A panel of experts warned on Wednesday that Lebanon faces a growing economic crisis that stems from government corruption and demands immediate attention from the international community, led by the United States.
American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL) chairman Ed Gabriel and Lebanese analyst and Arab News Gulf regional director Sarah Sfeir said once the corruption was resolved it would be easier to do facing the serious economic crisis in Lebanon and moving towards democratic elections. Next spring.
Analysts have said that as the international community moves forward in nuclear negotiations with Iran – which sponsors Hezbollah’s political and military actions – it must ensure that Lebanon is not sacrificed to Iranian interests.
Gabriel said: “We are negotiating with Iran at the moment. We have to make sure that Lebanon is not thrown under the bus. We have a very good relationship with the leader of the bargaining team, Rob Malley. He assured us that it is not about Lebanon and that Lebanon will not be hurt in this process.
” We are all concerned. The negotiations could be aimed at helping Lebanon, not harming it.
“So I think that’s something that we have to watch very closely and that we have to be suspicious of. Yes, they will deal with nuclearization first, but (US Secretary of State) Tony Blinken said that the deal needs to be longer and stronger. What he meant by that was that we have to deal with the missile technology in the region as well as the proxies of terrorism. in this regard. “
Gabriel said once the region is secure, the international community must find safe havens for Syrian refugees to be allowed to return to their homes. But analysts stressed that regional security depended on the ability to root out corruption in the Lebanese government.
“I think all roads lead to corruption and bad governance… I would call it # 1, immediately responding to the needs of the poorest of the poor in Lebanon,” added Gabriel.
“It’s medical, it’s food aid. It’s a poverty rate of over 50 percent and almost half of that is the poorest of the poor who can’t even feed themselves. It is a serious problem.
“The World Bank has called Lebanon possibly one of the third worst economic crises since the mid-19th century. It is simply amazing. We need to be aware of what is going on. “
The ATFL chief said the Lebanese government must “step back” to end corruption and bring about reform that would boost global support and added that curbing Hezbollah could only come by continuing to strengthen them. Lebanese Armed Forces.
“We have to get this government to step aside in favor of a Reform government. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is ready and willing to engage in multibillion (dollar) work to repair Lebanon as quickly as possible.
“But they have to have someone they can talk to and trust. And the international community is not going to blink first. They’re not going to say OK, let’s talk to these guys. They are firm in saying that we have it with you. We want a government that meets the needs of the people.
Gabriel noted that the ATFL welcomed the June 25 announcement by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Blinken to jointly pressure the Lebanese leadership to take action to alleviate the multiple crises in the country. country.
In a joint statement, Le Drian said: “We have decided to act together to put pressure on those responsible. We know who they are. “And Blinken said,” We have to see real leadership in Beirut. “
Gabriel and Sfeir said the United States must take a leadership role with other foreign countries to achieve a common plan to help Lebanon, increase humanitarian aid through non-profit organizations so that money is not lost to the corrupt government, and continue to support and strengthen the Lebanese army. Forces as a counter-force to Hezbollah.
Sfeir said: “Lebanon faces so many challenges at different levels. We have challenges in the health sector. We have challenges in the education sector with doctors and teachers fleeing the country. We have economic challenges.
“But what I want to stress is that all of these challenges have a root. This is the political challenge we face. Because once we sort out the political problem we have, I guess it would be easy to implement the reforms and sort out all the other challenges. We can technically meet all the other challenges easily. It’s just about having people who want to work for the country, not with foreign agendas. “
Gabriel and Sfeir stressed that if corruption could be eliminated, Lebanon would benefit from greater financial support from the international community as well as an alleviation of the country’s economic crisis. It would also help reduce tensions in the region and have a chain reaction to drive improvements in Syria and Yemen.
But Sfeir noted that the majority of aid sent to Lebanon went to supporters of the government, “not to those in need.”
She added: “Today, it’s really difficult to live in Lebanon. We elected people to save us, to make reforms. Unfortunately, they have become the problem. Now we are facing a ruling class that will not cede shares for the people. “
Sfeir said the money should go directly to the people, not through the Lebanese government.
“I take this opportunity to thank Saudi Arabia for sending humanitarian aid through the King Salman Relief Center (KSrelief). They gave it to people personally. He did not go to government, otherwise he would not have reached the needy, ”Sfeir added.
Gabriel said: “It’s a shame. Think about it. These people were said to have been elected to take care of the Lebanese people, but they only seem to care about themselves.
Gabriel and Sfeir made their comments during an appearance on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show” broadcast live in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Washington, DC on WDMV AM 700. The show also airs live on Facebook. com / ArabNews.
For more information on “The Ray Hanania Radio Show”, visit ArabNews.com/RayRadioShow.