[News] Technocracy now: The US is working to turn Lebanon’s anti-corruption protests against Hezbollah
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 2 16:48:17 EST 2019
Technocracy now: The US is working to turn Lebanon’s anti-corruption
protests against Hezbollah
December 1, 2019
While Lebanon’s protests remain focused on the economy and
widespread corruption, Washington is increasingly determined to
exploit the movement as a geopolitical weapon in the region.
By Rania Khalek
*/This is part one of a two-part report./*
Lebanon erupted in massive protests this October. The demonstrations
transcended sect and class, and quickly spread across the country. The
movement was spurred by the levying of regressive taxes and the
persistence of a corrupt neoliberal order that has mismanaged the
economy and hollowed out the public sector while enriching a handful of
elites amid a looming economic collapse
Though the protests remain focused on class issues and corruption, the
US is increasingly determined to co-opt the movement for its own goals.
At the forefront of Washington’s agenda is ousting Hezbollah from the
Lebanese governing coalition and marginalizing the Shia
political-military movement as a means of weakening Iran. In its place,
the US and its proxies inside Lebanon are demanding a “technocratic”
government with no interest in resisting Israel.
Former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman explicitly spelled out
US interests during recent congressional testimony, proclaiming
thatthe protests “fortunately coincide with U.S. interests” against
Hezbollah. He urged stepped-up American intervention, emphasizing “the
value of domestic initiative combined with external [Western] support.”
Leftist groups responded angrily to Feltman’s rhetoric, staging a
protest outside the US embassy and posting a massive billboard in
downtown Beirut depicting the former diplomat above a slogan calling on
Washington to leave Lebanon alone.
American meddling in the protests is not yet a full-scale operation,
however it has been seen through the presence of US-backed political
parties and activists backed by the most familiar outfits of the US
regime-change machine: the National Endowment for Democracy
(NED), the US Institute for Peace (USIP), and USAID
Together, these elements are seeking to popularize the call for a
technocratic, Hezbollah-free government in provocative actions across
A leaderless resistance pressures the government
Based in downtown Beirut, the protests initially included Hezbollah’s
working-class base and civil society activists, symbolizing a rejection
of the sectarian power-sharing system that was installed under French
colonial rule and re-enforced under the post-civil war Taif agreement.
Within days, however, the protests began to morph into a strange
leaderless mix of middle and lower middle class students, along with
liberals, civil society and NGO activists, US-backed political parties,
small leftist groups, hipster types, and anti-Hezbollah activists.
While the vast majority of protesters simply sought a functioning
government that could provide for their basic needs, the current make-up
of their movement and lack of ideology among most demonstrators created
a wide opening for meddling by outside actors. This was especially true
for the US, which has honed methods to co-opt anti-government protest
movements and manipulate them into carrying out regime-change goals.
In Lebanon, the US has been openly determined to overturn Hezbollah’s
win in the 2018 elections that gave it a majority alongside its
coalition allies the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian party,
and Amal, a Shia party. This governing coalition enabled Hezbollah to
protect its traditional interests, among which deterring Israel is
paramount, without serving as the face of the government.
Hezbollah grew out of Israel’s occupation in Lebanon, and managed to
liberate the south from Israeli occupation in 2000 and again when the
Israelis invaded in 2006. Hezbollah was also crucial to the defeat of
ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the collection of US-backed extremist groups in both
Syria and Lebanon in the proxy war that began in 2011.
Today, the pro-Hezbollah March 8 coalition represents one of the two
major political blocs that divide the Lebanese polity. The other is the
American- and Saudi-backed March 14 alliance.
The March 14 bloc includes the Future Party, headed by Sunni leader and
Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has been hobbled since the Saudis
withdrew their financial support and briefly kidnapped and tortured him.
Then there is Druze leader Walid Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party
(PSP), which is neither progressive nor socialist; and the Lebanese
Forces led by Samir Geagea, a Maronite Christian leader and formerly
imprisoned war lord.
According to cables published by Wikileaks, Geagea was the main US
<https://search.wikileaks.org/?q=jeffrey+feltman+geagea>during the 2008
clashes between the two blocs. In meetings at the embassy, Geagea
repeatedly asked Washington to supply
<https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08BEIRUT662_a.html>his militia with
weapons against Hezbollah.
On the other side is the March 8 bloc comprised of the Shia parties:
Hezbollah, led by Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic and well-known
spiritual leader, and Amal, which is headed by the speaker of Lebanon’s
parliament, Nabih Berri. The final component of the coalition is the
Christian FPM, led by Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Since the civil
war, these parties have defined Lebanon’s political make-up and
substantially influenced regional dynamics.
The protests that have swept Lebanon over the past month have placed
enormous pressure on the governing coalition, while offering perceived
political openings for its most opportunistic opponents – especially
those with historic ties to the US.
Due to the irresponsible decisions of the ruling politicians seeking to
pit their streets against each other, the situation has escalated in
recent days. To understand how the potentially explosive situation has
developed, it is important to examine the genesis of the protests.
*Rising up against a failed oligarchy*
On October 17, protests erupted spontaneously in downtown Beirut in
reaction to a raft of regressive taxes. These included a tax on
Whatsapp, one of the only free methods of communication in an otherwise
expensive telecommunications market.
But the levies were themselves preceded by a series of events that led
to the inevitable explosion. In early October, Lebanon’s forests were
devastated by wildfires due in large part to government negligence and
ineptitude. The state had for instance failed to even pay for the most
basic maintenance of the helicopters needed to put out the fires.
At the same time, a shortage of US dollars, which Lebanon’s economy
depends on, led to panic about a looming collapse — something economists
have been predicting for years.
The public rage was compounded by the fact that 30 years after the civil
war, the weak Lebanese state was still not able to provide basic
services like 24-hour electricity, potable water, or waste management.
This was a result of the neoliberal order that was imposed on Lebanon
after the civil war by international financial institutions in
coordination with the country’s ruling elites.
Lebanon’s main political parties are run by civil war-era warlords who
have exploited a dysfunctional system to make themselves billionaires.
They and their children flaunt their wealth in the streets and on social
Prime Minister Saad Hariri presents perhaps the most visible and
cartoonish example: the ultra-wealthy fail-son was revealed in October
to have sent $16 million
his South African mistress.
Another factor driving the protests was frustration with the country’s
sectarian system, which generates corruption and gridlock. Under
Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement, the president must be a Christian
Maronite; the prime minister must be Sunni Muslim; and the speaker of
parliament is mandated as a Shia Muslim.
This dynamic forces Lebanese citizens into a state of dependence on
their communal sect leaders for services rather than the state, leading
to a weak central government. The different sect leaders are extremely
corrupt and have enriched themselves through nepotism, theft, and a
Ponzi scheme economy.
The powerful banking sector is also politicized; it has been turned into
an enemy of Hezbollah through its partnership and cooperation with
American sanctions. Moreover, the head of the Central Bank, Riad
Salamah, has aspired to remove the FPM-affiliated foreign minister,
Gibran Bassil, and replace the current president, Michel Aoun. He also
wants to weaken Hezbollah, which he and the banking sector view as a
magnet for US sanctions and, therefore, a liability to their bottom line.
Recently imposed US sanctions have already led to the liquidation
a Shia-owned Lebanese bank, Jammal Trust, on the highly dubious grounds
that it was financing Hezbollah activity. (Jammal Trust was, in fact, a
close ally of the US embassy
partnered with USAID to fund literacy programs in the country). **
There was little doubt that an economic crisis was on the way in
Lebanon, but US sanctions have accelerated the process. Sanctions
against Hezbollah and anything deemed remotely affiliated with the Shia
political movement are a part of the US’s maximum pressure campaign
against Iran. They aim to bleed Hezbollah’s social welfare programs,
which ultimately hurts
poor in their constituency, and threatens the businesses of wealthy
Shias as well.
In such a precarious economy, a few US sanctions were all that was
needed to immiserate a large sector of the Lebanese public.**
This was the backdrop to the display of mass outrage that erupted in
downtown Beirut this October. At first, a small group of demonstrators
occupied the area. They included middle class activists from a 2015
protest against a lack of sanitation as well as poor Shias. In the
course of their demonstration, they ran up against a convoy belonging to
the minister of education, Akram Chehayeb. His bodyguards reacted with
fear and then hyper-aggression, firing their rifles into the air.
Videos of the violent spectacle spread on social media, provoking more
citizens to join the protest. The next wave of demonstrators aimed their
anger at the downtown property that belongs to Solidere, the real estate
privatization and redevelopment company of former prime minister Rafiq
Hariri, which profited tremendously after the civil war while
transforming the ruins of downtown into a bubble of inaccessible luxury.
The next two days saw groups of young masked men on motorbikes
efficiently coordinating roadblocks across the city, lighting garbage
bins and tires on fire. Many of them were Hezbollah supporters.
/Above: Young men on motorbikes set up roadblocks with trash cans and
burning tires. October 18, 2019/
/Above: Young men set fires to block the road. October 18, 2019/
“We started destroying and blocking what we believed is sucking the last
cent out of our pockets: Solidere,” one of them told me.
Meanwhile, the protests ballooned, filling the streets downtown and
spreading to other parts of the country, bringing in people from all
classes and sects. But the momentum was short lived.
Hezbollah’s base played an important role in the protests in the early
stages, hoping the street actions would provide opportunity to pressure
Amal, the rival Shia party headed by Nabih Berri, the speaker of the
parliament. Berri is viewed as one of the most corrupt politicians in
Lebanon. Hezbollah’s attempted reforms to help the poor had been
obstructed by Amal, hence the attempt to put pressure on Berri. Amal was
up to its eyeballs in corruption, feasting on the Shia share of the
public budget, and constantly provoking Hezbollah’s constituency.
Days into the protests, Hezbollah supporters from the student unions
made a strong showing in protests outside the Central bank. But then,
they were sideswiped by the right-wing.
*US-aligned parties join the protests*
On day three, Samir Geagea, the leader of the US-backed Lebanese Forces
(LF), removed his four ministers from government, supposedly in
solidarity with the protests. LF is a right-wing pro-American party that
had been one of the most brutal militias in Lebanon’s civil war. And
Geagea’s decision changed the course of the movement.
Walid Jumblatt of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) threatened to
remove his own ministers, placing his party in the opposition.
Meanwhile, LF and PSP supporters joined the protests by obstructing
major roads outside of Beirut: LF blocked the main highway at Jal el Dib
and other areas in the north while PSP blocked the roads in the south.
Next, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, placing his Saudi- and
US-backed Future party on the side of the protesters as well. Future was
now in the protest ranks, reinforcing the blockading of roads in the
south alongside members of PSP.
As these forces stepped up their involvement, working-class Hezbollah
supporters began to withdraw from the movement, especially as certain
elements began chanting against Hezbollah and its weapons. Suddenly, the
protests had assumed a familiar and ominous March 8 versus March 14 feel.
Throughout this period, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah
delivered several speeches criticizing the protests as vehicles for
outside funding and hostile political parties. His rhetoric only
inflamed the protesters and deepened the well-entrenched resentment of
The billionaire Prime Minister Hariri had been a staunch ally of America
and Saudi Arabia who even holds Saudi citizenship. Before his
resignation, Hariri was part of Hezbollah’s governing coalition.
Coalition leaders feared that the Americans would target the whole
government and place the country under crushing sanctions without a
Western-aligned figure like him. Determined to delegitimize the
coalition, Saudi Arabia forced Hariri to resign at gunpoint in 2017, but
he ultimately returned to the government.
This time around, Hariri leveraged the protests to try to pressure
Michel Aoun to drop his son-in-law Gibran Bassil as foreign minister,
whom anti-government elements blamed for giving Hezbollah legitimacy on
the international stage. But Aoun wouldn’t budge. So Hariri resigned.
Hariri’s resignation not only obstructed the government from dealing
with the economic crisis, it exposed the role of Hezbollah in the
government and thereby risked a new round of sanctions. Hezbollah
leadership believed that the prime minister’s departure was influenced
by the US and the Saudis, and with good reason given the history.
As the political divide widened, the protests became increasingly
dominated by members of the middle class and the Western-backed civil
society and NGO sector. This element diverted the initial working class
demands for justice into an all-out attack on Hezbollah, its weapons,
and its leadership.
The popular chant “/killun yaani killun/,” or “all of them means all of
them,” which was initially directed at Lebanon’s entire cast of leaders,
soon turned into an anti-Hezbollah slogan, with protesters adding, “and
Nasrallah is one of them.” Clashes between supporters of Amal and
Hezbollah and the middle class demonstrators soon followed.
The White House was initially cautious and quiet about the protests,
uncertain where they might lead. But a day after Hariri’s October 29
resignation, Pompeo issued a statement
the protests and the formation of a new government.
Suddenly, a series of panelists and think pieces materialized explaining
how the US should exploit the situation against Hezbollah — and, by
extension, Iran. Washington views everything in Lebanon through an
anti-Iran lens, and sees Hezbollah purely as a proxy of the government
The Atlantic Council <https://thegrayzone.com/tag/atlantic-council/>, a
Washington-based think tank funded by weapons companies and Western
governments as well as Bahaa Hariri, the brother of Saad Hariri,
published a plea
Trump to exploit the Lebanon protests as a pretext for forcibly
disarming Hezbollah. The author was Frederic Hof, the former US special
envoy to Syria and a senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center, which is
named after the father of Saad Hariri.
Those who had worked to turn the so-called Arab Spring in Washington’s
direction were out in force again.
*Enter the NGO industrial complex*
Unfortunately for Washington, the core of the protest movement remained
primarily focused on the economic crisis. Though Hezbollah had bolted
the protest ranks, leftist groups like the Lebanese Communist Party,
Citizens in a State, the Shaab (People) Movement, and other
socialist-oriented elements remained involved.
In the past weeks, these groups had been holding discussion groups and
working to influence as many protest participants in a left-wing
direction. However, they represent a small slice of Lebanese society and
lack the resources of US-backed parties and civil society groups.
By contrast, the Sabaa party is flush with funding. It was founded by
Jad Dagher, a notoriously shady Lebanese businessman who used to belong
to the Phalange, another right-wing Christian party close to the US
which carried out infamous massacres during the civil war.
Dagher and his company DK Group were added
the US sanctions list in 2014 for allegedly aiding the Syrian
government, but were removed
the list in 2016. On average, the removal of a company from the US
Treasury Department’s sanctions list takes around eight to 10 years
leading some to wonder what kind of deals Dagher cut to get him off the
list in just two.
Sabaa, which claims to have a disdain for political parties, is
considered by the left to be a right-wing party operating under the
guise of non-sectarianism and liberalism. The group has kept up a
significant presence in downtown Beirut’s Martyr’s Square, setting up a
PA system that blasted music so loud it was difficult to have any sort
of meaningful discussion. Notably, the group kept its name and logo
absent from all protest materials. Some left-wing activists I spoke to
suspected that Sabaa was using the blaring music to drown out their
ability to organize effectively.
The other large group present at the downtown protests was Beirut
Madinati, a liberal group founded by civil society activists and
professors from the American University of Beirut. This group emerged
from the 2015 “You Stink!” protests, which mobilized against the lack of
trash pickup and other middle class civic concerns.
One of Beirut Madinati’s most high-profile founders is Jad Chaaban
<https://staff.aub.edu.lb/~jc11/index.htm>, an AUB economics professor
who has worked at the World Bank and founded the Lebanese Economic
Association, a business roundtable that receives support
<http://lea-econ.org/our-partners/>from USAID, Booz Allen, the World
Bank Group, and the Ford Foundation. It goes without saying that he is
considered an ally in Washington.
Then there are the groups of artists who use slogans from Syria’s
protests, but updated for the Lebanese context. For instance, the famous
chant “/erhal erhal ya Bashar/” (leave leave oh Bashar [al-Assad]),
which was heard in Syrian cities back in 2011, was remixed to “/erhal
erhal ya Aoun,/” referring to the Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
Many of the NGOs that are present express solidarity with the economic
demands at the core of the protest movement. However, these groups are
funded by outside forces and inculcated in the discourse of American and
A perfect example is Legal Agenda, a Lebanese NGO financed
<https://www.legal-agenda.com/moumawilin.php>by the European Union, the
Swiss embassy, the German government-funded think tank Heinrich Böll
Stiftung, and the Open Society Foundation of anti-communist billionaire
George Soros. The organization offers legal advice to marginalized
groups, a noble cause to be sure. Some members appeared to be assuming
an anti-Hezbollah line, however, commenting to me that they were
convinced the militia had plans to use its weapons on protesters.
Another notable NGO is Megaphone News <https://megaphone.news/>, a
social media oriented outlet that bills itself as independent
but which is funded by the European Endowment for Democracy, the
European government-backed sister organization of the US regime-change
outfit the National Endowment for Democracy. Founded in 2017, Megaphone
has played a critical role in the production of memes, videos, and music
since the start of the uprising.
These various groups do not necessarily share a unified agenda and do
not always get along. Perhaps the only thing that brings them together
is their resentment of Hezbollah.
The leftists are upset with Hezbollah for its domestic policies. They
argue that Hezbollah is complicit in the neoliberal policies that have
ruined the economy – or at the very least, that Hezbollah has not done
enough to confront the notoriously corrupt players in their coalition.
They are also angry that Hassan Nasrallah criticized the protests as a
vehicle for foreign influence. After scuffles broke out between
Nasrallah’s supporters and protesters, he instructed his constituents to
leave the demonstrations to avoid further clashes. This upset the
leftists even more, as they wanted Hezbollah to continue contributing
manpower and resources to the movement.
However, Hezbollah supporters argue that their party has not been in
power long enough to change anything. They insist on a strategic
alignment with parties like FPM and Amal in order to protect their
capacity to resist Israeli aggression. And they are convinced it is
necessary to be wary of foreign influence over protests in a country
like Lebanon that outside powers are constantly meddling in.
Given the participation of their pro-American political rivals and the
anti-Hezbollah sentiment among some segments of protesters, Hezbollah
members understandably view the protests with deep suspicion.
At a demonstration of students from Lebanese American University (LAU)
and American University of Beirut (AUB) on October 26, for example,
there were chants in favor of disarming Hezbollah. Others chanted
against Nasrallah. To Hezbollah ears, this rhetoric amounts to a call
for the wholesale destruction of their movement.
At that same event, AUB president Fadlo Khuri joined student protesters,
encouraging them to continue expressing themselves in the streets.
Khuri’s sudden support for free expression came as a surprise to some
who have worked under his administration. They describe him as
right-wing and in line with US foreign policy.
Since Khuri took over AUB, pro-Palestine and pro-Hezbollah faculty have
complained about his relentless hostility. It was Khuri, for example,
professor Steven Salaita from securing a permanent position at the
school. But now he has suddenly become a champion of free speech.
Hijacking the protests
The leaderless, ideologically diffuse nature of Lebanon’s protest
movement leaves it vulnerable to hijacking by powerful outside actors.
Almost anyone can show up and inject their agenda into the movement, but
under another name.
Most participants in downtown Beirut say they hate politics, had no
interest in the country’s affairs before the protests, and appear easily
moved by anyone with a slick message. They are the perfect audience for
groups like Beirut Madinati and other civil society groups that spout
empty platitudes and always seem to skirt the issue of Israel.
A telling moment arrived a week into the protests when an American AUB
lecturer <https://staff.aub.edu.lb/~webbultn/v8n7/article10.htm>, Robert
Gallagher, grabbed the microphone at a political discussion in downtown
Beirut to call for the creation of a parallel government. Rather than
shout Gallagher down, his audience erupted in applause.
US 'colour revolution' agent tries to hijack Lebanese protests.
Robert L. Gallagher, formerly US embassy, telling young #Lebanese
people "we have to take over the functions of government". Gallagher
is in #Lebanon
since 2007 and a professor at the #American
University of Beirut pic.twitter.com/oilhXUt1wI
— tim anderson (@timand2037) October 29, 2019
Regardless of the intentions of the leftists involved, Hezbollah views
the calls for the downfall of the government as an attempt by its
adversaries to reverse the party’s democratic victory in the 2018
The dividing line between protesters and those critical of the
demonstrations has become so extreme that friendships have ended. Some
Lebanese are no longer invited to gatherings with friends for merely
criticizing the Western-backed elements of the protests. And families
supportive of Hezbollah have blocked relatives online for attending the
Despite the in-fighting, the leftist parties are still supportive of
Hezbollah’s role as an armed resistance organization. This
differentiates them from the liberals and right-wing elements in
downtown Beirut who are centering their resentment on Hezbollah to an
almost obsessive degree.
Rania Masri, an official with the leftist party Citizens in a State, has
insisted that pro-resistance groups remain in the protest square rather
than cede the ground to reactionary conservative groups.
“Do we let others who are involved decide the discourse? Or do we try to
influence the discourse? We consider ourselves to be responsible
therefore we will not be bystanders,” Masri remarked to me. “Foreign
intervention is a given. The question becomes how to deal with them and
protect the country. We have to be wise. And not leave the political
discourse to them.”
While leftists attempt to hold the line, pro-US parties and activists
affiliated with NGOs and civil society groups have been most successful
in crafting the protest demands and occupying the media limelight. These
elements have been especially adept at popularizing the call for a
technocratic government that would boot Hezbollah out of any future
Demanding a technocratic government, looking to Hong Kong for
The protest demand which has garnered the most media attention has been
the call for the installment of a “technocratic government.”
Activists from civil society groups have been pumping out printed fliers
and posters clamoring for a technocratic government. Some of the major
local media outlets owned by oligarchs with competing political agendas
suddenly began reporting, with an unusually unified message, that the
main protest demand was for technocracy.
This call quickly spread among non-ideological protesters across the
country who have proven themselves to be susceptible to catchy slogans.
But what does a “technocratic government” mean in practice in Lebanon?
It would not necessarily comprise a non-political government, but one
that would negate the key political issues that are confronting the
country, especially Israel, Palestinian refugees, and the plight of the
Most importantly, a technocracy would mean a government without
Hezbollah that cannot resist Israel or the extremist Gulf proxies that
threatened Lebanon during the war on Syria. This is why Hezbollah and
its allies have been so staunchly opposed to replacing the current
Unsurprisingly, this demand, which was initiated by pro-American
political parties and US government-funded outfits, is music to the ears
In his November testimony
congress, former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman highlighted
the advantage in the demand: “With the demonstrators calling for a
technocratic rather than political government, our public messaging can
emphasize our expectation that a new Lebanese government, if it seeks
international support, should effectively and immediately address the
reform aspirations of the Lebanese people,” he said.
By clamoring for a technocracy, the veteran US operative argued,
protesters can “seize the next electoral opportunity to strip Hezbollah
of the parliamentary partners it uses as force multipliers to assert its
The US Institute for Peace, a State Department cut-out that was founded
under Reagan alongside the NED, echoed Feltman’s call.
protesters have several commons core demands: the resignation of the
current cabinet; a new, technocratic, reformist government; and the
reduction of taxes on poor communities. https://t.co/9ianOF9wbg
— U.S. Institute of Peace (@USIP) October 28, 2019
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Feltman’s longtime informant, was
the first <http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/265795>to publicly call
for a technocratic government, and has continued
to do so
With his eyes on the presidency, Geagea has blamed Hezbollah for
obstructing the formation of this technocratic government while lashing
out at his Christian rivals, the FPM, for their alliance with the Shia
The social media influencer Gino Raidy
also amplified the call for the appointment of a technocratic
government. Raidy is a popular blogger who sits on the board of March
Lebanon, an NGO that receives funding from NED
<https://marchlebanon.org/en/about/partners>in addition to the British
and Canadian embassies <https://www.marchlebanon.org/en/about/>.
Through his Western-backed organization, Raidy has argued against the
Lebanese government imposing boycotts on Israel
He has also expressed disdain
activists in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions
(BDS) movement on his personal blog.
Raidy recently bragged on Instagram about meeting with a Hong Kong
protester in Lebanon
November 11 – the same day Nasrallah gave a speech emphasizing need for
Lebanon to defy the United States and open up to China.
This was not the first time Raidy has expressed interest in Hong Kong.
Three days into the Lebanon protests, he wrote on Instagram
<https://www.instagram.com/p/B32lgc8HWZC/>, “If we need to, we will
resist like our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.”
The Hong Kong protests have rapidly transformed into a separatist
movement that has overseen terrifying acts of violence against
supporters of China, including the recent lighting of a man on fire
disagreeing with anti-Beijing activists. An elderly man was killed with
the same reason.
Many Hong Kong opposition figures receive funding from the same US
Raidy, and are openly coordinating with American political leadership.
Raidy admitted on his widely read blog that his initial excitement about
getting involved in the protests had everything to do with exploiting
anti-Hezbollah sentiment. “The moment that made me get in my car and
drive down to protest, was seeing men and women in Dahieh and Nabatieh
coming out and showing clear dissent towards the Shia duo of Hezbollah
and Amal,” he wrote
Antoun Issa <https://www.mei.edu/experts/antoun-issa>, a non-resident
scholar at the UAE-funded Middle East Institute
<https://thegrayzone.com/tag/middle-east-institute/>, also called for a
technocratic government, tweeting
“Protestors demands are clear – from north to south, to Beirut and the
Bekaa. An independent, technocratic government.” Soon after, Issa
Washington to use the protests in Lebanon and Iraq against Iran.
After his recent resignation, the longtime US ally Hariri conditioned
participation in a future government on it being technocratic and
politically neutral. Hezbollah, meanwhile, was pushing for a mixed
government with space for both politicians and technocrats.
With Hariri refusing to budge on his insistence
a technocratic government, negotiations over the formation of a new
cabinet have collapsed, plunging the government into a gridlock as
economic catastrophe looms.
Bringing Ukraine to Beirut
Hong Kong is not the only US-backed color revolution upheaval being
marketed to protesters in Lebanon.
On November 8, a group called ARD.NEWS <https://www.ard.news/>screened
documentary “Winter On Fire.” The film presents a one-sided view of the
Euromaidan <https://thegrayzone.com/tag/euromaidan/> protests,
completely erasing the neo-Nazi and ultra-nationalist elements that
formed the front lines of the demonstrations to topple the government
and replace it with a hopelessly corrupt, EU-friendly technocracy.
This conflict has turned Ukraine into Europe’s poorest country,
rendering its citizens dependent on a remittance economy and desperate
to leave. A civil war has broken out in the country’s east, where the US
has supplied arms to the Ukrainian military and ancillary groups like
the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion
<https://thegrayzone.com/tag/azov-battalion/> to fight Russian-backed
“Winter on Fire” has also been screened at anti-government US-backed
protests in Hong Kong and Venezuela. The film is essentially a how-to
guide for effectively shutting down a city and toppling a government
through violent, sustained street protests. (ARD.NEWS has also featured
the NED-funded activist Gino Raidy at their events.)
ARDfounder Michel Saman is a 28-year-old French-Lebanese entrepreneur
who left his travel startup in France to participate in the protests in
Lebanon. He and his ARD colleagues live mostly outside of Lebanon. They
hope that by screening films like the one about Ukraine, they can help
inspire the protesters in the country, though it is unclear what they
hope to achieve.
“And if it turns bloody, we live outside, we’ll come back in five years
and revolution, revolution, revolution. But there is a chance right
now,” Saman told me.
He added that the uprising in Lebanon has presented a market opportunity.
Asked how ARD was financing its project, Saman stated, “So far we didn’t
need any funding. Yes a lot of organizations here are funded, but we’re
not serving food. We’re really educating the mind for free. It costs us
$50 for a speaker. Instead of having a beer I just pay $50, you know
When ARD’s event host Maya Acra asked the audience what similarities
they saw between the protests in Lebanon and Ukraine, she was met with
blank stares. No one raised their hand to speak during a
question-and-answer period. Weeks later, when the documentary was
screened in Tripoli, its impact remained unclear.
It remains to be seen whether the protests can be co-opted and
redirected towards US-centric regime-change goals. For now, they remain
focused on the economy, but the atmosphere is growing more tense by the day.
/In part two of this report, we will see how US-backed political parties
are employing provocative tactics to turn up the heat on Hezbollah and
its allies, while hardliners in Washington refine their plans to exploit
the deepening economic desperation of average Lebanese citizens./
Rania Khalek is an independent journalist living in Beirut, Lebanon. She
is the co-host of the Unauthorized Disclosure
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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