Fake oranges filled with Captagon pills and dissimulated in boxes containing real fruit, after the shipment was intercepted by the customs and the anti-drug brigade at the Beirut port, Lebanon, on 29 December 2021. Photo: ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images.

The growing Captagon trade in Syria and Lebanon has been given much attention in recent months. The networks involved in this trade, such as the Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army and other smaller armed groups in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and networks of smugglers in both countries, help extend its reach beyond the borders of Syria and Lebanon, smuggling Captagon to Gulf countries – especially Saudi Arabia – and even to Europe. The transnational nature of this illicit activity and its link to the context of the Syrian conflict requires international policies that take into account cross-border conflict dynamics, including how people can end up involved in illicit activities to cope financially.…  Seguir leyendo »

La economía política libanesa está paralizada. Los líderes políticos del país no asumirán el compromiso con las reformas económicas que este necesita, porque perderían poder. Por buenos motivos, la mayoría de los análisis publicados sobre el Líbano hacen referencia a problemas como la corrupción y la decadencia institucional, pero a la mayoría de los comentaristas se les escapa el papel que desempeñan las partes interesadas externas, que no encuentran demasiados motivos para promover cambios al statu quo disfuncional.

Aunque las potencias extranjeras con intereses en el Líbano suelen pronunciarse a favor de las reformas, carecen de incentivos adecuados para respaldar su retórica con acciones concretas, porque eso sencillamente debilitaría su propia influencia en el país.…  Seguir leyendo »

A boy waves a flag Lebanon’s Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah during a rally to attend a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, broadcast on a giant screen, in the southern city of Nabatiyeh, on May 9, 2022, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections on May 15. The portraits on billboards are fighters from the group who were killed in confrontations with Israel or in Syria. (Photo by Mahmoud Zayyat/AFP via Getty Images)

Parliamentary elections in Lebanon on May 15 will keep in power many of the same political elites that have led the country into a ruinous economic crisis, a dispiriting outcome for the domestic opposition and foreign actors aiming to avoid the creation of yet another failed state in the region. These results should impel stakeholders to navigate the narrow limits of change imposed by domestic and regional conditions.

Parliamentary elections, and ways to deter the ruling elite from cancelling the polls, have taken center stage in debates about Lebanon in the past year. Voting in a new parliament might have been an inflection point toward the change needed to unlock substantial foreign assistance and thereby arrest the country’s descent into ever-deeper crisis.…  Seguir leyendo »

Watc List 2022. Middle East & North Africa. Lebanon: Fending Off Threats from Within and Without

Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries facing deadly conflict, humanitarian emergency or other crises in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could save lives and enhance prospects for stability.

As Lebanon’s economic crisis deepens, its state institutions are also getting weaker, undermining the central security agencies’ capacity to maintain order amid a potential surge in social unrest. Self-dealing political elites have stymied the reforms necessary to keep the economy from further melting down and get it on the right track, and little progress seems possible before elections set to start in May.…  Seguir leyendo »

A father and son walk through a fish market lit by power from a generator in Beirut, Lebanon, in September

I'm crouched down in front of a 10-year-old boy sitting hunched over himself in the Beirut office of my charity INARA, the International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance. His dark brown eyes, fringed with impossibly long eyelashes, peer over his facemask.

He shakes his head. He doesn't want to join the other children decorating the tree we've brought in.

"Why not?" I ask.

"Maali khili'" he responds -- he doesn't have the energy for it.

"He's always like this" his father explains, pulling him in closer and planting a gentle kiss on his forehead.

The child starts to cry big, fat, silent tears.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The charges against me are the product of a failed system where corruption is rampant … where sectarian allegiances deprive the people of their god-given rights.’ Photograph: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

I have never walked away from a fight involving the wellbeing of children. I have never abandoned the right for Palestinian health workers to train in Israel for the benefit of those same children.

Why is this something I need to speak about publicly now?

In August I discovered through media reports that a military tribunal in Lebanon – the country of my birth – tried me in absentia on the charge of treason. My “crimes” were to fraternise with the enemy (Zionists) and to enter enemy territory (Israel) without authorisation. I am, according to the judgement, a traitor and a collaborator.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lebanese anti-government protesters shout slogans during an Oct. 17 rally in downtown Beirut to mark the second anniversary of the beginning of the protest movement. (Wael Hamzeh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Last week in Beirut, gunmen opened fire on protesters objecting to the pace of the investigation into the city’s port explosion more than a year ago. Six people were killed and dozens wounded in deadly street fighting that echoed the country’s past civil war. Just a week earlier, Lebanon’s electricity grid collapsed for four hours a day — the latest visible sign of Lebanon’s economic crisis, which the World Bank called one of the “most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century.”

How bad is it? In March 2020, the government defaulted on its foreign debt. Over the past two years Lebanon’s lira lost more than 90 percent of its value.…  Seguir leyendo »

People raise portraits of the head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, as they gather to welcome tankers carrying Iranian fuel as they arrive in the city of Baalbeck, Lebanon, on 16 September 2021. Photo by AFP via Getty Images.

In September 2021, at the height of the unprecedented fuel shortage in Lebanon, a tanker carrying Iranian fuel docked at a Syrian port where the fuel was loaded onto trucks and driven through an illegal border crossing into Lebanon. The fuel shipment was brokered by Iran-backed Hezbollah to help alleviate Lebanon’s energy crisis that has been brought on by the country’s ongoing economic crisis. The newly formed Lebanese government made no comment about the shipment while Hezbollah hailed the arrival of the fuel a ‘victory’ and as having ‘broken the American siege’ on Lebanon. Despite it being in violation of US sanctions on trade with Iran, the US ignored the scenario altogether.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke billows as Lebanese Army soldiers take a position in the area of Tayouneh, in the southern suburb of the capital Beirut on 14 October 2021, after clashes following a demonstration by supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movements. JOSEPH EID / AFP

A new round of violence in Lebanon has claimed seven lives and called into question the viability of an independent judicial investigation into the causes of the devastating August 2020 Beirut port blast. Shooting broke out in Beirut on 14 October when supporters of the Shiite parties Hizbollah and Amal marched to the Palace of Justice, located in a Christian neighbourhood, to demand that a judge investigating the port explosion be replaced. Resort to arms by those parties, as well some of their opponents, and the increasingly sectarian nature of violence in Lebanon evokes the divisions of the country’s 1975-1990 civil war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lebanese army soldiers are seen through the bullet-riddled window of a car after deadly clashes erupted in Beirut on Oct. 14. (Bilal Hussein/AP)

Armed clashes that suddenly broke out on Thursday between rival militias in Beirut evoked memories of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war: Snipers perched on rooftops fired on protesters, masked gunmen armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades suddenly filled the streets, and young children cowered in the hallways of their schools.

The battle quickly took on sectarian undertones as Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim militia backed by Iran and the most powerful faction in Lebanon, and its Shiite ally, the Amal Movement, blamed the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Maronite Christian party, for instigating the fighting by using snipers. All three groups were major players in the civil war, which ended in 1990.…  Seguir leyendo »

In August 2020, Beirut was devastated by one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions in human history.

Still in shock, I was one of the young Lebanese who took to the streets in the days following the blast to clean up the capital city. Block by block, we pushed the rubble aside with our bare hands.

I found two Lego blocks trampled in the dust that I still keep on my desk -- in part because they remind me of our stolen childhoods, but also because a Lego is famously hard to destroy. The resilience of this small toy has for me become a symbol of the determination of Lebanon's next generation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Bread is hard to find. Credit Bryan Denton for The New York Times

I never thought I would live to see the end of the world.

But that is exactly what we are living today in Lebanon. The end of an entire way of life. I read the headlines about us, and they are a list of facts and numbers. The currency has lost over 90 percent of its value since 2019; 78 percent of the population is estimated to be living in poverty; there are severe shortages of fuel and diesel; society is on the verge of total implosion.

But what does all this mean? It means days entirely occupied with the scramble for basic necessities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pour une lutte internationale contre la grande corruption

Début juin, l’Assemblée générale des Nations unies a tenu sa toute première session spéciale contre la corruption : l’Ungass 2021. Nombre d’acteurs impliqués dans le combat contre la corruption de par le monde attendaient à cette occasion une déclaration politique forte reconnaissant la grande corruption comme un grave problème mondial, soulignant que l’impunité ne peut perdurer et que des mesures coercitives sont nécessaires pour aider les sociétés à rendre justice. Deux mois auparavant, près d’une centaine d’ONG et d’organisations de la société civile avaient notamment signé une lettre ouverte appelant les membres de l’ONU à adopter une telle déclaration et à créer un groupe de travail intergouvernemental « chargé d’élaborer des propositions techniques pour de nouveaux cadres et mécanismes qui permettraient de remédier aux faiblesses du cadre juridique et de l’infrastructure internationale actuels ».…  Seguir leyendo »

On 4 August 2021, the Lebanese will commemorate the first anniversary of the terrible blast in the port of Beirut. Laurent Perpigna Iban / Hans Lucas via AFP.

The glass carpeting the streets of central Beirut on 4 August 2020 was not the only thing the port blast shattered. It decimated livelihoods, tore the city’s social fabric and broke whatever tenuous trust people still had in the political elite. One year later, the broken glass has been swept off Beirut’s streets, but little else has been fixed. The country faces an economic crisis that the World Bank describes as one of the worst in modern history. A nine-month effort by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to form a government collapsed in mid-July, and the lack of a functioning government has impeded efforts to negotiate a much-needed International Monetary Fund stabilisation program.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un camp de déplacés syriens au nord-ouest de la province d’Idleb, en Syrie, le 11 juillet 2020. Photo d’archives AFP

Le 28 mai dernier, la Syrie est devenue l’un des 34 membres du conseil exécutif de la 74e Assemblée mondiale de la santé de l’Organisation mondiale de la santé (OMS). Douze pays se sont présentés pour occuper les douze sièges (sur 34) disponibles, la Syrie ayant été nommée – avec l’Afghanistan – par le Bureau régional pour la Méditerranée orientale de cette organisation (EMRO). Cette procédure s’est déroulée sans vote et sans qu’aucun des membres donateurs siégeant déjà dans cette enceinte ne conteste ce choix, alors qu’ils en avaient la faculté.

L’admission de la Syrie n’est qu’une des nombreuses erreurs de jugement et de gestion dans les approches humanitaires et diplomatiques de la Syrie et du Liban.…  Seguir leyendo »

The scene of an Israeli air strike in Syria’s Latakia region is pictured on 5 May 2021 (SANA/AFP)

The explosion of a  Syrian anti-aircraft missile in southern Israel on 22 April, followed by Israeli attacks  around the northern city of Latakia on 5 May, were only the latest episodes of the shadow war that Israel and Iran have been fighting in war-ravaged Syria for several years. They will not be the last.

Neither side wants these occasional flareups to grow into a fully fledged confrontation. But the risk of escalation is real due to potential miscalculations or technical errors in both sides’ attempts to achieve tactical gains.

The involvement of Hezbollah, Tehran’s most important non-state ally, in the Syrian theatre carries a further risk that comparatively low-level altercations in Syria may spill over into Lebanon and trigger a destructive conflict between the heavily armed Shia group and Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Depuis dix ans, la vie des réfugiés syriens est surréelle

Le Liban est en passe de s’effondrer : frappé de plein fouet par la pandémie de Covid-19, une explosion d’une puissance « quasi nucléaire » ayant détruit un tiers de la capitale, et une crise économique, financière et sociale sans précédent font que plus de la moitié de la population est désormais piégée dans la pauvreté. Le nombre de familles ayant basculé dans l’extrême pauvreté représente ainsi 23 % de la population résidente en 2020 selon l’ONU, soit trois fois plus qu’en 2018.

Alors que, bien avant les crises de ces dernières années, les autorités libanaises ont activement privé les populations vulnérables résidant dans le pays de toute véritable assistance, ces dernières sont désormais confrontées à des défis d’une ampleur jamais imaginée auparavant : des multiples privations qu’elles doivent endurer à la détérioration profonde de leur environnement social, en passant par le manque d’opportunités d’améliorer leurs conditions de vie.…  Seguir leyendo »

Photo d’illustration : des membres des FSI vérifient les papiers de réfugiés syriens quittant Ersal, lors d’un retour organisé le 28 juin 2018. Photo d’archives AFP

Le 6 mars, le ministre sortant des Affaires sociales et du Tourisme, Ramzi Moucharrafiyé, s’est rendu à Damas afin de s’entretenir avec le ministre syrien des Affaires étrangères Fayçal Mekdad sur le retour des réfugiés installés au Liban. Alors que le pays du Cèdre est confronté à une crise économique, financière et sociale majeure, ce sujet est considéré par Beyrouth comme une priorité politique : le 14 juillet 2020, le gouvernement a publié un plan pour le retour des réfugiés syriens, tandis qu’en novembre dernier, la Russie a accueilli une conférence sur les réfugiés à Damas. C’est à la lumière de ces deux éléments que la visite de Moucharrafiyé doit être considérée.…  Seguir leyendo »

Security forces push anti-government protesters away from al-Nour square in the centre of Lebanon's impoverished northern port city of Tripoli on 31 January 2021 amid clashes. Fathi AL-MASRI / AFP

Starting on 25 January, residents of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli took to the streets over four consecutive days. Many protested peacefully, but some attacked government buildings and clashed with security personnel, who fired upon them with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition. Rioters torched the historic municipality headquarters, vandalised the Sunni religious court and government administration building, and hurled Molotov cocktails and, according to authorities, hand grenades at the security forces. By 31 January, the toll was one protester dead and more than 400 injured, along with at least 40 soldiers and police. Lebanese army and military intelligence units detained at least 25 men for their roles in the events.…  Seguir leyendo »

A worker is seen inside a damaged building overlooking the site of the Aug. 4 explosion at the port of Beirut. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

Lebanon entered 2020 daring to dream of a reclaimed country. After demonstrations broke out in October 2019, there was hope for a countrywide uprising uniting hundreds of thousands of people sharing frustration and rage toward the shaky economy and corrupt ruling class. But that hope soon turned into despair.

Faced with the covid-19 pandemic, debilitating lockdowns amid a collapsing economy, and the horrific August explosion at the port in Beirut which left parts of the country’s capital in ruins and hundreds dead, Lebanon is in free fall; its own president said it could be on the road to hell.

It’s a ghastly dystopia — even its billboards during the holiday season show it.…  Seguir leyendo »