Only a few days separate Lebanon from French President Emmanuel Macron’s second visit to Lebanon which coincides with the occasion of the centenary of the establishment of Greater Lebanon. Macron promised to attend in person for two reasons: The first is to reaffirm the special place Lebanon occupies in French political history, and the second is to find out what progress President Aoun and Speaker of the Parliament Berri, along with the rest of the political forces, have achieved. Macron is expecting change on the political level by the formation of a new cabinet that is capable of assuming the mantle of implementing true reform that is capable of being a starting point for the procurement of international aid needed to uplift Lebanon from the unprecedented crisis it is experiencing.
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As of today, nothing has been achieved from the French president’s initiative that he undertook as he visited Beirut in the wake of the catastrophic August 4 explosions. Furthermore, rumors suggest that the upcoming visit might even be postponed due to the officials’ utter failure to even nominate a new prime minister. They continue to procrastinate and hold informal consultations in order to achieve the largest possible partisan gains for their respective parties. This of course has resulted in no progress whatsoever, as they continue to ignore the plight of the Lebanese people who are going through dire circumstances.
The officials continue to deceive the people and the international community as the resignation of the cabinet buys them enough time for their personal gain. They believe that there is no harm in blocking any kind of reform that goes against their own interest regardless of the fact that Lebanon will have to pay the price.
What is clear so far is that the Lebanese political system and its constituents are stronger than Macron’s initiative, and any breakthrough that can be achieved will require international efforts by multiple parties.
Naji Abi Assi
Lebanese Ambassador to France and former diplomatic advisor to President Michel Suleiman, Ambassador Naji Abi Assi agreed as he told Janoubia: “Naturally, if the international support was restricted to France alone, any further settlement that would be prepared excluding the United States and Iran is doomed to fail. The role of France alone cannot suffice… It is not enough for the French to work on the initiative to rescue Lebanon on their own. The international channels that opened up to Lebanon in the wake of its disaster in the Beirut Port must be accompanied by a serious communication and coordination between authorities and the Americans, Iranians, Russians, and Turkey in order to bear success.”
The director of research at the Issam Fares Institute, Dr. Nasser Yassin, agrees with Abi Assi’s description, as he tells Janoubia: “ I believe the French initiative is doomed to fail because it happened as a reaction to the explosion and only came from a place of humanitarian concern which allowed for lifting previous boycotts… The United States did not object to lifting this boycott, but there is still no indication that it will change its policies in the region or in Lebanon. It is clear that we will not witness any new deals in the region before the US presidential elections which require months before the reigns can be handed to the new administration.”
Yassin believes that: “What is happening now is an international response to the explosion in Beirut, and to aid the Lebanese people urgently in need. The French initiative came in with hopes that such a disaster will ignite a political change, but I believe such a thing is far from happening because the Iranians are not interested in a settlement with a US administration nearing the end of its term.” Yassin added that Macron’s visit will not succeed because it came at a challenging time in which Lebanon is slowly sliding towards the bottom. It was a final warning to the political class, but it will not succeed as it has not produced any kind of progress in the past 3 weeks.”
Yassin regrets that the political class in Lebanon are still the same when it comes to clientelism and securing their quotas and profits. “Unfortunately, this ruling class lives off crises and will not abandon its approach else they lose the deep state they have built over the decades.” He concludes.