt. The protests did not initially begin against Iranian influence in Iraq, but bold expressions of anger toward the neighbor have become a defining characteristic of the uprising, one that could become a powder keg for either civil conflict or a brutal crackdown.
The protests in Baghdad and southern governorates have their parallels with Lebanon’s, but the fascist-like response of Iraq’s security apparatus and the high death toll, now approaching 300 people, make for a bleak outcome and bleaker future.
Mona Yacoubian | Senior advisor for Syria, the Middle East, and North Africa at the United States Institute of Peace
The Arab Spring never died. It just went dormant, overtaken by the brutality of events in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt. The roots of this second wave of mass protests hearken back to the 2011 Arab uprisings. Yet, they have spawned something different. Absorbing some of the lessons from the earlier uprisings, the 2019 protests have evolved. Ideally, they are cultivating a resistance to the darker, destructive forces that bedeviled their neighbors. In Lebanon and Iraq, demonstrators rail against sectarianism (a driver of the Syrian conflict), instead promoting a more vibrant national identity. In Sudan, a fragile power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian opposition emerged after months of mass protests that began over rising bread prices. However, the protests gathered enormous popular support and did not succumb (as in Egypt) to divisive ideologies, political rivalries, or even the use of force. They persisted. It is far from clear if this new season of protests will yield more sustainable and peaceful change, resilient to violence and chaos. Yet the “green shoots” of the 2019 uprisings offer some reason for hope.
Dalia Ghanem | Resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center
The four countries that have witnessed waves of protests in 2019 are Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon—countries that stayed out of the “Arab Spring” in 2011. In these countries, people were still shaken by previous years of conflict and political violence. This is a new season of discontent, but this time the means employed are peaceful. There are three main reasons for this: Because people learned from their past and their neighbors; because they want to maintain their movement in time and attract more supporters nationally and internationally; and because they do not want to give their governments a chance to use repressive tactics against them and put an end to their mass demonstrations.
This new wave of protests is happening now because social discontent has been mounting for years and the same reasons that led to the 2011 uprisings are still present in the region. If I only take the case of Algeria, the drop in oil prices in mid-2014 led to a deterioration in the economic situation, and by 2019 the government was no longer able to buy social peace as it had in 2011.
Moreover, cosmetic reforms did nothing to address pressing issues such as unemployment, exclusion, and generalized corruption. Today, protesters want real and genuine change, and they do not trust mainstream political parties, the opposition, and the old guard to do it. This is why from Algiers to Beirut, the slogan is one and the same, in reference to the political class: “All of them, means all of them.”