Will Lebanon completely collapse? – opinion

Lebanese with long memories are beginning to fear that the horrors of their 15-year civil war, which began in 1975, may still return. The country is divided by two main problems: the inability of those in power to cope with the catastrophic economic situation and the investigation into who was responsible for the massive explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020.

As the economic crisis worsens, there is real anxiety that the country could go into free fall and suffer a total collapse. Lebanon’s currency has lost more than 90% of its value in the last two years and continues to depreciate. There is a severe shortage of food and basic necessities, and prolonged power outages have become the norm. Beirut has recently endured 24-hour periods without electricity.

Failure of power supplies has broader implications than just inconvenience. Essential services, such as the country’s hospitals, are in jeopardy. If the emergency continues, the vital tourism industry, already at a low point due to COVID, will barely be able to continue operating, and if that collapses, the entire financial system could go the same way.

The public has no faith that those in power will take effective steps to remedy the situation. What The Washington Post He recently noted: “With corruption so endemic, citizens do not strongly believe in the promises of politicians to reform the system. The members of the cabinet of the new Lebanese government come from the same political class that has been enriching itself illegally and that would lose if there were serious economic reforms ”.

In the explosion that shook the city in the port of Beirut last year, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were detonated, killing more than 200 people. The victims of the explosion are demanding that those responsible be brought to justice, but public opinion is aware that there are powerful forces determined to prevent the truth from coming to light. The forces acting to thwart the investigation are members of Hezbollah or individuals linked to that organization.

A man prepares to fire a rocket-propelled grenade during a shootout in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 14, 2021 (credit: AZIZ TAHER / REUTERS).

On October 14, Hezbollah and its political ally Amal rallied outside the Palace of Justice in the Lebanese capital to demand the removal of Judge Tarek Bitar, who is investigating the how and why of the massive explosion. They claim that the judge is biased against Hezbollah and its supporters. Shortly after their demonstration began, gunshots echoed through the streets. At least six people died and another 32 were injured in the exchange of gunfire.

The demonstration was an attempt to repeat a winning tactic. Bitar himself replaces the first member of the judiciary appointed to investigate the massive explosion, Judge Fadi Sawan.

On December 10, 2020, Sawan formally accused then-acting Prime Minister Hassan Diab and three former ministers of negligence in connection with the explosion. But Diab, who had been supported by the Hezbollah parliamentary bloc in its bid to become the designated prime minister, refused to appear for questioning. So did two of the other former ministers. They were supported by the interim interior minister, Mohammed Fahmi, described by Abu Dhabi-based The National as “staunchly pro-Hezbollah.” Fahmi publicly stated that even if the judiciary issued arrest warrants, it would not ask the security forces to execute them.

President Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian and a staunch supporter of Hezbollah, did not comment at the time, but in February, Sawan was removed from the investigation to be replaced by Bitar, who was deemed apolitical. On July 9, Bitar submitted a request to question the Major General. Abbas Ibrahim, head of the powerful General Security agency. Once again, Fahmi declined the request. Now, the Hezbollah group inside Lebanon has turned against Bitar.

It seems clear that the government, or at least members who support Hezbollah, is deliberately thwarting the investigation. With two judges pointing fingers at certain ministers and officials, suspicion must arise that important national figures were involved in the circumstances that led to the explosion. Indeed, in a report released on August 3, Human Rights Watch stated: “The very design of the port’s management structure was developed to share power among political elites. It maximized opacity and allowed corruption and mismanagement to flourish. “

Attempts to thwart the official investigation are met with genuine popular opposition, of which the October 14 shootings are a clear symptom.

So far, those involved in the shooting have not been identified. Hezbollah and Amal accused their longtime opponents, the Lebanese Christian Forces (LF) Party, of being behind the attack. LF leader Samir Geagea condemned the violence, which he attributed to the widespread availability of firearms.

However, when he was summoned by military intelligence to testify about the clashes, his lawyers claimed that the summons was illegal and LF supporters blocked the roads leading to his home in the northern city of Maarab. Geagea, who was scheduled to testify on October 27, did not show up. The blatant defiance of authority by national figures suggests a nation weakened to the point of collapse.

Given its precarious position and Hezbollah’s dominance within its establishment, no Arab country could seem further from joining the Abrahamic Accords than Lebanon. Yet paradoxically, no Arab country could be a more appropriate member. By its own constitution, Lebanon is a pluralistic state in which Christians share power with Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Leadership roles in the state must, by law, be shared among themselves. With such a strong Abrahamic focus already built into the constitution, it might seem logical for Lebanon to normalize relations with the third faith-based Abrahamic nation in the region: its immediate southern neighbor, Israel.

Nothing is further from reality. The ruling cliques, dominated by Hezbollah, backed by Iran, and its allies, are mired in venality, corruption and self-interest. Arab News recently warned that its unwillingness to put Lebanon’s interests before its own could destroy the nation.

Because of Lebanon’s constitution, he wrote, “no party can hope to gain power unless it is willing to share power … Sadly, none of these warring factions has the wisdom and foresight to understand that if they continue their current trajectory, the state to try to monopolize will be nothing but a heap of smoking ashes. “

If disaster is to be avoided, Lebanon must find a way to undo the shackles that bind it to the power of a foreign power. The vital question is, can you get rid of Hezbollah’s oppressive rule and achieve a corruption-free democratic future without falling into a new civil war?


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