Friday, January 25, 2019

UANI Resource: Perspectives on Lebanon and Hezbollah

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 Perspectives: Lebanon and Hezbollah 

January 25, 2019

Perspectives: Lebanon and Hezbollah, is a UANI weekly resource highlighting developments in Lebanon and the activities of the terrorist group Hezbollah.  

Lebanon Foreign Relations

Israel Resumes Building Border Barrier, Sends Warning to Lebanon Via Macron
Israel resumed construction of its security barrier on the Israeli-Lebanese border on Tuesday, prompting United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Lebanese Army forces to go on high alert. UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said the peacekeeping force condemned Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty, including its near-daily aerial reconnaissance incursions into Lebanon. In related news, during meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin warned that Israel would hold Lebanon responsible if its territory is used to fire rockets into Israel. Rivlin said that his country would not remain idle to threats emanating from Lebanon.

UN Peacekeepers Denied Access to Hezbollah Border Tunnels
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Envoy to the Middle East, told the UN Security Council that UNIFIL had not been given access to entry points of Hezbollah tunnels dug from Lebanon into Israel. While Mladenov did not say whether it was Lebanon's government or Hezbollah that blocked UNIFIL's access, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Cohen blamed Beirut, calling the denial of access "unacceptable."

CENTCOM Commander Votel Visits Lebanon
CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel visited Lebanon January 21-22 and met with several Lebanese officials, including Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, and UNIFIL Commander Stefano Del Col. General Votel stressed the U.S. government's support for the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole, legitimate defenders of Lebanon.

Lebanese Army Arrests Alleged "Israeli Agent" Involved in Attempted Assassination
The Lebanese Army's Directorate of Orientation announced on Tuesday that it had arrested an individual suspected of working for Israel's Mossad and being involved in the January 2018 failed attempt to assassinate Mohammad Hamdan, a Hamas leader in Lebanon. The Army's statement said the man "admitted to being a Mossad agent since 2014."

Lebanese Economy

Moody's Downgrades Lebanon Credit Rating
Moody's Investor Service lowered Lebanon's credit score by one step from B3 to Caa1, but changed its outlook from negative to stable. This placed Lebanon's investment grade on par with such countries as Iraq and Zambia. Moody's also downgraded the long-term deposit ratings of three Lebanese banks from B3 to Caa1: Bank Audi S.A.L., BLOM Bank S.A.L., and Byblos Bank S.A.L.

The downgrade reflected heightened risk that the government's response to increased liquidity and financial stability risks would include debt rescheduling or other "liability management exercise[s]" that would amount to a default under Moody's definition.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar Promise Lebanon Economic Investments
Saudi Arabia and Qatar announced plans to invest in Lebanon's economy this week. Qatar - through its Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani - pledged to invest $500 million in Lebanese bonds, while Saudi Arabia's Finance Minister said Riyadh would do all in its power to support Lebanon's struggling economy.
Russian Company to Manage Lebanese Oil Storage Terminal
Rosneft, Russia's largest oil producer, announced on Thursday that it had signed a 20-year agreement with Lebanon's Ministry of Energy and Water to manage an oil products storage terminal in Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli.

Cabinet Formation

Lebanese Officials Continue Efforts to Form a Government
Lebanese government formation efforts continued this week, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri even canceling his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos in an attempt to finalize the process (however, he abruptly left for Paris on Thursday evening, for a "brief family visit"). Hariri continued his consultations with several Lebanese officials, including with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt, after which Hariri vowed to finalize the formation of a government "next week." Joumblatt took the opportunity to lash out at the six pro-Hezbollah Sunni MPs, whose demand for representation in Hariri's cabinet continues to be the remaining government formation stumbling block.

Meanwhile, the week also witnessed warming ties between Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and his Amal Movement and President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Berri, after talks with Hariri, said that a new government would be formed "within a week or less," and stressed his "excellent" relations with Aoun, the FPM, and its current leader, caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. The FPM responded positively to Berri's comments. Such optimism, however, has been repeatedly expressed by Lebanese officials over the course of the country's nine-month attempt to form a government, following each seemingly successful round of talks.

Hezbollah Domestically

Nasrallah to Give TV Interview Saturday After Weeks of Silence
Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will give an interview to pro-Hezbollah Al-Mayadeen on Saturday. Nasrallah has conducted interviews with the TV station annually. According to LBCI, Nasrallah will address Hezbollah's precision-missiles, tunnels stretching into Israel, regional affairs - particularly in Syria - and domestic politics.

Hezbollah Calls Opposition to Maduro in Venezuela "American Interference"
Hezbollah issued a statement on Thursday, expressing its continued support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his "elected government." The group condemned the action against the Venezuelan dictator as "blatant" intervention by the U.S. and an attempt to seize control over the country's resources and wealth and punish Caracas for its anti-American foreign policy.

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