Conflict between government and opposition forces continued during the week, generally following the established pattern of government military attacks and security raids against centers of opposition, on the one hand, and ambushes and bombings by opposition forces on the other. The Syrian conflict also continued to spark clashes in neighboring Lebanon. Further turmoil among the top leadership of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) reflected the opposition’s continued difficulty in unifying ranks. Syria and the United Nations traded accusations on the subject of human-rights violations.
The Armored Corps Association hosted its inaugural conference on November 13–14, 2007, as a forum for discussion of Israeli operations during the July–August 2006 Second Lebanon War. Attendees sought to identify both challenges meriting particular attention due to their implications for the country’s future security and solutions to those challenges. The event drew some 200 active and retired members of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in addition to representatives from the commercial sector, the United States, and the United Kingdom. A list of speakers and brief biographical sketches appear in Appendixes A and B, respectively. Note, however, that selected materials do not appear herein due to some speakers’ requests that they not be included in either the Hebrew or English version of these proceedings.
Lebanon’s Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamist militia, political party, social welfare organization, and U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization. Its armed element receives support from Iran and Syria and possesses significant paramilitary and unconventional warfare capabilities. In the wake of the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah and an armed domestic confrontation between Hezbollah and rival Lebanese groups in May 2008, Lebanon’s political process is now intensely focused on Hezbollah’s future role in the country. Lebanese factions are working to define Hezbollah’s role through a series of “National Dialogue” discussions.
An International Monetary Fund mission visited Lebanon September 10-18, 2009 to discuss developments through end-June 2009 under the authorities’ program supported by Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance (EPCA) and the outlook for 2009. The mission met with the Minister of Finance, the Governor of the Banque du Liban (BdL), and other high-ranking officials. The mission is grateful for the open and constructive dialogue, the warm hospitality, and the excellent cooperation.
Despite its large vulnerabilities, Lebanon has so far weathered the global financial crisis and succeeded in maintaining financial stability, raising international reserves, and reducing public debt in 2008. The economy achieved record growth, and Eurobond spreads are now lower than the emerging market average. Fund engagement in Lebanon through the EPCA (which was broadly on track at end-December) has contributed to this performance. Lower global liquidity and the world economic downturn, particularly in the Gulf, will likely affect Lebanon in 2009, with lower growth and deposit inflows.
The agreement reached at Doha in May 2008 paved the way for the election of a new president and the formation of a new national unity government, which was sworn in on July 11, 2008. The government’s principal task is now to prepare for the legislative elections of May 2009. In parallel, the country’s main political forces have resumed their national dialogue under the auspices of President Suleiman, with a view to finding a solution to the contentious political issues that have fueled internal strife and dissent.