Lebanese pound banknotes at a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon, June 15, 2020. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuterss) It’s a necessary first step to facilitate needed reforms that can save Lebanon from becoming a failed state under Iran’s control.
Iran’s President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi has made it clear that the regime will continue to embrace its aggressive policy of regional destabilization, whether or not a nuclear deal is reached. Among its sphere of influence — Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon — the latter is where Iran can most easily be countered.
Composed of nearly one-third each Christians, Sunnis, and Shiites who share power, albeit uneasily, in a rare Arab democracy with upcoming elections next year, Lebanon is the antithesis of the Iranian model. Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, the only heavily militarized political party in the state, controls the Lebanese Shiites through intimidation and the assassination of prominent figures who dare speak out against it. Hezbollah is opposed by the Sunnis and most Christians but has gained political power through its alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian political party founded by President Michel Aoun.
Lebanon has been engulfed in a major currency crisis since October 2019. The Lebanese pound has lost 89 percent of its value, and bank deposits have been wiped out. Since then, Lebanon has been suffering from what the World Bank has called possibly one of the three worst global economic crises since the middle of the 19th century. Indeed, people’s purchasing power has collapsed, and a majority of what was once a prosperous middle-income nation has fallen below poverty levels. As a result, doctors, nurses, teachers, and engineers have begun to leave the country.
The U.S.-trained and equipped Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) — a national institution respected by all Lebanese religious communities, and the only military counter-power to Hezbollah — is at the risk of imploding, with pay levels that no longer allow members to feed their families. The IMF remains unengaged, waiting for Lebanon to establish a new government, but the formation of that new government remains elusive. The FPM party, now
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