The chief of one of Lebanon’s most powerful security organizations urged his officers to remain calm in the face of a potentially long-running national crisis, warning of the turmoil that would come if the country’s government fell apart.
In a memo to General Security staff acquired by Reuters on Friday, Major General Abbas Ibrahim claimed state institutions had been weakened by “the tremendous collapse.”
He was alluding to a two-year-old financial crisis in Lebanon that reached new heights last month when imported fuel supplies ran out, causing even vital services to cut back or shut down and provoking a slew of security incidents.
The meltdown has deepened international concerns about Lebanon, a country pieced back together after a 1975-90 civil war and still deeply riven by sectarian and factional rivalries.
Ibrahim noted the impact of the crisis on personnel at General Security, an intelligence and security agency whose responsibilities include control of Lebanon’s border crossings.
“The crisis that Lebanon is going through may be prolonged. Your duty is steadfastness and standing as a barrier to protect your country and your people.” he told staff.
Were the state to fall it would fall on everyone “and everyone will be in the eye of chaos and in the line of tension,” he said.
Ibrahim also noted the crisis’ impact on other security agencies and on the nation in general.
The U.N. secretary general on Thursday called on Lebanese leaders to form a new government urgently – something they have failed to do for a year during whch the currency has collapsed by more than 90% and poverty has soared.
Foreign donors say they will provide assistance once a government is formed that embarks on reforms to address the root causes of the collapse.
President Michel Aoun, the Maronite Christian head of state, and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, have yet to agree on a new cabinet more than one month after Mikati was picked to form one.
Mikati gave no statement on Thursday after their 13th meeting.
Mikati took on the task after Saad al-Hariri, Lebanon’s leading Sunni, abandoned a nine-month-long bid to form the government, saying he could not agree with Aoun and accusing him of seeking effective veto power in cabinet.
Aoun, an ally of the heavily armed, Iran-backed Shi’ite group Hezbollah, has denied this, and blamed Hariri.