Lebanese celebrate Christmas with mixed feelings

The political situations has meant that no government has been form.
Updated 25 December 2018

Lebanese celebrate Christmas with mixed feelings

  • Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has urged Lebanese politicians in his sermons to avoid further delays to the formation of a government

BEIRUT: As Lebanese prepare to celebrate Christmas, this year’s festivities are mixed with disappointment and fear that 2018 will pass without the formation of a government.

The Maronite Patriarchate’s media spokesman Walid Ghayyad told Arab News that Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi has urged Lebanese politicians in his sermons to avoid further delays to the formation of a government.

Housewife Nawal told Arab News: “We usually dedicate a big budget to buy presents during the festive season, but this year we agreed to buy gifts only for the children. The economic and political situation makes us reluctant to spend money, and we’ve decided to save our money for a rainy day.”

Toni Eid, chairman of the Beirut Traders Association, told Arab News: “The political crisis in Lebanon has had a negative impact on the economic situation. Crises aren’t new to Lebanon, but this is the first time that Lebanese feel this much distress.”

He said: “There’s a general feeling that this is a serious crisis. People are waiting for solutions, and no decisions are being made for the future. People’s spending has decreased.”

He added: “One of the indicators of economic decline is offering sales in excess of 50 percent. This doesn’t usually happen during the festive season.”

Eid said: “The middle class has declined, while the rich have maintained their place and the poor have become poorer.”

Economic reporter Danielle Daher said she noticed during her tours of markets a decline in consumer spending.

“Designer shops that sell expensive brands are almost empty,” she told Arab News, adding that families are buying “clothes instead of toys for children because the latter are expensive.”

Al-Rahi said in his Sunday sermon: “Human dignity requires the existence of social conditions that enable people to secure a dignified life. Unfortunately, political officials fail to realize this duty. They’ve been stalling the formation of the government for seven months, creating new problems every time a solution is found. In doing so, they inflict great damage on the state, causing serious financial losses and violating the dignity of the people by condemning them to more poverty, deprivation and anxiety. Do they realize that they’re committing a great crime against the state and the people? Aren’t they ashamed?”

He stressed the importance of forming a government comprising people “with recognized competence and neutrality who meet the requirements of the state and the people.”

US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.