The Expectations Behind the New Lebanese Government: What Made the Miracle Happen?

We present to you an article by Jad Yatim on the recently formed new government in Lebanon. His assessment will allow us to look at this problem from a unique perspective. Jad Yatim is an experienced expert on the Middle East, and Lebanon in particular.

Soon he will join Abhaseed, thanks to which our initiative enters the next phase of qualitative development. It is particularly noteworthy that Jad Yatim conducts training for, among others, journalists.

Finally, the Lebanese government was formed and what was different this time, after 13 months of impossibilities – when 2 appointed Prime Ministers, Mustafa Adib and Saad Hariri, resigned- is the Iranian- French agreements.

To start with Iraq, the latest visit by French president Emmanuel Macron resulted in “Total Company” deal with Iraq that followed directly the visit and worth 27 billion $, one of the biggest oil deals ever.

In fact, “Total” influence in France’s foreign policy, especially when it comes to Lebanon, is significant.

Lebanese PM Hariri was under home arrest in Riyadh after he was forced to resign in 4 November 2017, and he was only released and returned to Beirut in 21 of November 2017 after international efforts lead in particular by Macron.

This comes after a Total delegation urged Macron to release Hariri so the later can finalize the bid for exploring gas and oil in Lebanon.

On 9 February 2018, Lebanon officially signed a contract with a Total lead consortium (Eni and Novatek were partners) to give them the first Exploration and Production license for 2 blocks 4 and 9.

The consortium, that was the only one running the bid, was fully engaged in carrying out the first offshore exploration campaign in Lebanon.

So, the exchange of interests between France and Iran produced a government in Lebanon, and a Total contract in Iraq.

For sure, both sides benefited from a kind of “US retreat” in the region, that allowed a “yellow light” for an Iran-France understanding about Lebanon, but only as the first step in the way to a bigger or final deal that ought to be an Iranian-American one.

US didn’t oppose the deal, and eventually Iran got what it wants: The new government in Lebanon is not a hostile one for Iran, and it can help Hezbollah to keep the country together without losing control.

Jabal Lubnan / Pixabay

This Lebanese government was like an “appetizer” by Iranians for US before resuming nuclear talks, that seems to face critical obstacles.

In return, US approved showed the possibility to allow sanctions’ “waiver” concerning Syria, when US ambassador in Beirut Dorothy Shea said in a TV interview after meeting the Lebanese president Micheal Aoun that US is putting efforts to end Lebanon’s electricity severe cut-off through Egyptian gas and Jordanian Electric supplements.

That meant US granting a waiver for the sanctions imposed on Assad regime of Syria in order to allow the passage of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity to Lebanon through Syria, and thus gave some legitimacy to Assad regime that is backed by Iran.

In this sense, Iran got legitimacy in Syria and more power and legitimacy in Lebanon, but what does US and France got in return?

Benefits for France:

  1. Total deal in Iraq
  2. Expected Total deals in Iran (after lifting/easing the sanctions)
  3. A push to Macron in the coming presidential elections: Macron can say that his initiative that he launched after Beirut Port blast in 4 August, 2020, didn’t fail and Lebanon is now back on the track with a government that is pledging to start the reforms. Off note, new PM Najib Mikati visited Paris for a meeting with Macron even before his government win the confidence vote.
  4. France doesn’t want to see this free fall of Lebanon and is willing to participate in reconstruction, especially when it comes to Beirut seaport.

Benefits for US:

  • Starting the negotiations with IMF: Now the new government representing all Lebanese powers including Hezbollah is accepting to start negotiations with IMF. Almost one year ago that was described by Hezbollah as “betrayal” and “accepting US conditions”.
    Now all parties are agreeing on that, and it is even mentioned in the Governmental Statement.
    And with IMF came what US wants: controlling the borders with Syria: fighters, money laundry, smuggling, etc.
    This will also mean more control over the airport and seaport. These are conditions IMF thinks are crucial for controlling the state budget.
  • The new government will resume maritime negotiations with Israel with US mediation. This is a file that can bring more stability and security for US vital and strategic ally in the region.

Does this mean getting out of the tunnel for a country that lost almost 80% of its currency’s value?

This doesn’t seem likely. The positive mood that prevailed after forming the government will not be enough and it will soon vanish unless it is supported with reforms on each and every level.

It is not believed that the same powers that same behind the crisis that lead to losing Lebanese savings in the banks, to start any serious reforms because this will mean sending the same political powers’ personalities to court.

The local investigation lead by Judge Tarek Bitar is a good indication how any serious and transparent investigation concerning corruption will end: Security officials, Ex-PMs and ministers, MPs are refusing to respond to any warranty issued by Bitar.

This will mean, that this new government will try to keep a bottom line with relatively better services till the general elections that will take place either in March or May 2022, in order to keep the popular anger, against the traditional political powers, low.

This will mean the political powers responsible for the crisis will have more chances to win more votes.

It seems the miracle of forming a new government was a chance for the political powers to polish its history rather than a chance to rebuild a new hope in Lebanon.