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    Lebanon Internal News

    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:03 pm

    No other thread suitable that I could find.

    Huge problems especially power (energy) related.

    This is about Iran shipping refined petrol and diesel not crude to Lebanon and Hezbollah telling Israel that these tankers are regarded as Lebanese soil so any attack on them will come under the current terms of engagement.

    Unlike Iranian tankers heading for Syria these are likely to have no military protection in the Med. Hence the threat. Also, were they to be hit then the polution problem would be far less than hitting a crude tanker, say off Israel's coast.

    This is confirmation, as opposed to a political claim, that the first is on its way.

    TankerTrackers.com, Inc.
    @TankerTrackers
    · 2h
    BREAKING EXCLUSIVE:

    We have now informed clients of the first vessel confirmed to be carrying Iranian refined petroleum product to Lebanon.

    #OOTT #Iran #Lebanon

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    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Wed Aug 25, 2021 11:39 pm

    Seems the tankers are not on their way yet.

    TankerTrackers.com, Inc.
    @TankerTrackers
    ·
    1h
    2021-08-25 UPDATE (2) regarding Iranian fuel for Lebanon:

    Based on our observations, we now anticipate that the tankers will depart no later than Friday. One is laden with fuel for the power grid while the other is loading gasoline.

    Our clients have all of the details.

    Thx
    /TT
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:49 pm

    It seems that the power station fuel tanker finally left yesterday, the petrol tanker today and there is a third now booked. We will see what Israel does.

    Canthama1
    @canthama1
    ·
    1h
    Hezbollah's Nasrallah Announces Third Fuel Tanker Will Sail to Lebanon From Iran https://aml.ink/UHfA0 via @thearabsource

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    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Thu Sep 02, 2021 11:12 pm

    Well that got there quickly. The power station fuel will be sent by road tanker from Syria into Lebanon.

    Seth Frantzman
    @sfrantzman
    ·
    13h
    Pro-Iran media claims that Iranian fuel ship enters Syrian waters, which could help Hezbollah - however there are questions about which ship it is and what’s on it, we quoted @TankerTrackers
    and Al-Akhbar, Tasnim etc


    BUT then I found

    The organization TankerTrackers.com disputed the information, noting that "first tanker has not reached the Suez yet. - Second tanker hasn't left Iran yet but has left port. - Third tanker is leaving Iran. It normally takes 10-12 days to reach the Suez. Normally." TankerTrackers.com said a different tanker with 730,000 barrels of Iranian crude oil arrived several days ago.

    https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/iranian-fuel-ship-enters-syrian-waters-to-help-hezbollah-analysis-678435
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Tue Sep 07, 2021 11:24 am

    All 3 tankers now in the Med

    IWN
    @A7_Mirza
    ·
    1h
    #Iran-ian tankers en route to #Lebanon

    Two Iranian oil tankers bound for Syria crossed the Suez Canal on September 4. Earlier, on September 2, the first Iranian oil tanker carrying fuel oil entered Syrian waters.
    George1
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    Lebanon Internal News Empty Re: Lebanon Internal News

    Post  George1 Fri Sep 10, 2021 2:56 pm

    Lebanese president approves composition of national salvation cabinet of 24 ministers

    It is reported that half of the posts are held by Christians, and another half are from Muslim communities.
    Lebanese president Michel Aoun Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Official Government via AP

    BEIRUT, September 10. /TASS/. Lebanese president Michel Aoun has approved the composition of the national salvation government, which will deal with reforms and the reconstruction of Beirut after last year’s port explosion.

    According to Director General of the Lebanese Presidency Antoine Choucair, the president signed an executive order on a new cabinet headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

    He noted that government consisted of 24 ministers. Half of the posts are held by Christians, and another half are from Muslim communities.

    https://tass.com/world/1336359
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Fri Sep 10, 2021 7:10 pm

    First one safe, this is the one with fuel oil.

    Marwa Osman || د. مروة عثمان
    @Marwa__Osman
    ·
    9 Sep
    First Iranian Fuel ship bound for #Lebanon arrives at Baniyas port in #Syria. More ships are on the way as #Hezbollah prepares to break both US oil siege and local fuel monopoly.
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Fri Sep 10, 2021 8:44 pm

    They may have no money but the tweet is a bit of an exaggeration

    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    6h
    The new Lebanese government includes three types of people:

    1- World bank officials
    2- Lebanese Central bank officials
    3- France and USA affiliated officials and ambassadors.


    Lebanon Internal News E-7EJqWXEAQgIma?format=jpg&name=small

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    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Wed Sep 15, 2021 10:58 pm



    Elijah J. Magnier
    @ejmalrai
    ·
    13 Sep
    Most probably this evening, over 200 Syrian trucks carrying gas oil provided by #Iran to #Hezbollah in #Lebanon are expected to cross the Lebanese-Syrian borders.

    GEROMAN -- I fell in love with #NATO -
    @GeromanAT
    ·
    4h
    Sayyed Nasrallah: Do not hold popular gatherings during the passage of the fuel convoy, in order to preserve everyone's safety and to facilitate the transportation process.
    (Do not celebrate the humiliating defeat of US sanctions is the hidden message here - smart.)

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    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Mon Sep 20, 2021 1:54 pm

    The first tanker is empty and all its load of diesel is now distributed in Lebanon. The second, loaded with petrol is now ready to unload and the third, believed to be carrying more diesel/fuel oil is on the way. Sensibly the Israelis have left them alone.

    Interesting to see if they make another trip.


    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    16h
    Hezbullah completed the distribution of the 1st amount of free diesel to eligible institutions & water pumping stations around Lebanon, including the orphanage of "Convent of Our Lady of Good Service" for Roman Catholics & The Monastery of the Cross Foundation for the elderly.

    syrseal
    @syrseal44
    ·
    15h
    The second Iranian tanker (FOREST) has reached Syrian waters.
    This tanker is transporting fuel to Lebanon.

    TankerTrackers reports that a third Iranian fuel tanker has entered the Red Sea and is heading for Lebanon.


    Meanwhile the new Lebanese PM is blowing a fuse at all this good stuff coming in, avoiding the usual 'commission' schemes Laughing


    tim anderson
    @timand2037
    ·
    19 Sep
    #Lebanon's billionaire PM Mikati says the entry of #Hezbollah facilitated #Iranian fuel "breaches the country's sovereignty".  Thinking face Presumably unlike Lebanese Govt reps having to get US permission to visit their neighbour #Syria Smiling face with open mouth and cold sweat https://thecradle.co/Article/news/2



    The US not happy either

    Assal Rad
    @AssalRad
    ·
    17 Sep
    US gets angry when #Iran sends *fuel* to countries like Lebanon & Venezuela whose people are suffering bc of US sanctions, while we send *weapons* to war criminals.

    Also, a lesson in sovereignty: believing the US controls the movement of fuel from Iran to Lebanon is imperialism.

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member
    @SenateForeign
    · 16 Sep
    #Lebanon’s receipt of U.S.-sanctioned #Iranian fuel, trucked-in by #Hezbollah through #Syria, is a disappointing sign for the future of Lebanon’s accountability and democracy.

    U.S. sanctions must mean something. It’s unnerving to see this admin. not make that clear. twitter.com/reuters/status…
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Fri Oct 01, 2021 1:17 pm

    Probably not getting paid.

    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    3h
    Turkey's Karpowership has stopped supplying Lebanon with electric power from its two ships, Fatma Gul Sultan and Orhan Bey, located opposite the Jiyeh and Zouk plants, after the expiration of their contract this morning.
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Sat Oct 02, 2021 12:43 am

    Looks like one tanker load for Lebanon and the other for Syria.

    Claire Jungman
    @claire_jungman
    · 3h
    The third #Iranian tanker, FORTUNE, with oil for #Lebanon, has entered the Suez with Iranian tanker ROMINA, carrying crude from Sirri Island, right behind her. Both tankers are expected to deliver to #Syria with FORTUNE's oil distributed to Lebanon by truck. #UANIShipping #OOTT

    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Wed Oct 06, 2021 9:51 pm

    Kareem Chehayeb | كريم شهيب
    @chehayebk
    · 14h
    The third tanker of #Hezbollah-brokered fuel from Iran to #Lebanon has reached Baniyas Port in #Syria according to @TankerTrackers.
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Sun Oct 10, 2021 12:42 am

    So, this is perhaps why the US was supporting this deal. It is naturally causing a bit of a stir in Lebanon.

    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    4h
    Speaking head in silhouette Israeli Channel 12:

    The Egyptian & Jordanian gas pipelines are filled with Israeli gas from the Leviathan field. Therefore, the “Egyptian gas” that will be transported to Lebanon via Jordan and Syria “is Israeli gas.”

    USA's plan to power Lebanon.


    Lebanon Internal News FBRqlNrXsAUjmkt?format=jpg&name=240x240


    Taking a long time to unload

    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    3h
    The thirteenth convoy of Iranian diesel, which includes about 60 tankers of 50,000L diesel, crossed Syria to Lebanon, bringing the total to about 33 million liters.

    This is the cargo of the first ship.




    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    5h
    Too much hype today over the Lebanese power plant shutdown.

    There is nothing out of the ordinary in this situation, as it has been exactly so for the past few months.

    Why the hype? Because of some greater narrative of power blackouts around the world.

    JohninMK
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    Lebanon Internal News Empty 2020 Beirut explosion part 2

    Post  JohninMK Mon Nov 22, 2021 12:39 pm

    Original thread locked but its not over yet.

    Wow, this could cause some ripples, maybe there is some evidence that it was a mini nuke or not after all.

    Lebanese News and Updates
    @LebUpdate
    ·
    36m
    🇷🇺 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov: "Russia has handed over to Lebanon satellite images related to the Beirut port explosion."

    🇱🇧 Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bouhabib: "We have received satellite images of Beirut port and we will hand them over to the judiciary."
    Isos
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    Post  Isos Mon Nov 22, 2021 1:06 pm

    Nuks emmits radiation and would have been picked up.

    More likely a israeli sabotage of the storage area or even a missile.
    JohninMK
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    Post  JohninMK Mon Nov 22, 2021 1:12 pm

    Isos wrote:Nuks emmits radiation and would have been picked up.

    More likely a israeli sabotage of the storage area or even a missile.


    We discussed this to death at the time. It was not my intention to restart that. Lets wait to see if anything new comes out.

    Lebanon is not known for keeping secrets.

    Perhaps unlock the old thread and do a merge?

    Isos
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    Post  Isos Mon Nov 22, 2021 1:19 pm

    JohninMK wrote:
    Isos wrote:Nuks emmits radiation and would have been picked up.

    More likely a israeli sabotage of the storage area or even a missile.


    We discussed this to death at the time. It was not my intention to restart that. Lets wait to see if anything new comes out.

    Lebanon is not known for keeping secrets.

    Perhaps unlock the old thread and do a merge?


    I wasn't following the thread. Not my intention to restart a long discussion. But it's obvious that nuks can be detected.

    Actually it is a useless thread. Just go in the lebanon news if it exists.
    George1
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    Post  George1 Mon Nov 22, 2021 2:22 pm

    I put it here so as not to have various seperate threads for lebanon facts and news
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    Post  flamming_python Sat Sep 17, 2022 9:54 am

    https://thecradle.co/Article/News/15753

    ‘Revolution against banks’: Outraged depositors raid banks across Lebanon
    After three years without access to their life savings, Lebanese citizens have started targeting the culprits of the 2019 economic meltdown
    Lebanon Internal News Unknown-2-1

    At least eight banks were raided by desperate depositors in Lebanon on 16 September, in the latest repercussion of the manufactured economic crisis crippling the country.

    Armed citizens — some with nothing but toy guns — launched their coordinated action early on Friday in Beirut, Ghazieh, Chiyah, Chehim, and Tarik al-Jdideh, demanding access to their own savings.

    In Chehim, the depositor was a first lieutenant in the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), who opened fire inside the bank.

    No injuries or casualties have been reported.

    While some of the depositors obtained their funds before being arrested, others holed up inside the bank branches holding employees hostage.

    “We have been impoverished and we want medicines. I’m standing idly by in the face of my children because I can’t get them what they want seeing as my money is trapped in the bank,” Ismail al-Moussawi, who recovered some of his savings on Friday, told reporters.

    “Every time I go to get my money, I am humiliated. I am forced to beg because of corrupt politicians,” Al-Moussawi added.

    The coordinated action was launched just two days after the ‘Association of Depositors in Lebanon’ warned of “daily raids” to recover depositors’ funds — locked away for three years by Lebanese banks.

    “The real beginning of the revolution started yesterday, when Sally Hafez entered the bank, and there is no turning back,” Ibrahim Abdullah, a member of the ‘Depositors’ Outcry’ group said at a press conference this week. “This revolution is against all the banks.”

    In response to the raids, the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) announced all banks would close their doors for three days starting on Monday.

    “The association insists on rejecting violence in all its forms because violence is not and will not be the solution,” it said in a statement.

    However, activists from the depositors’ group warned: “on the fourth day hundreds of depositors [will be] waiting for you in the banks.”

    Some Lebanese banks informed their clients that they could only access their branches by calling ahead and registering for a visit from now on.

    Bassam Mawlawi, the caretaker minister of interior, called for an emergency meeting of the Central Security Council to discuss security measures that can be taken in light of the worsening situation.

    Since 2019, Lebanon has been experiencing the worst economic collapse in modern history.

    After initially locking citizens out of their bank accounts completely, Lebanese banks started to impose limits on withdrawals. If a client had a US dollar account, banks would only disburse their money in Lebanese currency, which has lost over 90 percent of its value.

    The World Bank has described the man-made crisis as a “Ponzi scheme,” while the UN has accused the central bank and Lebanese officials of “human rights violations” for their role in setting the stage for this crisis.

    Many banks in Lebanon are under investigation for their dealings with the Central Bank and its Governor, Riad Salameh, which involve the illicit transfer of billions of dollars abroad during the financial collapse of 2019.

    https://thecradle.co/Article/Investigations/15577

    Saad Hariri and the collapse of Lebanon
    The Syrian regime-change war and Lebanon's economic collapse happened under Saad Hariri's watch, but the Future Movement leader is seldom mentioned for the pivotal role he played in Lebanon's unravelling
    By William Van Wagenen
    September 12 2022
    Lebanon Internal News Hariri-legacy

    In 2005, US neoconservatives centered around then-Vice President Dick Cheney’s office began collaborating with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, defected former Syrian Vice President Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, and the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to topple the Syrian government.

    Washington did so as part of an effort to topple the governments of seven countries in five years, including Libya and Iran, using the so-called ‘War on Terror’ as a pretext.

    However another crucial, though overlooked collaborator in the regime change effort was pro-Saudi Lebanese politician Saad Hariri. And his actions would soon see massive repercussions unfold in his own country.

    The dynastic Hariris

    In 2005, Saad’s father, former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated in a massive car bombing, which a highly-politicized UN-backed court pinned on two individuals affiliated with Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah. In the wake of Rafiq’s death, Saad came to head not only the Saudi-supported Future Movement – Lebanon’s leading Sunni political party – but also the multi-billion-dollar Hariri business conglomerate established by his father in Saudi Arabia.

    Initially, the US, French, and Israeli governments quickly blamed Syria for Rafiq’s killing. Presumably, Saad was motivated to participate in the US-led regime change effort in Syria as a result.

    But business interests also played a role as Saad wished to gain control over Syria’s telecommunication sector. This is something his father had previously tried, but failed to accomplish.

    As French journalist Georges Malbrunot details in his book The Road to Damascus, Syria first launched its mobile phone industry in the early 2000’s, and Lebanon’s prime minister at the time, Rafiq Al-Hariri, wanted to invest in one of the two Syrian companies that had just been created for this purpose.

    But Rami Makhlouf, cousin of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad and the dominant investor in the sector, blocked Rafiq’s efforts. Malbrunot notes further that according to a lawyer close to the Syrian government, “there was an immediate veto from the intelligence services against Hariri.”

    While the Baath Party may have considered the telecommunications sector to be of strategic importance – and therefore not open to outsiders – Assad would have also been concerned about Hariri’s direct role in bribing top Syrian officials, including then-Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam, prior to his defection, among a broad slate of other grievances.

    In the wake of Rafiq’s assassination, Saad was quick to pick up his father’s baton. At the time the Christian Science Monitor reported that:

    “[Saad Hariri] may be a newcomer to Lebanese politics, but Hariri is no neophyte. He ran his father’s massive construction company, Saudi Oger, for over a decade and has extensive financial interests in telecommunications in the Middle East. He is ranked at 548 in Forbes Magazine’s annual list of billionaires with an estimated fortune of $1.2 billion. His father was ranked 108th with $4.3 billion. Hariri has adopted his father’s globe-trotting existence, holding talks with Jacques Chirac, the French president and a close family friend, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Middle East leaders.”

    Saad’s support of Salafi-jihadists

    In addition to running his deceased father’s business conglomerate, Saad was active in protecting Al-Qaeda affiliated militant groups in Lebanon. Journalist Seymour Hersh notes that according to a 2005 International Crisis Group (ICG) report, Hariri had helped release four Salafist militants from prison who had previously trained in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and were arrested in Lebanon while trying to establish an Islamic state in the north of the country.

    Hariri also used his influence in parliament to obtain amnesty for another 29 Salafist militants, including seven suspected of bombing foreign embassies in Beirut a year prior. Hersh notes that according to a senior official in the Lebanese government, “We have a liberal attitude that allows Al-Qaeda types to have a presence here.”

    In the wake of the radical Fatah Al-Islam’s 2007 battle with the Lebanese army, which destroyed the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp, Charles Harb of the American University of Beirut (AUB) observed that Saad was giving “political cover” to “radical Sunni movements” that could be directed and employed against the Resistance Axis of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah.

    Harb also noted the involvement of Saudi intelligence in cultivating these groups. He explained that “Several reports have highlighted efforts by Saudi officials to strengthen Sunni groups, including radical ones, to face the Shia renaissance across the region. But building up radical Sunni groups to face the Shia challenge can easily backfire.”

    Start of the ‘Syrian Revolution’

    In early 2011, US planners exploited dissatisfaction among certain segments of Syrian society – not only pro-western liberals but also the country’s Salafi community – to spark initial ‘Arab Spring’ type protests in the country.

    Saad Hariri’s interest in gaining control of the Syrian telecommunication network via any successful regime-change operation was hinted at during the first protest in Daraa, a predominantly Sunni governorate, on 18 March, 2011.

    As Syrian sociologist Muhammad Jamal Barout revealed, protestors in Daraa chanted against Rami Makhlouf and demanded that his businesses be expelled from the province (recall that Makhlouf held the dominant position in Syria’s telecommunications sector).

    Salafist militants, including from Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), quickly began attacking Syrian security forces under the cover of the early protests. US planners facilitated these attacks (with the help of Prince Bandar), in the hope of unleashing a sectarian civil war on the country comparable to that which had destroyed Iraq starting in 2003.

    The Future Movement and Salafi terror

    Prominent opposition and human rights activist Haitham Manna provided evidence that elements close to Saad Al-Hariri were among those funneling weapons to the Salafist militants in Syria, including in Daraa, in part to secure financial interests.

    According to Muhammad Jamal Barout, Manna’ publicly disclosed in an interview on Al-Jazeera on 31 March, 2011, that “he had received offers to arm movements from Raqqa to Daraa three times by parties he did not identify in the interview.”

    Barout additionally writes that, according to Manna, there were secret communications between some Syrian businessmen abroad who found themselves bent on revenge against the Assad government because their interests had been harmed by the network of the pro-government businessman Makhlouf.

    Furthermore, these groups were willing to fund and arm opposition movements throughout the country. Barout notes that these businessmen apparently had relations with professional networks capable of delivering weapons to any location in Syria and that some members of the Future Movement in Lebanon were among those arranging these weapons shipments.

    One name pops up more than others: Okab Sakr, the MP from Hariri’s Future movement made infamous in phone conversations leaked to Lebanese media outlet Al Akhbar, in which he directly discusses large weapons transfers to Syrian militants.

    Writes The Guardian of Hariri’s close confidant: “Every time Okab is in town the weapons start to move across the border,” said a rebel colonel from the Jebel al-Zawiya region, who calls himself Abu Wael.

    Sakr eventually fled the country to avoid repercussions for his illicit activities, and admitted to his role in arming the Syrian conflict, which dragged Lebanon into the messy and dangerous fray.

    Within no time, Fatah Al-Islam and other militants previously under the protection of Hariri and Saudi intelligence in Lebanon were soon identified on the battlefield in Syria. Dr. Haytham Mouzahem, director of the Beirut Center for Middle East Studies explained that, “When the uprising in Syria began in 2011, many of the remaining Fatah al-Islam members crossed the border and joined groups in the Free Syrian Army [FSA].”

    This provided one indication among many that the FSA – as it was known then – was not secular, democratic, or comprised primarily of army defectors, as is often claimed, but rather consisted primarily of Salafist militants, including many affiliated with Al-Qaeda.

    The role of Al-Qaeda militants from Lebanon came further into focus in the summer of 2011, when Der Spiegel reported that a prominent Salafist cleric in Tripoli was sending fighters into Syria as early as summer 2011 because, in his view, “Assad is an infidel” and “There is a holy war in Syria and the young men there are conducting jihad. For blood, for honor, for freedom, for dignity.”

    According to one of the fighters interviewed by the German magazine, around 60 percent of the Lebanese fighters crossing the border from Tripoli to Homs had previously fought in Iraq.

    Syrian fallout: Refugees flood into Lebanon

    As the months and years passed, more and more jihadists flooded into Syria. As they did, and as fighting with the Syrian army and its allies intensified and became more brutal and sectarian, more and more Syrian civilians flooded into Lebanon to flee the conflict back home.

    With the onset of war in Syria in 2011 and subsequent US sanctions, the Syrian economy began to massively contract, which in turn caused the closely connected Lebanese economy to gradually slow as well.

    Given that Lebanon is a small country facing its own disastrous economic crisis, it has been unable to provide decent living conditions for even its own 5.5 million residents, let alone for the 1.7 million Syrian refugees present in the country.

    Because US planners, along with their many regional collaborators including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Lebanon and others, launched a dirty war on Syria in 2011 causing millions of Syrians to flee their homes and seek refuge in bordering states, it is the US and its close allies that bear most of the responsibility for the current refugee crisis Lebanon now faces.

    Accommodating such a large number of refugees would always be difficult, but this became near impossible after the October 2019 Lebanese banking crisis, which in turn caused what the World Bank described as a “brutal” economic contraction of a magnitude “usually associated with conflicts or wars.” Even relatively prosperous and middle-class Lebanese were plunged into poverty, losing most of their life savings, as the Lebanese lira quickly plunged.

    A Hariri legacy: Lebanon’s economic collapse

    The origins of the crisis can be traced to the creation of a banking infrastructure based on efforts to maintain a currency peg between the Lebanese lira and US dollar.

    This system was established by Lebanese central banker Riad Salameh in the 1990’s in the wake of the Lebanese civil war, presumably to restore economic stability needed after the wild currency swings seen throughout the conflict.

    Then-prime minister Rafiq Hariri had appointed Salameh – his personal money manager at US brokerage firm Merrill Lynch – as governor of Lebanon’s Central Bank.

    To maintain the peg, Salameh effectively established a Ponzi scheme that enriched wealthy Lebanese as well as the bankers themselves. As the New York Times explained:

    “Lebanon’s Central Bank promised that 1,507 Lebanese lira would be worth exactly $1 and that Lebanese banks would always exchange one for the other. That policy brought stability, but it also required Lebanon’s banks to hold a large store of U.S. dollars . . . so the banks could make good on the promise to exchange 1,507 lira for $1 at any point. Lebanese firms also needed dollars to pay for imported goods, a large part of the economy in a country that produces little of what it consumes. . . . To keep dollars flowing in, the head of Lebanon’s Central Bank developed a plan: Banks would offer very generous terms — including an annual interest of 15 percent or even 20 percent — to anybody who would deposit dollars. But the only way for banks to make good on these terms was by repaying the initial depositors with money from new depositors. Of course, there is a name for this practice: a Ponzi scheme.”

    The receipt of such high interest rates on deposits allowed wealthy Lebanese both at home and abroad to slowly loot the country. Commercial bankers benefitted as well, by receiving a handsome spread on the interest rate paid by the central bank and forwarded to depositors. The Hariri family benefited directly from the system, both as owners of huge US dollar deposits as well as owners of their own commercial bank, Bankmed.

    Riad Salameh personally benefitted from the system as well, setting up a brokerage firm with his brother, Forry Associates, that took some $330 million in fees for brokering the sale of government bonds between 2002 and 2015, $200 million of which were allegedly transferred to Salemeh’s personal accounts with various Lebanese banks, including with Hariri’s Bankmed. These transfers led to the ongoing investigation of Salemeh by European officials on charges of money laundering and embezzlement.

    As the protracted Syrian war – aided by Hariri and his allies -across Lebanon’s only viable land border tore into Lebanon’s fragile economy, and the flow of new US dollars entering the Lebanese banking system also began to slow, Salameh’s Ponzi scheme became unsustainable, and finally began to collapse in October 2019.

    Lebanese banks began to restrict US dollar withdrawals for small depositors to minor amounts, while secretly allowing wealthy and connected clients to pull out huge sums for transfer abroad. Soon, small depositors, who had themselves deposited dollars, were restricted to withdrawing an unreasonable equivalent in Lebanese liras instead.

    The value of the lira quickly dropped by some 90 percent, wiping out the life savings of many and causing mass poverty as prices of everything, including essential goods, skyrocketed. According to banker and political commentator, Ehsani, the total losses for depositors amount to roughly $111 billion.

    According to Syria’s President Assad, some $40 billion of those frozen deposits may be of Syrian origin, with huge negative ramifications for the country’s finances and reconstruction efforts.

    The October 2019 economic collapse was accompanied by wide-spread protests expressing anger against Lebanon’s broader political class, pressuring Saad Hariri to step down as prime minister.

    Despite the key role played by the Hariri-Salameh political clique in establishing, benefitting from, and finally collapsing the Lebanese banking system, and subsequently the entire economy, both Hariri and Salameh continue to enjoy diplomatic and political support from their backers in Washington.

    In February 2020, amidst criticism of Salameh’s role in precipitating the crisis, US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea suggested to Lebanese TV it was “a mistake to scapegoat any one person or institution for Lebanon’s economic collapse” and that Salameh, still “enjoys great confidence in the international financial community.”

    The reason for this was provided, at least in part, in April 2019 when Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar published minutes of a meeting between the US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism Financing and Financial Crimes, Marshall Billingsley, and the (former) Lebanese Economy Minister, Mansour Bteish. The minutes cite a US official saying:

    “We need a governor of the Banque du Liban [central bank] and a deputy governor who we can trust, and who is sensitive and with whom confidential information about terrorist financing and money laundering can be exchanged. The situation today is that we trust Governor Riad Salameh and (former) Deputy Governor Muhammad Baasiri.”

    As US planners have not been fighting terrorism, but rather funding and arming al-Qaeda affiliated groups to use as proxies in their war against Syria between 2011 and 2017, this suggests Salameh continues to enjoy US protection to avoid details of terrorist financing, in particular Saad Hariri’s role in arming terrorist groups in Syria on behalf of US planners, from coming to light.

    It is difficult to imagine that Lebanon can emerge from its current crisis, or deal with corruption and poor governance plaguing the country, while US influence over Lebanese affairs remains dominant and oppressive US sanctions against Syria remain in place.
    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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      Current date/time is Sun Dec 04, 2022 8:39 pm