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Technocracy now: The US is working to turn Lebanon’s anti-corruption protests against Hezbollah

While Lebanon’s protests remain focused on the economy and widespread corruption, Washington is increasingly determined to exploit the movement as a geopolitical weapon in the region.

by Rania Khalek

Part 7 -  Demanding a technocratic government, looking to Hong Kong for inspiration

The protest demand which has garnered the most media attention has been the call for the installment of a “technocratic government.”

Activists from civil society groups have been pumping out printed fliers and posters clamoring for a technocratic government. Some of the major local media outlets owned by oligarchs with competing political agendas suddenly began reporting, with an unusually unified message, that the main protest demand was for technocracy.

This call quickly spread among non-ideological protesters across the country who have proven themselves to be susceptible to catchy slogans.


But what does a “technocratic government” mean in practice in Lebanon?

It would not necessarily comprise a non-political government, but one that would negate the key political issues that are confronting the country, especially Israel, Palestinian refugees, and the plight of the country’s poor.

Most importantly, a technocracy would mean a government without Hezbollah that cannot resist Israel or the extremist Gulf proxies that threatened Lebanon during the war on Syria. This is why Hezbollah and its allies have been so staunchly opposed to replacing the current government.

Unsurprisingly, this demand, which was initiated by pro-American political parties and US government-funded outfits, is music to the ears of Washington.

In his November testimony to congress, former US ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman highlighted the advantage in the demand: “With the demonstrators calling for a technocratic rather than political government, our public messaging can emphasize our expectation that a new Lebanese government, if it seeks international support, should effectively and immediately address the reform aspirations of the Lebanese people,” he said.

By clamoring for a technocracy, the veteran US operative argued, protesters can “seize the next electoral opportunity to strip Hezbollah of the parliamentary partners it uses as force multipliers to assert its will politically.

The US Institute for Peace, a State Department cut-out that was founded under Reagan alongside the NED, echoed Feltman’s call.

Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, Feltman’s longtime informant, was the first to publicly call for a technocratic government, and has continued to do so. With his eyes on the presidency, Geagea has blamed Hezbollah for obstructing the formation of this technocratic government while lashing out at his Christian rivals, the FPM, for their alliance with the Shia party. 

The social media influencer Gino Raidy also amplified the call for the appointment of a technocratic government. Raidy is a popular blogger who sits on the board of March Lebanon, an NGO that receives funding from NED in addition to the British and Canadian embassies. 

Through his Western-backed organization, Raidy has argued against the Lebanese government imposing boycotts on Israel. He has also expressed disdain for activists in the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on his personal blog.

Raidy recently bragged on Instagram about meeting with a Hong Kong protester in Lebanon on November 11 –  the same day Nasrallah gave a speech emphasizing need for Lebanon to defy the United States and open up to China.

This was not the first time Raidy has expressed interest in Hong Kong. Three days into the Lebanon protests, he wrote on Instagram, “If we need to, we will resist like our brothers and sisters in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong protests have rapidly transformed into a separatist movement that has overseen terrifying acts of violence against supporters of China, including the recent lighting of a man on fire for disagreeing with anti-Beijing activists. An elderly man was killed with a brick for the same reason.

Many Hong Kong opposition figures receive funding from the same US sources as Raidy, and are openly coordinating with American political leadership.

Raidy admitted on his widely read blog that his initial excitement about getting involved in the protests had everything to do with exploiting anti-Hezbollah sentiment. “The moment that made me get in my car and drive down to protest, was seeing men and women in Dahieh and Nabatieh coming out and showing clear dissent towards the Shia duo of Hezbollah and Amal,” he wrote.

Antoun Issa, a non-resident scholar at the UAE-funded Middle East Institute, also called for a technocratic government, tweeting, “Protestors demands are clear – from north to south, to Beirut and the Bekaa. An independent, technocratic government.” Soon after, Issa agitated for Washington to use the protests in Lebanon and Iraq against Iran.

After his recent resignation, the longtime US ally Hariri conditioned his participation in a future government on it being technocratic and politically neutral. Hezbollah, meanwhile, was pushing for a mixed government with space for both politicians and technocrats.

With Hariri refusing to budge on his insistence on a technocratic government, negotiations over the formation of a new cabinet have collapsed, plunging the government into a gridlock as economic catastrophe looms.

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