Last week, the Sunni billionaire Najib Mikati was chosen to be the next head of the Lebanese government, although it is not clear whether he will be able to form a governing coalition. His selection comes while the country sinks ever deeper into an economic crisis that brought down the previous prime minister. Reportedly Mikati has the support of both France and the U.S., but Hanin Ghaddar argues that such support is not deserved. Mikati, she writes, is the preferred candidate of the Iran-backed guerrilla group Hizballah, which exercises de-facto control over the troubled country:
Hizballah and its allies . . . prefer controlling a failed state over allowing reforms that chip away at the power they gained in the 2018 parliamentary election.
Mikati has already served as prime minister twice: in 2005 and again in 2011-2013. In both cases, Hizballah essentially imposed him on the country to serve its own interests. In January 2011, for example, he was chosen to paper over the militia’s Beirut coup—an infamous incident in which [then-Prime Minister Saad] Hariri was purposefully humiliated by learning of his government’s collapse while he was in a meeting with President Obama. When the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt and other factions sought to reinstate Hariri, Hizballah dispatched additional armed members throughout the capital and outlying Druze communities. The literal and potential threat conveyed by these “Black Shirts” was clear, and Mikati was unanimously nominated [to replace Hariri] soon thereafter.
[A]ny government formed by Mikati will ultimately be a waste of time. The international community should not wait to see if he succeeds, let alone whether his government will implement reforms. This game of buying time is one that Hizballah and other [Lebanese] elites have mastered over the years, most recently during Lebanon’s maritime-border negotiations with Israel. The United States and Europe should not let Beirut use this tactic to delay punitive measures against those who perpetuate corruption or hinder reforms. Doing so would only play into Hizballah’s hands and extend the humanitarian crisis indefinitely.
Read more on Washington Institute for Near East Policy: https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/mikati-government-will-not-save-lebanon