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Lebanon Extends US – Backed Army Chief’s Term for One Year

Lebanon’s parliament extended on 15 December the term of army chief Joseph Aoun, which was set to end at the start of the coming month, on 10 January. 

The Lebanese parliament approved delaying the retirement of senior officers leading the military and security establishments for a period of one year, Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported. 

“We are passing through an extraordinary situation, so it was necessary to take the decision that comes in Lebanon’s interest,” lawmaker Waddah Sadek told reporters after the parliament meeting on Friday. 

According to Lebanese law, extending Aoun’s term requires an amendment of the constitution. 

Lebanon has been witnessing a severe economic crisis since the collapse of its financial sector in 2019, which has devalued over 90 percent of the currency and has left a majority of citizens without access to their savings. 

The country has also been mired in a presidential vacuum since the term of former president Michel Aoun (no relation to the army chief) expired in October 2022. 

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) commander is a close friend of the US embassy and Washington’s preferred candidate for the Lebanese presidency. However, a period of six months must pass following the expiry of his term for him to be eligible to become president, according to Lebanese law. 

The parliament’s extension of Aoun’s term coincides with a state of war on the country’s southern border. 

Since 8 October, one day after the start of the Gaza-Israel war, Hezbollah has launched daily attacks against Israeli sites and bases near the border, displacing tens of thousands of settlers in Israel’s north. Israel has continued to respond with vicious airstrikes on southern border villages and towns. 

Western powers have taken this escalation on the border as a chance to continue pushing for the implementation of UN Resolution 1701. 

The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1701 after the 2006 war in Lebanon, prohibiting any military presence in the area between the Litani River and the border with Israel, with the exception of the Lebanese army and international peacekeeping forces of UNIFIL.

In the years following the 2006 war, Israel broke Resolution 1701 by continuously encroaching on Lebanese territory and violating the country’s sovereignty. 

By 2022, Hezbollah had established a prominent presence of battalions and brigades south of the Litani River and right on Israel’s border. 

France’s special envoy to Lebanon, Jean-Yves Le Drian, recently visited Lebanon to convey a “western desire to pressure Hezbollah to commit to implementing Resolution 1701,” sources told Al-Akhbar daily on 30 November. 

In a report the next day, Al-Akhbar referred to Lebanon’s army chief as “the joker that the West is betting on with regard to the attempts being prepared to implement Resolution 1701.” 

Source : The Cradle