Friday, May 29, 2009

FT on Post-Election Int'l Economic Aid

The Financial Times reports:
Lebanon's economy could be dealt a blow if the opposition coalition, dominated by Hizbollah, wins next month's parliamentary elections. The warning comes from a senior figure in the ruling pro-western bloc, who suggests support from key financial allies could dry up.


Lebanon's economy has so far escaped the brunt of the global financial crisis, thanks to tight banking regulations, but it is saddled with a debt that reaches more than 160 per cent of gross domestic product.

Repeated political crises have required Lebanon to seek sustained foreign support. In the summer of 2007, after a month-long Israeli offensive against Hizbollah, donors pledged $7.6bn (€5.4bn, £4.8bn) in aid, with Saudi Arabia providing $1bn. Many of the pledges, however, were made to lend political support to the March 14 alliance and help it confront Hizbollah.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Saad Hariri, the leader of the Future movement, the largest party in the March 14 coalition, raised doubts over the continued outside support for Lebanon if the Syria and Iran-backed Hizbollah and its allies won the election.

"If the international community thinks of helping [Lebanon], will it help an experienced political party that has pulled Lebanon from disaster to economic prosperity or will it trust an alliance like the 8th of March?" he said.

"We have an economic agenda and we believe that we can bring a lot of good things to Lebanon, whereas if the other party, the 8th of March, win . . . the economy of Lebanon is in question."

Walid Jumblatt, another leader of the parliamentary majority and the chief of the Druze minority, also warned that a March 8 victory "will have a huge impact on the economy".

"The Saudis? The Gulf? Who is going to support our economy? It is already very fragile, it is already $50bn in debt," he said.


In an apparent attempt to limit the economic damage, Hizbollah has said it would form a national unity government. But Mr Hariri says he has no intention of joining such a government.


"Hizbollah knows this and says that it wants [the] Future [movement] in the government," says Mr [Paul] Salem [director of the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Centre]. "Future has contacts that could make life difficult - just as March 8 has military means."
The IMF has denied reports that it had discussed possible loans with Hizballah ahead of the country's elections. The Dailystar writes:
"The IMF has not negotiated with members or sympathizers [of Hizballah] in Lebanon over a possible loan," the IMF said in a statement. It said an IMF mission visiting Beirut in March for annual consultations on economic policies met with the country's main political parties as part of standard outreach activities that also include talks with nongovernmental groups.

During the talks, it met with Abed al-Halim Fadlalah, then deputy director of an economic research center that has close ties with Hizbullah, to explain the IMF's visit and "gather support toward economic reforms," the IMF said.


"By no means were future Fund arrangements discussed," it added.
Meanwhile stateside, from Reuters via the Dailystar,
The US Treasury Department said on Wednesday it will freeze the assets in the United States of two individuals linked to Hizbullah and prohibit US banks and consumers from making business deals with them. The US Treasury said in a statement that it had named Kassim Tajideen from Sierra Leone and Abd al-Menhem Qubaysi of Lebanon under an executive order that targets terrorists and those giving financial or material support to terrorism.

The two are said to be Africa-based supporters of Hizbullah.


The Treasury statement said Tajideen is a financial contributor to Hizbullah and operates a network of businesses in Lebanon and Africa. He was arrested in Belgium in connection with fraud, money laundering and diamond smuggling.

Qubaysi was described as an Ivory Coast-based Hizbullah supporter and the personal representative of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Qubaysi helped establish an official Hizbullah foundation in the Ivory Coast that has been used to recruit members for the resitance group's military ranks in Lebanon, the Treasury statement said.
Finally, Naharnet notes that,
The United States, whose IMF share gives it veto power, has repeatedly said that it will have no dealings with Hizbullah.

Friday, May 22, 2009

No Change

I haven't been able to post much over the past few months, but every once in a while I've had a laugh or two at the ridiculousness of some of the FPM marketing spins spewed onto the nation's billboards and airwaves (say what you will about Hizballah, but at least they're pretty up front about how little they care for the political/social/civil/geographical integrity of the country ... if you know how to read/listen to their speeches, that is).

Perhaps the most hilarious of these media stints has been the abduction of the Obama US presidential campaign's "Change" motto.

Putting aside the sheer ridiculousness of the motto's new found home, made painfully apparent by the everyday (and more severe, not-so-everyday) events that have transpired in the country over the past four years - and which seem to be occurring on an increasingly frequent basis as we approach June 7th - lets take a look at what could possibly be meant and understood by this "creative" (are you kidding me?) campaign spin by a group most accurately characterized as being a political carcass of a group formerly known as the FPM.

Change ... Could it be that the "change" being alluded has something to do with the upcoming elections, and changing the manner in which the country has been ruled in the past?

Perhaps, but then how much sense would such a claim make coming from a party, or a General, who beyond a shadow of a doubt has been shown to have cut deals, both political and financial, with the Syrian regime which occupied and lorded over the country for fifteen years? Not only cut deals, but also swore to kill the only successful drive at sovereignty to come about in the country against that Syrian regime's occupation? The end-result of such a deal can therefore be construed as a return to that occupation and mutilation of any hope for the "change" that could have been.

Perhaps then, as some of the blogosphere's dimmer lights have sought to project over the past several months, the "change" being referred to is a foreign one, a bet by the General and his lemmings on an external "change" in policy - say coming from the US and directed at Syria - which the General (who, if you recall, sided with Saddam Hussein against the world) hopes will allow him to capitalize on (through his newly-refreshed ties with that country's autocratic regime) to lay claim over a country he apparently feels owes him so much ... the end-result being the same as that above.

And so the ridiculousness, the idiocy, and the distortion continues. Change. As the elections approach, the country will decide if it is willing to put up for the only real change to come our way in over 15 years of occupation, or shut up.

I'll see you when the results are out.
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