Aoun, Hezbollah to cling to power, come hell or high water

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While Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil and his Iranian-backed Shiite ally haven’t dictated much of the post-war policies, they are equally responsible for today’s crisis.

by Elias Sakr -Source: Annahar

As demonstrations to topple the government gained momentum across Lebanon, Foreign Minister and President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil warned those who took to the streets of an imminent financial crisis.

“Imagine the situation without a government, security (stability), money in markets and banks, and without flour and fuel,” he said from the Baabda Presidential Palace in an attempt to persuade dissidents to end their rebellion against his government.

Bassil was telling the truth but only half the story.

The other half is that this ruling class is unlikely to steer Lebanon clear of a financial meltdown of the government’s own making in recent years; though the root cause is rampant corruption and unsustainable economic, fiscal and monetary policies that date back to the early ’90s.

While Bassil and his Iranian-backed Shiite ally haven’t dictated much of these post-war policies, they are equally responsible for today’s crisis.

By completely aligning Lebanon with the Iranian axis, they have provoked Gulf countries to halt their investments and refrain from providing financial aid to a country that relies on capital inflows to compensate for its trade deficit.

The result is an acceleration in the balance of payment deficit that forced the Central Bank to burn through its usable foreign currency reserves, estimated today by Moody’s at $6-10 billion.

This has led to a depreciation in the market exchange rate of the Lebanese pound against the dollar. The Lebanese pound will depreciate further as protests– sparked by the failed policies of a Cabinet that Bassil and his allies dominate– continue to engulf the small Mediterranean country.

Yes, Bassil is right to sound the alarm but protestors are equally right not to trust him in tackling and containing the crisis; a crisis that will worsen under the pressure of political instability and a potential deterioration in security conditions if the protesters’ demands aren’t met.

Ideally, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns and a new 8-member Cabinet is formed where the defense and interior portfolios are assigned to security officials. Other key portfolios are assigned to technocrats tasked with devising an action plan to address the financial crisis and forming an independent body to investigate the embezzlement of public funds.

The Cabinet would supervise early parliamentary elections, giving the Lebanese people the opportunity to take their future into their own hands.

But will Hezbollah, Aoun and its allies, who command a parliamentary majority, agree to such a scenario?

Probably not, because they know too well that they, along with other members of the ruling class, are set to lose their grip on power.

Instead, expect them to fight tooth and nail to maintain their dominion, even if it means plunging Lebanon into turmoil.

 

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