The popular protest movement in Lebanon is continuing amidst rising tensions in the Middle East following the killing of Qassem Soleimani.
Protests have continued in Lebanon against the appointment of Hassan Diab as the new prime minister of the country, which still lacks a fully formed cabinet. Demonstrators continue to express that the newly appointed prime minister does not represent the popular protests that have been ongoing for the past few months. They believe that he represents a continuation of the political status quo, from which protesters are eager to break completely.
“The way he came in confirms that the powerful parties will remain as they are. I called it a masquerade party”, asserted one protester in Beirut.
“We have asked for a non-partisan person but they brought us someone that they want”, expressed another demonstrator.
These renewed protests have come in the midst of rising regional tensions following the killing of Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran. His death has reverberated strongly in Lebanon, especially among Hezbollah-aligned figures and citizens. Indeed, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, made an announcement vowing that he will contribute to removing the US presence from the Middle East, as the Iraqi parliament voted in favour of a resolution to expel foreign forces from Iraq, despite the low turnout in parliament.
These regional dynamics are having an impact on internal stability within Lebanon. Although the popular protest movement in the country has been supported by citizens from various ethno-religious backgrounds, considering that the demands have been anti-sectarian and based on economic grievances, elements of anti-protest groups have been galvanised, threatening to form two antagonistic camps in a country that has experienced decades of sectarian-based politics.
Protests in Lebanon are approaching the three-month mark in a number of days. The demands made against the government have been consistent and persistent. Demonstrators have been keen on stressing the unitary and cross-sectarian nature of the protests, and they will continue to emphasise this aspect of the protests in the face of regional tensions.