August 9, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9485

Lebanese Journalist: Without A U.S.–Iranian Understanding, The Crisis There Will Only Grow Worse

August 9, 2021
Iran, Lebanon | Special Dispatch No. 9485

In an article in the Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, Gilbert Achcar, a Lebanese journalist and a professor of international relations at SOAS University of London, wrote that, while the Olympics are happening in Tokyo, Lebanon is scoring up negative records in terms of its economic situation. Lebanon, he said, is just another theatre of the struggle between the U.S. and Iran, and as long as these two countries do not reach an understanding, the crisis there will only grow deeper. He added that the wealthy businessmen of Lebanon's ruling elite earn their capital outside the country, and therefore are hardly interested in extricating it from the economic crisis it is experiencing.  

Gilbert Achcar (Source:

The following are translated excerpts from his article:[1]

"As the Olympic games take place in Tokyo, Lebanon has unfortunately won the gold and the bronze in two categories that nobody wants his country to [even] compete in. It won the gold for the explosion that occurred in it  exactly one year ago, which is the greatest non-nuclear explosion of the 21st century… and the sixth greatest non-nuclear explosion in history. It won bronze for experiencing the third worst economic crisis to occur in the world since the advent  of the capitalist economic model in the mid-19th century. This is  according to the latest report of the World Bank's 'Lebanon Economic Monitor.'[2]

"These two records are actually closely linked to another achievement, which is difficult to measure, but Lebanon is [surely] a serious contender for the gold in this category as well, [namely] the indifference of the 'officials' to the suffering of the people. History has seldom seen a ruling elite like the one that controls Lebanon's fate, which insists on wasting time in Sisyphean efforts while the country is sinking and its people are  groaning. This is closely related to the socio-economic status of Lebanon's ruling elite, for there is hardly a single key figure among them who relies on the local economy and is therefore truly interested in extricating the country from its crisis. This is true not only of the political forces that are officially funded from abroad, such as Hizbullah, but  also of [various] 'businesspeople' – for a unique feature of Lebanon is  that its greatest tycoons do not regard it as an [ordinary] economic arena, but, at best, as an economic hub which, thanks to the jungle laws that control it, allow [them] to avoid tax restrictions that could be imposed on them in other [economic] hubs.  

"Looking at the wealthiest tycoons in Lebanese politics, we find that the richest of them is the designated prime minister, Najib Mikati. He is a senior partner in the Arabian Construction Company, one of the biggest contractors in the Arab world, which operates globally…Another wealthy businessman in Lebanese politics is of course Sa'd Al-Hariri. He entered politics following the death of his father on behalf of his family, which appointed him to this task while ensuring his share in the family fortune.

"Lebanon's current ruling elite is bereft of roots in the homeland, and is permanently sponsored by foreign [forces] which share their influence over it. The latest of these sponsors are the U.S. and Iran. The American sponsorship was behind the Saudi sponsorship [of Lebanon] after the Taif Agreement (of 1989, which put an end to the civil war in the country), until three years ago, when Saudi Arabia decided to renounce any responsibility for what is happening in Lebanon. The Iranian sponsorship was behind the Syrian sponsorship [of Lebanon] until [Iran] replaced Syria, after the latter itself fell under the sponsorship of Tehran due to the war and uprising that broke out in it a decade ago.

"A distinguishing feature of Lebanon's ruling elite is that [its members] receive a 'fresh' [supply of] dollars from abroad, whether from the countries with which they are affiliated, as [in the case of] Hizbullah and Iran, or through close business ties with the Gulf states. This explains the extreme indifference of this ruling elite to the immense tragedy that the Lebanese people are experiencing. As for the French plan to settle the disputes between the components of this elite, so that France can regain a large part of its [former] sponsorship of Lebanon, [this plan] is doomed to failure as long as [Lebanon's] sponsors – the U.S. and Iran – cannot reach an understanding between them…

"The bottom line is that things have become more complicated than they once were, even though [Joe] Biden has replaced [Donald] Trump as U.S. president. For the ascent of Ebrahim Raisi to the presidency in Iran, instead of [Hassan] Rohani, reflects a shift towards a more hardline stance in Iran, which makes the change in America meaningless. In the absence of understandings between the two sponsor states [the U.S. and Iran], any measures taken in the Lebanese arena will bring no more than a temporary respite, like morphine drops given to a dying patient." 


[1] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 3, 2021.

[2] This report , issued in spring 2021, states that " The Lebanon financial and economic crisis is likely to rank in the top 10, possibly top three, most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century." See

Share this Report: