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Macron’s dive into the Lebanese swamp

There was the explosion, the shattered windows, the scarred buildings, the harsh smell, and then the incandescent anger. Every Lebanese remembers where he was on the day of the gigantic explosion in the port of Beirut on August 4.

The diplomats working with Emmanuel Macron too. The summer truce had scattered most of them on the territory. Within hours, they were all back at the Elysee Palace, measuring the scale of the disaster. A trip by the President to the site was decided to show the country’s solidarity with a dying Lebanon. An agony that came from afar, with financial and political roots. All the visionaries were already in scarlet before the explosion, without causing a start from the local elite, to the chagrin of Paris.

In April 2018, France organized the Cedre conference. Nearly 11 billion dollars (nearly 9 billion euros) of pledges – loans for the most part – had been gathered, intended for Lebanon. Apparently, this effort was part of the continuity of a series of conferences, called Paris 1, Paris 2 and Paris 3, organized at the time of Jacques Chirac. But Cedre represented a change of method, wanted by Emmanuel Macron. From now on, the money would no longer be free. It would be conditioned on a roadmap, reforms in key sectors and public administrations, demanded in vain in the past. “We then made the right statement, remembers a high-ranking French diplomat, by stopping to encourage the renewal of a mafia and patronage system, based on corruption, debt and an absolutely unproductive economy. ”

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For a long time, Western chancelleries were silent about corruption at the highest political level. Cedre marks a break in tone, of course, but the players remain the same. The conference is being held ahead of the Lebanese legislative elections. Representatives of civil society and alternative parties, who are preparing for the election, denounce a gift offered to Saad Hariri and the ruling class.

A few months earlier, in November 2017, the prime minister was then forced to resign by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed Ben Salman, recovering his freedom thanks to the intervention of France. “Cedre acknowledges the restoration of the Lebanese regime on the eve of the elections, several months after the incredible affair of Saad Hariri in Saudi Arabia, believes Charbel Nahas, leader of the Citizens in a State movement and unsuccessful candidate for the 2018 legislative elections. This double sequence marks the beginning of a new French course to reposition itself in the region after several debacles, for example in Syria. “

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