It is even possible that Iran and France share a mutual interest in "saving" Lebanon. Hezbollah itself appears to be more and more on the defensive, considering how obvious its responsibility in the parking of tons of ammonium nitrate on the Beirut port’s dock 9 is.
In fact, a new Prime Minister was appointed shortly before Emmanuel Macron’s for his second visit. Paris had most likely another name in mind than Mustapha Adib, a technocrat, quietly discreet and with close ties to the system in place. Rumour has it in Beirut that the political class would have preferred to avoid having a new Prime Minister appointed by September 1 as a way to dissuade the French President from returning at the date initially suggested. On the sidelines of celebrations marking the anniversary of Greater Lebanon, Emmanuel Macron secured in any case confirmation from the parties that a "government with a purpose" would be formed within 15 days – a rather unusual turnaround that stands in stark contrast to local political mores, which require months to set up a (usually plethoric) ministerial cabinet. The French President also reminded a set of priorities he believed should be at the heart of the new government’s programme: "support for victims of the Beirut explosion and rapid reconstruction of the port, reform of the electricity sector, control of capital flux, judicial and financial governance, fight against corruption and smuggling, reform of public procurement".
From a geopolitical point of view, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah had made positive remarks on the eve of the French President’s second visit to Beirut. On the other end of the spectrum, US Secretary of State Pompeo conveyed his support for the French initiative ("despite a disagreement on Hezbollah" reminded an American senior official). Nonetheless, paralyzing bickering among the Lebanese political class picked up again as soon as the French President had returned to France. It is however expected that Emmanuel Macron won’t give up. His entourage has suggested that individual sanctions could be used to dissuade political figures opposed to the reforms. The President is planning for two conferences to take place in October in Paris, one regarding the follow-up of emergency aid and another focusing on reforms expected from Lebanon by the international community. In typical Macron fashion, he is also scheduling a series of meetings with the Lebanese authorities.
The return to Baghdad?
In Iraq, France disposes of fewer levers than it does in Lebanon. French authorities would have liked to orchestrate France’s "great return" to Baghdad after the defeat of ISIS and the general elections of May 2018. At the beginning of 2019, the conditions seemed favourable for Iraq to enjoy a new dynamic and even potentially play a positive role in the region. French authorities, at the time, had announced their intentions of "doubling cooperation" with Iraq across all areas. In fact, visits by senior political figures never stopped between the two countries. Several factors interrupted these thrilling prospects. Street protests led the government to resign, leading to months of vacuum at the head of the country. Meanwhile, the economic situation deteriorated due to the drop in oil prices, as well as internal troubles and the effects of Covid-19. Finally, the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a key leader of Shia Iraqi militias, killed by an American air strike in early January, resulted in an escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States playing out in the country.