News Analysis: Domestic problems, rather than foreign intervention, trigger Lebanon's protests: analysts

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-24 17:31:15|Editor: xuxin
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by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- The massive protests that swept through Lebanon in the past week were triggered by domestic problems rather than foreign intervention, Lebanese analysts said.

"This protests started genuinely by people in Lebanon because the current political class has committed a lot of mistakes in the past years without being held accountable for its false practices and failing policies," Pierre Khoury, a Lebanese economist and political researcher, told Xinhua.

Khoury, editor-in-chief of the Strategic File news website, noted that the big number of people from different religions and sects who participated in the protests shows that they were not organized.

He explained that the fires that broke out in several areas of Lebanon due to the rise in temperature earlier this month and the government's failure to properly deal with the problem as well as the recent cabinet's decision to impose taxes sparked the protests.

Large swathes of forests were destroyed in more than 103 massive fires in several towns and villages in Lebanon while the government failed to respond promptly because of poor maintenance of three firefighting helicopters purchased by the country in 2009.

Lebanon asked for help from Cyprus and Greece which sent their jets to help Lebanese firefighters put out the fires.

Then the Lebanese cabinet approved last Thursday a fee of six U.S. dollars per month on the users of WhatsApp and other Internet calling applications, in addition to imposing taxes on fuel and other basic commodities and services.

Angry Lebanese citizens immediately took to the streets right after the cabinet's decisions to protest, and the demonstrations quickly grew to all areas in Lebanon in the past week.

Protesters blocked roads and burned tires while calling for the resignation of the government and a complete change of the current political system in the country.

In an effort to calm the situation, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced earlier this week an economic plan which aims at adopting reforms that would increase help for vulnerable people in the country without imposing any new taxes. The salaries of ministers and lawmakers will also be reduced by 50 percent in addition to a series of other reforms.

However, the announced reforms were not enough to quell the anger and dissatisfaction of the Lebanese, who continued to protest, demanding for the government's resignation.

Commenting on some press reports that hinted the possible existence of a foreign force mobilizing the protests in such an unprecedented manner, Khoury said he believed that the protests started genuinely by the Lebanese, though it was possible that they received support later on.

Khoury reasoned that when the voters found out that the politicians who they voted for failed to fulfill their promises, they decided to react and ask for a change.

Makram Rabah, a political analyst and history professor of the American University of Beirut, also believed that there is no direct foreign intervention in the protests because the Americans are currently not very much involved in the affairs in Lebanon.

Rabah noted that the protests have covered areas all over Lebanon, while the Lebanese diaspora in several countries also held demonstrations to voice their support for a political change in Lebanon.

"This is an urgent wake-up call which started by people themselves as they realized that this system is corrupted and it is no longer capable of providing them with basic services," he said.

Rabah explained that Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), abandoned Lebanon financially because of Iran-allied Hezbollah's dominance in the country which has left Lebanon exposed to such protests.

"Now people know that no one will bail the country out, this is why they acted," Rabah said.

Hilal Kashan, chair of the Political Studies Department at the American University of Beirut, believed that the Lebanese are suffering financially to such great extent that they do not need an external force to mobilize them.

"Maybe some outside forces can capitalize on these protests and take advantage of them, but people will take it to the streets anyway because they are angry and they cannot bear the current situation anymore," he said.

The Lebanese people have been suffering for many years from insufficient basic services such as electricity, water and proper healthcare, while having to pay heavy taxes without earning enough income due to the economic slowdown in the country, the analysts noted.