BEIRUT: France is organizing a virtual conference next Thursday “to mobilize the support of the international community for the Lebanese army”, following an official visit to France by the commander of the Lebanese army, General Joseph Aoun at the end of May .
Aoun met with French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed âproviding emergency food and medical aid to security forces in the hope of maintaining public orderâ.
The United States and Lebanon also held a conference in late May, with Washington renewing its commitment to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) by increasing its military aid by $ 15 million, to a total of $ 120 million over the course of fiscal year 2021.
âWe have a permanent military aid program with the United States, but we don’t need weapons at this time. We need in-kind assistance for the army, âsaid a military source.
These developments take place as external warnings continue on the possibility of chaos reigning in Lebanon, as the economic and social situation hits bottom.
Foreign observers fear security forces will not be able to prevent unrest that could turn out to be more violent than the 2019 and 2020 protests.
Political wrangling continues, and the interim government has refrained from playing a role its leader, Hassan Diab, sees as a violation of the constitution.
A military source told Arab News that the political conflicts “are affecting the morale of the army and other security forces.” However, the source pointed out that they had so far succeeded in handling the protest movements.
The source added: âIt is true that the military is suffering and understands how the people feel, but its priority is to protect civil peace and stability; to damage civil peace is to cross a red line.
“The military institution has no new plan to prevent chaos if it occurs, so it will exercise its assigned role.”
General Aoun, meanwhile, wrote letters to commanders of neighboring friendly Arab armies asking for help from the Lebanese army, especially food and medical supplies.
“Some have responded, including Iraq, which has allocated $ 3 million to purchase these materials,” the source added.
The Ministry of Defense and the LAF have also recently been forced to deny rumors of desertion. “Those who tried to escape the army have returned because it offers them social guarantees that are not available elsewhere,” noted the military source.
The theft rate in Lebanon increased by 144% in January and February 2021 with items such as sewer covers, iron road dividers, electric cables and iron poles, iron gates to cemeteries and even infant formula.
Security forces warned of “the gravity of the situation and the possibility that the country’s social security will collapse.”
The predicament the country faces was summed up by a video that went viral on social media earlier this year showing a father who took to the streets to protest in front of his son – a soldier deployed to confront protesters. Cameras captured the father kissing his son and crying, as the son was torn between commitment to his orders and loyalty to his father.
In a speech on March 8, General Aoun spoke out against “the growing resentment in the ranks of the Lebanese army and security services after the fall in the value of their salaries, much like all Lebanese employees. , due to the collapse of the Lebanese army. book, as turmoil reigns and crime rates rise.
“The soldiers are hungry like the people,” he added, addressing politicians. “Do you want an army or not?” Do you want a strong and unwavering institution or not? “
The Lebanese pound has lost around 90% of its value since late 2019, hitting almost 15,000 Lebanese pounds for $ 1 (on the black market), at a time when food prices are in disarray.
The value of the basic monthly salary of a soldier or police officer has decreased from about $ 800 (1,507 Lebanese pounds based on the official exchange rate) to less than $ 100 today. Budget cuts have prompted the military to cut meat from its meals in 2020.
Political pressure on LAF and other security services began after the protests on October 17, 2019, and General Aoun at the time refused to use excessive force against protesters.