Security forces say Lebanon's rioters ‘organized’ as Hariri warns over ‘cycle of collapse’

Riot police fire rubber bullets against anti-government protesters in beirut on Sunday. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
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Updated 21 January 2020

Security forces say Lebanon's rioters ‘organized’ as Hariri warns over ‘cycle of collapse’

  • Meeting held after three nights of violent confrontation between protestors and the Internal Security Forces
  • Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri said Lebanon needs to quickly form a new government

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces claimed demonstrations in the country had been infiltrated by organized groups in order to provoke riots at a meeting with President Michel Aoun at the country’s Presidential Palace on Monday

Security force commanders said the information led them to “take the necessary measures to protect peaceful demonstrators and prevent attacks on public and private properties, while stopping rioters and coordinating with the judiciary to enforce the law.”

The decisions came after three nights of violent confrontation between protestors and the Internal Security Forces (ISF), during which tear gas, smoke grenades and rubber bullets were used, severely wounding civilians and journalists.

Commanders submitted security reports on developments since the start of the protests in November 2019, in which they spoke of “measures taken to face the elements infiltrating the ranks of demonstrators to cause riots.”

Aoun asked for responsibility to be taken in identifying those who could be deemed dangerous for stoking riots, and those protesting peacefully.

Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri did not attend the meeting, instead tweeting: “Lebanon needs to quickly form a new government to stop a cycle of collapse and worsening economic and security conditions.

“Our government resigned in order to transition to a new government dealing with popular changes but obstruction has continued for 90 days and the country is moving towards the unknown,” he said, adding: “The continuation of the caretaker government is not the solution so let’s stop wasting time and have the government bear the responsibility.”

After three months of peaceful demonstrations, the protesters switched to what they have called “revolutionary violence” in light of the continued indifference of the political class towards their demands. For a third successive day on Monday they tried to breach the barriers around parliament, but were repelled by riot police.

The father of a wounded young man called Eid Khodr said his son suffered a fractured skull due to a rubber bullet.

“We protected ourselves, we wore helmets on our heads, facemasks and plastic coats for the water. What more can we do? We wrote ‘press’ on our chests and stood aside and still, they targeted us and shot a rubber bullet into my leg,” journalist Ihab Al-Akdi told Arab News.

Sanaa Al-Sheikh, a 29-year old soccer player who seen defying the security forces and climbing the obstacles and barbed wire surrounding parliament on Saturday, is still being treated in hospital for wounds on her back due to severe beating from police.

Al-Sheikh, from Tripoli, is an accredited referee with the Lebanese Football Association. She has been a sports coach for almost 15 years, holds a law degree, and has a sports academy in Tripoli called “Sanaa Star”.

“The political class has to listen to the people. Someone is trying to shift our attention in the wrong direction. The ISF personnel are our children, just like the demonstrators. Citizens are committing transgressions and nobody can control them but, we cannot compare their transgressions to those of the security forces,” the president of the Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, told Arab News.

Calls have emerged on social media platforms, asking Lebanese people living abroad to contact or comment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil is scheduled to attend.


Iran nuclear deal commission meets to try to save 2015 accord

Updated 26 February 2020

Iran nuclear deal commission meets to try to save 2015 accord

  • Landmark agreement pact has been crumbling since the US withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran
  • Renewed US sanctions have almost entirely isolated Iran from the international financial system

VIENNA: The remaining parties to the faltering Iran nuclear deal will meet in Vienna on Wednesday in their first gathering after Britain, France and Germany launched a dispute process over Tehran’s successive pullbacks.
The meeting comes as the parties try to find a way to save the landmark 2015 agreement, which has been crumbling since the US withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.
The Europeans hope to persuade Tehran to come back into line with the deal curbing Iran’s nuclear program after Tehran made a series of steps away in protest at the US pull-out.
Wednesday’s meeting at political directors’ level, convening the commission set up by the deal, will be chaired by EU senior official Helga Schmid.
“This is a chance though not of 100 percent to stop escalation before it is too late,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Russian Embassy in Vienna on Twitter.
In its last announcement in early January, Tehran said it would no longer observe limits on the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
It was its fifth step away from the deal since US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal and led to Germany, Britain and France triggering the dispute process on January 14.
The process spells out several steps, the last one of which is notifying the UN Security Council. UN sanctions would then automatically “snap back” after 30 days unless the Security Council voted to stop it.
A diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity said that no time table had been fixed for solving the dispute, adding “we are still far from a result.”
“We all want to save the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is known) so that the inspectors can continue their work in Iran,” the diplomat said, referring to the inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The Vienna-based UN nuclear agency has been tasked with monitoring the deal’s implementation and issues regular reports, the latest of which is expected within days.
Western diplomats recognize it is highly unlikely Iran will heed calls to come back into full compliance without substantial concessions in return — such as an end to US sanctions or Europe taking measures to offset their economic impact.
But they hope the use of the dispute process will convince Iran not to make any more moves away from the deal, giving space for back-channel diplomacy aimed at bringing Washington and Tehran back into alignment.
The diplomat said that Iran could also “at least freeze its uranium stocks” as a possible positive outcome of the current discussions.
At a major international security conference in Munich earlier this month, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Tehran would be prepared to move back toward the deal if Europe provides “meaningful” economic benefits.
Europe has set up a special trading mechanism called Instex to try to enable legitimate humanitarian trade with Iran, but it has yet to complete any transactions and Tehran regards it as inadequate.
The renewed US sanctions have almost entirely isolated Iran from the international financial system, driven away oil buyers and plunged the country into a severe recession.