Michel Abu Negm wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat:
Due to the Lebanese situation that is rapidly collapsing financially, economically, socially and on the security front, and due to fears of the situation getting worse, and because the French efforts invested to lend hand to the Lebanese political class was neither attractive nor a deterrent to urging it to accept the formation of a new government, Paris is trying to influence movements in Lebanon differently, with the help of Europeans countries, and especially with the support of Americans. With the support of the administration of President Joe Biden, France considers its efforts to increase solutions chances, unlike Donald Trump’s administration accused by President Macron for foiling his initiative through the sanctions imposed on Lebanese politicians.
The present statements were issued yesterday by a French diplomatic source that mentioned sanctions that Macron had referred to during his first visit to Lebanon on August 6, but in vain. According to the aforementioned source, during the “upcoming weeks”, Lebanese politicians will be subjected to further pressure, which could be implemented through “sanctions.” However, the French source was quick to say that Paris “won’t take the step by itself, but will coordinate with its European partners and Americans.” In his opinion, working in partnership with the American side “will be more smooth with the Biden administration,” unlike what it was during the term of Trump, who used to deal with Lebanon “through the Iranian perspective.”
It should be noted that the Lebanese latter, according to French sources, is always present in communication between Paris and Washington, and the French side was keen to refer it to Biden Administration during the first meeting held between Macron and Biden. Paris has also been warning about the great collapse of Lebanon, and the last warning was addressed by the Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, who keeps accusing the Lebanese political class and of disregarding the crisis and failing to lend a hand to Lebanese people. However, after his two visits to Lebanon in August and September, Macron did not succeed in urging the Lebanese politicians nor putting pressure on them to proceed with his rescue plan, which is called a government of competence, reforms and reconstruction of what was destroyed by the port explosion. Although he obtained the approval of the officials of the eight main parties who had gathered in Kasr al-Sanawbar considering his plan, some of them quickly stood against it. For months, his initiative has stagnated, and the warnings and communications did not succeed in pushing it forward due to the mutual internal conditions between the president-designate and the president of the republic, and linking reaching a solution with regional and external considerations, most notably the Iranian nuclear file and developments in this regard.
In view of these data, Paris believes that “it’s time to impose sanctions” on Lebanese officials who are obstructing any political development in reference to the formation of the expected government. According to the aforementioned source, the imposition of sanctions “was not the priority in August and September, but after seven months, “sanctions” subject was raised and this is a legitimate matter. Therefore, the time has come to resort to it.
Till present, Paris has always been keen to maintain an open line in Lebanon with Hezbollah and regionally with Iran, and it had previously considered that the sanctions were counterproductive based on its conviction that the party could be persuaded to proceed with its rescue plan after Macron responded to his request to remove the file of the pre-parliamentary elections from French proposal plans. However, in consideration of the collapse in Lebanon that hit all sectors, Paris began to consider sanctions as “a last attempt”.
At last but not least, an Arab diplomatic source believes that one must consider whether the Biden administration has begun to treat the Lebanese matter away from the broader relationship with Iran and the developments of the nuclear crisis, as until today there are no clear indications for such a topic.