Lebanon’s leaders in blame game over crisis

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, left, walks next to President Michel Aoun in Beirut. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 26 December 2019

Lebanon’s leaders in blame game over crisis

  • Tensions rise as president and ex-prime minister accuse each other of being to blame for turmoil in the country

BEIRUT: Tensions between Lebanon’s president and former prime minister have flared after they accused each other of being to blame for the turmoil engulfing the country.

A recession, massive street protests and a political crisis have created financial and security chaos.

Lebanon has had a caretaker government since Oct. 29, when Saad Hariri resigned as prime minister after nearly two weeks of protests.

He has clashed with President Michel Aoun about the leadership and composition of a new administration.

“The problem with the president is that he is acting as if nothing has happened in the country, and he is trying to act smart by endorsing the demands of the revolution, and my stance is clear, I will not be represented in this government and I will not nominate anyone, nor will I give it a confidence vote,” said Hariri. 

“Now they are targeting the political legacy of the Hariri family, and they will try to hold it responsible for all the calamities that have befallen the country, but whoever tries to bury Hariri’s legacy will be as if he would be burying himself. Let us see who really stole from the country. I will not cover anyone, and they should do the same thing.”

Aoun responded to Hariri by saying: “Does he envy me for my resilience and calmness in trying to control the situation, or does he want me to act foolishly and badly? We waited for 100 days for him (Hariri) and nothing came out. We waited for someone who kept hesitating. I want, and I do not want, as if someone was playing with a daisy. A government cannot be formed in this manner.”

Dr. Hassan Diab, a university professor and former education minister, has been nominated to replace Hariri and has started consulting with parliamentary blocs to discuss the shape of a future government. 

But he faces significant hurdles, including a boycott by influential political blocs that refused to nominate him because of the backing he received from the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah, the Amal party and their allies.

Bechara Al-Rahi, the Maronite Patriarch, on Sunday urged all political parties to cooperate with Diab and facilitate the formation of a rescue emergency government.

Protesters have demonstrated in Beirut and elsewhere in Lebanon against Diab, saying he should abandon the post because he is a member of the ruling elite. Demonstrators blame the ruling elite for widespread corruption and mismanagement in Lebanon.

US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

Updated 17 January 2020

US State Department sanctions top IRGC general for crackdown on protesters

  • Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah as terrorist group
  • Hook also said that US sanctions were working

WASHINGTON: The US Department of State imposed sanctions on Friday on a leading Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps general following Iran’s crackdown on protesters, US Special Representative on Iran Brian Hook said.

“The United States is listing IRGC Brig. Gen. Hassan Shavapor under Section 7031c, visa sanctions,” Hook told reporters.

“General Shavapor committed gross violations of human rights against protesters at the press briefing. He oversaw the massacre of 148 helpless Iranians in the Mashar region last November,” he said.

Hook added that the designation was the result of photographic and video tips submitted to the department by Iranians.

The department has received more than 88,000 such tips since it appealed for Iranians to report evidence of repression and gross human rights abuses, Hook said.

Iran has denied US allegations of widespread repression but has acknowledged confronting separatists in Mahshahr that it said were armed.

Hook's press statement came after Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made comments about the day Tehran hit US bases in Iraq with missiles in response to the killing of the country’s top military commander Qassem Soleimani, calling it “a day of God.”

He also said that the killing of Soleimani was a “disgrace” to the American administration and that the attack showed the “terrorist nature” of Washington.

In response, Hook said: “The more Iran threatens the world, the more isolated it will become.”

Hook also said that US sanctions were working, citing Iran's president Hassan Rouhani admitting financial losses due to the sanctions and pointing toward Iran's "major banking crisis." 

He added: "We have succeeded in making the Iranian regime and whoever helps it pay a heavy price."

Also on Friday, Hook praised the UK and its decision to classify Lebanon's Hezbollah movement as a terrorist group.