A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 02- 03/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 47th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 02- 03/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 47th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
December 03/2019

Tites For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 02-03/2019
STL Schedules Public Hearing on Connected Case against Ayyash
Report: International Support Meeting on Lebanon Postponed
Trump administration quietly releases Lebanon military aid
US releases $105m of withheld aid to Lebanon’s armed forces
Aoun meets President of Beirut Bar Association: The Movement has removed a lot of red lines
Citizen kidnapped in West Bekaa
Rahi, UN’s Kubis tackle current situation
Aoun Promises Measures that Will ‘Satisfy All Lebanese’
Suicide of Unemployed Man Strikes a Chord in Crisis-Hit Lebanon
Bustani Delays Gasoline Tenders to ‘Enable More Competition’
Oil Syndicates Agree to Share Losses Resulting from Dollar Shortage
Bteish Rejects Calls for Hiking Bread Price
Austerity budget to be re-upped in 2020
Teachers Strike after Private Schools Cut Salaries
Lebanon Energy Ministry Delays Petrol Tender One Week to Enable ‘Competition’
New Lebanese Government Looming on the Horizon
Army Stops Migrant Boat Carrying 34 Syrian Refugees
In Death and Life, Lebanese Woman Shows Religious Law Fight

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 02-03/2019
STL Schedules Public Hearing on Connected Case against Ayyash
Naharnet/December 02/2019
Trial Chamber II of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued Monday an order scheduling a public hearing on 13 December 2019 at 10:00 A.M. (CET) to hear arguments from the Office of the Prosecutor and the Head of the Defense Office on initiating in absentia proceedings against Salim Ayyash over the Murr, Hawi and Hamadeh attacks, the STL said. Trial Chamber II has also invited the Registrar to make submissions on his efforts to publicize the indictment and the service of the indictment on the Accused. This step comes after the Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen seized Trial Chamber II, on 21 November 2019, to determine whether to initiate proceedings in absentia Ayyash, following the outstanding arrest warrant against him. Trial Chamber II will have to determine whether the required conditions have been met in order to start the proceedings in absentia whilst preserving the rights of the Accused. It will issue a decision in this regard in due course based on the oral submissions it hears on December 13.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
On 16 September 2019: The STL Pre-Trial Judge Daniel Fransen lifted the confidentiality of his decision confirming an indictment against Ayyash. The indictment, dated 14 June 2019, alleges Ayyash is involved in the 1 October 2004 attack against Marwan Hamadeh, the 21 June 2005 attack against Georges Hawi and the 12 July 2005 attack against Elias Murr. These attacks were found to be “connected” to the 14 February 2005 attack that killed ex-PM Rafik Hariri. These attacks constitute a new case dubbed STL-18-10. Judge Fransen also made public the arrest warrants issued against Ayyash.
On 17 September 2019, the STL President Judge Ivana Hrdličková issued a statement calling the accused to surrender and to participate in the proceedings, informing him of his rights before the Tribunal and notifying the public of the new indictment.
On 24 September 2019, the President further ordered that the service of the indictment against Ayyash be effected in an alternative manner, including through public advertisement.
On 07 October 2019, the poster was published in five Lebanese newspapers.
On 08 October 2019, the STL released an audio-visual and audio public service announcement as well as a poster with the biographical information of Ayyash as part of the STL public advertisement campaign.
On 06 November 2019, the STL President issued an order convening the Trial Chamber II in the connected case STL-18-10.
On 21 November 2019, the STL Pre-Trial Judge requested Trial Chamber II to determine whether proceedings in absentia should be initiated in Connected Case STL-18-10.
On 29 November, STL Trial Chamber II unanimously elected Judge Nicola Lettieri as Presiding Judge for a term of 18 months.

Report: International Support Meeting on Lebanon Postponed
Naharnet/December 02/2019
There were no regional or international positions regarding the latest developments in protest-hit Lebanon, but a “friendly” tripartite American-British-French meeting on Lebanon has been postponed, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. The meeting, orchestrated by French President Emmanuel Macron, was expected to be held this week in London to discuss the situation in Lebanon. Macron aims to relay a strong message to Lebanon’s political class urging it to address the rightful demands of the protesters, expedite the formation of a government and implement reforms, paving the way to unlock billions in investments agreed at CEDRE aid conference in April 2018. “It has been postponed to a later date until contacts about the developments in Lebanon are complete,” diplomatic sources who spoke on condition of anonymity told the daily. It brings together the heads of Middle East departments in the three foreign ministries – the American David Schenker, the French Christophe Farnaud and the British Stephanie al-Qaq – which was held last month in Paris. Macron suggested the meeting in a bid to showcase international support for Lebanon’s stability, as the Mediterranean country grapples with nationwide protests since October 17.
With demonstrations continuing well into their second month demanding an overhaul of the entire political class, President Michel Aoun has yet to call for binding parliamentary consultations after the resignation of PM Saad Hariri. Hariri resigned on October 29 bowing to the people’s demands.

Trump administration quietly releases Lebanon military aid
Associated Press/December 02/2019
WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has quietly released more than $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of unexplained delay that led some lawmakers to compare it to the aid for Ukraine at the center of the impeachment inquiry. The $105 million in Foreign Military Financing funds for the Lebanese Armed Forces was released just before the Thanksgiving holiday and lawmakers were notified of the step on Monday, according to two congressional staffers and an administration official. All three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly to the matter. The money had languished in limbo at the Office of Management and Budget since September although it had already won congressional approval and had overwhelming support from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council. The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay despite repeated queries from Congress. Lawmakers such as Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., had pressed the administration since October to either release the funds or explain why it was being withheld. The State Department had notified Congress on Sept. 5 that the money would be spent.
Earlier this month, the delay came up in impeachment testimony by David Hale, the No. 3 official in the State Department, according to the transcript of the closed-door hearing. Hale described growing consternation among diplomats about the delay. The White House and the Office of Management and Budget have declined to comment on the matter. The State Department had offered only a cryptic response to queries, defending the assistance but also calling for Lebanese authorities to implement economic reforms and rein in corruption. As with the Ukraine assistance, OMB did not explain the delay. However, unlike Ukraine, there has been no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking “a favor” from Lebanon in exchange for the aid, according to officials familiar with the matter. The delay had frustrated the national security community, which believes the assistance that pays for U.S.-made military equipment for the Lebanese army is essential, particularly as Lebanon reels from financial chaos and mass protests. The aid is intended to help counter Iran’s influence in Lebanon, which is highlighted by the presence of the Iranian-supported Shiite Hezbollah movement in the government and the group’s militias, officials have said.
Some pro-Israel members of Congress have long sought to de-fund the Lebanese military, arguing that it has been compromised by Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates as a “foreign terrorist organization.” Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has long advocated cutting the assistance and is expected to introduce legislation that would bar such aid as long as Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s government. The Pentagon and State Department reject that view, saying the army is the only independent Lebanese institution capable of resisting Hezbollah.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 01-02/2019
US releases $105m of withheld aid to Lebanon’s armed forces/Joyce Karam/The National/December 02/2019
In Death and Life, Lebanese Woman Shows Religious Law Fight/Associated Press/Naharnet/December 02/2019
Will Hezbollah survive the Lebanese revolution/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 02/2019
US’ Lebanon policy should not be guided by Israeli perspective/Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib/Arab News/December 02/2019

US releases $105m of withheld aid to Lebanon’s armed forces
Joyce Karam/The National/December 02/2019
A senior US official confirmed the news
The Trump administration told Congress on Monday that it has released the $105 million in annual aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which had been withheld after a White House request. “The United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to secure Lebanon’s borders, defend its sovereignty and preserve its stability,” a US State Department official said. The official said the armed forces was the only legitimate defence arm of the government of Lebanon. Last month it was reported that the Trump administration was withholding the amount and had informed Congress.
There was no official explanation given for the hold, which some officials attributed privately to “bureaucratic measures”.On Monday, congressional staffers confirmed the release of the aid and said there had been no delay in any deliveries. Since 2005, the US has provided $2.29bn in military assistance to Lebanon. A US defence official also confirmed the continuity of the Train and Equip aid programme for the Lebanese forces. “There is no change to Section 333 assistance at this time,” a Pentagon official told The National.
Hanin Ghaddar, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, attributed the release of the aid to pressure from Congress, the State Department and the Pentagon, against what was seen as a White House push to freeze the aid. Ms Ghaddar said there was also “a general realisation in Washington that this is the worst time to hold the aid”. US Senator Chris Murphy visited Lebanon last week and heavily criticised the administration for the aid freeze, calling it “the dumbest thing we could do to weaken Hezbollah”.
Ms Ghaddar said: “Despite violations of the military intelligence [against the armed forces], it has been generally doing a great job at protecting the protesters and challenging Hezbollah’s plans.” Lebanon has been swept with anti-corruption protests since mid-October, which have toppled the government of Saad Hariri and have been met with opposition from Hezbollah. Firas Maksad, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said the release of aid was a boost to the armed forces at a critical time. “The military, with a good but imperfect record of dealing with peaceful protesters, has been resisting significant pressure from Hezbollah to forcefully reopen major highways and stand aside as its supporters attack the demonstrators,” Mr Maksad told The National. “Despite its shortcomings and much room for improvement, the US aid to the Lebanese army remains key for maintaining some US leverage in Beirut and preventing near total Iranian dominance.” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Lebanese army and security services “to continue to ensure the rights and safety of the protesters”.Washington’s ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, is preparing to leave her post and the Trump administration has nominated career diplomat Dorothy Shea for the position.

Aoun meets President of Beirut Bar Association: The Movement has removed a lot of red lines
NNA/December 02/2019
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Monday affirmed that “We all want reform, despite the obstacles in front of the course of events”, saying that the “Movement” came today to “Break a lot of reserves and remove a lot of red lines, and you will witness what satisfies you, and the Lebanese people, in the next stage”.
“We are not confronting the corrupt people in the Government or who were in it only, but the protection of a society for them because those who are affected do not complain, but only speak in salons. We cannot prosecute people for corruption without evidence, and we want the people to resist with us,” President Aoun said.
In addition, the President stressed the need to prosecute those who negatively promote national currency in accordance with the laws, pointing to the existence of some problems in the judicial laws, which lead to delay the course of lawsuits and must be amended.
President Aoun’s stances came during his meeting with the President of the Lebanese Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, who was accompanied by former Captains, and members of the retirement committee.
At the outset of the meeting, Captain Khalaf, delivered the following speech:
“On November 17, the General Assembly of the Bar Association took us to the responsibility and honor to serve it, and today we are in the traditional visit to your esteemed office. It is a matter of joy and pride, not coincidence, that the percentage of the Bar Association, which was founded in 1919 coincides with the percentage of the State of Greater Lebanon, which was announced in 1920. Indeed, it was the Bar Association that was the first tributary of the men of the state at the time. Today, I am delighted to be accompanied, along with the dear members of the Bar Association and the Committee of the Retirement Fund, by Captains who have been in charge for nearly 40 years. These are among the followers of the great men, the fathers of the profession, on whose sleeves the glory of the law is built in Lebanon.
Mr. President, we come to you today, while you are in your inclusive position as the custodian of all Lebanese, entrusted with the maintenance of the Constitution and the application of laws, the guarantor of the constitutional institutions. I am deeply impressed by the interest that the Lebanese people have shown in the Bar Associations elections, this year, and with the sincere sentiments expressed by the Lebanese people in general, and the younger generation in particular. Today, electoral competition is over and union brings us together.
Mr. President, my conviction is that the Bar is the crane of a homeland. It is the crane of a homeland, because it is keen to support the state, the state of law and regulations. It is the crane of a homeland, because it is also keen to regularize the work of constitutional institutions, the essence of democratic work and the secret of its existence.
It is the crane of a homeland since lawyers only adapt with the rule of law, and combine themselves with it.
It is the crane of a homeland, along with an independent, effective, impartial, scholarly, fair, anti-corruptive, and accountable judicial authority. In any case, the Bar Association is the natural avant-garde campaign for the independence and justice of the judiciary.
It is the crane of a homeland, because justice is not without lawyers.
It is the crane of a homeland, because it feels the pain of the people and knows their worries and cries. It is the crane of a homeland, because it is the first defender of public freedoms and human rights, whatever the circumstances
It is a crane of a homeland, because it is the natural refuge for every oppressed.
Mr. President, the Lawyers Syndicate knows that Lebanon today, in the difficult circumstances imposed by the financial, economic and social crisis, needs an effective, rational, and salivary approach to keep up with the people who have peacefully emerged in all its categories, in all its ages, and in all regions, showing the strength of its faith, its solid will and its commitment to the homeland and to life. It is a people created by its history, and individuality, capable of changing the bitter reality, lying on the forehead and creating a process of renewal that does not stop or collapse. It is one of the greatest roles of the Bar Association to erase the distortions of hatred and distort on the face of this homeland, and to restore its true face, the face of love, tolerance and respect, the face of good and beauty, the face of freedom and joy.
Mr. President, maybe someone would ask: What can we do? and why?
I answer what Volney said more than two hundred and fifty years ago, who was amazed by the Lebanese peoples’ cultural and economic progress. Volney said: “How can we explain such prosperity in such a narrow land? After contemplation and reflection, I find no reason except the ray of freedom that shines there”. Mr. President, there is no fear of the freedom of this people, no fear of its rightful demands, no fear of its uprising, which comes from the womb of the wombs. And at all, there is no fear of renewed powers, today before tomorrow, to consolidate our democratic system.
The Bar Association is committed to the Constitution and constitutional institutions and its symbolism. Its first concern is to insert democracy into these institutions, starting with filling the vacuum within the procedural authority, in accordance with the constitutional mechanisms and demands of the people, the source of all powers.
Mr. President, the Bar Association has the will, determination, ability and courage to keep up with those concerned, at the right time and in the appropriate means, to fortify the homeland and protect the state in accordance with the hopes of the people. It is well aware of the accuracy of its role in being a crane of the homeland.
In turn, President Aoun responded by welcoming the President of the Bar Association and the accompanying delegation, pointing to the great appreciation he holds for the Association because “There is no judiciary in the absence of a lawyer who is the third pillar in justice after the Public Prosecution and the judiciary.””It is important that these three pillars are far from corruption, which has become a common disease in Lebanon,” the President added.
The President of the Republic said: “The movement has come today to break a lot of reserves and remove a lot of red lines, and you will see in the next stage what satisfies you and all the Lebanese”.
“We have made three appeals to those in charge of the Movement for dialogue, and to identify the demands accurately to help resolve things. The answer was that no one has the character to talk to us” President Aoun said.
The President added that “We are not only confronting corrupt people in the Government or those who were in power, because this is commonplace, but we are confronted with the protection of society for them, because those who are harmed do not complain but speak in salons. Can we prosecute people for corruption without evidence? No, we can’t. We want people to resist with us. Sometimes there are those who do not complain because they are benefitting from the situation, and there are some who share the benefit with the employee, through tax manipulation. This is an important kind of corruption. There is also legal corruption, such as when a piece of land is sold and registered with the notary more than once without paying the tax. For this I tell you objection alone is not enough”.
President Aoun then touched on the issue of freedoms in Lebanon and considered that it had reached anarchy. Noting that there are no journalists in prison because they are guaranteed freedom of expression.
“They are exposed to us on social media, and no one is exposed to them. But the freedom that we defended exceeded its limits, after insult became part of the freedom of the media, which is unacceptable. Lawyers can help control public morals”.
Regarding the current financial and economic crisis, the President pointed out that it has grown considerably as a result of accumulation of tens of years, explaining that he warned of the explosion on more than one occasion.
“I talked a lot about corruption, and the most important thing I mentioned, on this subject, was on the 14th of May this year, in a speech at the “Iftar” of Ramadan, in the presence of all state activities. I pointed out, at that time, that Lebanese rejection of taxes reflects mistrust in the state, and warned that the voice of the people will rise one day rejecting the fait accompli” President Aoun said. The President saw that rumor defeats truth today, and pointed to the existence of a large number of laws which are not implemented, including what has been issued since 1943 related to bad promotion of the national currency, and those who do should be prosecuted.
President Aoun pointed out that there are some problems in judicial laws that lead to delaying the course of calls, and must be amended, such as the issue of submitting defenses more than six times, the delay in the holding of hearings, and the accumulation of cases. “I hope that we will help together to correct our society from the diseases it suffers from,” the President concluded.

Citizen kidnapped in West Bekaa
NNA/December 02/2019
Masked gunmen in a dark-glass Jeep Cherokee without a license plate number on Monday abducted a citizen from the town of Kamed al-Louz in the western Bekaa, as he was driving a pickup truck on Jabal al-Bireh, Kamed al-Louz road to inspect a construction site of his. Meanwhile, the security forces have kicked off their investigations to unveil the identity of the kidnappers.

Rahi, UN’s Kubis tackle current situation
NNA/December 02/2019
Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, received this Monday in Bkirki the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, with whom he discussed the current situation in the country.

Aoun Promises Measures that Will ‘Satisfy All Lebanese’
Naharnet/December 02/2019
President Michel Aoun on Monday noted that the protest movement that has been sweeping the country since Oct. 17 has “breached a lot of (sectarian) protectorates and eliminated a lot of red lines.”“In the coming period, you will witness things that will satisfy you and all Lebanese,” Aoun told a delegation from the Beirut Bar Association led by its newly-elected chief Melhem Khalaf – a prominent civil society figure who is backed by the protest movement. “We are not only being impeded by the corrupts who are in power, or those of them who were in power, because this has become familiar, but we are also being impeded by the protection they are receiving from society,” the president added. Lamenting that “a large number of laws are not being implemented, including some that have been in place since 1943,” Aoun called for prosecuting those who “talk negatively about the national currency.”

Suicide of Unemployed Man Strikes a Chord in Crisis-Hit Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 02/2019
A suicide in Lebanon committed over a small debt sparked a social media outcry in the protest-hit country, where weeks of political and economic turmoil have raised alarm. Naji Fliti, a 40-year-old father of two, committed suicide outside his home in the eastern border town of Arsal on Sunday because he could not pay outstanding medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife, his relative told AFP on Monday. The death resonated with many on social media, who blamed the country’s under-fire political class for failing to address a months-long economic downturn that has resulted in inflation, swelling unemployment and fears of a currency devaluation. “He is a victim of this regime, of this political class and their financial and monetary policies,” Doumit Azzi Draiby, an activist, said on Twitter. An unprecedented anti-government protest movement has gripped Lebanon since October 17, fueled in part by deteriorating living conditions.
The World Bank has warned of an impending recession that may see the number of people living in poverty climb from a third to half of the population. Unemployment, already above 30 percent for young people, would also go up, it said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s cabinet resigned two weeks into the protest movement, bowing to popular pressure. But the country’s deeply divided political class has yet to form a new cabinet, frustrating demonstrators who have remained mobilized. Public fury was fueled further following Fliti’s death. “Our anger is as strong as our determination to change this deadly and corrupt state,” Ghassan Moukheiber, a former lawmaker, said on Twitter, attaching a picture of the deceased. Fliti, a former stone quarry worker, had been unemployed for the past two months because of a crunch in demand for one of the town’s main exports, his cousin Hussein told AFP on Monday. “He is a victim of the economic situation,” Hussein said. “The blame is squarely on the corrupt political class that brought us here.”

Bustani Delays Gasoline Tenders to ‘Enable More Competition’
Naharnet/December 02/2019
Caretaker Minister of Energy Nada Bustani on Monday postponed a fuel tender to import gasoline by one week “to pave way for more competition.”Bustani was set to publicly open bids from private fuel companies on Monday following the strike of gas station owners last week that paralyzed the country.
The Ministry “received two gas tenders and two requests to delay the tender for one week until next Monday. This way, we would allow more competition,” said Bustani in remarks she made in a press conference. The Ministry “initiated the tender for fuel imports in a bid to control prices from rising and avoid fuel shortages,” she said. She urged private companies to step forward and submit their documents before next week “for better competition and better prices.” Knowing that around 14 companies submitted their documents to partake in the tender, she said: “In the last 48 hours pressure was exerted on (some) companies. Having only two companies does not mean the tender failed,” she added. The Ministry “decided to enter the competition after the fuel crisis. We decided to get involved when the current oil companies said they were incapable of opening letters of credit (in dollars) from the bank,” to import fuel.
Lebanon’s fuel crisis emerged last week against the background of a shortage in dollars. The Lebanese pound is pegged at around 1,500 pounds to the dollar, and both are used interchangeably in everyday transactions. But banks in Lebanon have been rationing dollar withdrawals, forcing those in need to resort to money-changers and pushing the unofficial exchange rate above 2,000 pounds to the greenback. The central bank last month said it would help fuel importers with access to the dollar at the lower official exchange rate. But petrol stations say they are making losses because they are forced to buy dollars at the higher rate to pay importers demanding the foreign currency. The government stepped down on October 29, less than two weeks after the October 17 demonstrations erupted, but the country’s deeply divided political parties have failed to form a new one.

Oil Syndicates Agree to Share Losses Resulting from Dollar Shortage
Naharnet/December 02/2019
Caretaker Energy Minister Nada Bustani on Monday announced that all oil sector syndicates have agreed to share losses resulting from the country’s dollar shortage crisis. After a meeting with the heads of the syndicates, Bustani said each stakeholder will contribute a certain share.
The minister however noted that the contributed shares will not be sufficient to cover the entire exchange rate losses. “The prices schedule will be issued on Wednesday,” Bustani said. “I will not allow the credit mechanism that the central bank has imposed on gas station owners to be turned into a burden on citizens. The burdens will be distributed on the syndicates so that citizens don’t bear them,” the minister added. Gas station owners had staged a strike on Friday, bringing the country to a standstill and drawing angry reactions from citizens, especially taxi drivers and delivery workers. 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 been grappling with widespread anti-government protests since October 17, a free-falling economy, and an escalating liquidity crisis. The dollar exchange rate in the parallel market has shot up from the pegged rate of 1,507 pounds to the greenback to around 2,250.Banks have meanwhile imposed restrictions on withdrawals and transfers.

Bteish Rejects Calls for Hiking Bread Price
Naharnet/December 02/2019
Caretaker Economy Minister Mansour Bteish on Monday reiterated his rejection of any increase in the price of bread amid the economic and financial crises in the country. Bteish’s stance came in two separate meetings with delegations from the association of mill owners and the association of bakery owners. During the meeting, bakery owners demanded “hiking the price or slashing the weight” of the standard pack of Lebanese pita bread. Bteish rejected the demand and briefed the delegation on an agreement he reached with mill owners under which they would sell wheat to bakeries for the price of LBP 565,000 per ton. The minister also cited a study conducted by the Directorate General of Grain and Sugar Beet and international sides. Weeks ago, the central bank said it would facilitate access to dollars for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine. The Lebanese pound has been pegged to the greenback at around 1,500 for two decades and the currencies are used interchangeably in daily life. But amid a deepening economic crisis, banks have gradually been reducing access to dollars in recent months, forcing importers to resort to money changers offering a higher exchange rate and sparking price hikes. On the open market, the dollar has been selling for more than 2,000 pounds.

Austerity budget to be re-upped in 2020
Annahar Staff/December 02/ 2019
MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the measures would decrease the spending of all institutions except those “concerned with social or health care.”
BEIRUT: Lebanon will re-up its austerity budget in 2020 with the aim of reducing the deficit by another LBP 453 billion according to the head of Parliament Finance and Budget Committee. MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the measures would decrease the spending of all institutions except those “concerned with social or health care.” “All unexplained spending and compensations and aid for organizations that are not concerned with social and health care must be crossed out or have a big part of it eliminated,” he said. New taxes or cuts to public sector wages will not be introduced, he said. The committee has been holding around the clock meetings to complete the 2020 budget and refer it back to parliament before the constitutional deadline. The draft budget also includes the series of measures approved by the Cabinet before caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his resignation.
A reduction in electricity subsidies, minister wage cuts and other reforms were agreed hours after nationwide protests gripped Lebanon. On paper. the budget deficit was also reduced to 0.6 percent of GDP, down from 11.1 percent in 2018.
Meanwhile, caretaker Energy Minister Nada Boustani extended a tender to import 150,000 tons of gasoline by week to “allow for more competition.”
Only two companies submitted offers for the tender, Boustrani said, despite being received by another 12. On Saturday, owners of gas stations in Lebanon suspended a one-day strike that paralyzed the country and raised fears over a possible shortage of fuel.  Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicates of Gas Station Owners, announced suspending the strike “after holding contacts with the Energy Ministry,” said LBCI. The tender, offered by the state, looks to import that amount of gasoline in an attempt to avert any fuel shortages and “ensure that prices do not rise for Lebanese consumers,” Boustani said.
Lebanon has been rocked by nationwide protests for the better part of a month, kicked off initially by a proposed WhatsApp tax. Demonstrators have been decrying increased living costs and high unemployment, while a shortage in dollar liquidity has raised fears of a possible default.
Speaking on Monday, President Michel Aoun on Monday praised certain aspects of the movement, saying that protestors had “breached a lot of (sectarian) protectorates and eliminated a lot of red lines.”“In the coming period, you will witness things that will satisfy you and all Lebanese,” Aoun told a delegation from the Beirut Bar Association led by its newly-elected chief Melhem Khalaf – a prominent civil society figure who managed to defeat the establishment’s candidates last month. “We are not only being impeded by the corrupts who are in power, or those of them who were in power, because this has become familiar, but we are also being impeded by the protection they are receiving from society,” the president added.

Teachers Strike after Private Schools Cut Salaries
Naharnet/December 02/2019
A number of private school teachers went on strike Monday to protest cuts to their salaries, amid a dire economic and financial crisis in the country. LBCI television said the teachers stopped teaching after schools withheld portions of their salaries. “Each teacher was paid 1 million Lebanese liras and was promised to get paid when parents pay tuition installments,” LBCI said. Lebanon has been grappling with widespread anti-government protests since October 17, a free-falling economy, and an escalating liquidity crisis. The dollar exchange rate in the parallel market has shot up from the pegged rate of 1,507 pounds to the greenback to around 2,250.Banks have meanwhile imposed restrictions on withdrawals and transfers.

Lebanon Energy Ministry Delays Petrol Tender One Week to Enable ‘Competition’
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 December, 2019
Lebanon’s energy ministry delayed a fuel tender by one week on Monday to allow for more competition as it seeks to stave off supply shortages during the worst economic crisis in decades. The ministry is trialing a state tender for 150,000 tons of 95 octane gasoline and has received offers from two companies.
The tender, which aims to supply around 10% of the country’s needs, is a first in import-dependent Lebanon, where private companies usually procure fuel. Gas stations suspended a strike on Friday to hold talks with authorities, after shutting down across the country and complaining of losses from buying dollars on the black market. Caretaker Energy Minister Nada Boustani has said private buyers recently sought to hike petrol pump prices to compensate for the rising cost of dollars on the parallel market, now the main source of hard currency. The country’s economic crisis has been long in the making and now come to a head. The Lebanese pound has slumped as much as 40% below the official dollar peg rate in recent days on the parallel market and a hard currency crunch has left many importers unable to bring in goods, forcing up prices. Since protests erupted on Oct. 17 and with political gridlock over forming a new government, pressure has piled on the financial system. Banks have curbed US dollar withdrawals and blocked nearly all transfers abroad. The central bank said in September it would prioritize foreign currency reserves for fuel, medicine, and wheat, though buyers must still supply 15% of their dollar needs. Fuel imports had since resumed, but traders were asking for 100% of the bill in US dollars to keep buying.Boustani said on Monday she hoped the central bank would re-evaluate its plan to deal with the ministry under the same mechanism that covers 85% of the dollar need for importing fuel, rather than all of it. “We took the decision (to postpone) to guarantee more competition and get the best prices for the Lebanese state,” she told a press conference.

New Lebanese Government Looming on the Horizon
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 2 December, 2019
Several sources confirmed on Sunday that Lebanon is close this week to reaching a solution to the cabinet crisis. Sources from al-Mustaqbal and Amal movements and the Free Patriotic Movement predicted that the deadlock could be solved this week. Development and Liberation Parliamentary Bloc Member MP Anwar el-Khalil anticipated the formation of the new government this week, saying it would reflect the aspirations of citizens and anti-government protesters. “There’s indication that the naming of a PM will be followed by the formation process. If this was true, then the Lebanese should expect the good news that they have been awaiting for,” he said. “We hope that this government will meet the expectations of the people and protesters,” he added. For his part, FPM deputy Ibrahim Kanaan said if intentions are true the cabinet would be formed this week. “The PM-designate is required to swiftly form a government quickly,” the deputy told a local radio station. “President Michel Aoun is trying within his constitutional powers to secure the conditions for this rapid formation.”Amid those assertions, Hezbollah deputy Mohammed Raad said Sunday that the Lebanese crisis would only be solved after the formation of a “national unity government based on the Taef Accord.”“If not the case, the country will remain ruled by a caretaker government. We will push ministers to continue their work and we will punish those who will not,” he said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 amid nationwide protests accusing the political elite of corruption and mismanagement of the economy.

Army Stops Migrant Boat Carrying 34 Syrian Refugees
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 02/2019
Lebanon’s army on Sunday said it stopped a boat carrying 34 Syrian refugees who were trying to leave the protest-hit country. It stopped the boat near the coast of the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday, it said in a statement. The army said it arrested a Lebanese citizen who was trying to smuggle them out of the country, adding that there were five Lebanese on board the vessel. The boat’s final destination was not immediately clear. Lebanon, a small Mediterranean country of some 4.5 million people, says it hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Those escaping Lebanon by boat have often tried to cross into Europe through Turkey or Cyprus, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) away. In October, Lebanon said it agreed to work with Cyprus to prevent migrants from reaching its shores. Lebanon has been rocked by unprecedented anti-government protests since October 17. The government resigned two weeks after demonstrations started, bowing to popular pressure. The country’s deeply divided political parties have yet to form a new one.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 02-03/2019
US releases $105m of withheld aid to Lebanon’s armed forces/Joyce Karam/The National/December 02/2019
In Death and Life, Lebanese Woman Shows Religious Law Fight/Associated Press/Naharnet/December 02/2019
Will Hezbollah survive the Lebanese revolution/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 02/2019
US’ Lebanon policy should not be guided by Israeli perspective/Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib/Arab News/December 02/2019

In Death and Life, Lebanese Woman Shows Religious Law Fight
Associated Press/Naharnet/December 02/2019
Nadyn Jouny’s sister taped up two messages in her memory inside a closet at the family home — one of motherly love tinged with pain, another of defiance.
The first Jouny wrote to her 9-year-old son on the one day a week she was allowed to see him under a custody ruling by a Shiite religious court. “Peace be upon the holy nights when you fall asleep near me,” she wrote. “Peace be upon the trace of love painted on your face and features … This is my night.”
That night, Oct. 4, would be her last with her son. Two days later, Jouny was killed in a car accident at age 29. The second message, written by a relative, has a photo of a smiling Jouny with her son’s arms wrapped around her neck. “They think your voice has disappeared. Nadyn, we are your voice; get some rest…we will fight for you,” it declares. In death as in life, Jouny — affectionately called Om Karam, Arabic for “mother of Karam” — has showcased the struggles of Lebanese women who are battling laws that give religious courts say over many aspects of their lives. Lebanon allows its many religious sects to govern personal status issues in their communities, resulting in 15 different sets of laws over such things as rules for marriage, divorce and custody and visitation of children. In cases of divorce for Shiite Muslims like Jouny, the Shiite religious courts usually grant custody of children to the fathers at age two for sons and age seven for daughters. Jouny waged a campaign — online and in street protests — against the laws ever since she lost custody of her son and was given visitation rights of only 24 hours a week.
Supporters of the system say it reflects the country’s plurality of faiths. Critics say it discriminates against women of all faiths and means women are treated differently based on their sect. For example, divorced Sunni mothers can keep sons and daughters until age 12.
“Women have really borne the brunt of the sectarian system of governance and we see that in the personal status laws,” said Lama Fakih, Human Rights Watch Beirut office director. “These are egregious abuses that are resulting in violence against women, that are resulting in outcomes where children are not being taken care of by the parent that is most suited to take care of the child, where families are really not well served.”
Multiple solutions and demands have been put forward: reform or oversight of the religious courts, an option of a civil system for those who don’t want to use religious courts, or a unified civil personal status law for all.
Protests convulsing Lebanon for more than a month have given a new platform for those demanding change. The protests erupted over proposed new taxes and escalated into calls for the removal of Lebanon’s entire political elite and its sectarian power-sharing system.
Zoya Rouhana of the feminist organization KAFA said the myriad of personal status laws is intertwined with sectarian politics.
“Unfortunately, this renaissance that we’ve witnessed and seen on the streets lately through the leadership of women … is not reflected in the laws,” she told a small group who had gathered to discuss a KAFA-proposed draft for a civil personal status law.
Jouny died just before the current protests. But her face or name have at times appeared on protesters’ signs and banners. “The beautiful revolutionary … Your soul is present here with us,” read one. At a memorial marking 40 days since her death, candles spelling out her name in Arabic lit up a main Beirut protest square. “We cannot delay issues of women’s rights … Death does not wait,” read a pin on her sister Nada’s chest. Badia Fahs, a 49-year-old who has turned out for the current round of protests, first met Jouny at a protest years ago. She remembers a young woman, her hair down, wearing — Fahs thought disapprovingly — too much red lipstick. Jouny was chanting, “Corruption, corruption, it’s underneath the turbans,” a controversial slogan she became known for, referring to allegations against some religious judges.
Fahs, who covers her hair with a scarf, said she was so amazed she broke into tears. “What a way to shatter taboos. I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Even our men cannot talk like that.”
“I would look at her and think here’s this young girl who feels like she can change the world and she is not afraid — not of a sect or of clerics … What am I lacking?” Fahs said.
Lawyer Fadia Hamzeh said she often hears criticism from her Shiite community that she is scandalizing them. She founded a Facebook page called “Revolution of a Shiite woman” to educate women about their rights in the Shiite courts, share their stories and let them know that “if you don’t rebel, you won’t get your rights.””We opened the door. Most families are suffering from tragedies. I didn’t create this,” she said. “We must offer an example for other sects because just like we have injustices in religious courts, other sects do too.”
Hamzeh was inspired by the ordeal of her sister, who made news in 2016 when she was arrested and held for a few days over her refusal to turn over her son to his father. Jouny, she said, was one of the people who helped her sister’s case become public and led chants in a march to the police station where she was taken. “Where are we headed when our mothers die feeling oppressed and when we are depriving our children of their mothers when they’re still alive?” she said.
Sheikh Moussa al-Sammoury, a judge who sits on one of the Shiite courts, said, “Religious matters are not subject to street pressure. The issue has to do with God’s satisfaction; God wants this or doesn’t want this,” adding, “The judge is not acting on a whim or on what he wants.”
But, he said, he and his fellow judges have room to consider the children’s best interest on a case-by-case basis. “If he’s a bad father and is not to be trusted, we don’t award him custody,” he said.
Ahmad Taleb, a Shiite cleric, said the solution is to reform the rules of religious courts, noting that there is more than one opinion on the custody issue in Shiite jurisprudence. He supports raising the maternal custody age to at least seven while allowing judges to leave the kids with the mother longer when it’s in their best interest. “Religion in its essence is mercy, not plastic texts,” he said. “People who are religiously devout, and I am one of them, demand change.” He said failing to provide solutions within the religious context could drive people to look elsewhere. “Today in Lebanon, there are complaints about religious courts of all sects, Muslim and Christian.”
Zeina Ibrahim, who founded a campaign to raise the age of maternal custody, said she supports the idea of a unified civil law for personal status but believes it is a “far dream.” A more attainable goal, she said, is to raise the age to seven for boys and nine for girls.
She remembered Jouny, with whom she worked for years, as “extremely enthusiastic” and extremely “hurt.” In many of her photos, Jouny flashes a wide, seemingly carefree smile that belies the anguish her family says she kept private. “She would tell me, ‘Mama, I’m burning from the inside. My son is getting older and I know nothing about him,'” her mother Majida said. Married before she turned 19, Jouny’s relations with her husband and in-laws soured early on. There was violence. Her sisters said they saw bruises. One day after a fight with her husband, she tried to leave only to have her husband and his mother yank Karam away, her family said. Her activism on the custody issue was born.
“She considered her cause one for all women,” her father said. Her family said she advocated for many causes, including helping street children and refugees and campaigning against sexual harassment and the marriage of minors.
In the Beirut square where Jouny’s family and friends gathered to commemorate her death, Zainab Kawtharani, 25, lit a candle. “Your cause is safe with us. We will continue till the end,” she said she wanted to tell Jouny.
She then clutched a sign: “Your voice has been and will continue to be a revolution, Nadyn.”

Will Hezbollah survive the Lebanese revolution?

Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/December 02/2019
Contrary to Hezbollah’s aspirations, neither missiles nor funds can reverse the revolution that has unfolded nor can violence address the economic crisis at hand.)
Over 40 days have elapsed since the start of the Lebanese revolution, October 17, and many uncertainties and challenges still face the people of Lebanon.
There is the bleak economic outlook. Equally menacing perhaps is the predicament of Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, which declared early on that the Lebanese revolution and anyone participating in it were part of an American and Western conspiracy that uses the streets to encircle and ultimately neutralise the so-called “axis of resistance.”
Unquestionably, Hezbollah is right to dread the revolution, as it is a direct blow to the sectarian and clientelist system that allowed it to abduct the Lebanese state and use it as a cover to legitimise its Iranian arsenal and be able to deploy across the region in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond.
Hezbollah is believed to have instigated the initial wave of protests against the Hariri government in the first few days of the revolution in an attempt to undermine and rein in Prime Minister Saad Hariri and force him to take a firmer position against the US sanctions.
Hezbollah, however, underestimated the popular rage that has been brewing within the public, which felt that the corrupt governance system coupled with Hezbollah’s infinite regional ambitions made the chances of Lebanon’s economic recovery virtually impossible.
Consequently, what was supposed to be a simple government shakedown by Hezbollah sprouted an existential threat to both the political class and Hezbollah.
In his recurrent TV appearances since the start of the US sanctions against Iran, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah, never misses the chance to declare that his organisation is unaffected by the revolution or by the sanctions, affirming that “Hezbollah is stronger than ever and that they [Hezbollah] are able to make payroll.”
Nasrallah’s “business as usual” mentality, however, reveals the predicament that Iran’s militias are facing across the region as the popular uprisings in the streets of Lebanon, Iraq and Iran place them and their budgets as well as their arms under scrutiny. They stand accused of protecting as well as partaking in the corruption of these crumpling states.
Hezbollah might indeed be able to make payroll and keep its fighters and bureaucrats orderly for a few months but it certainly cannot cater to the vast social services network it operates, simply because this network relies on the Lebanese government and its subsidies to keep its clientelist network operative.
More importantly, the Lebanese revolution does not only threaten Hezbollah’s Lebanese operation but also has direct economic implications on Syria’s Assad regime, which for years has been using the Lebanese banks as well as Hezbollah’s dark channels to escape sanctions, especially getting access to hard currency, which, in turn, caused the rush on US dollars a few months ago.
The ability of Hezbollah to wreak havoc and destruction is clear, be it in Syria or throughout the region but this Iranian proxy, or any other Iranian entity for that matter, has never shown any ability to deploy any model of soft power nor to lead any sustainable efforts to develop any of the economies it feasts on. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran are cases in point.
The Lebanese revolution has so far wisely shied away from directly challenging the legitimacy of Hezbollah weapons. Instead, the Lebanese are demanding better services, good governance, judicial reforms and rule of law — all items that are more dangerous and deadly to Hezbollah than any potential Israeli military campaign.
Both as a militia and as an ideology, Hezbollah stands as the antithesis of the Lebanese revolution. While Hezbollah strives on sectarianism and might, the revolution celebrates diversity and unity and abhors violence.
While Hezbollah might have prepared itself for a doomsday scenario and stocked up on weapons and, more importantly, dollars to soldier through the rough times ahead and to fight and defeat the popular protests which, it sees as directly targeting it, this might not be enough for Hezbollah to survive the revolution.
Contrary to Hezbollah’s aspirations, neither missiles nor funds can reverse the revolution that has unfolded nor can violence address the economic crisis at hand. But what is certain is that time is not on the side of Hezbollah nor Iran, which time and again have proven that they are no different from the tyrants that they claim to oppose.

US’ Lebanon policy should not be guided by Israeli perspective
Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib/Arab News/December 02/2019
Israel, which has an important voice in Washington, is constantly trying to influence US policy toward Lebanon. The main problem is that Israel looks at its northern neighbor only in terms of Hezbollah. However, Lebanon is much more than that and this misguided view will lead to further instability, as it will erode US influence inside the country.
Unfortunately, Israel seeks to stop any aid to Lebanon as it is short-sighted by the view that the nation is a breeding ground for Hezbollah and that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) provide cover for the armed group. However, US experts on Lebanon know this is not the case and that the LAF are actually the only counterbalance to Hezbollah. Any weakening of the army will play into the hands of the Shiite Hezbollah militia, Sunni militants, Iran and Russia. The pro-Israel groups try to make any US aid to Lebanon conditional on a confrontation between the LAF and Hezbollah. However, experts on Lebanon like former US Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman know that such a precondition is a recipe for civil war. He clarified this point during his testimony to the House Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International Terrorism last month.
Pro-Israel think tanks constantly promote the idea that the LAF are “colluding” with Hezbollah. Tony Badran, the Lebanon-born and raised scholar, and Jonathan Schanzer published an article in Mosaic, the pro-Israel outlet, saying that the LAF work “hand in hand” with Hezbollah. Building on this narrative, Israel has tried to block a $105 million State Department aid package to the LAF. Since June, Israel’s allies in the US, including Christian evangelicals who are the core supporters of President Donald Trump, have lobbied Congress and the National Security Council to stop the aid to Lebanon. Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill over the summer requiring the army to disarm Hezbollah before the aid is released. When protests erupted in Lebanon in October and a few sporadic clashes occurred between protesters and members of the army, Cruz found it a good opportunity to renew his pitch.
However, the State Department and the Pentagon are well aware of the importance of the LAF. Less than two weeks after the White House announced that the military aid had been frozen, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Schenker told reporters in Jerusalem that an Israeli request to withhold aid to the LAF had been rejected. “We consider the funding to the LAF to be a good investment,” he said. Schenker’s statement coincided with the vision of Feltman, who said in his testimony that, when dealing with Lebanon and its armed forces, the US should think long term. This view contradicts the Israeli perspective that pushes for the US to deal with the armed forces in a transactional and conditional manner. Tel Aviv also views the current difficult situation in Lebanon and the LAF’s need for external support as an opportunity to pressure the armed forces to confront Hezbollah.
At the same hearing as Feltman, Hanin Ghaddar, Friedmann Visiting Fellow at the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said in her recommendation that the LAF had “vacated” Shiite towns and areas. She added that the LAF should be present in those areas to allow the Shiite protesters to speak up against Hezbollah. However, the situation is very delicate and, in this moment of high tension, such a confrontation would be a recipe for disaster. She also accused the military intelligence of human rights violations and recommended that they be deprived of the overall aid. Nevertheless, such a policy would not allow the armed forces to operate smoothly as one organization and could create a fracture that would ultimately benefit Hezbollah.
Pro-Israel think tanks constantly promote the idea that the LAF are ‘colluding’ with Hezbollah.
The US State Department, Congress and the Pentagon all have seasoned experts in regional politics who realize that the LAF are the only hope for Lebanon. The army has been protecting protesters. In more than 40 days of demonstrations, only one protester has been killed, whereas in countries like Iraq and Iran hundreds of peaceful protesters have been targeted and killed by the army and security forces. Those numbers show that the Lebanese army has been respecting citizens’ right to protest peacefully. It has also been protecting them from belligerent factions who are trying to break the demonstrations by force.
However, the US policy depends on Trump’s whims. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Lebanon on the occasion of its independence day on Nov. 22, he did not offer any clarification on the release of the aid. This transactional manner of conducting foreign policy, heavily influenced by the narrow perspective of the domestic pro-Israel interest groups, will not allow the US to build any significant alliance with Lebanon. It will also prevent Washington from building capital with Lebanon’s most important institution, and the only institution that enjoys popular legitimacy — its armed forces.
*Dr. Dania Koleilat Khatib is a specialist in US-Arab relations with a focus on lobbying. She holds a Ph.D. in politics from the University of Exeter and is an affiliated scholar with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view