In the wake of the Beirut explosion, USIP’s Osama Gharizi says much of the international aid is being channeled through NGOs and other third-party sources, as “there is a general loss of faith in the Lebanese establishment” after the prime minister and other officials were forced to resign.
Over two months later, there are still more questions than answers regarding the Beirut explosion that killed over 200 people and damaged large swaths of Lebanon’s capital city. Meanwhile, the fallout from the explosion has forced the resignation of Lebanon’s government, which had already been under fire after months of protests over corruption and a deteriorating economy. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi look at where the blast investigation stands, what’s holding up the formation of a new government, and what a new outbreak of COVID-19 means for Lebanon.
Protests erupted in Lebanon last year over the country’s lagging economy and sclerotic, sectarian-based political system, but slowed amid the global pandemic. The small Mediterranean nation’s economy is in free fall, with the World Bank estimating more than half the population living below the poverty line. Protesters were forced to switch tactics amid the coronavirus and the lock down measures have forced even more Lebanese into poverty. But protesters are planning to return to the streets as COVID precautions ease. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi discuss how the government has responded in the months since protests erupted in October 2019, how the protesters adapted during the pandemic, and the role of Hezbollah.
In a year of Iraqi turmoil, including protests that ousted a government and rivalry between Iran and Turkey, Iraqi tribal and community leaders are strengthening a new peace agreement in a locale that has seen some of the worst brutality of recent years—the northern city of Tal Afar. Civic, tribal and government leaders recently agreed to a pact that can open a path for more than 60,000 displaced residents to return home and rebuild following the war with ISIS. The accord also will help curb ISIS’ effort to revive. And in a startling change, it was negotiated in part by women.
In 2014, Islamic State militants committed genocide against religious and ethnic minorities, particularly Yazidis and Christians, across northern Iraq. Kidnapping, rape, and murder marked this campaign of terror; thousands fled their homes. Six years later, with ISIS defeated militarily and its leader, Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, dead following a U.S. raid, many displaced Iraqis have yet to return to their homes. The obstacles they face range from bureaucracy to a fear for their lives amid signs of an ISIS resurgence to Turkish airstrikes against groups Ankara sees as threatening its national interest.
From Lebanon, Osama Gharizi shares his analysis about the clarity of U.S. objectives after retaliatory missile strikes targeting the Assad regime’s suspected chemical weapons facilities. Gharizi says these strikes sent a signal to Assad and his allies that there are limits to U.S. and coalition intervention in Syria. In turn, these limits strengthen Russia, Turkey, and Iran’s roles as the diplomatic arbiters to negotiate a peace deal. Separately, Gharizi addresses the risks associated with the suggestion of setting up an Arab force in Syria that could create further obscurity in terms of U.S. intent and objectives versus those of Arab countries forming such a force.
An international conference opens in Kuwait Monday to plan ways to rebuild Iraq and secure it against renewed extremist violence following the three-year war against ISIS. A USIP team just spent nine days in Iraq for talks with government and civil society leaders, part of the Institute’s years-long effort to help the country stabilize. The Kuwait conference will gather government, business and civil society leaders to consider a reconstruction that Iraq has said could cost $100 billion. USIP’s president, Nancy Lindborg, and Middle East program director, Sarhang Hamasaeed, say any realistic rebuilding plan must focus also on the divisions and grievances in Iraq that led to ISIS’ violence and that still exist.
As the Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate crumbles in Iraq, tribal leaders are taking unprecedented steps to avert a new cycle of violence that could follow the extremist group’s defeat. In a pact reached earlier this month, more than 100 sheikhs of tribes in and around the city of Hawija made a path-breaking pledge to forego traditional justice in dealing with ISIS fighters and supporters. Instead, they agreed to embrace Iraq’s formal legal system.
When Iraqi tribal leaders were forced to flee the city of Hawija in northern Iraq as the Islamic State seized the area in 2014, they weren’t much concerned with advancing the rule of law. But last year, as ISIS’s grip weakened and the possibility of returning to Hawija grew nearer, the leaders faced the prospect of an aftermath stained by revenge killings of collaborators and demand for “blood money” in compensation. Such tribal justice could set off new rounds of violence and instability.
Two weeks into Iraq’s offensive to recapture Mosul from ISIS militants, the government and its fractious allies have not agreed on how to stabilize and govern the disputed region in the aftermath. The threat of new rounds of conflict, even after a recovery of Mosul from ISIS, is highlighted by the weekend’s surprise advance by Shia Muslim militias, which make up one of at least four main rival forces in the assault. The militia units announced that their fighters had begun a drive on the cont...