A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 12-13/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 27th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For November 12-13/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 27th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
November 12-13/2019

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 12-13/2019
Lebanon: First death reported in nationwide protests
Soldier opens fire to disperse protest in Lebanon’s Khaldeh, wounding one
One Shot Dead in Khalde as Protesters Block Roads across Lebanon
Aoun Says May Call for Consultations Thursday, Warns against Continued Protests
Aoun Tells U.N., ISG Envoys Govt. Will be Formed ‘Soon’
Kubis says Aoun outlined envisaged way to form new government soon through binding consultations
French Envoy Arrives in Beirut for Talks with Top Officials
Hariri Affirms ‘Amity’ with Berri after Latter’s Remarks
Report: New Proposal on Govt. Balances between Political Forces, Street Demands
Banks to Close Wednesday as Employees Strike Continues
Unions of Bank Employees to Association of Banks: No return to work before security ensured
Khoury Says ‘ATM Machines Will Be Stocked with Cash’
Al-Rahi Says Lebanese Must Not Wait for ‘Solutions from Abroad’
Protesters Rally at French Embassy to Denounce ‘French Interference’
Alfa, Touch Employees Go on Strike over Salary Dispute
Berri, Wife Lift Secrecy Off Their Bank Accounts
Lebanon’s Aoun: Consultations to form new government may start on Thursday
Top UN official in Lebanon calls for urgent designation of next prime minister
Banks, schools shut down as protesters maintain roadblocks amid tight security
Samir Geagea calls on the Lebanese ruling elite ‘to take responsibility

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on November 12-13/2019
From 2006 Archive/Michel Aoun: A psychotic Lust For The Presidency
Elias Bejjani/December 22/06
http://www.eliasbejjaninews.com/elias.english06/aoun.elias9.e.21.12.06.htm

Lebanon: First death reported in nationwide protests
Sunniva Rose/The National/November 12/2019
Protesters poured into streets on Tuesday night after President Michel Aoun said formation of new government could be further delayed. A local official for a Lebanese political party was shot dead by soldiers trying to open a road that was closed by protesters in Beirut late on Tuesday, the army reported, in the first death in 27 days of nationwide protests. The army said the man was shot in the Khaldeh neighbourhood after a scuffle in which a soldier opened fire to disperse the crowd. It said army command had opened an investigation into the killing after arresting the soldier. The country has been engulfed by nationwide protests against the entire political class since October 17.
The man was identified as a local official with the Progressive Socialist Party led by Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon’s Druze community. Mr Jumblatt told an angry crowd outside the hospital where the man died of his wounds to calm down, saying “no one will protect us but the state”.He said that he spoke with the army chief and was told about the investigation. Protesters poured into the streets Tuesday night closing roads around Lebanon after President Michel Aoun said there could be further delays before a new government is formed. A group of protesters trying to block the entrance to Beirut’s Justice Palace clashed with lawyers earlier on Tuesday. The protesters hoped to maintain pressure on the country’s judicial system to investigate corrupt politicians as part of a wider protest against inequality and poor economic conditions.
Sara, 23, said a lawyer attacked her as she was standing with three other people in front of the car park of the Beirut Bar Association building, which is connected to the Justice Palace. “We were not aggressive and responded respectfully to lawyers who talked to us,” Sara said. “But the lawyer started insulting us and pushing me in a very aggressive way until the police removed us.”She spoke from outside the main entrance of the Justice Palace as a small protest of several dozen people continued on Tuesday afternoon. “This is too much,” she said. “He is a lawyer, he cannot act like this with people.”
In a video of the incident, the lawyer shouts at Sara that the building is private property and that she cannot block it, before trying to stop the incident being filmed.
“Go back to your university,” the lawyer shouts.
A colleague who tried to defend the lawyer was struck in the face by protesters in a scuffle that cracked the glass of the revolving door to the building, said Ayman Raad, a lawyer who is part of a committee that supports protesters.
Both sides can sue each other over the incident, Mr Raad said. Another protester, Rabab Nasser, 24, who was also blocking an entrance to the Justice Palace, said that a prominent judge insulted her, threatened to beat her and forced her out of the way with his car.Protesters said a third woman suffered a scalp injury during the scuffles. By late morning, the entrance to the Justice Palace had been reopened after lawyers argued that the protesters were blocking urgent legal procedures. Hearings were adjourned because of the protest, the state-run National News Agency reported.
“We want judges to fight corruption,” said protester Sara Baghdadi, 32. “We know some follow political parties but there are some good judges who have good intentions. We’re here to push them to fight.”
Rana Abi Abdallah, 31, said: “We do not have a fair justice system. A lot of judges are bribed. This whole movement is to fight corruption.” The demonstrations in Lebanon, which brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets during the first week in mid-October, have shifted from mass rallies and roadblocks to smaller gatherings at public institutions considered to be corrupt. The protests pushed Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign on October 29.
The country is now in a political void that has compounded an existing financial crisis as Mr Aoun has yet to announce a date for binding parliamentary consultations. He was expected to do so in a television interview on Tuesday night. Corruption is one of the main drivers of the protests, which was triggered by a suggested tax increase. Lebanon was ranked 138th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perception Index. Several political parties, including Hezbollah and the president’s Free Patriotic Movement, have promised to fight corruption and said cases against prominent officials and politicians were launched in the few past weeks.But protesters are not convinced. “We want to see action,” Ms Abi Abdallah said. “We are fed up.”

Soldier opens fire to disperse protest in Lebanon’s Khaldeh, wounding one
News Agencies/November 13/2019
A Lebanese soldier opened fire to disperse protesters blocking a road in Khaldeh south of Beirut on Tuesday night, killing one person, the army said in a statement.It said the soldier was detained and the incident is under investigation. Local media and a security source said earlier that a man had been shot dead at a road block in Khaldeh. Lebanese broadcaster al-Jadeed said the man had been protesting when he was shot. A man was shot dead by an armed man at a roablock in the town of Khaldeh south of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Tuesday night, local media and a security source said. The shooter was detained for investigation, the source said.Protesters in Lebanon blocked roads with burning tyres in several parts of the country including the capital Beirut following a broadcast interview with President Michel Aoun in which he urged them to go home. During his interview, Aoun called on protesters to go home, saying their demands had been heard, and warned of a “catastrophe” if they stayed in the streets. Earlier in the day, banks and schools were shut down across the country as protesters continued to block roads, while dozens of others gathered near the Palace of Justice in central Beirut demanding an independent judiciary. Several protesters prevented bank employees, as well as judges and lawyers, from entering their places of work nearly a month into protests that erupted due to widespread discontent with politicians seen as inefficient and corrupt.
-with Reuters

One Shot Dead in Khalde as Protesters Block Roads across Lebanon
Agence France Presse/November 12/2019
A man was shot dead in Khalde south of Beirut, Lebanon’s state news agency said early Wednesday. The victim “succumbed to his injuries” in hospital, according to the National News Agency, the second death in nearly a month of unprecedented protests that have erupted across Lebanon.
The army said in a statement that it had arrested a soldier after he opened fire in the coastal town of Khalde, just below the capital, to clear protesters “injuring one person.” Media reports said the soldier is the personal driver of an army colonel as protesters said he was driving a white vehicle with no plates.
The Progressive Socialist Party said in a statement that the man was one its members. A long-time opponent of President Michel Aoun, PSP chief Walid Jumblat appealed to his supporters to stay calm. “In spite of what happened, we have no other refuge than the state. If we lose hope in the state, we enter chaos,” he said. Protesters are demanding the ouster of a generation of politicians they see as inefficient and corrupt. In a televised address on Tuesday night, Aoun had warned protesters against continued blocking of roads and state institutions. The government stepped down on October 29 but stayed on in a caretaker capacity and no overt efforts have so far been made to form a new one.

Aoun Says May Call for Consultations Thursday, Warns against Continued Protest
s
Naharnet/November 12/2019
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday said that he might call for parliamentary consultations to name a new premier on Thursday or Friday if the parties concerned respond positively to the proposals, as he warned protesters against continued blocking of roads and state institutions.
“The consultations might be held Thursday or Friday pending the answers of the parties concerned and if they don’t respond, we’ll have to postpone for a few more days,” Aoun said in a TV interview broadcast on all local channels. “We have resolved most obstacles,” he said, adding that “the protest movement must have a say in the new government.”On the nature of the new government, the president said: “We cannot form a ‘shock government’… A purely technocratic government cannot decide the country’s policies.”“I back the formation of a government equally composed of politicians and technocrats,” he added. As for Jebran Bassil’s possible re-appointment as a minister in the new government, Aoun said “it is up to Minister Bassil to choose whether or not to be in the new government,” stressing that “no one has the right to put a veto on him.” Asked about Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea’s insistence that the new ministers must be totally independent, the president said: “Where can I find them? On the moon?”As for the negotiations with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Aoun said Hariri was “hesitant” during their latest meeting. “He has personal reasons,” the president added. Addressing protesters, Aoun warned: “I tell the Lebanese that their behavior should not be always negative because this would lead to counter-negativity and we would definitely reach an inter-Lebanese clash.”Asked about the first measures that must be taken after the formation of the new government, the president said: “The return of citizens to their homes so that the cycle of life can return to normal and let the government work in light and not in darkness.”“The country will die if protesters remain on the streets, even if we don’t use any force against them,” Aoun cautioned. As for the financial and monetary crisis in the country, Aoun reassured the Lebanese and told them “not to rush to banks and worsen the problem.”“Their money is secure and we will solve the crisis,” he added. He also warned that banks that smuggle funds outside Lebanon “will be held accountable.”Aoun’s remarks appeared to do little to appease protesters on the streets, who swiftly blocked roads across the country to express their dismay.

Aoun Tells U.N., ISG Envoys Govt. Will be Formed ‘Soon’
Naharnet/November 12/2019
President Michel Aoun held talks Tuesday in Baabda with the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, who was accompanied by the ambassadors representing the members of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG). A statement issued by Kubis’ office said Aoun informed the participants about the current political and economic situation in Lebanon and its root causes. “He outlined the envisaged way forward, notably as regards the forming of the new government soon through a process of binding parliamentary consultations. He also requested assistance of the international community in dealing with the economic situation and reforms as well as with return of Syrian refugees back home,” the statement said. In his comments on behalf of UNSCOL, Special Coordinator Kubis reminded Aoun of his call in an address to the nation for “a new Government is that it lives up to the aspirations of the people, earns their confidence first before that of the Parliament, with the aim to restore people’s confidence in their state and that ministers to be selected based on their competence.”“Kubis calls upon the leadership of Lebanon to urgently nominate the Prime Minister-designate, start the mandatory process of parliamentary consultations and to maximally accelerate the process of the formation of the new government of personalities known for their competence and integrity, trusted by the people,” the statement said. It added: “Such a Cabinet, formed in line with the aspirations of the people and supported by the broadest range of political forces through the Parliamentary vote of confidence, will also be in a better position to appeal for support from Lebanon’s international partners.”The Special Coordinator also underlined that the national interest and unity of Lebanon must be put above any other considerations, adding that “continuous protection of peaceful protesting civilians by the security forces, also against provocateurs, maintenance of law and order and the functioning of the state and its economy without using force or violence is the paramount responsibility of the leadership of Lebanon and its security forces.”
“The Special Coordinator notes that it is essential that the authorities prioritize urgent measures to maintain the country’s monetary, financial and economic stability as well as to put the necessary reforms, good governance, end to corruption and accountability without impunity on the right and fast track in a transparent manner,” the statement added. Warning that the financial and economic situation is critical, the statement said the Lebanese government and other authorities “cannot wait any longer to start addressing it, starting with measures that will give the people confidence and guarantees that their licit life-time savings are safe, that they can continue their normal life.”“The continuous absence of executive and legislative action only compounds the crisis, contributes to social instability,” the statement warned. It added that the U.N. is ready to support urgent and long-term steps and measures that will contribute to fighting and preventing corruption and strengthening good governance and accountability. “The U.N. remains committed to supporting Lebanon, its political independence, non-interference into internal matters, unity, stability, security, sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the statement added.

Kubis says Aoun outlined envisaged way to form new government soon through binding consultations
NNA -Tue 12 Nov 2019
A press release by the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, on the meeting of President Michel Aoun with the International Support Group for Lebanon, said: “President Michel Aoun received today at Baabda the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Mr. J?n Kubi? together with the Ambassadors, representing the members of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISG). President Aoun informed the participants about the current political and economic situation in Lebanon and its root causes. He outlined the envisaged way forward, notably as regards the forming of the new government soon through a process of binding parliamentary consultations. He also requested assistance of the international community in dealing with the economic situation and reforms as well as with return of Syrian refugees back home.
In his comments on behalf of UNSCOL, Special Coordinator Kubis i.a. recalled the statement of the President of 31 October 2019, in particular that the sole consideration for a new Government is that it lives up to the aspirations of the people, earns their confidence first before that of the Parliament, with the aim to restore people’s confidence in their state and that ministers to be selected based on their competence.
Special Coordinator Kubis calls upon the leadership of Lebanon to urgently nominate the Prime Minister-designate, start the mandatory process of parliamentary consultations and to maximally accelerate the process of the formation of the new government of personalities known for their competence and integrity, trusted by the people. Such a Cabinet, formed in line with the aspirations of the people and supported by the broadest range of political forces through the Parliamentary vote of confidence, will also be in a better position to appeal for support from Lebanon’s international partners.
The Special Coordinator underlines that the national interest and unity of Lebanon must be put above any other considerations. Continuous protection of peaceful protesting civilians by the security forces, also against provocateurs, maintenance of law and order and the functioning of the state and its economy without using force or violence is the paramount responsibility of the leadership of Lebanon and its security forces, the only way to ensure civil peace and national unity.
The Special Coordinator notes that it is essential that the authorities prioritize urgent measures to maintain the country’s monetary, financial and economic stability as well as to put the necessary reforms, good governance, end to corruption and accountability without impunity on the right and fast track in a transparent manner. The financial and economic situation is critical, and the government and other authorities cannot wait any longer to start addressing it, starting with measures that will give the people confidence and guarantees that their licit life-time savings are safe, that they can continue their normal life. The continuous absence of executive and legislative action only compounds the crisis, contributes to social instability. The UN is ready to support urgent and long-term steps and measures, that will contribute to fighting and preventing corruption, strengthening good governance, accountability, contribute to inclusive growth and job creation, leading towards sustainable growth and stability of Lebanon, that will prioritize the needs and concerns of the people, its ever-younger population, its women. The UN remains committed to supporting Lebanon, its political independence, non-interference into internal matters, unity, stability, security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

French Envoy Arrives in Beirut for Talks with Top Officials
Naharnet/November 12/2019
The director of the Middle East and North Africa department at the French foreign ministry, Christophe Farnaud, arrived Tuesday afternoon in Lebanon for talks with top officials. Earlier in the day, several prominent civil society groups such as Beirut Madinati and the Legal Agenda said they had declined invitations to hold meetings with Farnaud, who has apparently sought to explore the stances of the protest movement. Al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday that France is seeking to help Lebanon resolve the crisis of forming a new government in light of the stalled efforts and the swelling street protests against the political elite. High-ranking diplomatic sources told the daily that France was exerting “unremitting, robust efforts” to push for a solution. Saad Hariri tendered his government’s resignation on October 29 in response to pressure from the nationwide protests. 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. 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.

Hariri Affirms ‘Amity’ with Berri after Latter’s Remarks
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday said nothing can bring enmity to his relationship with Speaker Nabih Berri, reportedly after the latter “failed” to convince Hariri to lead the upcoming new government. Center House sources quoted Hariri as saying: “Speaker Berri is a big brother (to me), and his big heart does not bear hostility with me forever. My friendship and respect for Berri transcends all considerations. Nothing in the world is capable of making us enemies,” al-Mustaqbal Web reported. Earlier, Berri was quoted as saying that he made the “utmost” effort to convince Hariri to lead the upcoming government and that he would be “on feud with him forever if he refuses to line-up a new Cabinet.”Berri seemingly failed to persuade Hariri to form the new government. The government resigned on October 29 but stayed on in a caretaker capacity and parliamentary consultations on forming a new government are yet to be held.

Report: New Proposal on Govt. Balances between Political Forces, Street Demands
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Negotiations are underway over a new proposal for the formation of a new government which would “balance between the majority of political forces and the desire of street protesters,” a prominent ministerial source said on Tuesday. “The meeting that was held yesterday between caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri and (caretaker Foreign) Minister Jebran Bassil was positive,” the source told MTV, noting that both Hariri and Bassil “are not setting preconditions, especially in terms of their personal presence in the government.” Hariri had tendered his government’s resignation on October 29 in response to pressure from unprecedented, massive and cross-sectarian street protests that have gripped Lebanon since October 17. President Michel Aoun has delayed the binding parliamentary consultations for choosing a new premier in a bid to secure prior consensus on the premier and the shape of the new government. 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.

Banks to Close Wednesday as Employees Strike Continues
Associated Press/Naharnet/November 12/2019
Lebanon’s banking association said Tuesday that banks will stay closed on Wednesday due to a strike by employees as the country’s financial crisis worsens. Banks were supposed to open on Tuesday following a three-day closure, but employees have gone on strike, complaining of aggressive behavior by customers. Depositors have rushed to withdraw their money in recent days amid a rapidly deteriorating economic and financial crisis. Lebanon’s financial troubles have worsened since economically driven mass protests erupted nationwide last month, paralyzing the country. The country’s lenders have imposed varying capital controls that differ from bank to bank, triggering panic and anxiety among clients. Some have taken out their anger on employees. The banks have said that they will continue to meet customer needs through ATM machines.

Unions of Bank Employees to Association of Banks: No return to work before security ensured
NNA -Tue 12 Nov 2019
The Executive Council of the Union of Bank Employees in Lebanon on Tuesday issued a statement saying that a delegation representing the union had met with the President of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL), in presence of a number of members of the Board of Directors.
Consequently, President of the Union asked of the Association of Banks in Lebanon to ensure full security in all bank branches across Lebanon so as to preserve the safety of depositors and users. He also pushed for the reconsideration of the extraordinary measures that had shaken the banking sector last week. The delegation then reiterated that the bank strike was ongoing and that there would be no return to work until these two demands were met. For his part, Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABL expressed his readiness to cooperate and make the necessary contacts to provide a safe atmosphere for workers in the banking sector and to continue to seek a way out of the exceptional circumstances that had led to clashes in several banks last week. Moreover, both parties confirmed that ATMs would continue to provide cash to meet the needs of customers, and that the CALL Center staff would continue to work to meet the demands of customers.

Khoury Says ‘ATM Machines Will Be Stocked with Cash’
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Head of Lebanon’s bankers’ syndicate Assad Khoury emphasized on Tuesday that ATM machines will be stocked with cash despite an open-ended strike announced yesterday over “staff security.”Khoury said: “Bank employees will not stop stocking the ATMs with cash. Our strike is intended to press the administrations of bank into taking the measures deemed possible in light of the difficult circumstances the country is witnessing,” he told LBCI in a phone interview. “The administrations of banks are putting us in a confrontation with customers. We will not do well under the conditions imposed on us. The strike was taken until the situation is addressed,” he added. On Tuesday, head of the Federation of Syndicates of Banks Employees announced an open-ended strike from Tuesday to protect employees in light of mass nationwide protests ongoing since October 17 against the ruling class. Banks were closed for two weeks and reopened on Nov. 1. Although the central bank announced no formal capital controls, but banks have been trying to avert capital outflow by controlling dollar withdrawal, and blocking transfers abroad. The move drew the ire of customers and have led to threats against bank workers.

Al-Rahi Says Lebanese Must Not Wait for ‘Solutions from Abroad’
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said Tuesday that the Lebanese should decide what they want instead of “waiting for solutions from abroad which might never come.”Urging officials to “put aside their personal and partisan interests and put the public interest ahead of anything else,” al-Rahi also called on them to “liberate themselves from the regional and international tug of war.”“We urge the Lebanese not to be in the grip of any country and to get out of this international standoff… They should not wait for the countries’ interests… We are the ones who should decide what we want and we should not wait for solutions from abroad which might never come,” the patriarch added. “We have the best sign to find the solutions. The solution is the honest popular and youth protest movement,” al-Rahi said. The patriarch’s remarks came shortly after a French presidential envoy arrived in Lebanon for talks on the country’s political and economic crisis.

Protesters Rally at French Embassy to Denounce ‘French Interference’
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Protesters led by the leftist Youth Movement for Change rallied Tuesday evening outside the French embassy in Beirut to denounce what they called French “interference” in Lebanese affairs, hours after a top French envoy arrived in Beirut. The envoy, Christophe Farnaud, is scheduled to meet with top Lebanese officials over the ongoing political and economic crisis in the country. Earlier on Tuesday, several prominent civil society groups such as Beirut Madinati and the Legal Agenda said they had declined invitations to hold meetings with Farnaud, who has apparently sought to explore the stances of the anti-corruption protest movement. Lebanon’s financial troubles have worsened since economically driven mass protests erupted nationwide last month. The ruling class is also still bickering over the formation of a new government after Saad Hariri bowed to street pressure and tendered his government’s resignation on October 29. The protesters outside the French embassy also demanded the release of Lebanese leftist militant Georges Abdallah from French jails. Abdallah has been jailed since 1984 over the separate assassinations in France of the assistant U.S. military attaché and an Israeli diplomat and the attempted assassination of an American consul. The three attacks occurred during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In 1999, Abdallah completed the minimum portion of his life sentence, but several requests for parole were denied. In 2003, a French court granted him parole but the U.S. Department of State objected to the decision. Dominique Perben, the French Minister of Justice at the time, made an appeal against the release.

Alfa, Touch Employees Go on Strike over Salary Dispute
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Hundreds of employees at the country’s two mobile operators went on an “open-ended” strike on Tuesday over alleged plans to cut their salaries and benefits. Employees at Alfa and Touch suspended work at the companies’ headquarters and other regions, angered by an earlier plan introduced by caretaker Minister of Telecommunications to trim salaries allegedly to “reduce costs.”The workers demand the government to refrain from a 30% deduction from their annual income, calling upon the government to maintain new work contracts, and ensure the continuity of their work in any management contracts.
The workers’ move comes amid ongoing nationwide protests against the country’s political organization. Protests ongoing since October 17 demand a complete overhaul of a political system they say has been dominated by the same families of political leaders since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Berri, Wife Lift Secrecy Off Their Bank Accounts
Naharnet/November 12/2019
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and his wife Randa Assi Berri on Tuesday lifted bank secrecy off their accounts inside and outside Lebanon, state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said Berri and his spouse signed memos lifting their bank secrecy during a meeting with the notary public Shadi Rammal.
The members of the Free Patriotic Movement-led Strong Lebanon bloc have recently made a similar move, amid unprecedented anti-corruption protests in the country. Berri, 81, has been parliament speaker since 1992. He was reelected last year for a new four-year mandate. His critics accuse him of having abused his position to amass a colossal personal fortune and protesters have bashed him and his wife Randa as some of the most egregious examples of Lebanon’s patronage system.

Lebanon’s Aoun: Consultations to form new government may start on Thursday
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Tuesday that formal consultations with MPs over the nomination of the next prime minister could begin on Thursday or Friday but he was waiting for answers without which it may take a few days longer. Aoun said he had found outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri hesitant about taking the job again and he backed a Cabinet mixing technocrats and politicians. “I met with Hariri and I found him hesitant between yes and no,” Aoun said in a televised interview. Hariri quit as prime minister of a coalition government on October 29. Regarding the ongoing protests across the country, Aound said “We called on the demonstrators for dialogue and we did not receive an answer from them.” He added “We need time to regain trust.” Aoun called on protesters to go home, saying their demands had been heard, and warned of a “catastrophe” if they stay in the streets. He also urged the Lebanese not to rush to the banks to withdraw their money, which he said was safe. Regarding his son-in-law who is the caretaker foreign minister Aoun said “nobody can veto Gebran Bassil being a minister.” Earlier a top UN official in Lebanon called on Tuesday for the urgent designation of the next prime minister, and for the quick formation of a new Cabinet of people known for “competence and integrity.”Jan Kubis, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, added that such a cabinet would be in a better position to appeal for international support. On Saturday, Aoun met with several Cabinet ministers and top banking officials in search for solutions for the deepening financial and economic crisis. The country’s financial troubles have worsened since nationwide protests – initially against new taxes – snowballed into calls for the entire political elite to step down. -with Reuters

Top UN official in Lebanon calls for urgent designation of next prime minister
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 12 November 2019
A top UN official in Lebanon called on Tuesday for the urgent designation of the next prime minister, and for the quick formation of a new cabinet of people known for “competence and integrity.”Jan Kubis, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, added that such a cabinet would be in a better position to appeal for international support. “The financial and economic situation is critical, and the government and other authorities cannot wait any longer to start addressing it,” Kubis said in a statement after meeting President Michel Aoun. Kubis urged authorities to prioritize maintaining monetary and financial stability, including measures to give people confidence and protect their savings amid continued protests in the country. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29 in response to popular pressure. Protesters continue to call for the resignation of the entire government. With Reuters.

Banks, schools shut down as protesters maintain roadblocks amid tight security
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 12 November 2019
Banks and schools were shut down across Lebanon on Tuesday as protesters continued to block roads, while dozens of others gathered near the Palace of Justice in central Beirut demanding an independent judiciary. Several protesters prevented bank employees, as well as judges and lawyers, from entering their places of work nearly a month into protests that erupted due to widespread discontent with politicians seen as inefficient and corrupt. In as the town of Aley east of Beirut, in the southern city of Tyre, and the eastern town of Baalbek, demonstrators held sit-ins outside or inside the offices of the state telecommunications provider, local media reported.Many schools and universities were closed, as were  banks after their employees called for a general strike in Sidon over alleged mistreatment by customers last week. Some bank branches, which were closed for nearly half of October, shut again on fears for the safety of staff who have felt intimidated by customers demanding access to their money and protesters who have gathered at banks, a union leader said. The demonstrations have been fueled by anger at Lebanon’s ruling elite, widely perceived to have overseen rampant state corruption for decades. Meanwhile, the Lebanese Presidency said that President Aoun on Tuesday presented to Arab ambassadors residing in Lebanon the current developments in the country, and asked for their help in reviving the Lebanese economy.- With AFP

Samir Geagea calls on the Lebanese ruling elite ‘to take responsibility
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 12 November 2019
The head of the Lebanese Forces Party (LF) Samir Geagea called upon the ruling political elite “to take responsibility” toward what is happening in the country, describing the current protests across Lebanon as “a popular uprising against the living conditions. During a press conference on Monday, Geagea said that the unprecedented wave of protests across Lebanon since October 17, points to a “crisis of years of failure for which the political class is responsible for.”He added that “it is not acceptable at all that the legislative consultations have not yet started” to form a cabinet. Earlier on Monday, the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri announced the postponement of a session for the Parliament scheduled for Tuesday, due to security considerations. Geagea reiterated the Lebanese Forces position toward “adhering to a government of independent non-partisan specialists.”On October 20, Geagea announced in a televised speech the resignation of the Lebanese Forces Party’s four ministers from Saad Hariri’s government.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/2019
From 2006 Archive/Michel Aoun: A psychotic Lust For The Presidency/Elias Bejjani/December 22/2006
Lebanon: First death reported in nationwide protests/Sunniva Rose/The National/November 12/2019
Demonstrators provoked by President Aoun’s interview/Sally Farhat/ Annahar/November 13/2019
Protesters take offense to president’s speech, block roads and highways/Georgi Azar/Annahar/November 12/2019
Lebanese banks, schools shut as protesters push on/Najla Houssari/Arab News/November 12/ 2019
Lebanon’s elite responsible for hollowing out of the state/
Zaid M. Belbagi /Arab News/November 12/ 2019
How the US should respond to the protests in Lebanon/John Hajjar/AMCFD/American Mifeast Coalition For Democracy/November 12/2019

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on November 12-13/2019
Demonstrators provoked by President Aoun’s interview
Sally Farhat/ Annahar/November 13/2019
Protesters blocked major roads including: Ring Bridge, Zalka, Zouk, Jal el-Dib, Sidon, Tripoli, Corniche al Mazra’a and Chevrolet among others.
BEIRUT: “If people aren’t satisfied with any of the decent leaders, let them immigrate;” “if it is going to be (a government) of technocrats only, it will not have political cover and won’t be able to win a vote of confidence in parliament;” and an advice: “the country should resume normal operations, especially state institutions, or else Lebanon’s economy will further get disrupted,” President Michel Aoun said in a nationally televised appearance.
The previous is just a glimpse of what negatively resonated with Lebanese demonstrators listening to President Aoun’s interview Tuesday night. Following the interview, Aoun’s presidency office released a statement explaining that his comments were taken out of context.
“What the president actually meant was that if there are no honest individuals in the movement, let them immigrate because they wont get to power,” the office tweeted.
After 27 days of protests, President Aoun tried reassuring demonstrators that a new government will shortly be formed, and that the new government will make sure to implement the required reforms.
Nonetheless, the positivity Aoun asked from the Lebanese was met with the exact opposite. Demonstrators considered the interview “provocative” and described it as a major disappointment. Some also considered it disrespectful to the demands of the people.
“As provocative as our President’s speech might have sounded, his words only triggered me to fight harder for my rights as a Lebanese citizen,” Lina Assaf, a high school teacher protesting, told Annahar.
Ashraf Jammal also added that “I came back to Lebanon from France 5 years ago after earning my MBA because I wanted to help make my country better. Even though the president believes that protesters who are displeased with the government should immigrate, I want to say that I will not leave Lebanese grounds before my nation begins to thrive again.”
Protesters blocked major roads including: Ring Bridge, Zalka, Zouk, Jal el-Dib, Sidon, Tripoli, Corniche al Mazra’a and Chevrolet among others.
“I’m here protesting for the 27th day in a row because the government is ignoring our demands. Our president’s latest words only proved that the Lebanese people are being disrespected and ignored, and I won’t leave these streets before we are treated with basic human decency,” Linda el Ghali said.
Mounir Jaber from Ring Bridge also added, ” I have never felt so disrespected. The earlier interview only shows that our cause is beyond legitimate; it’s become a matter of survival.”
Aside from the streets, social media also flooded with people’s reaction to President Aoun’s interview.
“Our president just told the Lebanese people ‘whoever is not happy should leave Lebanon.’ Before he even finished his interview, the people in the streets responded: No, you leave. The coastal highway is literally being blocked entirely,” Mhamad Charaf tweeted.
*MP Paula Yacoubian was also among those who found the content of the interview disrespectful. She invited schools, universities, banks, and public and private institutions for a general strike on Wednesday and tweeted: “If you’re not okay with the Lebanese demanding their basic human rights, you’re the one that can immigrate.”
*Nessryn Khalaf contributed to this article.

Protesters take offense to president’s speech, block roads and highways
Georgi Azar/Annahar/November 12/2019
Protesters seemingly took offense at a number of his comments, labeling them as insensitive.
BEIRUT: In an hour long televised address that spanned Lebanon’s different dilemmas, President Michel Aoun assured that the new government would work diligently to implement the necessary reforms, calling on protesters to show good faith.
Despite the assurances, protesters took to the streets and blocked roads as soon as his conversation with journalists came to a close. Protesters seemingly took offense at a number of his comments, labeling them as insensitive.
Aoun had insisted that decent and honest individuals public office still exist, with good faith necessary to lay the foundation of a functioning government.
“If people aren’t satisfied with any of the decent leaders let them immigrate,” Aoun said, This drew the ire of protesters, who promptly blocked roads and main highways linking Tripoli to Sidon.
Although protesters have been demanding a fully independent government made up of technocrats, Aoun signaled that the government will most likely be a “techno-political one.”
Aoun said discussions over the makeup of the new Cabinet are still ongoing, hinting that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has yet to agree to head a government that includes traditional political parties.
He also confirmed that parliamentary consultations would begin this week but left the door open for “delays as we are still awaiting answers from certain parties.”
“We want a government that is united, not divided,” Aoun said.
Earlier on Tuesday, thousands of protesters have blocked roads and state institutions as demonstrations entered their 27th day in a bid to force officials to capitulate to their demands.
Protesters have been calling for the formation of an independent technocrat government made up of leading experts but have been rebuked by Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement to a lesser extent.
Schools, universities and banks went on strike Tuesday as students threatened to boycott classes and exams. Bank employees, meanwhile, have reported security concerns after being faced with enraged customers looking to access their deposits.
In response, the Syndicate of Bank Employees announced an open-ended strike until normalcy is restored.
“We want to thank all the employees for their dedication the past two weeks under harsh and stressful conditions,” a statement by the Association of Banks said.
Banks’ ATM machines in Beirut and other areas will be stocked despite the closure, President of the Federation of Syndicates of Bank Employees George al-Hajj told Reuters.
On Monday, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh maintained that mechanisms are put in place to safeguard the Lira peg and deposits, dismissing concerns of a possible devaluation or haircut.
“The Central Bank cannot impose capital controls or haircuts and will not push for that,” Salameh said.
Protesters have gathered in front of a number of institutions, including the state-owned Touch and Alfa telecom providers, Electricite Du Liban and the Central Bank. Major roads in Akkar, Tripoli and Sidon were also cut off. In front of the Judicial Palace, protestors asked judges to remain neutral and look into corruption allegations.
Lebanon has been rocked by nationwide protests over a financial crisis not witnessed since the end of its civil war in 1990. Rising unemployment, estimated at around 35 percent, coupled with scare dollar liquidity and the lack of basic services, have exasperated the animosity felt toward the ruling political class.
Almost two weeks have passed since Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his resignation, with sources signaling his adamancy to form a new government free “from traditional political parties.”
A meeting that brought together Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri’s aide, caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, and political adviser to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah Hussein Khalil over the weekend failed to bring about a consensus over the new Cabinet’s makeup.
Despite Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil seemingly willing to step aside, sources say that Hezbollah continues to push to be represented in the new Cabinet for fear of being undercut from within which could threaten its military arsenal.
Speaking Monday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah upped the ante, launching a barrage aimed at the U.S who he accuses of orchestrating the current economic and political turmoil.
“We will stand up to the U.S and tell them to leave us alone,” Nasrallah clamored before being met with chants of “death to America” by his supporters.
Nasrallah refused to elaborate on his party’s stance on the government negotiations, suggesting that talks are ongoing.
“When it comes to the government formation … the meetings are ongoing and the discussions are underway in the country,” he said. “I will not discuss this matter … and we will leave the door open.”
Late last week, the World Bank urged Lebanon to form a new Cabinet “within a week” to prevent further degradation and loss of confidence in its economy, warning of grave risks to the country’s stability amid a worsening fiscal and economic crisis.
With the clock ticking and three days left before deadline expires, President Michel Aoun met Tuesday with ambassadors and representatives of the International Support Group which brings together the United Nations, the governments of China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with the European Union and the Arab League.
During his sitdown with Arab ambassadors, Aoun pleaded with them for support to “revive Lebanon’s economy,” according to a statement issued by his office.
Attempts to secure financial assistance from Gulf allies have so far come up short despite Hariri’s visit to the UAE last month to take part in an economic conference.
The lone neighbor to offer some sort of support is Qatar, who bought some Lebanese government bonds as part of a planned $500 million investment to support its struggling economy as a token gesture in June.
Saudi Arabia, a long-time backer of Hariri that’s spent billions in Lebanese investments, has also withheld support as the influence of Iranian-backed Hezbollah over the government grew.

Lebanese banks, schools shut as protesters push on
Najla Houssari/Arab News/November 12/ 2019
Top UN official calls for ‘urgent formation’ of a new government made up of people known for their competence
Banks in Lebanon have been imposing restrictions on dollar withdrawals and transfers abroad
BEIRUT: School and university students joined street protests in Beirut and other Lebanese cities as widespread civil disruption in support of a “national salvation government” entered its 27th day.
Protesters blocked the entrance to the Palace of Justice in the capital on Tuesday, waving banners and chanting demands for “a fair judiciary that prosecutes corrupt people.” Clashes between lawyers and protesters erupted after access to the building was halted.
A group of women carrying posters calling for “old-age security” and “fighting poverty and the rule of the bank” staged a silent rally under the Musharrafieh bridge in Beirut’s southern suburbs.
With a date yet to be set for parliamentary consultations to appoint a new prime minister, consultations between President Michel Aoun and caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri have failed to find a formula to establish the next government.
Earlier, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) announced through its parliamentary bloc that it approved a “government of technocrats.” But on Monday the FPM, Hezbollah and Amal appeared to be unanimous in agreeing to include state ministers in the government. Meanwhile, Hariri has insisted on an independent technocratic government that does not include politicians or parties.
Aoun briefed foreign and Arab envoys in two meetings on “the ongoing contacts to form a new government that achieves the reform paper adopted by the outgoing government.” Later the Lebanese president called on Arab countries to “help boost Lebanon’s economy.”
The presidential media office said that “the ambassadors expressed the support of their countries to Lebanon in these circumstances, stressing the importance of forming a new government to cope with the developments.”
A top UN official in Lebanon on Tuesday called for the urgent formation of a new government made up of people known for their competence, according to Reuters.
However, Walid Fakhreddin, a public affairs expert and activist, told Arab News that “what the authority is discussing is far from the demands of the movement in the street.”
“Pressure in the street resulted in the disruption of a parliamentary legislative session that would have passed a general amnesty law preventing the prosecution of corrupt individuals,” he said.
“What government officials are doing now with their debates is a waste of time. No one expects this authority to seriously deal with our demands.”
Fakhreddin said that “Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah told us yesterday that reforms can be carried out without a government. This means that things are going in the direction of more complexity. There is no acceptable approach to the demands of the street.
“The bodies involved in the civil movement have agreed on a single agenda, which is the demand for an independent transitional government to hold parliamentary elections,” he said.
The movement had refused to meet with French envoy Christophe Farno, who arrived in Beirut and is scheduled to meet Lebanese officials on Wednesday. “These forces will not participate in a meeting with the authority or with any external envoy,” Fakhreddin said.
Meanwhile, bank employees went on strike on Tuesday to protest against abuse directed at them by depositors and dealers because of banks’ refusal to hand over large amounts of money to depositors or to issue cash in dollars.

Lebanon’s elite responsible for hollowing out of the state
Zaid M. Belbagi /Arab News/November 12/ 2019
Sentiments on the streets of Lebanon could not be more different from 30 years ago, when the country’s leaders inspired a sense of optimism in choosing peace and prosperity over bitter civil war. However, one thing from the Taif Agreement remains — the country’s leaders are, by and large, almost identical. Having organized the Lebanese state in a way that protects their interests and systems of patronage, they have grown exorbitantly wealthy. The popular anger on display in Lebanon in recent weeks is not a symptom of sectarianism or the machinations of regional powers, it is a reaction to mismanagement and negligence. Lebanon’s leaders have failed their people.
At the heart of the Lebanese protests is the country’s disastrous financial situation. With the third-highest debt-to-gross domestic product ratio in the world, it has been running huge budget and current account deficits for years. Poverty is endemic, unemployment is high and economic growth has stalled. Within this context, the country’s billionaire politicians planned to impose a $6 monthly fee on the use of WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook. Whereas Lebanese politicians have grown accustomed to communities falling in line according to confessional loyalties, recent demonstrations have cut across sectarian divides — a rare phenomenon since the country’s devastating civil war ended. The public, long suffering from the chronic fatigue of the Lebanese pseudo-state, are angry.
The government barely supplies basic services, so electricity is sporadic, garbage is not collected, the tap water is unhealthy and its telephony costs are among the highest in the Arab world. The government’s pitiful response to recent wildfires exposed how serious socioeconomic woes have become, culminating in dollar shortages, devaluation of the currency and a months-long bread and fuel crisis, raising alarm bells among the wider population. Where Lebanon’s leaders could previously quell popular discontent with revolutionary slogans and the stoking up of resistance of Israel, recent attempts by political leaders to contain citizens’ frustration have proved futile, amid disillusionment and disgust at the litany of broken promises and the backdrop of rickety state institutions and the largesse of politicians.
For years, Lebanon kept itself afloat with aid from the Gulf and money deposited in local banks by wealthy expats. Those who ran the banks were often figures from within the ruling elite, more concerned with accruing interest and investing in bogus real estate developments as opposed to using the capital windfall to get the country moving. Members of this oligarchy had little issue using their political clout to further indebt the state while growing wealthier themselves. Exercising a stranglehold over economic and political power, the top 10 percent of the adult population receives approximately 55 percent of total national income, with the top 1 percent hoarding 25 percent. This places Lebanon among the countries with the highest levels of income inequality in the world, alongside Brazil, Colombia, Russia and South Africa. However, even generous interest rates of as much as 20 percent are no longer bringing in foreign money and the economy is in such deep distress that, this time, only Lebanon can solve its own problems.
Lebanon is not a failed state, it is a hollow one. The people in power, who created the crisis, have too much invested in the system to abandon it in the face of mass protests. Though Lebanon maintains the facade of a democracy, it isn’t in the sense that there is never any real change in power. Leaders who have enjoyed near immunity have adeptly leveraged the “confessional system” that awards government offices and the spoils according to religious affiliation.
Recent attempts by political leaders to contain citizens’ frustration have proved futile, amid disillusionment and disgust. Though there is not a complete failure in the delivery of public goods and the standard edifices of governance persist, the system is heavily corrupted and in thrall to monied elites. By effectively maintaining a weak state, the country’s elites, which have been in power since 1989, are able to continue to profit from smuggling and the luxury real estate developments that are a mainstay of the economy. They control the banks and profit from financing the government’s deficits, and they make money by providing the electricity the state monopoly can’t. The Lebanese citizen, priced out of basic public goods and services, is left to pick up the tab. If the system were less dysfunctional, the elite would be better able to act. The system is clearly unsustainable, but each entrenched leader of the confessional system has veto power. With the prospect of reform invariably threatening to create winners and losers, the decayed system in its present form is unable to cleanse itself. Within the context of the maintenance of private militias (from which state security services cower), illegal flows of income, gross displays of nepotism and deep-seated corruption, the state will only grow weaker. The longer this state of affairs persists, the more difficult it is to eradicate.Lebanon does not need a revolution or a return to civil war, and least of all a lifeline of foreign aid. What it needs is a complete recalibration of its government that empowers the state and limits the opportunities of political leaders to enrich themselves through the racketeering and shoddy management that has brought the country to its knees.
*Zaid M. Belbagi is a political commentator, and an adviser to private clients between London and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Twitter: @Moulay_Zaid

How the US should respond to the protests in Lebanon
جون حجار: مواقف مطلوبة من الإدارة الأميركية استجابة لإنتفاضة الشعب اللبناني
John Hajjar/AMCFD/American Mifeast Coalition For Democracy/November 12/2019
http://eliasbejjaninews.com/archives/80475/john-hajjarhow-the-us-should-respond-to-the-protests-in-lebanon-%d8%ac%d9%88%d9%86-%d8%ad%d8%ac%d8%a7%d8%b1-%d9%85%d9%88%d8%a7%d9%82%d9%81-%d9%85%d8%b7%d9%84%d9%88%d8%a8%d8%a9-%d9%85%d9%86-%d8%a7/
I came back to the US from Lebanon less than one month before the October protests began in Beirut and started spreading throughout its cities and towns, shaking the foundations of a regime that spent 30 years in corruption and backing Hezbollah. During my field trip to my ancestral land, mandated by the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD), I met with students, politicians, journalists, former military, religious leaders and civil society activists. I also met with ordinary people in different places. The three major issues of discontent among all people I met were:
1-Frustration with the economic and financial situation, crumbling under the heavy corruption eroding most of Lebanon’s institutions, both public and private;
2-Fear from the constant domination of Hezbollah and its peace through intimidation of their partisans and those opposed to their domination; and,
3-Loss of trust in the ruling political, economic, and clerical establishment of the country.
Warnings from the people
During my field trip, I heard warnings that the people had had enough of corruption and militia thuggish behavior and were about to explode. I also heard criticism of US policy, particularly from America’s friends. “Where are you?” they asked me. “We are being eaten alive by Iran and its lackeys in this country.” As someone who was part of the Lebanese American community efforts in 2002-2004 to produce UNSCR 1559, I surely understood the message. Lebanon’s population, except those who are supporters of the Iranian regime, is generally not only friendly with but feel close to the United States.
I included my observations in a report I submitted to the Trump Administration, which I also detailed in a meeting at the State Department a few days after the uprising exploded in Lebanon. I stressed the importance for the United States to be prepared for what may be a tidal wave of protests. And, indeed, that is exactly what is happening.
The protests: “All means All”
On October 18, tens of thousands of Lebanese filled the public squares in Beirut in ardent anti-government demonstrations accusing all the leaders of “stealing the people’s money” and of abandoning the poor to their destiny. At first, the demands were socio-economic, but then the protests got larger and the official goal became bringing down the entire system: the Saad Hariri cabinet, Michel Aoun’s Presidency, and Nabih Berri’s Parliament, accused of being behind the mass corruption that the country has been suffering under for decades.
Soon enough, the protests spread to Tripoli, the second largest city in the country with a Sunni majority, then along the coast to Batroun, Jounieh, and Sidon. But the major political events were demonstrations hitting the hometowns of Hezbollah in Tyre, Nabatiyeh, and Baalbeck.
The core of the protests was organized by a network of liberal, patriotic, mostly civil society groups; among them a newly formed political party called “Seven.” Traditional political parties were asked not to join, though their members were welcomed. Hence the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, and Jumblatt stayed away.
It is imperative to note that a group of leftwing militants also installed themselves in the center of downtown Beirut and gradually attempted to seize the political and organizational command of the leaderless protests.
The uprising was cross-sectarian, including youth from all religious communities, and displayed clear signs of a civil society kirmess as the gatherings were quite celebratory in nature. At one point, organizers claimed that close to two million people participated in the rallies.
Hezbollah, regime and far-left tactics
Hezbollah, the de facto ruler of Lebanon, perceived the protests as directed against its power. The demonstrators chanted that “all leaders should be forced to resign, all of them,” which in practicality included Hezbollah. The retaliation of the Iran dominated militia came fast. Hordes of militants stormed the rallies, destroyed the stands and dispersed the protesters. But the protestors would not be kept down. They came back after each act of violence perpetrated against them.
The regime, unhinged, refused to resign as Hezbollah rejected a change of system. Nasrallah’s network, which has been suffering financially from US sanctions imposed by the Trump Administration, threatened mass violence if the revolution ejected them from the state. The Secretary General, Mr. Nasrallah, even alluded that he would cut the wages of the Lebanese Army, immobilizing it, and unleash his militia on the protesters. Clearly, Hezbollah was and is a threat to the Lebanon protests.
Hundreds, if not thousands of Lebanese called on the Diaspora to help, particularly Lebanese Americans to intercede with the US government. But Hezbollah was monitoring any attempt to bring in US pressure on the Lebanese Government. One incident was very telling.
In response to a tweet by former Trump advisor, Dr. Walid Phares who simply called on the US to hear the voices of protesters in Lebanon, Hezbollah’s “electronic army” staged a massive wave of attacks and smears against the scholar – who was also an architect of the UNSCR 1559 in 2004 that supported the Cedars Revolution the following year. The pro Iran targeting of Phares lasted days and aimed at hitting a link that could bring international support to the rallies in Beirut and other cities. Interestingly enough, a network of far-left Twitter accounts linked to far-left figures in the US, such as George Soros and Bernie Sanders, joined Hezbollah’s savaging of Phares. The incident showed two matters: (1) Hezbollah is backed by American “Stalinist” networks and (2) the organization fears a Trump Administration endorsement of the popular movement in Lebanon, unlike Obama’s abandonment of the Iran Green Revolution in 2009.
Trump Administration’s position
Of course, I note that the Trump administration proceeded with caution regarding the Lebanon protests. One parameter was clear as the first statements from the State Department underlined: “The rights of the Lebanese people to express themselves should be protected.” Another parameter was to ask the Lebanese Army to protect the rallies from Hezbollah and other militias. But it was days after the Phares tweet calling on the US to stand with the movement before statements were issued by important US leaders like Secretary of State Pompeo, Senate Majority leader McConnell and other administration officials and Congressional voices.
Ironically, but not surprisingly, the Hezbollah propaganda machine and its far-left allies in Lebanon blasted any potential Trump statement as “meddling” but welcomed supportive statements from radical politicians such as Bernie Sanders as “progressive.” Hezbollah is also the only group in Lebanon that is under direct foreign control – by The Islamic Republic of Iran – thus completing the circle of Leftist-Islamist complicity.
The protests’ future
The popular forces on the streets seem to be resilient and willing to take the political fight through to the end, that is, until a full change is achieved. Despite the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the public backing the protesters has expressed its will to continue the “revolution.” Though many roads closed during the protests were re-opened by the Army and security forces, rallies continue in Beirut and other cities, most notably Tripoli. The uprising is discretely backed by anti-Hezbollah leaders such as Christian politician Samir Geagea, Sunni leader Achraf Rifi, and Druze politician Walid Jumblatt, but is practically led by a federation of NGOs, primarily Hezb 7 (with organizer Jad Dagher in the center) and with a new leadership of an old party – the “National Bloc” – who seem to have moved to the front of the youth revolt.
It is my view (and the view of experts and activists I’ve consulted with) that the “movement” won’t stop, even if attacked by Hezbollah. The sustainability of the protests, rest on several factors:
a-The protection by the Lebanese Armed Forces;
b-International and US solidarity, but not direct meddling at this point;
c-Support coming from the Lebanese Diaspora, numbering in the millions;
d-Formation of a technocrat cabinet; and,
e-Deterring Hezbollah from physical attacks on the rallies.
US Policy towards Lebanon
The question now is, what should US policy be regarding Lebanon’s protests? Should we intervene in this crisis? Refrain? Or design strategies to contain Hezbollah, empower the country’s civil society, and enable Lebanon to free itself from terror and break loose from corruption?
US interests always include national security and regional stability. So when it comes to Lebanon, we as Americans need to look at the threats that are in, and could emanate from, Lebanon at this stage.
There is no doubt that Hezbollah and its radical allies are at the core of threats against the US. Since 1983, this terror organization has targeted US citizens and personnel in Lebanon, Iraq and other locations. Thus, it is in our national interest make sure Hezbollah is checked and eventually disarmed in Lebanon.
Regionally, Hezbollah has attacked our allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen and has served as an ally to the Iranian regime for decades. It is involved in worldwide drug dealing and smuggling, even in our hemisphere. The terror group has been listed on our terror lists, and Washington has leveled many sanctions to deter this organization from pursuing its aggression against the US and our allies.
But more importantly, Hezbollah has assassinated, kidnapped and threatened many Lebanese politicians, military, journalists, students and other members of Lebanon’s civil society. Recently, during the October 2019 protests, it launched several thuggish raids against the protesters, all well documented online.
On all these grounds, it is clear that Hezbollah seems to be the bad guy menacing our national security and the safety of our allies, particularly the Lebanese. Thus, a chief component of US policy should be to contain the organization in Lebanon, work with the bodies that can help in this containment, and partner with the protesters to protect them from the actions of Hezbollah. However, the precarious balance between all Lebanese populations should be preserved while ensuring that the will of the majority of protesters is respected. Washington should proceed with caution as Hezbollah is lethal and can take the population hostage.
On another level, the US has an interest in seeing the Lebanese fight against corruption in their own country as a means to end such corrupt practices in the region and around the world. We want to encourage good governance and state sovereignty. Tangentially to countering terrorism and corruption, the US has an interest in seeing Lebanon stabilize and join the community of nations engaged in peaceful behavior, trade, and diplomatic efforts to resolve common issues.
From a domestic American perspective, let’s also remember that close to one million Americans (some believe 1.5 million) are from Lebanese descent with a few hundred thousand of them born in Lebanon. Many of these America-loving citizens have given a lot to this country, from holding public offices to financial contributions to involvement in American arts and sciences. Many have served in all the wars America has fought since WWI. The Lebanese American community is overwhelmingly in support of a US policy that would promote a free and pluralistic Lebanon with whom the US would partner.
Recommendations
Based on these considerations, in the wake of the October protests, I would advance the following considerations for a US policy towards Lebanon. The United States should:
Clearly state that the protesters have a fundamental universal right to express their views and organize peaceful demonstrations;
Warn the authorities in charge not to suppress these protests and call on the security forces, and particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces, to protect these demonstrators from thugs and militias;
Ask the regime to acquiesce to the demands of the protesters and resign from power, leaving it in the hands of an interim nonpartisan Government whose only mission is to organize legislative elections;
Extend support to the new Parliament to develop new legislation for the country;
Partner with the next Government to implement reforms and apply international resolutions including UNSCR 1559 and 1701; and,
Assist the Lebanese Armed Forces and the security forces to protect the citizens of Lebanon and to disarm militias.
A new US policy should also form a special team to handle the Lebanese crisis both in Beirut and in Washington, DC, in light of the dramatic events that have taken place and continue to evolve.
*John Hajjar is the Co-Chair of the American Mideast Coalition for Democracy.
*AMCFD/American Mifeast Coalition For Democracy