Lebanon crisis deepens as prime minister-designate Adib quits after a month

Lebanon crisis deepens as prime minister-designate Adib quits after a month
Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib speaks at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 26, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 September 2020

Lebanon crisis deepens as prime minister-designate Adib quits after a month

Lebanon crisis deepens as prime minister-designate Adib quits after a month
  • Lebanon loses third prime minister in eight months as Mustapha Adib quits over Cabinet stalemate
  • Hezbollah is accused of political sabotage and ‘keeping the country hostage to foreign agendas’

BEIRUT: Lebanon lost its third prime minister in eight months on Saturday when Mustapha Adib resigned after Iran-backed factions sabotaged his attempts to form a government. The Lebanese pound plunged to a new low against the US dollar, there were sporadic protests in Tripoli and elsewhere, and French President Emmanuel Macron — whose personal intervention secured Adib’s nomination — said the situation amounted to “collective betrayal” by Lebanon’s political parties.

In the wake of Adib’s stepping down, the US dollar exchange rate soared, with its value exceeding 9,000 Lebanese pounds within three hours.

Adib quit less than a month after he was nominated to replace Hassan Diab, who himself took over from Saad Hariri at the end of January. 
The prime minister-designate vowed to rebuild Lebanon’s broken political system in the wake of the devastating Beirut port explosion and growing social unrest over corruption and mismanagement.

But his efforts to form a new government were repeatedly blocked by the demands of the two dominant Shiite parties — Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally, the Amal Movement — which insisted on retaining hold of the key finance ministry.

Mustapha Adib gestures after announcing his resignation on Sept. 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)

'Just a setback'

In his resignation letter to the Lebanese president, Adib said: “The parliamentary blocs did not keep their promise. The consensus that I accepted to form the government no longer exists. My resignation is due to my concern for national unity.”

Aoun accepted Adib’s resignation during a short meeting at the Baabda Palace and canceled all appointments for next Monday. An official statement said: “Aoun will take appropriate measures in accordance with constitutional requirements.”

Adib's departure is a blow to Macron’s roadmap to end corruption and implement reforms needed to repair an economy crushed by a mountain of debt. 
As he stepped down, he said Lebanon must not abandon the French plan or squander Macron’s goodwill. 
“I stress that this initiative must continue,” he said, and he wished his successor well in the “hard task” of forming a government.
“It’s a setback, but we’re not giving up,” a French diplomatic source said.

A source close to Macron quoted him as saying: “Adib stepping down amounts to a ‘collective betrayal’ by Lebanese political parties.”

Macron added: “We will not give up, and France will not let Lebanon down.”

Twin evils condemned

Both the Hezbollah and Amal Movement were widely condemned following Adib’s decision to step down, with accusations that they were “leading the country to hell.”

Former Prime Minister Hariri said: “The obstructors have revealed themselves at home and abroad, and to all of the brothers and friends who came to Lebanon’s rescue after the disaster that struck Beirut.
“We say to those who applaud the collapse of Macron’s initiative today, that you will bite your fingers in regret.”

Hariri said an “exceptional opportunity to halt the economic collapse and put the country on the path of required reform has been wasted,” and accused the Shiite parties of “keeping Lebanon hostage to foreign agendas.”

MP Roula Al-Tabash, a member of Hariri’s Future bloc, said: “We drank the poison for the sake of our country, but they are giving the poison to the whole country for their own sake.”

The UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Jan Kubis, criticized the situation in a tweet: “Such a degree of irresponsibility, when the fate of Lebanon and its people is at stake.”

Addressing Lebanese officials, he said: “Politicians, have you really scuppered this unique chance created by France? When will you finally stop playing your usual games, listen to the cries and needs of the people, prioritize the future of Lebanon?”

Lebanese President Michel Aoun, left, meets with Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib at the Presidential Palace in Baabda,  Beirut, on Sept. 26, 2020. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese government via AP)

'Logic of militias'

UAE Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash said in a tweet: “The logic of the Lebanese state, its institutions and its competence do not match the logic of the militias and their interests — an Arab lesson that is being repeated.”

Former Prime Ministers Naguib Mikati, Fouad Siniora and Tammam Salam said France’s efforts had been “circumvented and Adib’s mission to create a nonpartisan government overthrown.”

Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi, a former justice minister, said: “Adib wrestled with the mafia of arms and corruption for a month, and he walked out holding his head high and did not deceive the people of Lebanon.”

He added: “Iran does not want a government for now.”

Former interior minister Marwan Charbel said: “You have committed high treason against a people suffering from poverty and hunger.”

Hezbollah allies

Meanwhile, Hezbollah allies denied obstructing the French initiative, with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s office reiterating his commitment to “the contents of the French initiative,” and accusing others of “foiling the initiative in a way that contradicts all established principles.”

The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), an ally of Hezbollah, declared its “commitment to the French rescue initiative” and called for government “by mutual understanding.”

Suleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada Movement, said after his visit to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rai: “The French initiative is a golden opportunity that may not be repeated, so we should not lose it.”

He called for agreement on a “conciliatory prime minister because no party can run matters alone.”


In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 04 December 2020

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.


The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”