Lebanon. After a devastating government crisis, parliamentary elections were held on June 7. The ruling March 14 coalition with the West-friendly Future Movement at the forefront triumphed but failed to get enough mandates to form government alone. The election results surprised many observers. One explanation was the relative calm that prevailed during the March 14 coalition’s reign last year. The turnout was 52 percent, the highest in 20 years. Future Movement leader Saad al-Hariri, who has never ruled before, was commissioned to form a government but did not succeed until December 10.
In the new unifying government, the Future Movement and its Druse and Maronite allies received 15 ministerial posts. Five ministers were appointed by President Michel Suleiman while the opposition received ten posts, of which the Syria-backed Hizbullah movement has two. Assessors believed that this strengthened the influence of Hizbullah and Syria. The new government also soon decided to allow Hizbullah’s military branch to retain its weapons, which was a cracking issue during the negotiations.
According to countryaah, Al-Hariri visited Syria on December 20, where he met with President Bashar al-Asad. At the border with Israel, it was relatively calm during the year, except in mid-July when a gunfire belonging to Hizbullah exploded 15 kilometers from the border. Israel reported the incident to the UN because it considered it a violation of UN Resolution 1701, which Lebanon signed after the war between the countries between 2006 and which stated that the border zone would be demilitarized.
In March, Lebanon and Syria opened embassies in each other’s capitals, a step in deepening the countries’ fresh diplomatic relations. Four pro-Syrian generals, who had been arrested in 2005 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of al-Hariri’s father, former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, earlier the same year, were released April 29 on orders by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a court based in the Netherlands, charged with prosecution those responsible for the murder. According to the court, there was insufficient evidence against the four generals.
After the war, Israel was thrown into a turbulent political situation. Justice Haim Ramon had to resign after sexually harassing an 18-year-old Israeli soldier. It was revealed that the commander-in-chief of war crimes against Lebanon, General Chief of Staff Dan Halutz immediately after the Israeli government launched the attack on Lebanon on July 12, sold its shares in order to avoid the 20-30% price drop the Israeli stock exchange was exposed to during the outbreak of war. Justice was greater than patriotism. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was the subject of almost daily demonstrations. from the reservists who had been called to war, demonstrating against the absurdity of the war and the many losses. 120 Israeli soldiers were killed. Of those alone, 33 killed in the last two days when Israel sent 40.
The Lebanon war was the longest Israel had led, and at the same time the war in which it suffered the greatest political and military defeat. Not even the two arrested soldiers who were officially the cause of the war were released. Of the parties, Lebanon and Hezbollah complied with the ceasefire, while Israel broke it on a number of occasions. The most serious breach occurred on August 19, when Israel conducted an offensive action deep into the Bekaa Valley. However, the action was fought back by Lebanese forces and 3 Israeli soldiers were killed. Military analysts considered the action a desperate Israeli attempt to either free the two arrested Israeli soldiers, or capture a senior Hezbollah member who could be used in a prisoner exchange against the two Israelis.
In Lebanon, the Israelis were most interested in coming out again as soon as possible, and, therefore, surprisingly allowed 15,000 Lebanese soldiers to move south of the Litani River. At the same time, large Israeli troop forces withdrew from the country. Hezbollah began distributing money to the civilian victims of the war in southern Lebanon. Each family received US $ 12,000. The United States also made money available, but the Lebanese declined to accept this support on the grounds that they were first bombed with North American bombs and afterwards the United States tried to buy dollars with dollars. It didn’t work. The Gulf states, too, agreed with support, however, which had to be channeled through the Lebanese government. Therefore, despite efforts by the United States and reactionary Arab states, Hezbollah’s position after the ceasefire was further strengthened.
New rules will increase transparency
Votes in favor of rule changes that will allow for the audit of all publicly funded institutions, both state and municipal; The reason is the central bank’s refusal, among other things with reference to bank secrecy, to release documents required for international lenders to form an opinion on how the Lebanese finances really are. Activists critical of the political elite, however, doubt the good will of the country’s politicians. Jad Chaaban, an economist and activist on the political left, tells the AFP news agency that the system allows “thieves to investigate thieves”.
20th of November
The US audit firm Alvarez and Marsal has withdrawn from the task of reviewing Lebanon’s national accounts, the Lebanese Presidential Office and the Ministry of Finance announced. The reason is said to be the difficulties in gaining access to all the material needed for the audit (see November 3.) The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and France are among the lenders who want clarity in government finances before they are ready to give Lebanon access to crisis loans.
Sanctions against Christian party leaders
The United States imposes sanctions on Christian politician Gebran Bassil, whose party the Free Patriotic Movement is allied with the powerful Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah. Gebran Bassil is the son-in-law of the president and party founder Michel Aoun and has himself been Minister of Foreign Affairs and Energy (see 21 January 2020). He has previously also been mentioned as a possible future president. The United States holds Bassil responsible for systematic corruption. The sanction decision covers properties he owns and companies where he is the majority owner. American people and companies are not allowed to do business with him.
Difficult to gain insight into Lebanon’s accounts
Lebanon is breaking a time limit set by international lenders, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and France. These want transparency in the national accounts, before the Lebanese government can have access to urgent credit. However, the New York-based auditing firm commissioned to review the books does not receive the requested documents from the central bank. The bank claims that it is credit legislation and bank secrecy that constitute the obstacles. The outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab, for his part, has given the Governor of the Riksbank a “scratch” and emphasized that bank secrecy does not apply to government accounts. Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni states a few days later that the lenders’ deadline has been extended by three months.