A new report by Arab news outlet Al-Khanadeq has confirmed what many have suspected: the October 17th movement was an attempt to destabilize the Lebanese government.
The protest group suddenly appeared on the scene in 2019, when they took to the streets demanding the government disarm Hezbollah, one of Israel’s most powerful foes in the region, and replace the carefully designed sectarian balance of the state with liberal “technocracy.” They remain active, launching sporadic riots that are openly supported by US figures as diverse as neo-conservative former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Senator Bernie Sanders.
According to an investigation by journalists at Al-Khanadeq, 32,000 activists working for US-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were spread out throughout the country and tasked with organizing and seeding the October 17th movement. The network of NGOs are a front for American intelligence services and are openly run out of the US embassy, with controversial ambassador Dorothy Shea serving as their spokeswoman.
Under the auspices of the US State Department and the Agency for International Development (USAID), 60 “civil society” groups that in 2016 were combined under the “NGOs Are Stronger Together” project by agents of the United States were utilized to help spur unrest. According to Lebanese state records, an estimated 12,000 protesters were full-time paid activists belonging to this coalition, while approximately 20,000 were volunteers recruited and utilized by them.
A USAID report released in 2020 reveals that there are over 8,000 NGOs officially operating in Lebanon, but Lebanese intelligence officials believe the number is closer to 14,000.
US-funded NGOs received a massive influx of cash in the run up to the protests. $259.7 million was injected into these groups in the first few months of 2018, which increased to $334.5 million during the same time frame.
Aside from rioters and phony journalists, the US has also been funding the political vehicle for October 17th, the Sabaa Party, which in spring 2018 was able to elect a single parliament candidate, the TV news celebrity Paula Yacoubian, who immediately supported the protesters when they arrived on the scene, including leading a theatrical storming of the parliament.
Yacoubian and her party have been defensive when asked about the opaque funding for Sabaa. According to the party’s leadership, it is bankrolled by a Gulf businessman. Al-Khanadeq disputes this, citing evidence that it is in fact financed and directed by Washington.
It appears that ultimately, the attempt to use “soft” power to turn the Lebanese against Hezbollah and liberalize their society further has failed. Various Jewish and American sponsored regime change operations related to the October 17th movement have fizzled out. Last July, US diplomat David Hale decided to give the Lebanese state a more direct ultimatum: reform or face further economic decline.