Lebanon’s newly appointed Prime Minister Mustapha Adib was far from a household name before he surfaced as the leading candidate for the position over the weekend.
The biography of the diplomat, an advisor to billionaire businessman and former Lebanese premier Najib Mikati, is little-known.
Many of the comments on his appointment have focused on his last name being an anagram of his short-lived predecessor, Hassan Diab. Diab, an academic, was also relatively unknown before he was appointed PM last December.
Adib, a native of Tripoli who holds a doctorate in law and political science, has been Lebanon’s ambassador to Germany since 2013. He served as an adviser to Mikati since 2000 when the latter was Minister of Transportation and Public Works and served as director of Mikati’s cabinet when he became prime minister.
Adib held various other positions, including a university professor and head of the Center for Middle Eastern Strategic Studies, a Tripoli-based NGO and research center focused on democracy and governance issues.
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who nominated Adib, spoke of the need for the international community to “return its support to Lebanon to control the economic collapse…and return to growth.”
Mikati said in a statement that Adib had been chosen as someone who could carry out “serious and productive government work.”
Following his appointment Monday, Adib immediately toured the areas impacted by the Aug. 4 port explosion, where videos showed him being heckled by protesters shouting, “Revolution!” and “We don’t want you! You’re not from the people, you’re from the ruling authorities.”
Adib attempted to reassure skeptics after the tour. “I am one of you, and we hope to form a new government as soon as possible…we hope that we will join hands to rebuild what the explosion has destroyed,” he said.
Before his appointment, Adib had rarely appeared in the media, but in the aftermath of the Beirut explosion – before Diab’s resignation – he appeared in a video interview with the English-language German news channel DW. In the interview, Adib appealed for humanitarian assistance for Lebanon in the wake of the explosion.
The interviewer went on to ask whether Lebanon would accept aid from Israel, to which Adib responded, “We are still in war with Israel” and pointed out the contested lands on Lebanon’s southern border. “It is not possible at all -- we ask Israel to leave our land, this is what we ask from Israel, and to respect international resolution and international law.”
In Germany, some have complained that the embassy is nonresponsive to their requests. The “Lebanon Rises Up – Germany” Facebook page posted screenshots of online reviews complaining about poor service at the embassy.
A Lebanese citizen who has lived for the past four years in Germany said he was stuck with an expired passport because when he tried to renew before it expired, the Lebanese embassy had insisted on having his German residency permit to process the renewal. The residency permit was not available as the relevant German agency offices were closed due to coronavirus pandemic.
“They really offered absolutely no support, no explanation...and if I want to go back home, I can’t now,” said the citizen, who asked that his name be withheld out of fear of retaliation. “They’re not helping me.”
But as for Adib himself, the Lebanese man said, he had little contact with the Lebanese community in Germany. “There is no reason to like him or dislike him,” he said. “There is no relationship.”
Those who know Adib describe him as pleasant mannered, but analysts have expressed skepticism that he is up for the job of carrying out a reform plan to get Lebanon out of its multiple crises.
I first met @MustaphaAdib in 2008 and the last time in April 2019. He's always come across as decent, knowledgeable & open-minded. But today #Lebanon needs someone (& a team) to stand up to the many bullies. Unsure he's got what it takes. #مصطفى_أديب— Ayman Mhanna (@AymanMhanna) August 31, 2020
Nadim Houry, executive director of the Arab Reform Initiative, told Al Arabiya English that the fact that Adib was seen as “non-objectionable” by the major political parties in Lebanon was likely the reason he was named to the ambassador post in the first place.
“People who know him say he’s a nice guy, a gentle guy, but he’s someone whose career has been … a career of not rocking the boat of the political establishment but actually of being an advisor to it and working in it,” he said. “… The problem is … Lebanon needs a real program of saving the country, which would probably entail taking on the political class, and there is nothing in the person’s career so far … that would indicate a propensity to take on the political class.”
Houry added that the lack of transparency in the criteria applied to the selection process did not inspire confidence.
Houry said that those who picked him had not clarified or described the mission and mandate he was selected for. “For me, it’s all smoke and mirrors and they’re trying to gain time,” he said.