Lebanon in February 2023
2 February 2023
- After 25 years, Lebanon Changes its Official Currency Exchange Rate (Al Nahar). The Central Bank announced on Wednesday that the new official exchange rate for the pound is 15,000 to the dollar. This constitutes a 90 percent devaluation from the previous official rate of 1,507.50 pounds per dollar, a rate that had remained unchanged for about 25 years.
3 February 2023
- Two Years After the Assassination of Lokman Slim, His Mother Says Sadness is Her Companion (Al Sharq Al Awsat). Lokman’s mother, Mrs. Salma Mershaq, refused to leave her home located in the heart of Dahiyeh, the stronghold of Hezbollah, which many of his opponents pointed fingers at for the assassination of Lokman two years ago, and she is still busy writing. She is a Lebanese-Egyptian-Syrian writer, as she is from a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother, who was born and lived in Egypt. She finds nothing but the word to soothe her wounds and ease her pain…She regrets that the judiciary failed to reveal the killers of her son, and the situation reached by the Lebanese judiciary, “where the final word is no longer for the law – but for the murderer who portrays himself as a hero,” wondering: “What barbarism is this?!”
- Five Countries Will Meet in Paris to Discuss Lebanon’s Crisis (Al Nahar). French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who is currently in Saudi Arabia, expressed her “grave concern about the political blockage of Lebanon’s horizons.” She announced that Paris will be hosting the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, in an attempt to encourage Lebanese politicians to find a way out of the crisis in their country.
15 February 2023
- Citizens and Politicians Flock to Rafiq Hariri’s Tomb on 18th Anniversary of His Assassination (Naharnet). Thousands of citizens from the various regions and dozens of political, diplomatic, social, intellectual and religious figures were flocking Tuesday to the tomb of slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri in central Beirut to commemorate the 18th anniversary of his assassination…Last June, appeals judges at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon sentenced two members of Hezbollah to life imprisonment for their alleged roles in the assassination.
- International Envoys Meet in Paris, Warn Lebanon on Failure to Elect New President (Naharnet). The continued failure to elect a new president in Lebanon “will dictate a reevaluation of the entire relations” with the country, the envoys of the five nations that took part in the latest Paris meeting said on Monday. “Real support for Lebanon will begin after the election of the new president and the implementation of the needed reforms,” the ambassadors went on to say. The foreign delegation was comprised of U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo, Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon Yasser Elwy, Qatari Ambassador to Lebanon Ibrahim Abdul Aziz al-Sahlawi and Saudi Embassy Counselor Fares al-Amoudi.
16 February 2023
- Hizballah Media Outlet Asks: Is This the Hour for the American Abandonment of Riad Salameh? (Al Manar [Affiliated with Lebanese Hizballah]). During the past hours, news spread of the imminent imposition of US sanctions on the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Riad Salameh, in news that some considered surprising because the man had always been American-supported and had full cover from Washington and carried out everything it asked for. In many cases he was “a king more than The King,” as he and those with him from the banks have always been outbidding the Americans themselves in imposing a siege on some Lebanese and devoting penalties on them by closing accounts, preventing financial transfers, and checking the sources of funds, even if they were small sums coming from an expatriate to his family in Lebanon, and other practices that increased the stranglehold on the Lebanese. But the most important question remains: Has the time for America to abandon Riad Salameh arrived?
- Anger in Lebanon– Burning banks and food in dollars (Al Nahar).
Dozens of protesters smashed bank facades and burned some of them in Beirut, protesting their inability to withdraw their deposits at a time when the local currency recorded a new record deterioration, and the Minister of Economy announced that today, Thursday, a decision will be issued obliging supermarket owners to price food products in dollars.
17 February 2023
- Dollarization: Businesses Price in Dollars as Lebanese Pounds Falls to 80,000 to the Dollar (Naharnet). In less than a week the Lebanese pound’s value against the dollar has plummeted to a new low from 66,000 to 80,000 at the black market rate, the exchange rate used for buying and selling most goods and services in the country…The value of the Lebanese pound, at times swinging in value several times daily, has led to businesses pricing their items in dollars, where customers pay in the local currency based on black market rates…Caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam announced Friday a new pricing mechanism for grocery stores, where goods will be priced in dollars based on what he described as a “modest” interpretation of the black market rate.
23 February 2023
- Lebanese Public Prosecutor Accuses Central Bank Governor of Several Crimes (Al Maydeen). On Thursday the Public Prosecutor of Appeal in Beirut sued the Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, for several crimes, including embezzlement and money laundering, in the first local allegation against him on the sidelines of investigations conducted by several European countries about his wealth. The judicial official stated that Judge Raja Hamoush “charged Salameh, his brother, his assistant Marianne Al-Hawik, and everyone whom the investigation showed, with crimes of embezzlement of public funds, forgery, counterfeiting, illegal enrichment, money laundering, and violation of the tax law.”
- The first judicial ruling from outside Lebanon in the case of the Beirut port explosion (Al Jazeera). The Lebanese Bar Association announced that the British Supreme Court of Justice issued a judicial ruling against the “SAVARO” company in the case of the ammonium nitrate shipment that the company transported to Lebanon, the cargo that later caused the Beirut port explosion in 2020. The British court issued a ruling in the civil lawsuit filed against the company registered in London, and confirmed its responsibility towards the victims.
27 February 2023
- US Says Key Hezbollah Financier Arrested in Bucharest (Naharnet). A Lebanese and Belgian citizen considered a key financier of Hezbollah has been arrested in Bucharest, Romania’s capital, U.S. federal authorities said. Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi, 58, who was labeled a “global terrorist” by the United States in 2018 when $10 million was offered for information about his whereabouts, has funneled millions of dollars to Hezbollah over the years, authorities said. U.S. Attorney Breon Peace in Brooklyn said the extradition of Bazzi and Lebanese citizen Talal Chahine, 78, was sought on charges contained in an indictment returned last month in Brooklyn federal court.
28 February 2023
- Lebanon Security Chief’s Term to End After Authorities Skip on Renewal (Al Arabiya). The term of Lebanon’s powerful General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim is set to end this week as neither cabinet nor parliament have discussed a measure that would allow him to stay on after reaching the legal retirement age. Ibrahim, who hails from southern Lebanon, has headed the General Security directorate since 2011 and is considered a key regional interlocutor who has good ties with the Iran-backed Hezbollah and links with Western governments. On Thursday, he will turn 64, which is the legal retirement age in Lebanon…Lebanon’s caretaker cabinet did not discuss an extension at its meeting on Monday. Information Minister Ziad Makari told reporters after the meeting that the cabinet “can do nothing” and that the decision was to be taken by the interior minister.
- Christian Blocs Reject Franjieh-Salam Deal (Naharnet). The country’s two main Christian blocs, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, have rejected a proposed French-backed presidential settlement under which Suleiman Franjieh would be elected as president and Nawaf Salam would be named as premier, media reports said on Monday. In a statement, the Lebanese Forces denied a media report published in al-Liwaa newspaper that had claimed the LF was willing to “secure a quorum for Franjieh’s election.” “The LF has repeatedly stressed its stance that categorically rejects any Hezbollah presidential candidate, and accordingly this stance fully applies to the candidate of the Axis of Resistance, Mr. Suleiman Franjieh,” the LF said.
- Lebanon’s National News Photo Archive Stolen (Al Arabiya). A server containing photographs documenting Lebanon since 1961 has been stolen from the state news agency’s headquarters in a crime “of national proportions,” Information Minister Ziad Makari said on Monday…This period includes the country’s devastating 1975-1990 civil war. “What happened was a crime of national proportions,” the minister said. Unidentified individuals broke into the room housing the server at the information ministry before stealing the server itself and five computers, he added.