A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 19/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 94th Day

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A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For January 18-19/2020 Addressing the On Going Mass Demonstrations & Sit In-ins In Iranian Occupied Lebanon in its 94th Day
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
January 19/2020

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on January 18-19/2020
Blinded Amal and Hezbollah terrorists and Thugs Are missing the Jerusalem road and acting as if it passes through the Hamra and Al-Masraf Streets/Elias Bejjani/January 17/2020

Amnesty slams ‘arbitrary arrests’ of Lebanon protesters following violent crackdown
Aoun asks Defense and Interior Ministers and leaders of security services ‏ to maintain the security of peaceful demonstrators, prevent riots in downtown Beirut
Hariri: Beirut will not be a mercenary square
Army Chief: We will defend our rights until the last breath, and we will maintain utmost readiness to confront challenges
Church bells, prayer calls in downtown Beirut to stop the confrontations
Foreign Affairs: The Ministry’s work is inseparable from the essence of its role in safeguarding the country’s supreme national interest
Protest stand by Nabatieh, Kfarreman activists, followed by the release of two detainees
Masked men attempt to storm into Parliament entrance on Beirut Municipality Street
Clashes escalate along Beirut Municipality Street
Sit-in outside BDL’s branch in Baalbek
Intense clashes in Central Beirut, arrival of security reinforcements, large army unit
Security Forces: Those who burned tents in Riad El-Solh do not belong to ISF
Murad: Lebanon sad, Beirut weeps
Riots in Lebanon’s capital leave more than 150 injured
Lebanon security forces face off against protesters near parliament building in Beirut
Beirut in chaos as riot police use water canons to disperse Lebanon protesters
Jabak: Salameh broke the agreement
Fadlallah calls for investigating money transfers since the beginning of 2019
Lebanon police fire tear gas at protesters in violent ‘week of rage/’Ben Wedeman and Angela Dewan/CNN/January 18, 2020
Dozens Wounded as Lebanon Protesters Clash with Police
Protesters Hurl Eggs in Baalbek, Vandalise Banks in Dahieh
Berri Says Kubis’ Remarks Constitute ‘Interference’ in Lebanon Affairs
CLDH – Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Army Chief: Critique Won’t Affect Military
Reporter Hurt as Protesters Briefly Clash with Security Forces in Hamra
Dozens injured in violent crackdown on Lebanon anti-government protests
Lebanon protests turn violent as ‘one-sided’ government preps cabinet/Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020
Chaos in Beirut as police and protesters clash/Sunniva Rose and James Haines-Young/The National/January 18/2020
It is not just the West that is standing up to Iran – but also the people of Lebanon and Iraq/Raghida Dergham/The National/January 18/2020
Lebanon’s next government is doomed to fail/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020
Hezbollah’s support for Iran exposes its vulnerabilities at home and abroad/Simon Speakman Cordall/The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020

Details Of The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorial published on January 18-19/2020
Blinded Amal and Hezbollah terrorists and Thugs Are missing the Jerusalem road and acting as if it passes through the Hamra and Al-Masraf Streets
Elias Bejjani/January 17/2020
As always, the blinded and deceived Amal and Hezbollah Iranian thugs, and their hired local mercenaries are deliberately once again missing the road that leads to the liberation of Jerusalem.
Since yesterday these blinded terrorists are savagely portraying the Iranian anti Lebanese schemes through ongoing barbaric attacks targeting both the Hamra and banks streets in Beirut.
Apparently the ongoing evil big lie of liberation and resistance is overtly exposing itself via the attacks targeting the central Lebanese bank and all the other banks located in both Hamra and Bank streets.
According to the Iranian-Mullahs’ scheme, today the Jerusalem road passes through the Hamra and Bank Streets, and only God my predict where it will be tomorrow or after tomorrow.
In conclusion: Lebanon is an Iranian country through its terrorist armed proxy that is falsely called Hezbollah (Party Of God).
In the midst of this mess that is forced on Lebanon and the Lebanese, definitely there will be no solutions whatsoever in occupied Lebanon before the dissolution of Hezbollah, dismantling of its mimi-state, putting on trial all its leaders and the confiscation of all their property as well as that of Hezbollah, and most importantly the strict and immediate implementation of the three UN Resolutions that addresses Lebanon:
The Armistice agreement with the State of Israel
UN Resolution number 1559
UN Resolution number 1701.
Otherwise, Lebanon and the Lebanese will be facing more and more devastating crisis in all domains and all levels.

Amnesty slams ‘arbitrary arrests’ of Lebanon protesters following violent crackdown
The New Arab/January 19/2020
Lebanon’s security forces on Thursday released most of the 100-plus anti-government protesters detained in the past 48 hours, after two nights of violent demonstrations in Beirut. Protesters gathered in Beirut again on Thursday evening in front of the Central Bank and interior ministry, where several hundred demonstrators denounced police use of force and outgoing minister Raya al-Hassan. A protest movement that has rocked Lebanon since October surged again from Tuesday, with a committee of lawyers defending demonstrators saying 101 people had been detained, including 56 on Wednesday, with five minors among them. The lawyers’ committee announced on Facebook on Thursday that “all those arrested have been released with the exception of seven foreigners”.The detained foreigners – six Syrians and an Egyptian – will be brought before authorities, the committee added.
Lebanese security forces announced 59 people were arrested on suspicion of vandalism and assault on Tuesday, when protesters angered by stringent informal capital controls attacked banks in central Beirut. “Under popular pressure, the detained have been released two days after a hysterical crackdown,” Nizar Saghieh, who heads the Legal Agenda non-governmental organisation, wrote on Twitter. Amnesty International denounced what it said were “arbitrary arrests”. “What we have witnessed in the past couple of days is an alarming attack on freedom of assembly and expression,” said the watchdog’s Middle East research director Lynn Maalouf.”Acts by a minority of protesters who vandalised banks or threw stones is never a justification for such excessive use of force and sweeping arrests by law enforcement.”
Fresh protests
On Thursday, near parliament, hundreds of protesters massed to denounce Lebanon’s ruling class and delays in forming a new independent government. An unprecedented nationwide movement of protests demanding an end to endemic corruption and the wholesale removal of Lebanon’s political elite broke out nearly three months ago. With little change in sight, protesters also angered by a financial crisis they blame on Lebanon’s oligarchs and the central bank resumed their rallies with renewed determination Tuesday after a holiday lull. Protesters vandalised several banks on the central Hamra street on Tuesday evening and hurled rocks at anti-riot police, who responded with volleys of tear gas canisters. Gathered in front of the Central Bank again on Wednesday, the protesters then moved to a police station where some of their comrades had been detained the previous night, leading to clashes that left dozens lightly wounded.
Outgoing prime minister Saad Hariri resigned under pressure from the street less than two weeks into the wave of protests, but a new government has still not been formed despite a stark and growing economic crisis. On Thursday, Hariri met with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and caretaker finance minister Ali Hassan Khalil to discuss the financial crisis and upcoming debt maturities.  Lebanon is burdened with debts of almost $90 billion, or more than 150 percent of GDP.  Over the past few months, the Lebanese pound – long pegged to the US dollar at 1,507 – has slumped in value on the unofficial market to around 2,500. After a long search for a suitable candidate, former education minister and university professor Hassan Diab was nominated as premier and tasked with picking a new cabinet. Protesters have demanded a government of technocrats excluding the household names that have symbolised Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics for generations. Local media reported a new cabinet could be named on Friday, after thorny government formation talks prolonged the process despite pressure from Lebanon’s foreign partners and donors.

 Aoun asks Defense and Interior Ministers and leaders of security services ‏ to maintain the security of peaceful demonstrators, prevent riots in downtown Beirut
NNA/January 18/2020
The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, followed up on the deteriorating security situation in Central Beirut this afternoon.
In this context, the President contacted the Caretaker Ministers of National Defense, Elias Bou Saab, and Interior and Municipalities, Raya Al-Hassan, as well as the Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, and the Director General of the Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman, requesting that urgent measures be taken to preserve the security of peaceful protesters, prevent riots, ensure the safety of public and private property, and to impose security in the commercial sector.

Hariri: Beirut will not be a mercenary square
NNA/January 18/2020
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri denounced via Twitter “the scene of confrontations, fires and acts of sabotage in the center of Beirut,” this evening, deeming it “a suspicious and unacceptable scene that threatens civil peace and warns of the gravest consequences.”
“Beirut will not be the arena for mercenaries and deliberate policies to attack the peacefulness of popular movements,” stressed Hariri. “Rafic Hariri’s dream of a unified capital for all Lebanese will not burn with the fires of outlaws and those devouring from the peaceful movement. We will not allow anyone to render Beirut, once again, an area of destruction, devastation and contact lines,” he warned.Hariri urged “the military and security forces to protect the capital and its role, and to rein in the abusers and infiltrators.”

Army Chief: We will defend our rights until the last breath, and we will maintain utmost readiness to confront challenges
NNA /January 18/2020
Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, stressed Saturday on defending the Army’s rights until the last breath, saying: “We will remain on highest alert to face the challenges.”“Any criticism or infringement on the military institution will not affect it any place, as it continues to protect Lebanon, in its land and people,” asserted Aou. Speaking during the opening of the office of the martyrs’ families and those with special needs at the military medical headquarters in Badaro, the Army General deemed that “the interest in medicine is as important as any other military part we seek to develop, to keep pace with modernity and to provide the best medical services to our soldiers and their families, as well the martyrs’ families.”“Medical service is not only by providing health care to a patient, but is actually a process of attention and good treatment,” he said, commending the “qualitative shift achieved by the military medical department, thanks to its wise management.””The development workshop is ongoing, and has gained great confidence for its commitment to the standards of transparency and self-monitoring, away from suspicions and liability,” confirmed Aoun. He hoped that “the policy adopted by the military medicine will be generalized in order to prevent waste expenditure, save money and control the medical bill.”
The Army Chief concluded by expressing a word of appreciation for the efforts undertaken by Lebanese soldiers, wherever they are, in carrying out their duties despite the magnitude of the pressures, especially at the economic level. “We will remain loyal to our oath of honor, sacrifice and loyalty,” vowed Aoun.

Church bells, prayer calls in downtown Beirut to stop the confrontations
NNA /January 18/2020
Church bells are sounded at the moment, alongside the calls to prayer in mosques in Central Beirut, in an attempt to stop the confrontations and restore the peaceful nature of the popular movement, as more demonstrators arrived at the entrance to the Riad El Solh Square, NNA correspondent reported.

Foreign Affairs: The Ministry’s work is inseparable from the essence of its role in safeguarding the country’s supreme national interest
NNA /January 18/2020
In an issued statement by the Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Ministry this afternoon, it stressed that “what the Ministry is doing is inseparable from the essence of its role in safeguarding the supreme national interest.””As the provision of providing Lebanese concerned authorities with international data in various fields, which may impact certain conditions in Lebanon, falls within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which derives its information from Lebanese missions abroad, as well as through its communication with all foreign diplomatic missions accredited in Beirut, the Ministry wishes to clarify that its undertakings are inseparable from the essence of its role in safeguarding the supreme national interest, in terms of ensuring that no information with content is withheld from any of the state’s institutions, each according to its jurisdiction, so that its decision-making mechanism is based on the correct evaluation of the surrounding conditions and factors, and to avoid any negative repercussions on Lebanon,” the statement said.
In this connection, the Ministry expressed “its surprise at the criticism directed against it in a recent article issued by “Al-Akhbar” Newspaper, the content of which shows no delay by the Foreign Ministry in performing the sovereign role assigned to it, within the limits of its competencies.”

Protest stand by Nabatieh, Kfarreman activists, followed by the release of two detainees

NNA/January 18/2020
The Kfarreman and Nabatieh Popular Movements carried out a protest stand this afternoon, in front of the Nabatieh Serail, to object against the arrest of the two young men, Ali Bitar and Hussein Jaffal, at dawn today, for writing on the walls of Nabatieh banks.
Participants raised the slogans of “rejecting oppression” and “denouncing the policy of suppressing freedoms”, during which they blocked Al-Sabah Street from the northern entrance to the city of Nabatieh, chanting against the rule of banks and calling for the freedom of Bitar and Jaffal, amidst security presence by Army units.
The protesters confirmed that they would not leave the street “before the release of their two arrested colleagues,” noting that their stand was “to press for the speedy release of both men.”It was later reported that Bitar and Jaffal were released at five in the afternoon.

Masked men attempt to storm into Parliament entrance on Beirut Municipality Street
NNA/January 18/2020
The clashes in the Parliament vicinity intensified between the riot police and masked young men who were pushing to pass the entrance of the Parliament on the Beirut Municipality Street, as the riot police sprayed them with water cannons, NNA correspondent reported from downtown Beirut. Meanwhile, activists in the protest movement denied, via network sites they created on social media since the beginning of their movement on October 17, “any responsibility by protesters in the ongoing riots in downtown Beirut,” describing the participants in these actions as “infiltrating rioters who wish to sabotage and distort the image of the revolution.”

Clashes escalate along Beirut Municipality Street
NNA /January 18/2020
The confrontations facing the entrance to the Parliament House on the Beirut Municipality Street escalated between the demonstrators and the Internal Security Forces’ riot police this afternoon, NNA correspondent reported from downtown Beirut. Young men threw heavy firecrackers, in addition to a Molotov grenade, taking shelter in a glass façade which they removed from a store, and with branches they pulled out of most trees in the vicinity. Meanwhile, teams from the Red Cross and Civil Defense arrived at the scene, transporting a number of injured to nearby hospitals for treatment.

Sit-in outside BDL’s branch in Baalbek
NNA/January 18/2020
Demonstrators staged a sit-in outside the Banque du Liban’s branch in Baalbek this morning, to protest the poor economic and living conditions in the country, preventing its employees from entering the building premises to tend to their work, while chanting slogans against the adopted financial policies, NNA correspondent in Baalbek reported.

Intense clashes in Central Beirut, arrival of security reinforcements, large army unit
NNA/January 18/2020
The confrontations are still raging within the Parliament vicinity between the demonstrators and the riot police, as protesters are throwing firecrackers and stones towards the riot police, who are responding with heavy tear gas bombs, NNA correspondent in downtown Beirut reported. Many casualties from both sides have been reported, and the Red Cross teams are working to transport the injured to nearby hospitals. Meanwhile, security reinforcements have arrived at the scene to combat the acts of riot and infringement on public and private property, joined as well by a large Lebanese army

Security Forces: Those who burned tents in Riad El-Solh do not belong to ISF
NNA/January 18/2020
The Internal Security Forces’ General Directorate announced, via Twitter, that those who burned the tents in Riad El-Solh Square today “were not among its members, as it was mentioned by some media.”

Murad: Lebanon sad, Beirut weeps
NNA/January 18/2020
Caretaker State Minister for Foreign Trade Affairs, Hassan Murad, regretted via Twitter the recent developments in downtown Beirut this evening, saying: “Lebanon is sad and Beirut, the den of Arabism, weeps!”

Riots in Lebanon’s capital leave more than 150 injured
Associated Press/January 19/2020
The Lebanese Red Cross said it took 30 people to hospitals, while 45 others were treated on the spot.
BEIRUT: Police fired volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in Lebanon’s capital Saturday to disperse thousands of protesters amid some of the worst rioting since demonstrations against the country’s ruling elite erupted three months ago. More than 150 people were injured. Thick white smoke covered the downtown Beirut area near Parliament as police and protesters engaged in confrontations that saw groups of young men hurl stones and firecrackers at police who responded with water cannons and tear gas. Some protesters were seen vomiting on the street from inhaling the gas.
The violence began after some protesters started throwing stones at police deployed near the parliament building, while others removed street signs, metal barriers and branches of trees, tossing them at security forces.
The clashes took place with the backdrop of a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government after the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned in late October.
Lebanon has witnessed three months of protests against the political elite who have ruled the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. The protesters blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world.
The protesters had called for a demonstration Saturday afternoon with the theme “we will not pay the price” in reference to debt that stands at about $87 billion, or more than 150% of GDP.
As rioting took place in central Beirut, thousands of other protesters arrived later from three different parts of the city to join the demonstration. They were later dispersed and chased by police into nearby Martyrs Square that has been a center for protests.
Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces called on all peaceful protesters to “immediately leave the area of riots for their own safety.” It added that some policemen who were taken for treatment at hospitals were attacked by protesters inside the medical centers.
As clashes continued, some two dozen men believed to be parliament guards attacked the protesters’ tents in Martyrs Square, setting them on fire. A gas cylinder inside one of the tents blew up. The fire spread quickly and charred a nearby shop.
The bells of nearby St. George Cathedral began to toll in an apparent call for calm, while loudspeakers at the adjacent blue-domed Muhammad Al-Amin mosque called for night prayers.
Later in the evening, hundreds of protesters chanting “Revolution” chased a contingent of riot police near the entrance of the mosque, forcing them to withdraw. Inside the mosque, several men were treated for gas inhalation and some families were said to be hiding inside.
“We call on the security forces to be merciful with women and children inside the mosque,” a statement blared through the mosque’s loudspeakers. President Michel Aoun called on security forces to protect peaceful protesters and work on restoring clam in downtown Beirut and to protect public and private propery. He asked the ministers of defense and interior and heads of security agencies to act.
“The confrontations, fires and acts of sabotage in central Beirut are crazy, suspicious and rejected. They threaten civil peace and warn of grave consequences,” tweeted Hariri, the caretaker prime minister, who lives nearb y. He called those behind the riots “outlaws” and called on police and armed forces to protect Beirut. The Lebanese Red Cross said it took 65 people to hospitals and treated 100 others on the spot, calling on people to donate blood. As the clashes continued, more ambulances were seen rushing to the area and evacuating the injured.
Late on Saturday most of the protesters were forced out of the area by police firing tear gas and sometimes rubber bullets. Still, security remained tight as more reinforcements arrived.
Panic and anger have gripped the public as their local currency, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, plummeted. The Lebanese pound lost more than 60% of its value in recent weeks on the black market. The economy has seen no growth and foreign inflows dried up in the already heavily indebted country that relies on imports for most of its basic goods. mMeanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls, limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers. Earlier this week, protesters carried out acts of vandalism in a main commercial area in Beirut targeting mostly private banks. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab had been expected to announce an 18-member Cabinet on Friday, but last minute disputes among political factions scuttled his latest attempt.

Lebanon security forces face off against protesters near parliament building in Beirut
Reuters/Arab News/January 18/2020
BEIRUT: Security personnel fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters armed with little more than tree branches and sign posts in Beirut on Saturday in clashes near Lebanon’s parliament. According to a Red Cross statement issued on Saturday, 75 protesters have been injured during the standoff with security forces. The latest clashes come after a cooling of tensions in the Lebanese capital, after largely peaceful protests which broke out across the country in October over the state of the economy turned increasingly violent, but people have filled the streets again this week.
They are furious at a ruling elite that has steered the country toward its worst economic crisis in decades. Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days. Anger at the banks — which have curbed people’s access to their savings — started to boil over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday night. Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces said on Saturday that police in Beirut were being “violently and directly” confronted at one of the entrances to the parliament. In a tweet, it called on people to leave the area for their own safety. Witnesses said they saw young men hurling stones and flower pots toward riot police, while protesters tried to push through an entrance to a heavily barricaded district of central Beirut, which includes the parliament. Hundreds of protesters marched and chanted against in the political class in other parts of the capital. A large banner at one of the rallies read: “If the people go hungry, they will eat their rulers.” The unrest, which stemmed from anger at corruption and the rising cost of living, forced Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri to resign in October. Feuding politicians have since failed to agree a new cabinet or rescue plan.The Lebanese pound has lost nearly half its value, while dollar shortages have driven up prices and confidence in the banking system has collapsed.

Beirut in chaos as riot police use water canons to disperse Lebanon protesters
The New Arab/January 19/2020
Tensions flared in Lebanon’s capital on Saturday as angry protesters flung stones, traffic signs and tree branches at security forces, who responded with water canons and tear gas. The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 has revived this week, over delays in forming a new cabinet to address the country’s growing economic crisis. No progress appears to have been made towards a final lineup, which protesters demand be comprised of independent experts and exclude all traditional political parties. On Saturday afternoon, demonstrators set out from various spots in Beirut in a march towards the city centre under the slogan “We won’t pay the price”. But before they all converged near the road leading to parliament, dozens of protesters flung rocks and plant pots filled with earth at the police guarding the institution, local television channels showed.
Security forces sprayed young men with two water cannons and lobbed tear gas over a metal fence to disperse remaining protesters on the wet tarmac.A direct and violent confrontation is taking place with anti-riot police at one of the entrances to parliament,” the Internal Security Forces said on Twitter.
“We ask peaceful protesters to keep away from the site of the rioting for their safety.”An AFP photographer saw young men uproot parking metres. He also saw around 10 people faint from the tear gas. A female protester named Maya, 23, said she was attending the protest because politicians still seemed to be ignoring demands for an overhaul of the old political class. “I’m here because after more than 90 days in the streets, they’re still squabbling over their shares in government… It’s as if they didn’t see our movement,” she told AFP. “Popular anger is the solution,” the young protester said.
Forming a new cabinet is often convoluted in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the country’s many political parties and religious confessions. But protesters say they want to scrap the old system, and demand only impartial technocrats staff a new government to address their growing economic woes, including a severe liquidity crisis. The last government stepped down under pressure from the street on October 29, but has remained in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet takes shape. The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to a half if the political crisis is not remedied fast.

Jabak: Salameh broke the agreement
NNA/January 18/2020
Caretaker Public Health Minister, Jamil Jabak, said in a statement Saturday that “since the beginning of the crisis in Lebanon, the required medical needs have been assessed, on which basis an agreement was concluded with the Central Bank Governor with the aim of securing the necessary financial amounts, but Salameh revoked this agreement.” “The solution to the issue of importing medical supplies lies with the Central Bank Governor, and when he gives his instructions to the banks, all will be resolved,” Jabak underlined. He indicated that he will discuss this issue with Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the earliest opportunity. “A solution must be found because the status quo lacks the luxury of time, for national responsibility entails working with utmost seriousness to ward off the threat posed to the medical sector,” Jabak corroborated.

Fadlallah calls for investigating money transfers since the beginning of 2019
NNA/January 18/2020
Member of the “Loyalty to Resistance” Parliamentary Bloc, MP Hassan Fadlallah, called Saturday for launching an investigation into the money transfers that occurred since the outset of the year 2019, “because some individuals knew what was going to happen beforehand, so they escaped their money from the beginning of the year…and the banks knew about this situation, so did the Central Bank.” Speaking during a memorial ceremony held in the southern town of Qana this morning, Fadlallah said: “We are facing an internal financial and economic crisis, and we are always looking for solutions…We always say to officials during the sessions that we hold in Parliament or with those concerned, that it is not the job of the official to complain, for the citizen is the one who complains, while the official is required to find appropriate solutions; otherwise why would he be in a position of responsibility in the government, bank, administration, or parliament?”He added: “One of the basic steps to tackle the crisis lies in the existence of a government, because it is responsible for carrying out the necessary procedures and managing the affairs of the country, and without it we cannot take decisions nor make reforms.”
Fadlallah hoped that “the government would see the light soon, and agree on its ministerial statement as soon as possible, since a general understanding of the principles of the directions that will govern its work exists. Hence, it can set its ministerial statement and gain confidence the soonest possible, in order to start its work, because the priority is the financial situation and the economic and daily living conditions that are depleting the country every day.” Over the US sanctions’ issue, the MP considered that “the sanctions imposed on our countries and the resistance movements are among the wars waged against us,” stressing that “all these sanctions that come from the United States, its group, and the countries in its orbit, cannot affect our resistance in its decision, strength, immunity, and constant willingness to carry out its duties.”

Lebanon police fire tear gas at protesters in violent ‘week of rage’
Ben Wedeman and Angela Dewan/CNN/January 18, 2020
Beirut (CNN)Lebanese police fired tear gas and water cannons at hundreds of anti-government protesters in downtown Beirut on Saturday, as the monthslong demonstrations turned violent in what is being called a “week of rage.”
CNN reporters on the ground near Martyrs’ Square saw demonstrators throw molotov cocktails, rocks and fireworks at police, and shine lasers at them to disrupt successive rounds of tear gas, in a violent nighttime exchange that has been going on for more than two hours.
Demonstrations over one of the country’s worst-ever economic crises began in mid-October and led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is now leading the country in a caretaker role.
Protests have been going on ever since, but had largely been peaceful. They erupted in violence this week as demonstrators began smashing bank windows and ATMs. Clashes with police have left dozens injured.
Protesters have grown increasingly frustrated as the country has been unable to form a legitimate government for more than three months.
The banking system has all but collapsed and Lebanese citizens have a monthly withdrawal limit worth around $200. The nation’s currency has lost 60% of its value in the months of tumult, as prices soar and people are left unable to pay their regular bills.
Lebanese Interior Minister Raya Haffar El Hassan was forced to apologize after security forces attacked journalists at protests on Wednesday, saying officers were under stress and were struggling to keep up with the months of demonstrations.
Reuters, Lebanon’s MTV and Al Jadeed TV said members of their crews were injured during clashes in central Beirut while they were covering protests outside the Helou barracks, that belong to the Internal Security Forces.
“The [security forces] members are tired. They are very tired. They are worried about themselves just as you are worried about yourselves. They are on alert. They’re not sleeping. They’re being insulted. They’re getting stones thrown at them. They’re getting [pieces of] metal thrown at them. So when they crack, oppression [of protesters] is the result. Is it excusable? No, it isn’t excusable. But you have to put yourselves in their shoes for a minute,” she told reporters.
CNN’s Ben Wedeman reported from Beirut and Angela Dewan reported from London.

Dozens Wounded as Lebanon Protesters Clash with Police
Naharnet/January 18/2020
Dozens were wounded in Lebanon’s capital on Saturday after police clashed with protesters angered by delays in forming a government as anti-establishment demonstrations enter a fourth month. The protest movement rocking Lebanon since October 17 revived this week as a deepening economic crisis increases pressure to form a new government. No progress appears to have been made towards finalising the cabinet, which protesters demand be comprised of independent experts and exclude all established political parties. On Saturday evening, fire tore through protest tents in an iconic square in central Beirut. What caused the blaze was not immediately clear. Earlier, marches converged on the city centre from across Beirut, with demonstrators chanting “We won’t pay the price”. Near parliament, dozens of protesters threw rocks and large plant pots at police guarding the institution. Others charged police blockades with traffic signs and metal barriers. Security forces behind the barricades responded with water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowds. The Red Cross said dozens were wounded, with 40 people transported to hospital and 60 treated at the scene. “A direct and violent confrontation is taking place with anti-riot police at one of the entrances to parliament,” the Internal Security Forces said on Twitter. “We ask peaceful protesters to keep away from the site of the rioting for their safety.”They published photos of several wounded policemen and a video showing pillars stripped of their tiles, reportedly to be thrown at security forces.An AFP photographer saw young men uproot parking metres. He also saw around 10 people faint from tear gas inhalation.
‘Popular anger’
A 23-year-old woman named Maya said she was protesting because politicians seemed to be ignoring demands for an overhaul of the old political class. “I’m here because after more than 90 days in the streets, they’re still squabbling over their shares in government… It’s as if they didn’t see our movement,” she told AFP. “Popular anger is the solution,” she said. Forming a cabinet is an often convoluted process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the country’s many political parties and religious confessions. But protesters say they want to scrap the old system, and demand a new government of impartial technocrats to address mounting economic woes, including a severe liquidity crisis. This week public anger has been directed at banks, with branches in the capital’s Hamra district vandalised following widely unpopular limits on withdrawals and transfers. Dozens were detained for several nights after clashes on Tuesday and Wednesday, before being released. Human rights groups denounced the arrests and what they described as unacceptable violence against largely peaceful protesters. The last government stepped down under pressure from the street on October 29, but has remained in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed. Political factions that agreed on December 19 to appoint former education minister and professor Hassan Diab as the new premier are now disagreeing over proposed ministers. The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to half of the population if the political crisis is not solved quickly.

Protesters Hurl Eggs in Baalbek, Vandalise Banks in Dahieh
Naharnet/January 18/2020
Protesters hurled eggs and vandalized banks while others blocked several main roads on Saturday as unprecedented demonstrations against a political elite accused of corruption and incompetence entered their fourth month. In the city of Baalbek, demonstrators hurled eggs at the central bank’s branch in the area and prevented access for employees. Others sprayed graffiti and vandalised banks in Beirut’s southern suburb of Dahieh, a move unseen before in Hizbullah’s stronghold. “Down with the dollar, down with the rule of the banks,” graffiti sprayed on banks walls read. Protests this week saw angry demonstrators attack banks following the imposition of sharp curbs on cash withdrawals to stem a liquidity crisis. Lebanon has been without a government since Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned Oct. 29 amid nationwide protests against corruption and mismanagement by a political class that has been running the country since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. Panic and anger have gripped the public as they watch their local currency, pegged to the dollar for almost three decades, plummet, losing more than 60% of its value in recent weeks on the black market. Meanwhile, banks have imposed informal capital controls, limiting withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers from the country. The economy has worsened since mass protests began Oct. 17, turning violent in recent weeks as anger mounts. Earlier this week, protesters carried out acts of vandalism, targeting mostly banks. Protesters have already rejected the new Cabinet saying that although it is going to be made up of experts, the ministers are named by the political groups they blame for Lebanon’s problems. The protest movement is insisting that the government be made of independent technocrats.

Berri Says Kubis’ Remarks Constitute ‘Interference’ in Lebanon Affairs
Naharnet/January 18/2020
Speaker Nabih Berri considered the latest tweets of the top UN official in Lebanon as an “interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “With all due respect for all international delegates and representatives in Lebanon, the statement of (Jan) Kubis is an interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs and is not acceptable, not in form nor in content,” Berri was quoted as telling his visitors. Jan Kubis, U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, on Wednesday denounced in a tweet acts of vandalism by protesters targeting the country’s banks a day earlier. But Kubis criticized the political class’ management of the country’s deepening economic crisis, saying those responsible for handling it “are watching it collapse. Incredible.” Also on Friday, Kubis commented on the “use of force” against protesters and journalists after meeting caretaker Interior Minister Raya el Hassan. “Excessive use of force against protesters is unacceptable, action must be taken also to prevent future excesses,” he said in a tweet adding that “anger of the people is understandable, but it is different from vandalism of political manipulators, that must be stopped.”

CLDH – Lebanese Center for Human Rights
Saturday, 18 January 2020
Contrary to International treaties in which Lebanon is a signatory, members of security forces attacked demonstrators from all over Lebanon on the 18th of January, after detaining them at Helou police station in Beirut.
The Lebanese Center for Human Rights denounces these inhumane and illegal actions, and demands in punishing perpetrators and holding the command of Internal Security Forces accountable for covering for the excessive use of violence against demonstrators.
Amnesty International
CNN International
EuroMed Rights
Human Rights Watch
#لبنان_ينتفض

Army Chief: Critique Won’t Affect Military
Lebanese Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun stressed on Saturday that the Lebanese Armed Forces will not slack-off despite criticisms directed at the military institution. “In parallel to carrying out the tasks entrusted to us, regardless of the odd voices rising from time to time, any criticism directed at the military institution will not affect us and we will keep on protecting Lebanon’s people and land,” said Aoun. His remarks came at the inauguration of an office at the military headquarters in Badaro for the families of martyrs and people with special needs. Pointing out to the army’s role amid nationwide protests gripping the country for over three months, he stated: “We appreciate the efforts exerted by the military wherever they are, despite the magnitude of pressures, especially economic ones. We will remain defenders of our rights until the last breath, and we will remain high ready to face challenges and loyal.”

Reporter Hurt as Protesters Briefly Clash with Security Forces in Hamra

Naharnet/January 18/2020
A brief confrontation erupted Friday evening between anti-government protesters and security forces on Beirut’s Hamra Street. The skirmishes started after some protesters hurled bottles, stones and firecrackers at security forces outside the central bank, which prompted riot police to chase them to the end of Hamra Street. Some protesters had earlier hurled “Molotov cocktails and rocks” into the premises of the central bank as others removed the barbed wire. Al-Jadeed TV reporter Adam Chamseddine was injured by a flying stone which struck his head as he was covering the demo. Calm later returned to the street as protesters gathered anew and chanted slogans outside the central bank.

Dozens injured in violent crackdown on Lebanon anti-government protests
The New Arab/January 19/2020
Clashes between police and protesters in Lebanon angered by delays in forming a government wounded more than 220 people on both sides Saturday as anti-establishment demonstrations enter a fourth month.
The sound of ambulance sirens rang out across Beirut as the Red Cross reported 80 wounded had been taken to hospital and 140 more were treated on site. On Saturday evening, fire tore through protest tents in an iconic square in central Beirut. It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.
The protest movement rocking Lebanon since 17 October revived this week as a deepening economic crisis increases pressure to form a new government. No progress appears to have been made towards finalising the cabinet, which protesters demand be comprised of independent experts and exclude all established political parties. Earlier, marches had intended to converge on the city centre from across. But near parliament, dozens of protesters threw rocks and large plant pots at police guarding the road leading up to the institution. Others charged police lines with traffic signs and metal barriers.
Earlier, marches had intended to converge on the city centre from across Beirut.But near parliament, dozens of protesters threw rocks and large plant pots at police guarding the road leading up to the institution. Others charged police lines with traffic signs and metal barriers.Security forces behind the barricades responded with water cannon and tear gas to disperse the crowds. “A direct and violent confrontation is taking place with anti-riot police at one of the entrances to parliament,” the Internal Security Forces said on Twitter.
“We ask peaceful protesters to keep away from the site of the rioting for their safety.”They published photos of several wounded policemen and a video showing pillars stripped of their tiles, reportedly to be thrown at security forces. An AFP photographer saw young men uproot parking metres. He also saw around 10 people faint from tear gas inhalation.
‘Popular anger’
A 23-year-old woman named Maya said she was protesting because politicians seemed to be ignoring demands for an overhaul of the old political class. “I’m here because after more than 90 days in the streets, they’re still squabbling over their shares in government… It’s as if they didn’t see our movement,” she told AFP. “Popular anger is the solution,” she said. Forming a cabinet is an often convoluted process in Lebanon, where a complex system seeks to maintain balance between the country’s many political parties and religious confessions. But protesters say they want to scrap the old system, and demand a new government of impartial technocrats to address mounting economic woes, including a severe liquidity crisis. President Michel Aoun called on Twitter for the security forces to protect peaceful protesters, but prevent “vandalism”. Outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri meanwhile condemned what he called a “suspicious and crazy scene”, blaming “infiltrators”. This week public anger has been directed at banks, with branches in the capital’s Hamra district vandalised following widely unpopular limits on withdrawals and transfers. Dozens were detained for several nights after clashes on Tuesday and Wednesday, before being released. Human rights groups denounced the arrests and what they described as unacceptable violence against largely peaceful protesters. The last government stepped down under pressure from the street on 29 October, but has remained in a caretaker capacity until a new cabinet is formed. Political factions that agreed on 19 December to appoint former education minister and professor Hassan Diab as the new premier are now disagreeing over proposed ministers. The World Bank has warned that the poverty rate in Lebanon could rise from a third to half of the population if the political crisis is not solved quickly.

Lebanon protests turn violent as ‘one-sided’ government preps cabinet
Samar Kadi//The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020
The protesters have escalated their action in the streets to express their rejection of a partisan government, which they say is veiled by technocrats.
BEIRUT – Protesters returned to the streets of Lebanon in large numbers in what they dubbed the “week of wrath” to vent anger and frustration at the country’s economic downward spiral amid delays in the formation of an emergency government capable of stemming the financial crisis. Protesters blocked roads around Beirut and clashed with anti-riot police near Banque du Liban, the central bank, smashing windows of banks and foreign exchange bureaus along adjacent Hamra Street, a commercial and banking hub. The most violent clashes since the anti-government uprising, which erupted October 17, occurred as protests, which flared after a weeks-long lull during end-of-year holidays, followed by soaring regional tensions between the United States and Iran, regained intensity despite the reported imminent formation of a government.
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab, who was nominated by Hezbollah and its allies, the Shia Amal Movement and the Christian Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun, reportedly reached a government lineup after month-long thorny discussions.
“It is a one-sided government made up of Hezbollah and its allies. The so-called technocrats are just a facade or masks behind which the politicians are hiding,” said political analyst Rached Fayed. “The people are against such government because they want a fully independent administration. There is a total divorce between the Lebanese public and the political class.”Protesters have demanded a government of technocrats excluding the well-known names that have symbolised Lebanon’s sectarian-based politics for generations.
Nabil Bou Moncef, deputy editor-in-chief and leading columnist of An Nahar newspaper, said a government of technocrats linked to specific politicians who represent one camp (Hezbollah and allies) has little chance to succeed. “The international community, namely the West, will tell you this is Hezbollah’s government,” Bou Moncef said. “Any government today can only succeed in one of two cases: If it stops the economic collapse by its own means, which no government can do, or if it gains international support and financial aid… An administration representing Hezbollah and company cannot get such assistance. It might only buy some time,” he said.
The protesters have escalated their action in the streets to express their rejection of a partisan government, which they say is veiled by technocrats. “They cannot fool the people by bringing in their own consultants. That is not an independent government. They are ignoring the people’s demand amid the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy,” Bou Moncef said. “In addition to the Lebanese, they are alienating the international community, which just cannot believe that there could be such careless and corrupt politicians amid deepening economic crisis.”
UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis reflected the growing frustration of the international community in a series of strongly worded tweets. “Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amid the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy. Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos,” Kubis posted on Twitter. International donors have been demanding that Lebanon institute major economic changes and anti-corruption measures and appoint a new government to unlock $11 billion in pledges made in 2018.
Violent demonstrators have mostly targeted central bank Governor Riad Salame and banks, which have imposed capital controls on foreign currency accounts in the highly dollarised economy. The local currency has lost more than 60% of its value in just a few weeks and sources of foreign currency have dried up.
“The public at large has been harmed by the banks’ restrictive policies and these constitute the majority of the people protesting against banks and the central bank governor,” Bou Moncef said. “I believe that political parties linked to the Syrian regime are manipulating the issue. Syria is even more harmed than Lebanon by the banking restrictions because Salame’s measures curbed drastically the smuggling of dollar banknotes to Syria. Among those arrested in the protests and vandalism against the banks, there are several Syrian nationals.”Police have been accused of excessive use of force against protesters, including attacks on journalists and the detention of more than 100 people. However, people who fear their bank deposits are in danger are not budging. “We are worried about losing our savings… Lebanon is not an easy country to save in,” a protester who was among those demonstrating outside the central bank told the Associated Press. “We don’t trust the banks here anymore.”
*Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

Chaos in Beirut as police and protesters clash
Sunniva Rose and James Haines-Young/The National/January 18/2020
Lebanese President Michel Aoun orders army to restore order
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun asked the army and security commanders to restore calm in central Beirut where security forces clashed with protesters on Saturday night.
Mr Aoun called on them “to protect the safety of peaceful protesters and of public and private property, and to restore calm to central Beirut,” the president’s office said. Tear gas and smoke-filled central Beirut on Saturday night as hundreds of protesters faced off with police around Parliament, which has been sealed off with fencing and riot police. Protesters threw fireworks and rocks at police who responded with tear gas and water cannon, in addition to throwing rocks back at them. Former prime minister Saad Hariri called the scenes “crazy” and “unacceptable” as he warned that “Beirut will not be an arena for mercenaries and the deliberate attacks on the peaceful popular movements.” He called on the security forces to protect the capital and restore calm. In scenes reminiscent of riots against banks in a commercial street on Tuesday night, protesters vandalised ATM machines and park meters near Parliament, smashing them with metal rods. Shortly after the clashes erupted, dozens of young men took refuge in the upscale mall of Beirut Souks, where all the shops were closed. Some broke cement slabs covering a high-end fashion store to use as projectiles against the police as they hurled insults towards caretaker Interior Minister Raya Al Hassan.
The sound of ambulance sirens rang out across Beirut as the Red Cross reported 80 wounded had been taken to hospital and 140 more were treated on site. Eyes running from the tear gas, Rabih Ezzedine, 21, said that they wanted to break past the riot police blocking the street to Parliament. “We want a cabinet of people who have no links with political parties. But they [politicians] are ignoring us,” he told The National. Like other protesters, he believes that despite Prime Minister designate Hassan Diab’s claims, the new government that he is setting up will not be fully independent.
By early evening, police had pushed protesters back from the road leading between the entrance to Nijmeh Square where the parliament building and Beirut Souks are located.
But protesters remained in central Beirut, clashing with authorities in the most intense evening of violence Lebanon has seen since the start of the nationwide mass uprising against an economic crisis and the mismanagement of the government. Protesters were equipped for violence, wearing sophisticated gas masks and motorbike helmets. Many claimed to come from other regions of Lebanon.
In videos circulating online of the confrontation near parliament, Protesters were heard chanting “shabiha” at police. The term refers to the violent pro-Damascus militias in the neighbouring Syrian conflict who are responsible for some of the attacks on demonstrators in the early days of the uprising in 2011 as well as for grisly tactics during the ensuing civil war.
Local television broadcast live footage of a mob of protesters attacking an isolated policeman. Two men dragged him out and ran away, leaving him lying on the road before other riot police helped him up. Anger increased after the ISF entered Al Amin mosque, the biggest mosque in downtown Beirut where injured protesters, women and children had taken refuge. Although the protests led to the resignation of Mr Hariri’s government two weeks after it began, Mr Diab has yet to form a new administration despite reports he was close over the last two days.
Protesters are angered by the worst economic crisis since the end of the 1975-90 civil war that has seen banks implement capital controls to prevent withdrawals over a few hundred dollars a week and the Lebanese pound plummet in value on the black market despite it being officially pegged to the US dollar.
In the chaos in central Beirut on Saturday night, protest tents that have been put up in above the central Martyrs’ Square, the epicentre of the movement, were set on fire. While there were reports members of the Internal Security Forces or Parliamentary Police were responsible, both forces denied that their officers were involved.
Civil Defence teams moved in to extinguish the blaze as riot police used water cannon to put out rubbish bin fires and barricades that had been set alight. The ISF said in a statement on Saturday evening that officers injured in the clashes were later attacked in hospital. The force said the incidents took place at the American Hospital of Beirut in the western Hamra area as well as the Hospital Wardieh in east Beirut’s Gemmayzeh.. Police wielding batons and firing tear gas have wounded dozens of people at protests in recent days, alarming human rights groups. Anger at the banks — which have curbed people’s access to their savings — boiled over, with protesters smashing bank facades and ATMs on Tuesday. On Saturday, local televisions broadcast images of protesters injured by rubber bullets. “Riot police firing rubber bullets on protesters indiscriminately, incl while running away. UN standards state that such weapons should only be used on abdomen/legs of violent individual & only with view to addressing imminent threat of injury to police or public,” tweeted Human Rights Watch Lebanon researcher Aya Majzoub. During the weekend, the protests swelled in size as thousands take to the streets. At least three large marches set off around the capital to converge on parliament on Saturday afternoon, demanding the formation of a non-sectarian, non-political government capable to tackling the country’s economic woes. The protests have deeply divided the Lebanese, with Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies accusing them of destabilising the country while their supporters believe that a deep political change is necessary. This is reflected in local media coverage. On Saturday evening, NBN, a television affiliated to Hezbollah’s political ally Amal, called protesters “infiltrators”, while Al Jadeed’s reporter asked those being dragged away by riot police to shout their names to the camera so that their relatives would be informed of their arrest.

It is not just the West that is standing up to Iran – but also the people of Lebanon and Iraq
Raghida Dergham/The National/January 18/2020
Ordinary citizens in both countries are seeing through the stunts of politicians, especially those who answer to Tehran.
The US has stepped up pressure on Iran – together with America’s three European partners in the nuclear deal that was signed in 2015 to keep Tehran’s weapons partially in check. The Donald Trump administration had threatened to impose 25 per cent tariffs on European automobiles if Britain, France, and Germany refused to activate the dispute resolution mechanism in the nuclear deal. This mechanism allows parties to the deal to determine whether Iran is violating the terms of the agreement, opening the door to the possibility of snapping back the United Nations-led sanctions on Tehran, which had been lifted under the agreement.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has reacted with distress, having lost his bet that the Europeans will help Tehran circumvent US sanctions through a financial mechanism long demanded by the regime to allow it to sell its oil. Addressing the Europeans, whom he accused of caving to US “bullying”, he tweeted: “If you want to sell your integrity, go ahead. But DO NOT assume high moral/legal ground.”
The deterioration of relations between Tehran and the European troika will increase the anxiety felt by the regime and shrink its options amid its domestic and regional crisis. Attempts to blackmail the European Union and provoke the US have failed, with the regime blundering time and again, and further sliding into quagmires in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. At the same time, ordinary Iranians have erupted against the regime. Failed also is its bet on the impeachment of Mr Trump or the premature defeat of his re-election bid.
For these reasons, Iran’s leaders have decided to relent in the region and postpone their vengeance against America, while they regroup and contain domestic trouble by cracking down on protests with orders to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, this week by the top echelons to accomplish the task. Yet the Trump administration will not sit idly by, especially after Iran increased its uranium enrichment levels and decoupled itself from its nuclear commitments. It is therefore preparing additional measures against Tehran, which would include imposing a financial blockade on Iranian banks led by its central bank. Sources in Tehran say that this could trigger another round of retaliation two weeks from now.
Meanwhile, the regime is adopting a policy of “de-escalation for the sake of dominance” in Lebanon and Iraq, while postponing further activities in Yemen and closely watching what happens to its project in Syria. There are indications it wants to cut its losses in the region and manage the different crises in the interim.
For instance, it does not dare heat up the Lebanese and Iraqi fronts by orchestrating crackdowns against protesters in either country. Distinct uprisings are taking place right now yet they have one common characteristic: their rejection of Iranian dominance, which is being exerted via its proxies. The problem for Iran is that the protesters’ demands are in themselves a coup against the systems of government upheld by Iran in these countries. This translates to an existential battle for the regime’s logic.
In Iraq, the Quds Force – which is part of the IRGC – seems eager to restore its prestige in the wake of the killing of its commander, Qassem Suleimani, by a US drone strike in Baghdad earlier this month. Sources suggest that Mr Suleimani’s successor, Esmail Qaani, intends to visit Iraq soon to establish continuity and take over the regional missions assigned to the Quds Force in the region. But Iran’s assessment of the situation in Iraq is that regrouping will take time. For this reason, relenting is the name of the game for the moment, even as Iran’s key policy remains the same: forcing the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the region.
At the same time, the uprising there seems determined to hold its ground and US troops appear to be staying put for now. The situation in Iraq therefore remains fragile, without any indication that there might be light at the end of the tunnel.
In Lebanon, the Iranian regime is refusing to surrender Hezbollah’s control – either through the imminent government or on the ground against protesters. But Iranian and Hezbollah leaders worry about the rapid deterioration of the economic situation, affecting their popular base that could turn against them. They are aware that pretending the uprising is against corruption only and not the entire system of government in Lebanon is delusional. But paradoxically, they know that forming a government comprising independent figures means undermining their dominance over Lebanese politics. So they continue to manipulate the form, nature, and orientation of the yet-to-be-formed government.
Their anxiety is justified because the situation is now clearer: there will be no bailouts from outside countries unless the new government includes independent ministers unlinked to the political class. On the other hand, agreeing to form such a reformist government would mean Hezbollah can no longer monopolise decision-making in Lebanon, and Iran’s most important ally in Lebanon and the region would be weakened.
The Lebanese political class – led by Hezbollah’s allies the Free Patriotic Movement, or FPM, and Shia group Amal – has been trying to sculpt a government favourable to it but all attempts have been thwarted by the uprising. They brought in Hassan Diab, a technocrat, to form a government outwardly of reformists but actually comprising advisers and aides to the same politicians. But this trick has backfired. Neither the Europeans have been fooled nor the protesters have been intimidated by the tactics of the corrupt and sectarian ruling class. The slogan of the uprising remains “all of them means all of them”, meaning to get rid of the entire ruling elite.
The prime minister that Lebanon needs is someone who has experience in managing major entities, a CEO or the chief of a major institution, not a goodhearted person wanting to appease all sides. Lebanon needs a government that includes an equal number of men and women, not a government infused with women who take their orders from men. Lebanon needs a “dream team” that would be bold enough to undertake radical reforms. Even respectable independents will not be fit for purpose, if they are weak or malleable. The dilemma, however, is that such a government will not be acceptable to the entire political class, led by Hezbollah.
Hezbollah’s ally in government, the FPM, is caught between a rock and a hard place. It is possible that it might come under sanctions if the situation continues to hold or if the uprising is forced to turn violent. At the same time, the FPM is losing support within its own base because of the arrogance of some of its leaders. The uprising, meanwhile, continues against systematic corruption. It is a multi-generational, multi-confessional uprising of people, who have matured early and no longer care about the stunts of politicians, who still think they can stay in power indefinitely. For this reason, it would be a mistake for the army or the security forces to link their fate to that of the political class. Their duty and interests require them to protect the uprising and join hands with its men and women to shape a brighter future for all Lebanese.
*Raghida Dergham is the founder and executive chairwoman of the Beirut Institute

Lebanon’s next government is doomed to fail
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020
The riots in Beirut and the resurgence of the revolution led the ruling establishment to use the events to push through the cabinet formation.
Sunday 19/01/2020
One month has passed since Hassan Diab was designated by 69 members of parliament to form the next Lebanese government.
Diab is a former minister of education and an engineering professor at the American University of Beirut. His tasks at the head of the cabinet are not short of herculean. He must handle many impossible feats, starting with a full-fledged political crisis, a shattered economy and a nationwide revolt asking for real and lasting political change.
Since his designation as prime minister, Diab has asked the public for time to put together a roster of capable and seemingly independent technocrats who can carry out much-needed reforms to salvage Lebanon and return it to normalcy, whatever that might mean.
Diab, however, is running out of time. He has been unable to form a government that could muster the required votes in parliament and, more important, to appease and win the trust of the people on the streets.
He has insisted that his designation by the pro-Iran faction does not mean he would do its bidding but, rather, that he is free to choose the members of his cabinet. Initial drafts of his lineup indicated otherwise.
The public perception is that Diab is mostly indebted to Gebran Bassil, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah’s main Christian ally, and the son-in-law of Lebanese President Michael Aoun.
While Bassil has been forced to sit out the next cabinet, mainly because of the public’s insistence of a non-partisan and transparent government, this did not prevent him from trying to hijack Diab’s government by proposing people who seemingly have the necessary technical credentials but ultimately report to Bassil. Bassil did not carry out that process subtly but made sure to leave his fingerprints to clearly indicate he was the true powerbroker and that Diab was only window dressing.
Perhaps more indicative of the deep political crisis is the shameful manner in which the political elite deal with Diab and the process. Despite publicly decelerating their willingness to expedite and facilitate the process, the ruling establishment never misses a chance to use its sectarian power base to veto a cabinet and remind the public of its aversion to surrendering even a morsel of power.
Diab, as well as the people behind him, act as if the crisis is one of inadequate or absent economic planning and that a few reforms are sufficient to invite the international community to inject money into Lebanon’s ailing economy.
Even before the ink dried on Diab’s decree, the international media branded him a Hezbollah-backed prime minister, making his task to rally the support of the international community next to none.
Soberly, Jan Kubis, the UN special coordinator for Lebanon, posted on Twitter: “Another day of confusion around the formation of a government, amid the increasingly angry protests and free-falling economy. Politicians, don’t blame the people, blame yourselves for this dangerous chaos.”
The riots in Beirut and the resurgence of the revolution led the ruling establishment to try to use the events to push through the cabinet formation and to claim that the only way to stop the violence, as well as the economic collapse, was to endorse Diab’s feeble proposed government.
The proposed government lineup indicates that Diab’s government is a Trojan horse for both Hezbollah and Bassil, each with their own intended goals.
Surprisingly, Hezbollah and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri prefer that former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri form the next government. They would not mind if Diab steps down or perhaps be forced by the street to resign.
The reality remains that Hariri is the only figure capable of giving Hezbollah enough international protection for the militant movement to operate or so they think.
Bassil, on the other hand, wants to personally return to government and ensure that he is the only contender for the presidency when his father-in-law’s term expires.
Diab might perhaps go to parliament to test whether his cabinet can win a vote of confidence. If it fails, it will replace Hariri’s as the caretaker government and force Hariri to concede to the terms of Hezbollah and its allies. Regardless of the failure or success of the formation process, the Diab affair is proof that the political elite and all of Lebanon are a sinking ship and, instead of steering this ship to port and conducting essential repairs, the ruling clique is using a thimble to bail out the water, confirming its ineptitude and wickedness.
*Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, department of history. His forthcoming book, “Conflict on Mount Lebanon: The Druze, the Maronites and Collective Memory,” (Edinburgh University Press) covers collective identities and the Lebanese Civil War.

Hezbollah’s support for Iran exposes its vulnerabilities at home and abroad
Simon Speakman Cordall/The Arab Weekly/January 19/2020
Further exacerbating Hezbollah’s domestic challenges are protests that have dominated public life across Lebanon since October.
Sunday 19/01/2020
TUNIS – With violence escalating on the streets of Lebanon, Hezbollah’s commitment to supporting any potential Iranian response to the assassination of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani risks exposing the group’s vulnerabilities at home and abroad.
All through its existence, Iran’s Lebanese ally has maintained a dual identity: that of a powerful armed Shia group at home and an active agent of Iranian foreign policy and member of the so-called axis of resistance abroad. This apparently schizophrenic approach to its identity has not been without risks. However, as Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah voices support for Iran’s targeting of US military sites, he risks stoking resistance to his group’s political power at home and alienating potential international help for the failing Lebanese state.
Addressing supporters in Beirut on January 12, Nasrallah described Iran’s limited strike against two US bases in Iraq as a “slap” and as a “first step down a long path” that would eventually see US troops withdraw from the region.
However, as Nasrallah threatened bloody revenge abroad, Hezbollah’s position was under increasing challenge at home. Across Lebanon, protesters vented their anger at the Lebanese political class, in which Hezbollah and its allies in the Amal Movement play pivotal roles.
Nasrallah maintained that “the Americans must remove their bases, soldiers and officers and ships from our region. The alternative… to leaving vertically is leaving horizontally. This is a decisive and firm decision.”He used part of his 90-minute address to highlight the message that Iran’s retaliation against US bases intends for Israel, a country with which Lebanon remains in a state of war.
“The attack on the American bases is also a strong message to the Zionist entity, that is always planning to ‘play’ with Iran. [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu always dreams of sending his air force to attack the infrastructure or nuclear facilities in Iran,” Nasrallah said.
Elie Abouaoun, director of the MENA programme at the US Institute of Peace, said Nasrallah reiterated that the US military in the region is the target but vowed to end the US military presence in “days or weeks.” While Abouaoun said he doubted that was achievable, he added: “Even if the US decides to withdraw, it will take more than “days/weeks” to do it. “So the speech has to be looked at from the two-pronged angle: clear rules of engagement that preserve the Iranian regime and its allies from an all-out war that will be detrimental to Iran while maintaining the thrust of their own constituency, especially at a time when Iranians, thousands of Iraqi Shias — and part of Hezbollah base — are protesting in the streets in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon,” he said. Along with the unrest in the region’s Shia community are more prosaic domestic concerns. Lebanon is one of the world’s most indebted countries, one ill-prepared to weather the push back it might face should one of its most prominent political and military groups escalate its regional adventurism in support of Tehran.
After years of financial decline, Lebanon is regarded as teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, with a public debt burden equivalent to 150% and a budget deficit equal to 11% of GDP. The cost of servicing its debt is reportedly almost $4 billion a year.
Potentially offsetting Lebanon’s dire financial circumstances is the $11 billion in international pledges made at the 2018 CEDRE conference that were conditional on internal reforms and anti-corruption measures. While even these have yet to materialise, Hezbollah’s participation in a wider campaign of retaliation against the United States and its allies in response to the killing of Soleimani is unlikely to engender much goodwill in the international community. Further exacerbating Hezbollah’s domestic challenges are protests that have dominated public life across Lebanon since October. These took an ominous turn with attacks on banks in the Beirut commercial hub of Hamra, highlighting public anger at Lebanon’s political and financial elite. Anti-government protesters said Lebanon’s commercial banks have retained the public’s deposits while allowing politicians, senior civil servants and bank owners to move money abroad despite restrictions on such transfers.Domestic concerns have yet to act as much of a brake on Hezbollah’s international ambitions. There is no doubt that Hezbollah will be part of the anti-US campaign in the region, Abouaoun said.
However, how close that may be to home remained uncertain. “The space to carry out military actions in Lebanon will be limited given the fact that the US military presence in Lebanon is very light and almost invisible,” he said.
*Simon Speakman Cordall is a freelance writer.