Israel’s Neighbours in Trouble

Last Thursday, President Bashar al-Assad sacked his prime minister, Imad Khamis, in a surprise move amid an escalating economic crisis that has caused public anger to spill over onto the streets in Syria. The resulting scenes are reminiscent of the early days of the civil war that has ravaged the country for almost a decade.

Syria`s Prime MinisterImad Khamis - Syria`s Prime Minister (photo: AFP)

The nation’s currency, the Syrian pound, has lost much of its value recently, dropping to a record low compared to the US dollar. Before the Arab Spring protests, the Syrian pound traded at 47 to the dollar. Now it has plummeted to more than 3,000 to the dollar.

That has caused prices to soar and prompted days of rare anti-government protests in the city of Suweida, with people calling for the president’s overthrow. This was most unusual because that city has largely escaped the horrors of the Syrian Civil War; and its mostly-Druze population have previously stayed loyal to President Assad, fearing that religious minorities would suffer if he were overthrown.

Lebanon too

A similar situation has developed in Lebanon, where protests about deteriorating living conditions continued on Friday night, even as the President announced a plan to support their national currency.

The Lebanese Emergency and Relief Agency said on Saturday morning that at least 33 people were injured during clashes between protesters and the army.

After a crisis meeting, President Aoun stated that the central bank would start “feeding dollars into the market” alongside other measures in an attempt to support the Lebanese pound.

Lebanon’s currency plunged to new lows last week, prompting anger to grow over the government’s inability to deal with an economic crisis that has wrecked living conditions in the country.

The Lebanese pound has lost around 70% of its value since October 2019, when the indebted country sank into a financial crisis that caused prices to spiral, jobs to be lost, and capital controls to be put in place that prevented people from drawing upon their dollar savings.

At one point, the currency dropped to a value of 5,000 to the dollar.

Demonstrations continued over the weekend in cities like Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon; with people expressing outrage and many calling on the government to resign. That unrest could hamper the government’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, as it seeks to secure billions of dollars in loans to promote economic recovery.

Thus both Israel’s northern neighbours are struggling with economic crises that will threaten the already-fragile peace in the region.