Lebanon is expected to appoint Gebran Bassil’s former top advisor to be the country’s next ambassador to the United Nations, sources familiar with the matter said, with outgoing President Michel Aoun looking to fill diplomatic posts with figures loyal to him.
Hadi Hachem will replace Amal Mudallali, according to the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Hachem was previously the Foreign Ministry chief of cabinet during Bassil’s time as Lebanon’s top diplomat.
Bassil, the Lebanese president’s son-in-law, was sanctioned by the United States in 2020 for corruption and his ties to the Iran-backed Hezbollah and is banned from traveling to the US.
Washington accused Bassil of being at the “forefront of corruption in Lebanon” and sanctioned him under the Magnitsky Act, intended to target human rights abuses and corruption.
After nationwide anti-government protests, Bassil was replaced, but Hachem remained.
But he was appointed as Lebanon’s chargé d’affaires to Kuwait in 2020. His time in Kuwait ended abruptly after Gulf countries expelled the top Lebanese diplomats from their respective countries.
Critical comments by then-Information Minister George Kordahi on the war in Yemen led to a rift between Beirut and its Gulf allies.
Hezbollah’s growing grip on Lebanon and its control over consecutive governments have almost severed ties between Beirut and the Gulf.
It’s also worth noting that based on Lebanon’s sectarian makeup, the ambassador to the UN has been a Sunni Muslim, while the envoy to Washington has been a Maronite Christian since the early 2000s.
Hachem would flip this if his appointment goes through. It remains unclear who the next Lebanese envoy to the US will be after longtime Aoun supporter Gaby Issa’s time ended last year.
If Aoun can push through a diplomat to Washington, it would also mean that Hezbollah’s closest allies would have loyalists in Washington and New York.