With Little Hope for Reform, Lebanon Continues Down the Road to Ruin

With Little Hope for Reform, Lebanon Continues Down the Road to Ruin
An anti-government protester holds a national flag in front of Lebanese army soldiers during a protest in Zalka, Lebanon, Oct. 5, 2020 (AP photo by Hussein Malla).

BEIRUT—With yet another failed attempt to form a government and no replacement in sight, Lebanon’s future is looking a lot like its bleak past.

The prime minister-designate, Mustapha Adib, resigned in late September after nearly a month of fruitless talks to create a Cabinet of technocrats. French President Emmanuel Macron had publicly backed that process, which came on the heels of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s resignation following the Aug. 4 port explosion that devastated parts of Beirut.* Nonetheless, Lebanon’s politicians are still mired in a dispute over control of the powerful Finance Ministry, as the economy collapses and the social fabric frays. If even the destruction of its capital city does not lead to palpable change, can the country be saved?

The political impasse comes at a defining moment in Lebanon’s history. As Macron has made clear, there will be no further international assistance unless the political elites put aside their differences—and forming a government was supposed to be the easy part. It is clear from the breakdown in talks that the Lebanese state has been captured by Hezbollah, the powerful Shiite militia and political party backed by Iran. Along with the other main Shiite party, the Amal Movement, Hezbollah has insisted on designating a Shiite as the finance minister, a portfolio that has recently been controlled by the Shiite bloc under Lebanon’s sectarian political system.

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