Cabinet disputes over state security, dam issues: threatens to paralyse government

Exclusive to The Middle East Online

Edited by Nelly Tawil

The controversial Janna dam project and the State security agency issues threaten to further cripple the work of an already crippling government, the differences over both topics will be discussed by the Cabinet at a meeting on Thursday.

The meeting comes at the same time as two Kataeb Party ministers resign in protest to government corruption, the recent development will undoubtedly further reduce government productivity.

Last week’s bomb attack on the headquarters of BLOM Bank is also expected to be brought up at the meeting, the consequences of the attack on the banking sector and the national economy is a much anticipated discussion.

The bombing in Beirut’s upscale Verdun neighborhood which caused heavy material damage but no fatalities was seen as targeting the entire banking sector and a serious escalation of a crisis over the implementation of a U.S. sanctions law targeting Hezbollah’s finances.

The Cabinet has failed to settle the Janna project dispute in the past three sessions, with the ministers split over the dam project.

Support of the project is divided, ministers from the Future Movement, the Kataeb Party and Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb oppose it for environmental reasons, while the ministers from the Free Patriotic Movement, Hezbollah and MP Walid Jumblatt’s bloc approve of it.

The main concern the Kataeb Party has for the project is the sure possibility that it will bring devastation to one of Lebanon’s richest ecosystems, the group has voiced their objections to the dam project many times.

The dam’s opponents have argued that the project is too expensive and severely damages the region’s ecosystem, and that there are alternatives to the dam. They have also called for a comprehensive geophysical study of the project’s location, in the Jbeil district’s historic and rich Ibrahim Valley, as well as an environmental impact assessment.

The Cabinet is also expected to address the long-running dispute over the leadership of the State Security agency. The agency has been plagued by a funding row and a leadership struggle between the agency’s head, Maj. Gen. George Karaa, and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Tufayli.

Karaa is a Greek Catholic, and his duties overlap with those of Tufayli, a Shiite. In effect, the latter has the same powers as the agency’s head. This has ultimately caused a sectarian-related issue.

All the ministers had agreed in April to task Salam with negotiating a solution to the crisis which has deepened divisions within the Cabinet.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea warned against the extension of Tufayli’s term and called for the appointment of a new deputy chief of the agency. “It’s as if there is a deliberate intention to get rid of the State Security agency during these hard times, an issue we will oppose to the very end,” Geagea tweeted.