Foreign Policy Blogs

All About the Benjamins

Well, all seems to have returned to normal in Lebanon as the shebab have vacated the streets of Tripoli after setting a bunch of stuff on fire.

For post-mortems on the recent spat of violence check out these links–Qifa Nabki calls out both March 8th and March 14th for being hypocritical and I can’t help but agree with him. Also, Abu Muqawama has a really interesting post up on the implications of the recent events vis-a-vis Israel.

But, as this is a Syria Blog I want to return the focus to, well, Syria.

While the majority of analysis of the new Lebanese PM, and the moves that have brought him to power for a second time, has been focused on the political/security aspects of the drama. But what about the money? As Lester Freamon teaches us, you have to “follow the money” in order to find the dirt. Well this little tidbit comes to us from Al Bawaba and it might just go a long way towards finding the dirt.

It seems that Najib Miqati, the new PM of Lebanon, has deep business ties to the Syrian government. One of the Miqati Group’s major holdings is a 10% stake in MTN, one of two licensed operators in the Syrian market. Cellular service provision is one of the most lucrative businesses in Syria, as the fierce competition for an upcoming third license demonstrates. It has also long been rumored that members of the Assad family are closely involved, in less than upstanding ways, in the two current operators, Syriatel and MTN.

It shouldn’t be all that surprising that decisions such as these are made with business interests in mind. Syria and Lebanon have a long standing business relationship, and the Sunni communities in both countries are especially business minded. In many ways Syria depends on Lebanon to provide an outlet to economic instruments that are beyond its reach–lending capacity, highly skilled labor, and trade, for example.

So, Miqati not only permits the Lebanese government (and by extension Syria) to gain some distance from the STL, but he also strengthens and deepens the already tight economic bonds which link the two countries.

I guess Diddy was right, it is All About the Benjamins. Looking forward, will this mean More Money More Problems?



Walter Raubeson

Walter spent the last two years living and working in Damascus, reporting on the Syrian social, political, and cultural scene. Recently returned to the US, Walter continues to monitor Middle Eastern events with verve, and also gusto.

Having graduated from New York University's Masters Program in Political Science- International Relations-in September 2008, Walter's MA thesis analyzed the Lebanese political system; focusing on the impact of foreign intervention within Lebanon, particularly the roles of Iran, Israel, Syria, and the US.