A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 03- 04/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 48th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For December 03- 04/2019 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 48th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
December 04/2019

Tites For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 03-04/2019
Lebanon’s Iranian Cancerous Occupation and The Required Solutions
Aoun on National Day for Integration of People with Special Needs: Rights of this segment should not be neglected
Aoun Promises ‘Positive Developments’ amid Progress in Govt. Talks
Details of New Government’s Line-Up Emerge
Hariri: I Support Samir Khatib and Technocrats Will Represent Me in Govt.e
Hariri receives Jumblatt, says he supports Khatib’s designation
Woman in Tripoli attempts to set herself on fire over her living conditions
Army Commander chairs meeting of high level steering committee of assistance program to protect land border security
Bassil: Govt. Success More Important than Our Presence in It
Jumblat Says Haggles over Nominee for PM ‘Unconstitutional’
Protesters in Tripoli Block Roads, State and Public Institutions
Hundreds of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Return Home
Protesters Throw Stones at Troops, Injuring Some
Suicide of Unemployed Man Strikes a Chord in Crisis-Hit Lebanon
Syrian Pound Hits New Black Market Low amid Liquidity Crunch in Lebanon
Trump Administration Lifts Hold on Lebanon Security Aid
In Protest-Hit Lebanon, Debate Tents Draw in the Street
Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on December 03-04/2019
Lebanon’s Iranian Cancerous Occupation and The Required Solutions
سرطان الإحتلال الإيراني للبنان والحلول الدولية المطلوبة
Elias Bejjani/December 03/2019
Lebanon’s current problem is the cancerous Hezbollah’s Iranian Occupation that is systematic, and since 1982 has been covertly and overtly devouring Lebanon and everything that is Lebanese in all domains and on all levels.
The Solution is through the UN declaring Lebanon a rogue-failed country and the strict implementation of the three UN Resolutions addressing Lebanon’s
ongoing dilemma of occupation:
The Armistice agreement
The 1559 UN Resolution
The 1701UN Resolution.
All other approaches, no matter what, will only serve the occupying Mullah’s vicious scheme of destroying Lebanon and strengthening its ironic, terrorist grip on the Lebanese.
All Pro-Lebanon’s Freedom demonstrations in any country in the Diaspora that are carried on by the Lebanese MUST call for this only International solution.
Meanwhile, yes, Lebanon and the Lebanese are facing very serious crises, hardships and problems in all life sectors; e.g., poverty, unemployment, corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, politicization of the judiciary, electricity shortage, a scandalous disarray in trash collection, lack of health benefits, education, and numerous social services … and the list goes on and on.
BUT, non of these hardships in any way or at any time will be solved as long as the terrorist Iranian Hezbollah remains occupying the country and terrorizing its people. At the same time, the majority of Lebanese officials, politicians and political parties are actually the enemies of both Lebanon and its citizens.
In this context, President Michael Aoun, His son-in-law, the FM, Jobran Bassil, Amin Gymael and his son Sami, PM, Saad Hariri, Druze leader Walid Jumblat, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese Forces Party leader Samir Geagea, Slieman Frangea and many other politicians, as well
as numerous topnotch clergymen from all denominations are all cut from the same garment of oligarchic, narcissism, trojanism, greed, and feudalism in their mentality and education.
They all, with no sense of patriotism, have succumbed to the Hezbollah’s Iranian savage occupation.
They all and each from his status and based on his capacity and influence, have traded Lebanon’s independence, freedom, decision making process and sovereignty with mere personal power and financial gains.
In reality, they have sold their country to the occupier, Hezbollah, and with no shame have accepted the status of Dhimmitudes, puppets, tools, trumpets, cymbals and mouthpieces for the terrorist occupier. They betrayed, and still betraying, the country and their own people.
In this realm, the Lebanese demonstrators who are loudly shouting the Slogan, “All of them” are 100% right and are righteously witnessing for the truth because all of the above political and official prominent figures are practically mere merchants with numbed consciences.
All Of Them definitely means all of them.
It is worth mentioning that the Lebanese constitution is ideal for the nature of the multi-cultural and multi-religious denominational composition of the mosaic of diversified Lebanese society.
The governing disasters that have been targeting and hitting Lebanon since the early seventies has nothing to do with the great and ideal covenantal (unwritten pact) constitution, but with the foreign occupations and the oligarchic Lebanese corrupted officials and politicians.
My fellow patriotic and God fearing Lebanese from all religious denominations and all walks of life in both Lebanon and the Diaspora, stand tall and steadfast like our cedars. Do not lose faith or give up on hope, and never ever forget that our beloved, country, Lebanon is holy.
Yes, Lebanon is holy and has been blessed by Almighty God since he created man and woman and put them on earth.
Pray for our oppressed and occupied country and that Almighty God shall always guard, protect and defend it through His saints and angels.

Aoun on National Day for Integration of People with Special Needs: Rights of this segment should not be neglected
NNA/December 03/2019
President of the Republic, General Aoun, stressed on the National Day for the Integration of People with Special Needs, that the rights of this segment should not be neglected, but that all efforts should be made to ensure them for their dignity and their natural interaction with the society.
President Aoun stressed his belief in the importance of strengthening frameworks for the integration of people with special needs, especially in the fields of study and work, to benefit of their own energies, and to provide the necessary support for them and their families.
The President said that he is exerting efforts to solve the current crisis, which affects institutions and associations dealing with the affairs of people with special needs, despite the complexities and difficult circumstances in the country, because this file cannot wait for solutions and clearing problems.
On the other hand, Aoun continued his meetings and contacts to address the current political and economic situation and followed up the work of Ministries.
In this framework, President Aoun received the Minister of Displaced Affairs Ghassan Atallah, who said after the meeting: “I visited the President of the Republic to put him in the latest atmosphere concerning the files of the Ministry of Displaced, and to prepare all the final schedules that I committed to according to the plan that we set, as well as to update his excellency on files that were completed in the caretaker period, Especially in the evacuation clause that we have taken upon us, which is completed and its funds are secured by the Council of Ministers”.
“I also put President Aoun in the atmosphere of the rest of the files that were prepared to be ready when securing funds to be paid quickly, as well as the work of the Ministry in general. The meeting was special” Atallah stated.
Asked whether the appropriations of the Ministry of Displacement had been transferred to it, Minister Atallah explained that his ministry is using the funds that were allocated before taking over its responsibilities, “Because the appropriation of the 40 billion, allocated in the 2019 budget, have not yet been transferred from the Ministry of Finance to our ministry’s fund” Atallah said.
President Michel Aoun then received the head of the “Arab Unity Party”, former Minister Wiam Wahhab, and discussed with him the general situation and recent developments. Wahab explained that he had discussed, with the President, the social conditions and the suffering of people from high prices and lack of control of commercial enterprises. He stated that “People are complaining about the greed of politicians and about traders for their livelihood.””President Aoun is in a hurry to start parliamentary consultations, the problem is with the others” Wahhab concluded.
The President met the head of the Association of Banks, Dr. Salim Sfeir, and discussed with him banking and financial affairs. President Aoun met a delegation from “Dialogue and Bridges”, and answered their questions stressing that the coming days will carry positive developments.
The President stressed on the work to find appropriate solutions to various aspects of the crisis, and reiterated the continuation of the fight against corruption and the call for citizens to contribute to the detection of corrupt individuals and manipulators of the livelihood of citizens.
The President focused on the role of the judiciary, after the recent appointments, that will help to hold perpetrators accountable and achieve justice. On the other hand, President Aoun congratulated the Chairperson of the European Commission, Mrs. Ursula von der Leyne, on her election and the confidence she received from the European Parliament, wishing her success in her responsibilities “To preserve the spirit of constructive cooperation between EU countries and their distinctive historical heritage.”
The President expressed Lebanon’s pride in its relations with the European Union, and its efforts to “strengthen partnership with it to achieve the goals we meet around, which are based on the promotion of international peace and development, and to strengthen cooperation in the political, economic, cultural, humanitarian, and other fields”.
President Aoun also received a cable of congratulations on Independence Day from Iranian President, Sheikh Hassan Rouhani, wishing Lebanon further prosperity and pride for the Lebanese. President Rouhani wrote: “I am confident, as before, that the initiatives of your Excellency, officials and the Lebanese people, will result in increased stability, security and progress for your country. The Islamic Republic of Iran, as always, will spare no effort to promote bilateral cooperation, in line with the common interests of the two countries.” The President also sent condolences to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, condoling the death of Royal Highness, Prince Miteb bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Aoun Promises ‘Positive Developments’ amid Progress in Govt. Talks
Naharnet/December 03/2019
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday announced anew that “the coming days will carry positive developments,” as talks to name a new premier reportedly made major progress. Aoun voiced his remarks during a meeting with a delegation from the Dialogue and Bridges group. Al-Jadeed TV meanwhile reported that “an agreement has been reached on the broad lines of the upcoming techno-political government, pending the continuation of the consultations with Samir Khatib, whose nomination is still ongoing until the moment.”And as media reports said Khatib had met with Aoun and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil in Baabda on Tuesday morning, presidential palace sources denied that the meeting took place, saying such a meeting might be held after reaching “an agreement with the rest of politicians.”MTV however insisted that the meeting took place, quoting sources who participated in the talks. And as al-Jadeed said that Bassil is insisting on the energy portfolio and Speaker Nabih Berri is clinging to the finance portfolio, the TV network said Ali Hassan Khalil is expected to be in the new government but this time as a state minister. The interior portfolio will meanwhile go to a technocrat figure close to caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, al-Jadeed said. “The parliamentary consultations will likely be held on Thursday and this is hinging on the outcome of Bassil’s meeting with Khatib,” MTV reported. MTV said General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim had accompanied Khatib to the Baabda Palace where they met with Aoun and Bassil, adding that “an agreement was reached at the end of the talks on holding another meeting between Khatib and Bassil.”“The stance that Bassil will voice after the meeting of the Strong Lebanon bloc today will determine how things will move forward,” MTV said. The TV network added that “Hariri has reportedly said that he is willing to publicly endorse Samir Khatib for the post but only after setting a date for the parliamentary consultations and this is the point of contention.”

Details of New Government’s Line-Up Emerge
Naharnet/December 03/2019
The new government will be techno-political and will consist of 24 ministers – six political figures as state ministers and 18 technocrats and representatives of the protest movement, media reports said on Tuesday evening, as the engineer and businessman Samir Khatib emerged as a consensus candidate for the PM-designate post. “The ministers Ali Hassan Khalil, Mohammed Fneish and Salim Jreissati will certainly return as state ministers in the new government, while Speaker Nabih Berri is clinging to the finance portfolio, PM Saad Hariri is insisting on the interior portfolio and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil is clinging to the energy portfolio,” al-Jadeed TV quoted sources as saying. “Six seats will go to the popular protest movement while two seats will be allocated to the Druze community, and if (Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid) Jumblat refuses to participate, one of the seats will go to the Lebanese Democratic Party while the other will go to the protest movement,” the sources added. As for the Christian share, seven seats will go to the Free Patriotic Movement and President Michel Aoun, a seat will go to the Tashnag Party, a seat to the Marada Movement and three will go to the protest movement, the sources said. “No agreement has been reached on granting the government any extraordinary powers and it will work on devising a new electoral law,” the sources went on to say.

Hariri: I Support Samir Khatib and Technocrats Will Represent Me in Govt.
Naharnet/December 03/2019
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday publicly announced that he endorses the nomination of the engineer and businessman Samir Khatib for the PM-designate post. “I support Samir Khatib but some details remain pending and I will not take part in the government,” Hariri told reporters following a meeting with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat at the Center House. “Everyone is seeking to overcome this difficult stage,” Hariri added. In response to another question, he said that he has not set any conditions and that “the Prime Minister is the one who forms the government.”
Asked whether he will participate in the government, Hariri said: “Not through political figures but through technocrats.”Media reports have said that Hariri will hold a decisive meeting at night Tuesday with the political aides of Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
“Tonight (Ali Hassan) Khalil and (Hussein) al-Khalil will meet with Hariri. If he pledges to them that he will endorse Samir Khatib, the (parliamentary) consultations (to name the PM-designate) will be held within days,” the journalist Salem Zahran, who is close to Hizbullah, tweeted.
“As for (Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid) Jumblat, he has taken a final decision to take part in a techno-political government in which Hizbullah would be represented,” Zahran added. Hizbullah’s al-Manar TV later reported that Hariri will meet with Ali Hassan Khalil and Hussein Khalil to “put the final touches ahead of designating a premier and forming the government.”Political talks to name a premier-designate have reportedly made major progress over the past few hours, amid a reported meeting between Khatib, President Michel Aoun and Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil. Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past. Over the past weeks, politicians failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including Hizbullah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians. It was not clear how the protesters who have been demonstrating against widespread corruption and mismanagement in the country would respond to the possible formation of the government. The frustrated protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government. They have insisted that a new Cabinet be made up of independent figures that have nothing to do with the ruling elite that have been running the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended. On Tuesday evening, a number of protesters staged a sit-in outside Khatib’s residents in Beirut’s Tallet al-Khayyat area to reject his reported nomination for the PM post.

Hariri receives Jumblatt, says he supports Khatib’s designation
NNA/December 03/2019
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri received this evening at the Center House the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, former MP Walid Jumblatt, accompanied by Minister Wael Abou Faour, in the presence of former Minister Ghattas Khoury. The meeting focused on the political developments in the country. Upon leaving the Center House, Jumblatt refused to make any statement. Hariri said in a chat with reporters that he supports the designation of Engineer Samir Khatib for the Premiership, but there are still some details to finalize and everyone is seeking to overcome this difficult stage.
In response to another question, he said that he did not set conditions and that the Prime Minister is the one who forms the government.
Question: Will you participate in the government?
Hariri: Not through political figures but through technocrats.

Woman in Tripoli attempts to set herself on fire over her living conditions
NNA/December 03/2019
A Lebanese woman, identified as Fatima al-Mustafa, from the Tabbaneh area in Tripoli, on Tuesday attempted to set herself on fire at Abdel Hamid Karami Square, due to her simmering living conditions. However, young men from “City Guards” intervened and managed to prevent her from doing so. The young men took her to their Center at the Square. It is to note that Al Mustafa is homeless living in the street with her grandson for 40 days, and suffering from malnutrition and several diseases.

Army Commander chairs meeting of high level steering committee of assistance program to protect land border security
NNA/December 03/2019
Lebanese Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on Tuesday presided over the meeting of the high-level steering committee of the Assistance Program for the protection of the Lebanese land borders, in Yarzeh, in presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, UK Ambassador to Lebanon, Chris Rampling, Canadian Ambassador, Emmanuelle Lamoureux, along with members of the joint work team. Richard and Rampling lauded the significant performance and achievements of the military in controlling the Lebanese border and countering terrorist organizations, and commended the efforts of the joint work team to strengthen the special regiments’ capacities for border protection. The US and UK ambassadors also confirmed their countries’ continued support for the army to carry out its tasks in defense of Lebanon and in preservation of its stability and territorial integrity. Ambassador Lamoureux, for her part, expressed delight in contributing to the success of this project. General Aoun, in turn, expressed his confidence in the completion of the implementation of the program, based on the ability of the army officers and military to deal with any new equipment or weapon with high professionalism, and the commitment of friendly countries to continue to provide quality support to the army, in addition to the common goals of all sides, especially the continuation of the war on terror. The army commander also thanked the US and British authorities for continuing to implement the special assistance program to equip land border regiments, and thanked the Cabadian authorities for joining this program.

Bassil: Govt. Success More Important than Our Presence in It
Naharnet/December 03/2019
Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Tuesday announced that the success of the new government is more important than the presence of his movement in it. “If some believe that our presence in the government would prevent salvation or impede the electricity plan, we are willing to stay outside it,” Bassil said after a periodic meeting for the Strong Lebanon bloc. “Nominating a premier, our participation in the government and granting it our confidence depend on how much it can be successful,” he pointed out. “We cannot imagine the presence of a government that would stand idly by towards corruption,” Bassil added. Noting that the FPM wants a government in which it can place its confidence, the FPM leader said he wants the new government to succeed in boosting the economy and preserving security. “We hope that we are nearing a happy ending and the president is using his powers wisely and calmly,” he said about the ongoing talks to name a premier-designate. “From the beginning, our demand was the formation of a government of technocrats with political backgrounds but this demand was not accepted,” he reminded. Bassil also stressed that “the formation of the government is a priority in order to relaunch the economic cycle.”“We are not obstructing but rather facilitating the formation of the government to the extent of self-elimination,” he said. Bassil added: “We are not clinging to seats but rather to fighting corruption.”Noting that the new government will respect the National Pact in its structure, the FPM leader stressed that “no one wants to eliminate the other.”He added: “We have borne a lot of false accusations and remained silent in order not to obstruct the situation and in order to end the state of the absence of a government to move to another stage in which work would begin.”

Jumblat Says Haggles over Nominee for PM ‘Unconstitutional’
Naharnet/December 03/2019
Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat on Tuesday said the ongoing debate to pick a PM before the binding parliamentary consultations was “unconstitutional.” “The binding parliamentary consultations must be held in line with regulations. Everything happening now is unconstitutional,” said Jumblat from Ain el-Tineh where he met with Speaker Nabih Berri. Asked whether he supports Samir Khatib, a nominee for the premiership post to succeed outgoing PM Saad Hariri, he said: “I am not the one who nominates Samir Khatib or any other. This is unconstitutional.”According to the constitution, the President of the Republic designates the Prime Minister in consultation with the Speaker based on binding parliamentary consultations, the content of which he shall formally disclose to the latter. Hariri’s outgoing cabinet remains in a caretaker capacity as leaders haggle over the next government make-up. Hariri resigned on October 29 bowing to the people’s demands. Demonstrations demanding an overhaul of Lebanon’s entire political system have rocked the small Mediterranean country since mid-October, President Michel Aoun, whose powers include initiating parliamentary consultations to appoint a cabinet, has yet to schedule such talks. On his ties with Berri, Jumblat said: “It has been a while since my last visit to Berri because of the developments in the country, and I don’t want anyone to misinterpret this. I visited Berri to affirm our historic relations and friendship.”
Jumblat concluded by saying he is scheduled to meet Hariri later today.

Protesters in Tripoli Block Roads, State and Public Institutions
Naharnet/December 03/2019
Protesters blocked several roads in the northern city of Tripoli and gathered outside state institutions as Lebanon’s uprising against the entire political class enters day 48. Trash bins, barriers and stones were used to block the roads and prevent employees from reaching schools and offices, the National News Agency said. NNA said that Lebanese army troops intervened immediately and embarked on opening all the roads. Only the roads leading to al-Nour Square in the city remain blocked since the uprising erupted on October 17. Moreover, students of the Lebanese University in Tripoli’s al-Bahsas staged a sit-in outside the university’s campus. They sat on the ground preventing vehicles and buses from driving into the campus, said NNA. A number of other protesters blocked the entrance of the city’s technical institute to protest against difficult living conditions and manipulations of the US dollar exchange rate.Road blockages renewed on Tuesday as protesters blocked overnight the Naameh highway, south of Beirut. The Lebanese army said in a statement on Tuesday that several troops were injured when protesters hurled stones at soldiers opening Naameh highway. The army said that protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before. It says that made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters. Mounting debt sparked a social media outcry in the protest-hit country, where weeks of political and economic turmoil have raised alarm. A man committed suicide on Sunday in the eastern border town of Arsal because he could not pay outstanding medical bills for his cancer-stricken wife. His suicide sparked a social media outcry in the protest-hit country. An unprecedented anti-government protest movement has gripped Lebanon since October 17, fuelled 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 per cent 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 mobilised.

Hundreds of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Return Home

Associated Press/Naharnet/December 03/2019
Hundreds of Syrian refugees have headed home in the first batch to leave Lebanon since protests broke out in the small Arab country more than a month ago. Since the early hours of Tuesday, scores of Syrians boarded buses in several locations in Lebanon before heading back to their hometowns in war-torn Syria. Vanessa Moya of the U.N. refugee agency known as UNHCR, said some 225 Syrian refugees were scheduled to head back to Syria, raising the number to about 27,000 refugees who have returned to Syria over the past two years. Thousands of Syrians have returned home from Lebanon since June 2018 as calm returns to parts of Syria. Lebanon is hosting some 1 million Syrian refugees who fled their country after the war broke out eight years ago.

Protesters Throw Stones at Troops, Injuring Some

Associated Press/Naharnet/December 03/2019
The Lebanese army says protesters have hurled stones at soldiers opening a highway south of Beirut, injuring several troops. The army said in a statement on Tuesday that one of the protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before. It says that made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters. Across Lebanon, protesters have been holding demonstrations since Oct. 17, demanding an end to widespread corruption and mismanagement by the political class that has ruled the country for three decades.Protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned more than a month ago, meeting a key demand of the demonstrators.

Suicide of Unemployed Man Strikes a Chord in Crisis-Hit Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/2019
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.”

Syrian Pound Hits New Black Market Low amid Liquidity Crunch in Lebanon

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/December 03/2019
The value of the Syrian pound on the black market sank to 1,000 to the dollar at some money changers Tuesday, marking a new record low for the nosediving currency. The drop comes amid a spiralling liquidity crunch in neighbouring Lebanon, which has long served as a conduit for foreign currency entering the heavily sanctioned government-held areas of Syria. One currency exchange office in the Syrian capital Damascus told AFP he was selling dollars on the black market for 1,000 pounds for the first time on Tuesday. A specialised website put the volatile rate at 975 pounds to the dollar — more than double the official rate of 434 Syrian pounds posted by the central bank on its website. At the start of the war in 2011, the rate stood at around 48 pounds to the dollar. In the Old City of Damascus, a trader who preferred not to give his name said everything from food to transport had become more expensive in recent weeks. “Prices have doubled in the past two months,” the trader said. “Everybody prices their items according to the new dollar exchange rate” on the black market, he explained. Syria analyst Samuel Ramani said the pound had fallen by 30 percent since anti-government protests erupted in Lebanon on October 17. An economic downturn has accelerated since the protests started, and a liquidity crunch has become more acute in a country that has long served as an economic and financial lifeline for dollar-starved Syrian businesses. As Western sanctions tightened on Syria during the war, many in the country have opened businesses in neighbouring Lebanon, stashed their money in its banks and used the country as a conduit for imports. But Lebanese banks started introducing controls on dollar withdrawals over the summer, straining the supply of the greenback to Syrian markets.

Trump Administration Lifts Hold on Lebanon Security Aid
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 3 December, 2019
US President Donald Trump’s administration has lifted a mysterious “hold” on more than $100 million in security aid for Lebanon, congressional and State Department officials said, more than a month after lawmakers learned the funds were being blocked. As first reported by Reuters, the US State Department told Congress on October 31 that the White House budget office (OMB) and National Security Council had decided to withhold $105 million in foreign military assistance, without providing any explanation. As lawmakers demanded answers from the administration about why the aid had been withheld, some compared it with a similar decision from the administration to withhold nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine that also had been approved by Congress. That decision has been at the center of an impeachment inquiry into Trump. Members of Congress and US diplomats had strongly opposed the move to withhold the aid to Beirut, saying it was crucial to support Lebanon’s military as it grappled with instability within the country and the region. Congressional aides said on Monday the administration had still provided no explanation for the decision to withhold the money, which had been approved by Congress and the State Department. They said the OMB released the hold last Wednesday and the administration had begun to “obligate” it, or finalize contracts for how it should be spent. A senior State Department official confirmed that the money had been released but declined to provide an explanation for why it was suspended or why it was released, beyond referring to recent comments by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale. Hale said during congressional testimony that there had been some disagreements about the efficacy of US aid to the Lebanese armed forces. On Monday, the senior State official said on a conference call with reporters that Lebanon’s army is “an excellent partner to the United States” in fighting extremism. Lebanon also houses thousands of refugees from war in neighboring Syria.

In Protest-Hit Lebanon, Debate Tents Draw in the Street
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 3 December, 2019
A secular state, early elections, solving poverty. Every evening, Sarah al-Ghur joins other residents of Lebanon’s second city Tripoli to debate how to fix her protest-gripped country. “I’d rather take part in the discussions than applaud or shout out slogans,” says the 32-year-old in the city’s al-Nour square, reported AFP. After years of disillusionment and apathy, a free-falling economy and anti-government protests have spurred Lebanese back into political debate. Across the Mediterranean country, squares where protesters have denounced mismanagement and corruption have also become centers of spontaneous discussion.
In Tripoli, Ghur walks between debate tents, stopping outside one where dozens of people are discussing a “roadmap for the revolution”. Men and women of all ages sit on the floor, huddle on benches, or stand arms crossed, listening to the latest speaker. Nearby, protesters revel to the sound of patriotic tunes and techno beats. “I’ve discovered laws I knew nothing about,” says Ghur, her hair trimmed short and wearing a dress. “Now I’m more aware of my rights and my duties,” she says, in an impoverished city that has emerged at the forefront of the protests.
A young protester takes the microphone to say he thinks the “popular revolution” must evolve towards “political dialogue”. He calls for “early parliamentary elections”, as a first step towards an overhaul of the political system. ‘They’d lost all trust’ Every evening from 5 pm to 9 pm, Tripoli residents gather under the tents to rebuild their country one idea at a time.
University professors, activists or even economists are often in attendance. They talk of secularism and sectarianism, in a country whose legacy from a devastating 1975-91 civil war is a political system that seeks to maintain a fragile balance of power between the myriad of religious communities.
They discuss poverty, in a country where around a third of the population are poor, and the World Bank warns that proportion could soon rise to half. But they also discuss what they view as the questionable independence of the judiciary, corruption, plummeting public funds, and sometimes urban planning.
In Tripoli, half of all residents already live at or below the poverty line.
Some six weeks into the protest movement, demonstrators in the northern city have continued to gather on a daily basis, even as numbers dwindle in other parts of Lebanon. The government resigned on October 29, but no concrete measures have been taken to form a new cabinet since.
Philosophy professor Hala Amoun says that, before the protests, most Lebanese had long given up on any political activity. “They’d lost all trust in the political class,” she said in classical Arabic. Lebanese have long complained of endless power cuts, gaping inequality, unemployment, and alleged official graft.
But in October, a proposed tax on calls via free phone applications such as Whatsapp, pushed them over the edge and onto the streets.
‘Meaning of a revolution’
“This revolution is people becoming more aware,” said the woman, who appeared in her forties, wrapped in a warm red coat. “But taking to the streets was not enough. They felt they needed to understand, to know more.” Every evening, she heads down to the square to help dissect the “structural problems” of political power in Lebanon. “Lebanese are hungry for knowledge,” she says. “It’s as if they needed to re-examine their economic, social and political reality, to understand how their political and sectarian leader is controlling their life.”
Nadim Shakes, a doctor, is one of the proud initiators of the debate evenings, which he calls “awareness raising conferences”.
The aim is to “think about the country’s future, what will happen after this revolution,” says the 47-year-old, wearing a dark blue jacket over a slightly unbuttoned shirt. Around the tent, young participants sit together in small groups, chatting in hushed tones or raising their voices when they grow excited or want to make a point. In one corner, students discuss whether or not they should continue an open-ended strike that will make them lose a year of lectures at university. Noha Raad, a 49-year-old Arabic language teacher, said she was delighted to be learning something new every evening.
“People need to be made aware,” she says, dressed in a flowery shirt and blue cardigan.But mostly, she said, “they made us understand the meaning of a revolution”.

Lebanon’s outgoing PM backs businessman to replace him
Associated Press/December 03/2019
Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Tuesday he supports the nomination of a prominent contractor to become the country’s next premier, a move that will likely pave the way for the formation of a new Cabinet amid a severe economic and financial crisis.
Hariri last week withdrew his candidacy for the premiership, saying he hoped to clear the way for a solution to the political impasse amid nearly eight weeks of anti-government protests. Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Hariri said he backs Samir Khatib to become the country’s next prime minister adding that “there are still some details and God willing something good” will happen. Hariri added that “everyone is trying to pass through this difficult period.”Khatib heads one of Lebanon’s largest engineering and contracting companies and did not hold any political roles in the past.
Over the past weeks, politicians failed to agree on the shape and form of a new government. Hariri had insisted on heading a government of technocrats, while his opponents, including the militant group Hezbollah, want a Cabinet made up of both experts and politicians.
Asked if he is going to take part in the new Cabinet, Hariri said: “I will not nominate political personalities but experts.”
It was not clear how the protesters who have been demonstrating against widespread corruption and mismanagement in the country would respond to the possible formation of the government. The frustrated protesters have resorted to road closures and other tactics to pressure politicians into responding to their demands for a new government.
They have insisted that a new Cabinet be made up of independent figures that have nothing to do with the ruling elite that have been running the country since the 1975-90 civil war ended. President Michel Aoun now is expected to call for binding consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs to name the new prime minister. But since Hariri, the most powerful Sunni leader in the country said he will back Khatib, the contractor is widely expected to get the post. According to Lebanon’s power sharing system implemented since independence from France in 1943, the president has to be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister should be a Sunni and the parliament speaker a Shiite. Cabinet and parliament seats are equally split between Christians and Muslims.
Earlier in the day, outgoing Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil hinted that he will not be part of the new government telling reporters that “the success of the Cabinet is more important than our presence in it.”The apparent breakthrough comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades with one of the highest debt ratios in the world, high unemployment and an expected contraction in the economy in 2020. Local banks have imposed capital control measures unseen before in the country known for its free market economy. The possible breakthrough came a day after protesters hurled stones at soldiers while opening a highway south of Beirut, injuring several troops. The Lebanese army said in a statement on Tuesday that one of the protesters in the town of Naameh fired bullets from a pistol the night before adding that the shooting made the troops fire in the air to disperse the protesters.

Titles For The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03-04/2019
Lebanon’s Iranian Cancerous Occupation and The Required Solutions/Elias Bejjani/December 03/2019
Lebanon: suicide of indebted father sparks anger as economic woes grow/Sunniva Rose/The National/December 0/2019
The US should cooperate with Russia to get Iran out of Lebanon/Basem Shabb/Al Arabia/December 03/2019
The True Value of Lebanon’s Armed Forces/Robert G. Rabil/The National Interest/December 03/2019
Lebanese Protests Place Hizbullah In A Bind – Part I&2: Hizbullah’s Hostility To The Protests And The Reasons Behind It/H. Varulkar and C. Jacob/MEMRI/December 03/2019
Lebanese Protests Place Hizbullah In A Bind – Part II: Hizbullah’s Position On Protests Evokes Unusually Harsh Criticism Among Its Supporters, Prompts Wave Of Resignations From Pro-Hizbullah Daily ‘Al-Akhbar’
H. Varulkar and C. Jacob/MEMRI/December 03/2019

The Latest Lebanese LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on December 03-04/2019
Lebanon’s Iranian Cancerous Occupation and The Required Solutions
سرطان الإحتلال الإيراني للبنان والحلول الدولية المطلوبة
Elias Bejjani/December 03/2019
 Lebanon’s current problem is the cancerous Hezbollah’s Iranian Occupation that is systematic, and since 1982 has been covertly and overtly devouring Lebanon and everything that is Lebanese in all domains and on all levels.
The Solution is through the UN declaring Lebanon a rogue-failed country and the strict implementation of the three UN Resolutions addressing Lebanon’s
ongoing dilemma of occupation:
The Armistice agreement
The 1559 UN Resolution
The 1701UN Resolution.
All other approaches, no matter what, will only serve the occupying Mullah’s vicious scheme of destroying Lebanon and strengthening its ironic, terrorist grip on the Lebanese.
All Pro-Lebanon’s Freedom demonstrations in any country in the Diaspora that are carried on by the Lebanese MUST call for this only International solution.
Meanwhile, yes, Lebanon and the Lebanese are facing very serious crises, hardships and problems in all life sectors; e.g., poverty, unemployment, corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, politicization of the judiciary, electricity shortage, a scandalous disarray in trash collection, lack of health benefits, education, and numerous social services … and the list goes on and on.
BUT, non of these hardships in any way or at any time will be solved as long as the terrorist Iranian Hezbollah remains occupying the country and terrorizing its people. At the same time, the majority of Lebanese officials, politicians and political parties are actually the enemies of both Lebanon and its citizens.
In this context, President Michael Aoun, His son-in-law, the FM, Jobran Bassil, Amin Gymael and his son Sami, PM, Saad Hariri, Druze leader Walid Jumblat, House Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanese Forces Party leader Samir Geagea, Slieman Frangea and many other politicians, as well
as numerous topnotch clergymen from all denominations are all cut from the same garment of oligarchic, narcissism, trojanism, greed, and feudalism in their mentality and education.
They all, with no sense of patriotism, have succumbed to the Hezbollah’s Iranian savage occupation.
They all and each from his status and based on his capacity and influence, have traded Lebanon’s independence, freedom, decision making process and sovereignty with mere personal power and financial gains.
In reality, they have sold their country to the occupier, Hezbollah, and with no shame have accepted the status of Dhimmitudes, puppets, tools, trumpets, cymbals and mouthpieces for the terrorist occupier. They betrayed, and still betraying, the country and their own people.
In this realm, the Lebanese demonstrators who are loudly shouting the Slogan, “All of them” are 100% right and are righteously witnessing for the truth because all of the above political and official prominent figures are practically mere merchants with numbed consciences.
All Of Them definitely means all of them.
It is worth mentioning that the Lebanese constitution is ideal for the nature of the multi-cultural and multi-religious denominational composition of the mosaic of diversified Lebanese society.
The governing disasters that have been targeting and hitting Lebanon since the early seventies has nothing to do with the great and ideal covenantal (unwritten pact) constitution, but with the foreign occupations and the oligarchic Lebanese corrupted officials and politicians.
My fellow patriotic and God fearing Lebanese from all religious denominations and all walks of life in both Lebanon and the Diaspora, stand tall and steadfast like our cedars. Do not lose faith or give up on hope, and never ever forget that our beloved, country, Lebanon is holy.
Yes, Lebanon is holy and has been blessed by Almighty God since he created man and woman and put them on earth.
Pray for our oppressed and occupied country and that Almighty God shall always guard, protect and defend it through His saints and angels.

Lebanon: suicide of indebted father sparks anger as economic woes grow
Sunniva Rose/The National/December 0/2019
The man was one of around 6,000 in the area laid off from the quarrying industry due to declining sales
An unemployed debt-ridden Lebanese father of two died by suicide on Sunday in the remote north-east town of Arsal as the country sinks deeper in an economic and financial crisis. Local officials told The National that Naji Fleity, 40, took his own life when he was unable to provide for his family after losing his job at a local stone quarry two months ago. Fleity’s last conversation was with his six-year-old daughter, who asked him for 1,000 Lebanese pounds ($0.67; Dh2.45) to buy a manoushe, a popular Lebanese street food similar to a pizza, Rima Kronbi, deputy mayor of the small rural community on the Syrian border told The National on Monday.
She said he told his daughter he did not have the money and later that day took his life. Fleity left the army six years ago to look after his first wife, who was diagnosed with cancer. He had two wives and two children. Ms Kronbi, like Fleity’s family and many in Lebanon, are linking his death to the worsening financial situation that sparked mass rallies in the middle of October. “The bad economy is putting a lot of pressure on people,” Ms Kronbi told The National. She said that like Fleity about 6,000 employees at local stone quarries, the backbone of the area’s economy, recently lost their jobs due to declining business. Arsal stone quarries cannot compete with cheaper imports from abroad and Lebanese businessmen have stopped investing locally, she said.
For the past year, the national economy has been slowly grinding to a halt, pushing the Lebanese, who are increasingly losing their jobs or receiving only a portion of their monthly salaries, to take to the streets in nationwide protests on October 17. People are demanding that leaders return “the looted money” from the state after years of corruption and nepotism.
The World Bank projects growth this year of -0.2 per cent in Lebanon.
Local media reported that Fleity had debts of 700,000 Lebanese pounds ($462; Dh1,711). But, Mrs Kronbi said that his debts were more substantial although she was not sure of the exact amount. Fleity’s death shocked Lebanon, with local media blaming politicians for neglecting the increasing difficulties faced by Lebanese families. According to the United Nations Development Programme, 27 per cent of Lebanese people live on less than $270 per month. The price of basic goods such as olive oil and cheese has been increasing since banks restricted access to American dollars, used interchangeably with the local currency, in early November. While the official rate is around 1,507 pounds to the dollar, on the black market rates have surpassed 2,000 pounds to the dollar.
Fleity’s uncle Mahmoud, quoted by local daily Al Akhbar, said his suicide was “only the beginning of a phenomenon that we will see in the future after people from Arsal, and other Lebanese, lose their pride and dignity”. He berated the Lebanese government, accusing it of “bankrupting” the country “without paying attention to citizens who go hungry and die from unemployment, debt and lack of access to hospitals.” Fleity’s death has sparked an outpouring of anger online with Lebanese people demanding action to form a government that is able to tackle the current crisis after Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on October 29, collapsing the administration. Discussions are yet to begin officially to select a new administration. Jan Kubis, the United Nations Special Co-ordinator for Lebanon, also asked if politicians would ever start tackling the crisis. “How many Naji’s, may his soul RIP, will the leaders of Lebanon need to start dealing effectively with the economic & social crisis?” he asked. “How much time they will give themselves before agreeing on the new PM & government that will respond to the cries, concerns & demands of the people?” After some politicians said they were ready to provide support to the Fleity family, Ms Kronbi said they didn’t want charity from outside. “His family will only receive sympathy from locals, nothing from politicians”, she said.In a similar incident in February, father-of-two George Zreik died after setting himself on fire in front of his daughter’s school in north Lebanon after he was unable to pay her fees. At the time, a Kuwaiti politician donated $10,000 to help his family.

The US should cooperate with Russia to get Iran out of Lebanon
باسم الشايب: مطلوب من أميركا أن تتعاون مع روسيا لإخراج إيران من لبنان
Basem Shabb/Al Arabia/December 03/2019
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The US has made it clear it wants to help free Lebanon from Iranian influence, but it cannot do so alone. The protests across the country have weakened Hezbollah, but they are unlikely to diminish Tehran’s influence, especially as the US disengages from the region.
Moderating Iranian influence requires the help of another power, which is credible with the non-Western leaning crowd and enjoys good relations with Lebanon’s neighbors: Russia.
Washington should consider coordinating with Russia to maintain stability and curb Iranian excess in Lebanon.
By challenging the status quo, the protests are a clear danger to the order Hezbollah has meticulously woven for over a decade, enabling its transformation from a non-state actor to a domineering political party. Unlike during the Cedar Revolution of 2005, Hezbollah has not been able to convincingly smear the current protests with accusations of hidden Israeli or US agendas due to their narrative of social justice.
The fact that the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have stayed neutral has further compounded Hezbollah’s position, as it shows that Hezbollah’s allies – President Michel Aoun and the Future Patriotic Movement (FPM) – no longer enjoy their previous levels of influence with the LAF. This was evident when the LAF refused to act on the demands of President Aoun to clear the streets and confront the protestors.
Combine these factors with the risk of economic collapse due to a lack of Iranian funding and poor governance, and it is clear that Hezbollah is weakened. But it is far from defeated. Given Iranian intransigence and US disengagement from the region, it will be difficult for Lebanon to get rid of Hezbollah – and Iranian influence – alone. Russia is the ideal partner for the task.
Russia’s strength is that it is a regional power broker in the Levant which has good relations with various rival powers. Since its intervention in Syria, Moscow has been an effective negotiator – it successfully established an Iranian disengagement zone in southern Syria, and was also successful in diffusing the latest Kurdish-Turkish confrontation and negotiating an understanding between the Syrian regime and the Kurdish forces in Syria.
The US could not have achieved this. Russia is better positioned in the Levant because of its neutral stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict and its good relations with various rival powers such as Iran, Israel, Egypt, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon is now a similar case. Unlike the US, Russia has good rapport with all parties, including both the pro-Western and pro-Syrian factions. Despite its recent intervention on behalf of the Syrian regime, Moscow has maintained close ties with Lebanese Sunni factions. It has also forged close ties with various Christian communities, presenting itself as the patron saint of Eastern Christianity.
Russia’s enhanced status as a regional actor does not mean it cannot work the US, in Lebanon or elsewhere. Russian and US influence frequently coexist, and both countries have a vested interest in a strong central government and the stability of Lebanon.
While Russia may work with Iran in Syria, it approaches Lebanon differently to Tehran.
In Lebanon, Russia’s relationship with Hezbollah is rather formal and not a close alliance. Unlike Iran, Russia deals exclusively with the Lebanese authorities and has repeatedly affirmed its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, in contrast to Iran’s preference for non-state actors.
The US and Russia have successfully coordinated against terrorist activities in Afghanistan and Syria, so there is no reason why they can’t coordinate in Lebanon. Most importantly, with escalating tensions between the US and Iran, both powers are concerned that an Israeli-Iranian confrontation in Lebanon could spill over to Syria. Russia can effectively mediate with the Syrian regime on important issues for Lebanon such as refugees and trade.
Despite these advantages, Washington currently fears that coordinating with Russia in Lebanon would erode American influence.
But American influence is strong due to trade, education, soft power and diaspora connections, as well as close ties to the exclusively US-trained and equipped LAF. This influence survived under Syrian hegemony, and would not be negated by coordinating with Russia.
The current standoff will not rid Lebanon of Iranian influence, and European powers will do little to help. Russia’s position may be vital to leverage against Iran and could be the only way to avert conflict with Israel. For these reasons, US-Russian cooperation is the best way forward for Lebanon.
*Basem Shabb is a former member of the Lebanese parliament.

The True Value of Lebanon’s Armed Forces
روبرت رابيل: القيمة الحقيقة للقوى اللبنانية العسكرية الشرعية
Robert G. Rabil/The National Interest/December 03/2019

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The LAF has been the most respected institution in confessional Lebanon. It is regarded by many as the defender of the country and the patriotic glue that binds the various confessions whose national aspirations have been often at cross purposes.
Alongside a campaign to push for a war with Iran, there is a parallel campaign to undermine Iran’s proxies is equating the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) with Hezbollah. Though the armed forces need to answer and act on some legitimate concerns, this pairing is not only erroneous but also dangerous because it undermines the only institution stabilizing Lebanon.
Patched together into a quilt of various confessional communities, Lebanon gained its independence from France in 1943 and based its national identity and political system in a National Pact (al-Mithaq al-Watani). In fact, a Maronite-Sunni alliance churned out the pact whereby political power would be distributed along religious (confessional) lines and Lebanon’s identity would be characterized by an “Arab face” and manifested by the slogan “No East, No West.” Other communities, especially the Shi’a community given its demographic significance, had little, if any, role in the process of concluding the National Pact. Evidently, the National Pact helped bring about under special circumstances communal conciliation, and to some extent unity. But it neither fostered nor forged a national identity. It was based on a compromise guided by the false assumptions that Muslims would “Arabize” the Christians while Christians would “Lebanonize” Muslims. Lebanon’s weak national identity and quasi-democratic system made the country a lightning rod for almost all political currents sweeping the Arab world since the Arab defeat in the 1948 War and through what Melcolm Kerr famously described the Arab Cold War.
Significantly, though it was influenced by the country’s confessional system, the Lebanese army, known as the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), stood out as an institution welding a nationalist esprit de corps. The LAF has been the most respected institution in confessional Lebanon. It is regarded by many as the defender of the country and the patriotic glue that binds the various confessions whose national aspirations have been often at cross purposes.
Admittedly, since Lebanon’s independence from France in 1943, the LAF has sought to remain a neutral actor on the domestic and foreign levels. More specifically, it sought to serve as a neutral arbiter guaranteeing free elections and political stability, while at the same time maintaining its distance from regional problems, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. The LAF, for example, remained in its barracks during Lebanon’s brief civil war in 1958, and it neither participated in the 1967 War nor in the 1973 War.
Significantly, following the defeat of the Arab armies in the 1967 War, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasser Arafat, increased its militant activities targeting Israel from Lebanon. Broadly speaking, whereas the Christian leadership opposed PLO actions, the Muslim leadership, led by pan-Arabists and leftists, supported the PLO. This polarized the country into two diametrically opposed camps and led to skirmishes between the army and the PLO’s military wing Fatah. Conceding to pressure from Arab leaders, the Lebanese government signed the 1969 Cairo agreement, which essentially allowed the PLO to engage in armed struggle against Israel.
Subsequently, the influx of PLO fighters into Lebanon from Jordan in 1970 following their botched attempt to remove the Jordanian monarch further deepened the country’s polarization. Before long, the country descended into civil war in 1975 and the army disintegrated along confessional lines. In the summer of 1976, Syrian forces entered Lebanon as an Arab Deterrent Force to stop the fighting. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and evicted the PLO from Beirut to Tunis. Subsequently, Israel withdrew from Lebanon but not before setting up and occupying a buffer zone on its border. Meanwhile, several attempts were made to restructure the army and rehabilitate its impartial image. But these attempts were doomed to failure insofar the civil war continued relentlessly until Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Seeking the participation of Syrian troops in the U.S.-led international coalition to extract Iraq from Kuwait so as to legitimize the coalition in the eyes of Arabs, Washington green-lighted the complete occupation of Lebanon by Syrian troops. Lebanese troops who resisted the Syrian onslaught were murdered and dozens of army officers and soldiers, following their surrender, were shot point-blank in the courtyard of the Lebanese Defense Ministry in Yarze. Those who were spared were taken to Syrian prisons and are still unaccounted for by the Syrian regime.
The end of the civil war was legitimized by the signing of the Document of National Understanding, known as the Taif Accord, which introduced significant amendments to the Lebanese constitution. The Accord shaped the political system of the Second Republic.
The thrust of political reforms revolved around conferring equal powers to the three high posts in the land, the presidency (Christian), the premiership (Sunni) and the speakership (Shi’a). The other sections dealt mainly with building the armed forces to shoulder their responsibilities in confronting Israeli aggression and taking the necessary measures to liberate all Lebanese territory from Israeli occupation. In line with the Taif Accord’s emphasis on the Lebanese-Syrian special relations, the Syrian and Lebanese presidents in 1991 signed the Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination and the Lebanon-Syria Defense and Security agreement, which essentially institutionalized Syrian occupation over Lebanon.
The Syrian regime, through its mukhabarat (intelligence), ruled Lebanon on the basis of a delicate balance between a divide and rule policy and maintaining to more or less a confessional equilibrium in favor of supporting Syrian loyalists. The LAF under Syrian occupation was robbed and depleted of its raison d’etre and power, respectively. Meanwhile, thanks to Iranian and Syrian support, the Shi’a Islamist party Hezbollah enhanced its military power and sanctified its role as a resistance movement against Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. Both Lebanese and Syrian authorities legitimized Hezbollah’s role, thereby turning the Lebanese army an obsolete force.
To be sure, Shi’a ascendency in Lebanon, as led by pro-Syrian Hezbollah, was frowned upon by Muslim and Christian parties, which resented Syrian hegemony in the country. In response, attempts focusing on the army and intelligence and security apparatus were made to counter Hezbollah’s growing power. In particular, the Internal Security Force, under Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (1992–1998 and 2000–2004) was enlarged, better equipped, and put under the direct control of the prime minister. Trained and equipped by France and the United States, the Internal Security Force was staffed mainly by Sunnis, heightening sectarian bias within state institutions. On the other hand, General Security Directorate was supported by pro-Syrian politicians and often was charged with colluding with Syria. In the meantime, the army experienced selective recruitment, reversing the historic pattern of maintaining a confessional balance within its ranks.
Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 upended the regional dynamics in general and Lebanon’s political dynamics in particular. Opposition to Syrian presence in Lebanon grew and peaked with the murder of Hariri in 2005, allegedly by Syria and Hezbollah. Many Lebanese took the street claiming for their independence from Syrian hegemony and launched what came to be known as the Cedar Revolution. This led to the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and the collapse of the Second Republic. Also, it split the country into two camps, one anti-Syrian, led by the Hariri Future Current and known as the March 14 movement, and the other pro-Syrian and known as the March 8 movement, led by Hezbollah.
Interestingly enough, during the turmoil, acting Prime Minister Omar Karami ordered the LAF to break up the demonstrations. Commander of the Army, Michel Suleiman, defied the order and sought to restore the army’s neutral role. In fact, since the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Beirut attempts have been made to restore the LAF as the flame of national unity. Liberated from Syrian yoke, the LAF has worked hard to restore its neutrality, professionalism and non-bias sectarianism. The LAF resumed its build-up on the basis of an equitable Christian-Sunni-Shi’a recruitment while walking a fine line amidst strong internal divisions between the two rival blocs. During the 2006 summer conflagration between Hezbollah and Israel, the LAF remained largely a spectator, focusing on relief efforts and maintaining law and order. Nevertheless, the LAF lost forty-nine soldiers from Israel’s fire. It’s noteworthy that whereas Israel accused the LAF with providing coordinates to Hezbollah to fire an anti-ship missile at an Israeli corvette, Hezbollah accused the LAF of close cooperation with the U.S. leadership and military.
Significantly, a number of classified documents leaked by Wikileaks revealed that the Lebanese defense ministry and government cooperated and coordinated with the U.S. government to curb the power of Hezbollah. Moreover, leaders from across the country’s confessions virtually aspired that Israel would defeat Hezbollah. In a document dated July 17, 2006, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt stated that “although March 14 must call for a cease-fire in public, it is hoping that Israel continues its military operations until it destroys Hizballah’s military capabilities . . . Then the LAF can replace the IDF once a cease-fire is reached.” A document dated August 7, 2006, revealed that Christian leaders meeting with Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman and Assistant Secretary Charles Welch argued that “The Lebanese government will need to be in a position of strength to deal with Hizballah once the conflict is over . . . To this end, they would support a continuation of the Israeli bombing campaign for a week or two if this were to diminish seriously Hizballah’s strength on the ground.” In the meantime, as revealed by a document dated August 8, 2006, the Defense Minister Elias Murr, confident about a rapid LAF deployment, “stated clearly that the LAF was prepared to hit back at Hizballah if they attempted to fire at Israel or tried to draw Israeli fire by placing launchers near to LAF positions.” Moreover, a document on the same day revealed that Murr “claimed that LAF forces had stopped and seized a truck carrying Hezbollah missiles.”
These documents show that the LAF did not cooperate with Hezbollah; rather it demonstrated the LAF’s indispensable and alternative force to stability and Hezbollah. No sooner, the litmus test of the imperative need of the LAF took place in 2007 when a Salafi-jihadi organization Fath al-Islam took over the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared. Lacking equipment and ammunition, the LAF, despite its vigorous spirit, was virtually incapacitated. Thanks to a swift American supply of weapons and ammunition, the LAF prepared to storm the camp despite a warning from Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah that the camp is a “red line.” Following bloody pitched battles the LAF reclaimed the initiative against and defeated Fath al-Islam. The battle cost the LAF 166 soldiers and dozens wounded. This was the high price that the LAF had to pay. Still, it was a price that elevated the LAF to a popular level beyond reproach or sectarian politicking. Since then, seeing the benefit of the LAF as a force against Al Qaeda and its sister jihadi organizations, Washington began to systematically equip the LAF with defensive weapons and train some of its officers.
This led to a nuanced and contradictory relationship between the LAF and Hezbollah. The popular enhanced stature of the LAF following its costly defeat of the Salafi-jihadi organization Fath al-Islam, coupled with the Lebanese government’s need for U.S. support, forced Hezbollah to look askance at, yet not disrupt, the U.S. training and arming of the LAF. The LAF and Hezbollah, though in principle integral parts of Lebanon’s societal fabric, perceived each other a rival and a threat to its raison d’etre.
Robert G. Rabil is a professor of Political Science at Florida Atlantic University and Francois Alam is an attorney at Law and Secretary General of the Christian Federation of Lebanon and the Levant.
The authors can be followed @robertgrabil and @francoisalam.
https://nationalinterest.org/blog/middle-east-watch/true-value-lebanons-armed-forces-101512?fbclid=IwAR28ue3nETyNOkNwqN4VArsJFUDmla2832gSZjSTJtk3SOUnmfJUl2Garws

Lebanese Protests Place Hizbullah In A Bind – Part I&2: Hizbullah’s Hostility To The Protests And The Reasons Behind It
H. Varulkar and C. Jacob/MEMRI/December 03
/2019
تحليل سياسي وثوثيقي من موقع ميمري من جزئين يشرح أسباب عداوة حزب الله للإنتفاضة الشعبية في لبنان
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Introduction
The mass protests in Lebanon over the economic crisis and government corruption, which broke out in October 17, 2019, have placed Hizbullah in a difficult position, because the organization, which for years has been presenting itself as the defender of the oppressed and fighter of corruption, is now an integral part of the government. Hizbullah initially tried to contain the protests, taking a very cautious position regarding them and expressing sympathy for the demonstrators rather than attacking them. This was evident in Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s speech on October 19,[1] and in statements by other Hizbullah officials.
Hizbullah maintained this cautious line for some ten days, apparently in hope that the protests would abate. However, when this failed to occur, the organization changed tack. In a speech he delivered on October 25, Nasrallah presented three No’s: no to deposing the president, no to deposing the government and no to holding early parliamentary elections, thus effectively rejecting the protesters’ three main demands. Nasrallah also claimed that the protests – in which several hundred thousand and perhaps even millions of people have participated, from every part of the country and from all social sectors – are neither authentic nor spontaneous, but are funded by foreign intelligence apparatuses and embassies. He called on the Lebanese not to attend the demonstrations, and urged the protesters to stop blocking roads and allow the country to go back to normal, warning against a possible slide into “chaos.”[2]
Since delivering this speech, Hizbullah, by means of its officials and media, has continued to spread the narrative that the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia are encouraging the protests and even controlling them in order to sow chaos in Lebanon and topple its government, in which Hizbullah is a member, and in order to incite against this organization and its weapons. Things came to a point where, on several occasions, Hizbullah activists violently attacked protesters on the streets.
In the past week, the demonstrations have taken a more violent turn, with clashes breaking out between the supporters of rival parties, resulting in the death of two people and the wounding of dozens. In addition, Hizbullah has begun coming out against the protesters for blocking roads, describing them as “militias of chaos” that are driving the country to civil war, and accusing all those who call for the establishment of a government of technocrats of succumbing to U.S. dictates.
This report describes the bind in which Hizbullah finds itself since the outbreak of the protests, and the reasons for its hostile position towards them.
Mass protest in Lebanon (Source: lebanon24.com, November 11, 2019)
Hizbullah’s Difficult Position And The Reason For Its Hostility Towards The Protests
From the very start, the protests in Lebanon created a problem for Hizbullah that made it difficult for the organization to determine its position on them. Having presented itself as a the champion of the undertrodden and standard bearer of the fight against corruption, especially since the May 2018 parliamentary election, the organization felt the need to express solidarity with the demonstrators, who were protesting the difficult economic situation and demanding to punish corruption and restore stolen public funds. Moreover, the Shi’ites in South Lebanon have taken part in the protests, and demonstrations were held even in strongholds of Hizbullah and its Shi’ite ally, Amal, such as Al-Nabatieh and Tyre. The Shi’ite support for the protests and their demands is another factor that makes it difficult for Hizbullah to oppose them.
However, once it realized that many of the demonstrators’ demands – specifically the demands for the resignation of the president and government and the holding of early parliamentary elections – threatened the organization’s interests and the stability of the government, of which it is a central component, Hizbullah changed its attitude and began attacking the protests.
Hizbullah has several reasons to oppose the current wave of protests:
The organization dominates the current parliament and government, and is therefore uninterested in early parliamentary elections
In the May 2018 parliamentary election, the May 8 Forces, comprising Hizbullah and its allies, won the majority of seats. These results are also reflected in the makeup of the government, in which Hizbullah’s faction – which also includes the Shi’ite Amal movement and the Free National Current led by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil – has 18 ministers, as opposed to only 11 ministers from the rival March 14 Forces and one minister who is considered independent. Controlling nearly two thirds of the government ministries is the major achievement of the March 8 Forces, which allows it to veto any decision it opposes. Another achievement is that, despite American opposition, Hizbullah received the large-budget health portfolio, with Jamil Jabaq, formerly Nasrallah’s personal physician, serving as minister of health. Yet another achievement was the appointment of Elias Bou Sa’ab, who has been criticized as “identifying with Hizbullah,” as defense minister.[3] Hizbullah is therefore uninterested in early parliamentary elections, which may cause it to lose these achievements.
Hizbullah fears the ouster of President ‘Aoun, Foreign Minister Bassil and Prime Minister Al-Hariri, Who Back It.
The political arrangement that lasted for several years, until the outbreak of the protests, whereby Michel ‘Aoun, a Christian, is president and the Sa’d Al-Hariri, a Sunni who is considered a rival of Hizbullah, is prime minister, actually benefited Hizbullah. In fact, this may be the optimal arrangement, as far as Hizbullah is concerned. President ‘Aoun and his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, head of the Free National Current, which is the largest party in parliament, are both allies of Hizbullah. These two figures lend the organization absolute support, backing its decisions and granting it freedom of action – both in the domestic arena and in the international diplomatic arena vis-à-vis the U.S., which has imposed sanctions on Hizbullah for its terrorist activity. ‘Aoun and Bassil, both of whom are Maronite Christians, effectively serve as a Christian “fig leaf” for Hizbullah and its actions.
Paradoxically, the appointment of Al-Hariri, considered to be a rival of Hizbullah, as prime minister likewise worked in this organization’s favor. Regarded by the international community as an experienced and moderate statesman, Al-Hariri lent the Lebanese government a fairer guise, blurring the reality whereby Hizbullah effectively controls the country and imposes its position in nearly all matters. Al-Hariri thus served as the address for any complaint by the international community, and enabled the international community to continue cooperating with Lebanon, signing agreements with it, and extending aid to it.
Moreover, if in the past Al-Hariri was a vociferous opponent of Hizbullah and expressed harsh criticism of it, in the past few years he has allowed this organization to do as it pleased in the domestic and international arenas, and mostly refrained from speaking out against it. Given this state of affairs, Hizbullah clearly has no interest in placing one of its allies in the role of prime minister, for this would only make trouble for it and attract criticism, making it easier for the international community to take a firm position vis-à-vis Hizbullah and Lebanon as a whole.
Hizbullah fears it will be held responsible for the economic crisis in Lebanon due to the sanctions imposed on it.
The protests in Lebanon were sparked by the government’s intention to raise taxes despite the severe economic crisis in the country, including by taxing WhatsApp calls, a move that enraged many. Although the protests span all of Lebanese society and are not confined to any particular sector, many are convinced that Hizbullah bears much of the responsibility for the economic crisis, due to the U.S. sanctions on it. The crisis has grown even worse since the U.S. increased these sanctions, imposing them on more and more of the organization’s officials and institutions, and on Lebanese banks, and even threatening to extend them Hizbullah’s allies, such as Foreign Minister Bassil.
The most prominent expression of the crisis is a mammoth national debt of $100 billion (almost twice Lebanon’s gross domestic product), which has forced the Lebanese government to enact radical measures and reforms, in order to qualify for the $11 billion international aid package pledged to Lebanon at the April 2016 Cedar Conference in France. Furthermore, in the weeks before the outbreak of the protests, the Lebanese pound plummeted and the market suffered a dollar shortage, which further destabilized the local economy.
In fact, even before the protests broke out, many accused Hizbullah of causing the economic crisis and driving Lebanon towards economic collapse through its activity in the service of Iran.[4] Thus, Hizbullah’s opposition to the protests may also stem from its fear that they could generate further accusations of this sort, and could spark a debate on its status and the status of its weapons, and about its terrorist activity around the world which causes sanctions to be imposed on it and on Lebanon.
The protests have an anti-Iran dimension
Another reason, perhaps the main one, for Hizbullah’s position is that the protests have an anti-Iran dimension. This aspect is hardly visible in the demonstrations themselves, but it is occasionally evident in articles by Lebanese journalists.[5] Furthermore, the wave of protest in Lebanon is concurrent with the one in Iraq, in which opposition to Iran’s involvement in the country is openly expressed. This similarity between the protests in Lebanon and Iraq has been noted by many Arab journalists and analysts. Iran itself, Hizbullah’s patron, regards the protests in both Lebanon and Iraq as an American conspiracy aimed at eroding its influence in these countries, as its officials have claimed, and it is reportedly even acting to stop them. It appears that Iran’s position on the protests largely dictated that of its proxy Hizbullah.
Shi’ites participate in the protests while criticizing Hizbullah and Amal.
As stated, the protests have surprisingly involved even the Shi’ites of South Lebanon, who took to the streets voicing the same slogans and demands as the demonstrators in the rest of the country. Protests were held even in villages and cities where Hizbullah and Amal – Lebanon’s second Shi’ite party, headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri – are dominant, such as Al-Nabatieh and Tyre. According to some reports, Hizbullah and Amal were surprised by the scope and violence of the protests in these areas.
In Al-Nabatieh, dozens of demonstrators called out “Nabih Berri is a thief,” and some attacked the offices of the municipality, which is associated with Hizbullah. Dozens of protesters also came to the office of the chairman of Hizbullah’s faction in parliament, Muhammad Ra’ad, and shattered the sign at the entrance, shouting, “The people want to topple the regime.”
Furthermore, protesters came to the home of Amal MP Yassine Jaber and burned a sign bearing his name, and protesters also vandalized the office of Amal MP and political bureau member Hani Qobeisi.
[6] In Bint Jbeil, a demonstration was held in front of the office of Hizbullah MP Hassan Fadlallah.
[7] In Tyre, protesters torched a guest house belonging to Nabih Berri’s wife, Randa Berri.[8]
Hizbullah presumably realized that the participation of the Shi’ite public in the protests, and the accusations of corruption made against it and against its ally Amal, may decrease its popularity among this public, which is its natural support base. Nasrallah therefore called on the supporters of the resistance not to participate in the protests, which indeed led to a significant decrease in their scope.
It appears that all these factors, together, are behind Hizbullah’s decision to oppose the protests and claim that they are funded by foreign elements hostile to the Lebanese state. Things came to the point where, on several occasions, Hizbullah and Amal activists on motorcycles arrived at the scene of demonstrations – especially in Shi’ite-dominated areas but also in Beirut – and tried to forcefully open the roads that the protesters had blocked.
*H. Varulkar is director of research at MEMRI; C. Jacob is a research fellow at MEMRI.
[1] Alahednews.com.lb, October 19, 2019.
[2] Alahednews.com.lb, October 25, 2019.
[3] On Hizbullah’s achievements in the parliamentary elections and government makeup, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1447, As U.S. Secretary Of State Pompeo Prepares To Visit Lebanon, Hizbullah Is In Complete Control Of Lebanese Government – And The March 14 Camp, Saudi Arabia, And U.S. Have Cooperated With It And Come To Terms With The Situation, March 21, 2019.
[4] On this, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8332, Lebanese Politicians, Journalists, Before The Outbreak Of The Current Protest-Wave: It Is Hizbullah That Caused The Economic Crisis In The Country, October 25, 2019.
[5] See Al-Arab (London), November 17, 2019; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 22, 2019, November 12, 2019.
[6] Alarabiya.net, October 18, 2019.
[7] Alarabiya.net, October 18, 2019.
[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), October 20, 2019.
https://www.memri.org/reports/lebanese-protests-place-hizbullah-bind-%E2%80%93-part-i-hizbullahs-hostility-protests-and-reasons

Lebanese Protests Place Hizbullah In A Bind – Part II: Hizbullah’s Position On Protests Evokes Unusually Harsh Criticism Among Its Supporters, Prompts Wave Of Resignations From Pro-Hizbullah Daily ‘Al-Akhbar’
H. Varulkar and C. Jacob/MEMRI/December 03/2019
تحليل سياسي وثوثيقي من موقع ميمري من جزئين يشرح أسباب عداوة حزب الله للإنتفاضة الشعبية في لبنان
http://eliasbejjaninews.com/archives/81100/%d8%aa%d8%ad%d9%84%d9%8a%d9%84-%d8%b3%d9%8a%d8%a7%d8%b3%d9%8a-%d9%88%d8%ab%d9%88%d8%ab%d9%8a%d9%82%d9%8a-%d9%86%d8%b4%d8%b1%d9%87-%d9%85%d9%88%d9%82%d8%b9-%d9%85%d9%8a%d9%85%d8%b1%d9%8a-%d9%88%d9%87/
Introduction
The mass protests in Lebanon over the economic crisis and government corruption, which broke out on October 17, 2019, placed Hizbullah in a bind which made it difficult for the organization to formulate its stance on them. Hizbullah, which for years has been presenting itself as the defender of the oppressed and fighter of corruption, felt compelled to show solidarity with the protesters, who are decrying the difficult conditions in the country and demanding to punish government corruption. The fact that Shi’ites in Lebanon identify with the protests and their demands, and have participated in them, is another factor which makes it difficult for Hizbullah to come out against them. However, once it realized that many of the demonstrators’ demands – specifically the demands for the resignation of the president and government and the holding of early parliamentary elections – posed a threat to the stability of the government, in which Hizbullah is a major component, the organization quickly changed its position. It began attacking the protests, claiming that they are funded by foreign countries, chiefly the U.S. and Israel, with the aim of sowing chaos in Lebanon and harming Hizbullah. Things came to the point where, on several occasions, activists from Hizbullah and its ally, the Shi’ite Amal movement, violently attacked protesters and tried to disperse them.[1]
Hizbullah’s dilemma regarding the protests is also shared by its supporters, especially by journalists with the pro-Hizbullah daily Al-Akhbar, and it appears that several of them do not agree with the Hizbullah position. Broadly speaking, Al-Akhbar adopted Hizbullah’s narrative that the protests had been derailed by foreign elements that took control of them. This claim was made in the paper on a daily basis, including in articles by its editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Al-Amin. However, the doubt expressed by Hizbullah, and especially by its leader Nasrallah, regarding the authenticity of the protests, and in particular the violence of Hizbullah activists towards protesters, apparently did not sit well with some of Al-Akhbar’s writers. Following these violent incidents, the daily took the unusual step of publishing articles harshly critical of Hizbullah, including one by Ibrahim Al-Amin himself, and another by a writer who described himself as a staunch Hizbullah supporter but nevertheless accused the organization of turning a blind eye to government corruption.
Subsequently, after Al-Amin decided to readopt Hizbullah’s position regarding the protests and stop the criticism against it, five Al-Akhbar journalists, some of them senior, resigned in protest of the daily’s bias and its hostility towards the protests. Some two weeks later, two senior reporters with the pro-Hizbullah television channel Al-Mayadeen resigned as well. These reporters gave no specific reason for their resignation, but some speculated that they too were motivated by the channel’s hostile coverage of the protests.
This report reviews the criticism expressed against Hizbullah in Al-Akhbar, and the resignation of the Al-Akhbar journalists.
Al-Akhbar Editor To Nasrallah: Stop The Brutal And Unjust Violence Against Protesters
On October 30, 2019, after Hizbullah and Amal activists attacked protesters in South Lebanon (especially in Al-Nabatieh and Tyre) and Beirut, Al-Akhbar editor-in-chief Ibrahim Al-Amin harshly criticized the attackers, whom he identified as Amal activists only, and called on Nasrallah, Amal’s ally, to prevent the recurrence of such events. He wrote: “Let me take this opportunity to address the attitude of the resistance and its supporters [i.e., the Amal movement] toward some ordinary citizens who, faced with the injustice perpetrated against them, consciously decided… to raise the level of their resistance and to cry out in protest. Employing the usual methods of protest, they expressed their opinion against the government and the corrupt authorities… What happened in Al-Nabatieh, Tyre and central Beirut can be described in only one way: as the ugliest sort of brutality…
“I am personally acquainted with Mr. Hassan Nasrallah. I have known him for a long time and I know his heart and mind. I know how he is [often] hard with himself and his family for the sake of [pursuing] a just cause. I know how often he has restrained himself and remained silent in the face of grave transgressions, just in order to protect the resistance… I know he knows the meaning of manliness, nobility of spirit, and human dignity. I know how much he feels for every child, man and woman, every father and mother, and therefore I ask him: Is it possible that you, [Hassan Nasrallah], will not take the initiative to stop this ongoing injustice your brothers are suffering just because they expressed an opinion that contravenes that of the leader and his associates?
“Let us be clear and honest. The Amal movement is directly and fully responsible [for what happened], from its head [Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri] to its [other] political leaders – ministers, MPs, municipal council members, security officers, clerics and [other] influential figures – as well as the thugs and the army of strongmen who acted to humiliate people and punish them just because they were protesting the [poor] performance of the government, of which Amal forms a sizable part…
“Every [incident in which a] resident of Beirut, South [Lebanon] or the Beqaa Valley was humiliated or pressured in order to prevent him from voicing his opinion, changing his opinion, or leaving his home [and taking to the street] is a barbaric incident that blackens the face of its perpetrators. The offenders must be punished, along with those who are behind their acts of brutality. This demand is no less important than the demands of the poor for a country where justice prevails.”[2]
Lebanese Journalist To Nasrallah In Al-Akhbar Article: Hizbullah Has Ignored The Government’s Corruption; Your Statements Enraged Many Hizbullah Supporters Who Identify With The Protests
Two days later, on November 1, 2019, Al-Akhbar published an article by journalist Maher Abi Nader. After professing support for the resistance and admiration for Nasrallah, he addressed Nasrallah and pointedly accused Hizbullah of turning a blind eye to the corruption of the government in return for the government’s disregard of its weapons. He also condemned the Amal and Hizbullah activists’ “barbaric repression” of demonstrators, and rejected Nasrallah’s doubts regarding the authenticity of the protest, stating that it is a sincere outpouring of frustration by Lebanon’s poor, some of whom are Hizbullah supporters and deserve its sympathy, rather than its hostility.
Abi Nader wrote: “Like you, I was born and grew up in the Al-Nab’a neighborhood, part of the belt of poverty that surrounded Beirut before and after the civil war. Despite the ideological disagreements between us, I, like you, espouse the idea of opposing injustice, oppression, poverty and occupation. I regard you as a leader the likes of which the Lebanese people and Arab nation did not manage to produce for many long decades. I address you with love and appreciation, in a clear and sincere manner.
“First, honorable Sayyed [an honorific title denoting people accepted as descendants of the Prophet Muhammad], I would like to say that the so-called ‘presidential’ arrangement [i.e., the agreement reached in 2016 and implemented until recently, according to which Michel ‘Aoun became president and Sa’d Al-Hariri prime minister], did the resistance a grave injustice. [This agreement] granted the presidency to [Hizbullah’s] ally Gen. Michel ‘Aoun, and the role of prime minister to Sheikh Sa’d Al-Hariri. But the secret part of the arrangement was [an understanding that] the resistance [i.e., Hizbullah] would turn a blind eye to the government’s economic and fiscal policy – namely to the systematic corruption that prevails in the country – and in return, [the government] would ignore the weapons of the resistance and officially legitimize their existence. The first injustice here is the treatment of the weapons of the resistance as weapons of a group, party or sect, rather than as weapons of the homeland… The second injustice is that [the arrangement] transforms the resistance into a guardian of the bastion of corruption and all its components, whether voluntarily or by force of circumstance…
“Honorable Sayyed [Nasrallah], under this ‘presidential’ arrangement, which did the resistance an injustice, you were forced to accept a government whose makeup you could not tolerate… and an economic and fiscal policy [that drove] the country towards the abyss of poverty, hunger, want, unemployment and bankruptcy, until the situation became unbearable… The straw that broke the camel’s back was the decision of the media minister, which was also endorsed by the ministers of the resistance within the government, to tax WhatsApp calls, a free service that is based abroad and which the Lebanese state has no right to tax. This drove the public to take to the streets, regardless of religion, sect or party, [chanting] slogans unprecedented in Lebanon’s history…
“Between [the time of] your first speech after the outbreak of the protests and your second speech, the people’s demands did not change, nor did their pain and hunger. But your position towards the protest movement did change. I agree with you that certain elements and embassies tried to forcefully infiltrate the protest and derail it from its course… but they did not succeed.
“Sayyed [Nasrallah], the calls heard [at the protests] against you and against the resistance were voiced by a small group of demonstrators… a group that represents [forces] that were your partners in the government and your allies in the professional syndicate elections… Resistance members started reacting to this small group… by barbarically and violently repressing protesters in Al-Nabatieh and Tyre, which are strongholds of the resistance, causing some people – including former resistance fighters – to be injured, wounded or imprisoned. Later, dozens of unknown individuals on motorcycles stormed the main center of protests [in Al-Nabatieh and Tyre], waving Hizbullah and Amal flags. [They] also raided the protesters in [Beirut’s] Riad Al-Solh Square, calling out slogans [of support] for you.
“Your latest speech, Sayyed [Nasrallah], enraged people who support, love and cultivate the resistance. These supporters of the resistance [simply] do not want it to become the one that defends the bastion of corruption from its [i.e., the resistance’s] own support base, [namely from] poor people [who live in every part of Lebanon], from the tip of the north Beqaa Valley to the southernmost tip [of Lebanon], including in the Dahia [Hizbullah’s stronghold in Beirut], some of whose areas have become hotbeds of want and poverty. These [Hizbullah supporters] do not regard these mass protests as the product of [foreign] embassies that hatched a plot against the resistance, [as you claim].
“Oh Sayyed [Nasrallah], these people want to hear an apology for the gravely mistaken [actions] committed by certain elements against the resistance and its supporters and public, and against the demonstrators. Those who dared to place the resistance in conflict with its [own] people… by means of their brutal behavior at the scenes of the protest, [behavior] that does not befit the resistance members and their upbringing and culture, must be severely punished. Honorable Sayyed [Nasrallah],… just as the resistance is a natural outcome of the occupation, the popular protest, belated though it may be, is a natural outcome of the injustice, oppression, corruption and thievery. I call upon you to return the resistance to the bosom of the people and to its natural [position] of solidarity with the pain, the hunger and the outcry of the people…”[3]
Al-Akhbar Journalists Resign Over Its Hostile Coverage Of The Protests
However, despite his criticism, Al-Akhbar editor Ibrahim Al-Amin ultimately maintained his support for Hizbullah and its positions. Apart from the two critical articles quoted above, the daily’s articles and reports continued to claim that the protests had been politicized and were controlled by foreign elements seeking to harm Lebanon and especially Hizbullah. As a result, five of the daily’s journalists resigned over what they called the daily’s slanted and hostile coverage of the protests.
The first to resign was Al-Akhbar’s culture reporter Joy Slim. In an October 29 Facebook post, she clarified the reason for her decision, lashing out at the daily for its position on the protests and even holding it responsible for the violent attacks on protesters by Hizbullah and Amal activists. She wrote: “Today I resigned from the Al-Akhbar daily after working there for five and a half years. The past few days were decisive for me. I gave up hope that the paper’s coverage of the uprising [would change]. For months, or even years, it kept explaining why [such a protest] must break out; but the minute it did, it rushed to join the counter-uprising and even advanced conspiratorial and inciting rumors that contributed to [prompting] the recent attacks on protesters in the streets by ‘residents,’ as Al-Akhbar called them on its Facebook page. The paper’s stance on the protests, and the way it covered them in the days after they broke out, was almost scandalous, in my opinion. The paper bears partial responsibility for every drop of protesters’ blood spilled by [those] ‘residents,’ supporters of the ruling parties [Hizbullah and Amal].”
Slim added: “This resignation comes at a difficult time for me, personally, but I nevertheless decided to take a leap into the unknown… rather than stay in a [work]place I felt had betrayed the people at the most crucial moment, myself among them…”[4]
Three days later, on November 3, Mohammad Zbeeb, the head of the daily’s economic section, resigned as well. He tweeted: “In order to remove any doubt, [let me clarify that] I resigned from the Al-Akhbar daily… in protest of its stance towards the uprising.”[5]
The other three reporters resigned On November 5. Sabah ‘Ayoub, who had been with the paper since its inception and had served as its deputy editor, its opinion section editor, and most recently as the head of its website team, tweeted: “I resigned from Al-Akhbar for a number of reasons, chief among them its coverage of the October 17 uprising.”[6] Viviane ‘Akiki, who worked in the paper’s economic section, tweeted: “I resigned from Al-Akhbar for professional reasons related to its coverage of the popular uprising, as well as other reasons having to do with its professional performance, which were never addressed…”[7] Muhammad Al-Jannoun tweeted: “I hereby announce that I have stopped writing in Al-Akhbar, because it does not recognize the legitimate right to [hold] the popular protests [of] the October 17 revolution. I thank the daily for the opportunity it gave me for five years, [but] it is inconceivable that freedom of the press should be influenced by politics or affiliation.”[8]
As stated, a fortnight later, two reporters from the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen channel, which is likewise affiliated with Hizbullah, resigned as well. The first to resign was senior journalist Samy Kleyb, who was among the channels’ founders and is known as a supporter of the Syrian regime, Hizbullah and its allies. He tweeted on November 22: “I resigned from Al-Mayadeen today, prompted by my positions, beliefs and conscience. I wish them ongoing progress and success.”[9] Although Kleyb did not specify the reasons for his resignation, some speculated that, like in the case of the Al-Akhbar journalists, the reason was the channel’s hostile coverage of the protests.”[10] Two days later, journalist Lina Zahredine, who had been with the channel for eight years, announced her resignation, writing: “Due to the historic moments were are experiencing, I found it necessary to resign from Al-Mayadeen. I wish the channel longevity and our peoples [the Arab peoples] a better future…”[11] Her resignation too was seen in the Lebanese press as an act of protest over the channel’s coverage of the current events in Lebanon.[12]
*H. Varulkar is director of research at MEMRI; C. Jacob is a research fellow at MEMRI.
[1] For more on Hizbullah’s hostility to the protests and the reasons behind it, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No.1492, Lebanese Protests Place Hizbullah In A Bind – Part I: Hizbullah’s Hostility To The Protests And The Reasons Behind It, December 3, 2019.
[2] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), October 30, 2019.
[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), November 1, 2019.
[4] Facebook.com, joy.slim.18, October 29, 2019.
[5] Twitter.com/mzbeeb/status, November 3, 2019.
[6] Twitter.com/sabahayoub, November 5, 2019.
[7] Twitter.com/vivianeakiki, November 5, 2019.
[8] Twitter.com/mhdJannoun, November 5, 2019.
[9] Twitter.com/samykleyb, November 22, 2019.
[10] Independentarabia.com, janoubia.com, almodon.com, October 24, 2019.
[11] Facebook.com/LinaZahredine, October 24, 2019.
[12] Independentarabia.com, janoubia.com, almodon.com, October 24, 2019.
https://www.memri.org/reports/lebanese-protests-place-hizbullah-bind-%E2%80%93-part-ii-hizbullahs-position-protests-evokes