Hackers break into Lebanese Ministry of Finance website

This April 2, 2018 photo, an old building with a traditional red brick roof, foreground, is overshadowed by newer, taller modern buildings, some still under construction, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
Updated 28 September 2019

Hackers break into Lebanese Ministry of Finance website

  • The cabinet completed the approval of cuts in the budgets of 15 ministries

BEIRUT: A hacker group claimed it had hacked the Lebanese Ministry of Finance’s website for about an hour on Friday afternoon. The Anonymous—LEB group, which said it had carried out the attack, addressed the Ministry through a post on its Facebook page saying:

“Dear Lebanese Government:

If you think we forget, you are mistaken !!!

We have all ministry of finance data, to be leaked soon!

WE DON’T LEAVE OUR PEOPLE

#Expect_US”

The group’s Facebook page has 12,700 followers and was founded back in 2012.

The group posts slogans such as: “The people should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of its people.”

The Ministry of Finance later denied its website had been hacked and said in a statement that posts on some media platforms is not true.

It said that the difficulty in accessing the site for about an hour was due to “slowness caused by the huge number of visitors to its website.”

The Ministry of Finance’s website includes facilities for electronic services, information on taxes, tax calculation and legislation, annual budget documents, documented details of public debt, monthly financial performance reports, tax calendar, and the activities of the Minister of Finance.

The supposed cyber attack on the Ministry of Finance coincides with the Lebanese cabinet’s marathon sessions to discuss the draft budget for 2020, in an attempt to further reduce the deficit. The discussions include cuts in the ministers’ budgets and possibly in the salaries of the employees in the public sector.

The cabinet completed the approval of cuts in the budgets of 15 ministries. The Ministerial Committee for the Study of Financial, Economic and Short-term, Medium and Long-term Reforms discussed the following items: freezing wages for three years, increasing pension deductions, imposing a minimum fee on fuel and raising fees on tobacco.

The Lebanese parliament approved the draft budget for the year 2019 at the end of May, seven months late, and included a deficit reduction of 7.59 percent through austerity measures, which Prime Minister Saad Hariri considered at the time as “the most severe in the history of Lebanon.”

Achieving a real reduction in the budget deficit of 2020 will be difficult. The interest on public debt and salaries and peripheral supplements alone account for about 79 percent of expenditure.

Minister of Finance, Ali Hassan Khalil, said a week ago that: “the growth of the Lebanese economy is zero if not negative, putting pressure on the foreign exchange reserves of the Lebanese Central Bank. The debt rose with the interest rate increase.”


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.