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Lebanese lira falling to record low part of US plan: Analyst

The Lebanese pound (or lira) registered 63 thousand liras against the US dollar on Thursday. (File Photo)

The Lebanese currency has hit an all-time low, as US sanctions and widespread corruption have worsened the economic meltdown, which caused the lira to lose 97% of its value.

The Lebanese pound (or lira) registered 63 thousand liras against the US dollar on Thursday after it hit the 60,000 threshold for the first time earlier in the day; a record that has led to unstable and skyrocketing prices and set off immense anger among the Lebanese people.

The Lebanese lira was pegged to the dollar and appeared to be stable for well over two decades.

However, Lebanese commentators say that US meddling in Lebanon and corruption in the ruling class and politicians, majorly reinforced by the US, are the two causes of the deteriorating economic and social situation and the lira's freefall.

Lebanese lawyer and political activist Tamam Nouredine told Press TV website that the Central Bank chief Riad Salameh and some of his colleagues have been carrying out the task assigned to them in "pushing Lebanon towards collapse" according to the plan of the US State Department as announced by Assistant Secretary Barbara Leaf.

The lawyer, who said that a lot of the decisions made by the Central Bank go against the law, assured that it is a tool used to serve US interventionism in Lebanon.

Sanctions against Hezbollah and Syria have been imposed for decades for resisting the US’s top ally, Israel and defying US policies in the region. But the Trump administration took sanctions to new heights through its maximum pressure campaign in 2018, which targeted all the components of the axis of resistance, including Lebanon.

The political activist pointed out that “at the time the US administration continues to sanction Lebanon and Lebanese entities, it also threatens politicians in Lebanon, especially those who have assets abroad that they will suffer sanctions themselves if they do not help implement US policies and diktats.”

“Washington has threatened businessmen and politicians from doing business with US rivals such as China and Russia, which in fact is something that could save the Lebanese economy, and this is something well-known in Lebanon,” the activist said.

The political activist also said she believed that the US has been continuously sanctioning Lebanese entities with the help of the country's Central Bank, the latest of which was Lebanese currency exchange house CTEX and its owner Hassan Moukaled on Thursday.

“All this economic pressure comes within the policy of sanctioning what Washington call individuals and companies facilitating the Lebanese popular resistance group Hezbollah's financial and weapon procurement affairs; a pretext the US uses to further meddle in the region.”

Since its establishment in 1982, Hezbollah has been engaged in a determined struggle aimed at protecting Lebanon against plots hatched by the United States and the Israeli regime, which the resistance group considers to be behind almost all instances of instability and deadly violence in the region.

Last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the United States is pursuing the policy of maximum pressure and economic sanctions against the countries and nations that are part of the Axis of Resistance, like the Islamic Republic of Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

 “These nations’ financial problems are due to the fact that they do not want to surrender to Washington’s diktats,” Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addressed a ceremony in the Lebanese capital city of Beirut on Thursday evening.

Sayyed Nasrallah noted that Washington has been behind the decades-long economic woes in Lebanon, adding that the US obstructs financial aids to the country in one way or another, and does not allow any state to offer assistance to Beirut to help it meet its basic needs.

He added, “It is regrettable that some people in Lebanon deny the existence of an economic siege. They believe that the blockade of Lebanon would happen only if a battleship is moored off the coast of the country. This is while the policies and actions of US administrations vis-à-vis our country are a testimony to such a fact.”

On Wednesday, the Parliamentary Loyalty t the Resistance Bloc affirmed that the continuous collapse of the national currency and what happened in the past few days is a deliberate attempt to raise the price of the dollar, which is outside any economic context, and is part of the political pressure exerted on the Lebanese to impose choices on them that do not suit their interests.

Also on Wednesday, protesters burned tires and held up handfuls of local currency bills at the entrance of the Lebanese central bank in Beirut, furious over the spiraling devaluation of the lira.

The Lebanese people have been facing long "insulting" queues to buy bread and fill their cars with gas during the past two years. Many medicines, including cancer medication, are either scarce or not found in the Lebanese market.

According to the UN, poverty in Lebanon affects 74% of the population, and the middle class has almost vanished and are even forced to cut back on food.  

Some experts say it is possible the dollar will double in value against the lira by the end of the year if the status quo continues.

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