Perspectives - September 20, 2021

Lebanon Cabinet Formation

Last Friday, Najib Miqati announced that he had succeeded in forming a government, after a 13-month governmental vacuum. The government lineup is comprised of 24 ministers. Miqati claimed the lineup did not grant President Michel Aoun a “blocking third,” that would grant him a virtual veto over the cabinet’s decisions. However, a compromise was reportedly reached between Aoun and Miqati whereby two independent Christian Ministers — Georges Kalyan’s and Najla Riachi – would not be part of the President’s share of ministers until the date of parliamentary elections.

By Thursday, Miqati’s government had approved a ministerial statement, after three meetings were  held to finalize it. The statement calls for “instant negotiations with the International Monetary Fund as necessitated by priorities and the national interest.” It also stresses the need for “cooperation between the government and parliament over in everything needed to reach the truth of the port explosion,” emphasizing that “the issue of immunities is linked to legal texts.”

Lebanon’s parliament met on Monday to vote in Miqati’s cabinet, but the session was delayed by an hour due to a power cut. Videos circulating on social media showed lawmakers gathering in a courtyard outside the building before electricity was restored. As the session resumed and Miqati was reading a statement to lawmakers ahead of their confidence vote, he was interrupted by Parliament Speaker Nani’s Berri, who asked him to hurry up because of a risk the power might be cut again.

Hezbollah Imports Fuel for Lebanon

Last Monday, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced during a speech that the group’s promised ships carrying fuel from Iran for Lebanon had docked at Syria’s Port of Baniyas, and was in the process of unloading its cargo. Nasrallah said that within the coming days, the fuel would be trucked into Lebanon and stored at designated facilities in the city of Baalbek — a Hezbollah stronghold — for later distribution. Nasrallah also described the broad outlines of a mechanism by which the group would distribute the fuel to the Lebanese: targeting entities in specific sectors, rather than wholesale distribution or distribution to individuals in two phases — first, a month-long humanitarian phase where the fuel would be distributed for free, followed by a phase where Hezbollah would sell the fuel at a discounted rate. Nasrallah noted that all distribution and sales would be conducted through the group’s Amana Fuel Co., an entity sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury.

The fuel shipments began arriving in Lebanon on Thursday through an illegal crossing on the Syrian-Lebanese border. While the United States remained officially mum on the whole incident, Iran said Sunday it is willing to sell fuel to Lebanon's government to help ease shortages, days after the first delivery of Iranian fuel arranged by Hezbollah entered the country. "If the Lebanese government wants to buy fuel from us to resolve the problems faced by its population, we will supply it," foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Israel Forms Rapid Reaction Unit to Confront Potential Hezbollah Incursions into the Galilee in Future War

As part of the response to a possible incursion into the Galilee by Hezbollah in a future war, a new reserve unit is being formed under Northern Command. The unit will be under the 91st Division, which secures the Lebanese border. The new unit will operate as a swift intervention force if Hezbollah attacks. It will be compromised of several hundred combat soldiers, mostly from special units and infantry brigades, all Galilee residents. The soldiers will keep their guns and gear at home, to be deployed as reinforcements to the non-reserve force in the area, even before the IDF can mobilize additional forces. The new unit is expected to become operational by the end of the current year.