ثلاثة عشرة مقالة وتحليل باللغة الإنكليزية تتناول كارثة انفجارات مرفأ بيروت وإجرام وإرهاب وإحتلال حزب الله الإيراني/ Thirteen English analysis & editorials addressing the Beirut Port disastrous explosions & The Terrorism, Criminality & Occupation of The Iranian Hezbollah
ثلاثة عشرة مقالة وتحليل باللغة الإنكليزية تتناول كارثة انفجارات مرفأ بيروت وإجرام وإرهاب وإحتلال حزب الله الإيراني
Thirteen English analysis & editorials addressing the Beirut Port disastrous explosions & The Terrorism, Criminality & Occupation of The Iranian Hezbollah
France, the disintegration of Lebanon and the Second Implosion of the Middle East/Charles Elias Chartouni/August 10/2020
Israel TV: Hezbollah apparently wanted Beirut’s ammonium nitrate for Israel war/ The Times Of Israel/August 10/2020
UN chief calls for independent inquiry into Beirut explosion/Agencies/Arab News/August 10/2020
Lebanese need world’s help to weed out corruption/Chris Doyle/Arab News/August 10, 2020
‘Balance of terror’ drives Israel’s approach to Lebanon/Ramzy Baroud/Arab News/August 10/2020
Lebanon must disband Hezbollah to survive Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Al Arabiya/August 10/2020
Lebanon must disband Hezbollah to survive Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Al Arabiya/August 10/2020
No more impunity!/Raghida Dergham/August 10/2020
An Emergency Meeting at The Remote Hotel Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 10/2020
Four Comments in the Wake of the Lebanese Disaster/Hazem Saghiehl/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 10/2020
It’s time to listen to the Lebanese people about Hezbollah – comment/Ron Prosor/Jerusalem Post /August 09/2020
Lebanon-What Happened By Dr. David Wurmser/Foundation For American Security And Freedom/August 09/2020
Lebanon protests, Macron visit highlight absurd EU policy on Hezbollah/Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/August 09/2020
**** France, the disintegration of Lebanon and the Second Implosion of the Middle East Charles Elias Chartouni/August 10/2020 شارل الياس شرتوني: فرنسا، تفكك لبنان والانفجار الثاني للشرق الأوسط
The reversal of tide operated by President Emmanuel Macron in 48 hours likens a miracle at a time when Lebanon seems doomed. The political acumen, the boldness of the Statesman, and the empathetic personality have proven salvational in a country vowed to exponential entropy, structural disintegration and unraveling of its humane and societal textures.
The ineptitude of the late government made the Lebanese lose six precious months of aimless negotiations with the IMF, since the government failed to present reliable financial statistics, evolve a consensus around the odious debt contracted by the kleptocratic oligarchy, which failed to oversee an integrated post war reconstruction plan, relaunch the economy, address the manifold challenges of a post-war fractured polity, a destroyed economy, and the dislocations caused by a protracted social conflict.
Rather than building an integrated economic scheme, they instrumentalized the banking system to cater to the needs of a rent-based economy which serves their interests, at the very expense of the real economy, the broadening of investment realms and the diversification of professional spectrums.
While partaking in the oligarchic scheme, Hezbollah and Shiite power politics have used the umbrella provided by the Syrian occupation to launch an internal colonization strategy, spread the tentacles of a vampire State, transform Lebanon into a platform of regional and international political subversion and organized criminality.
The political coalitions built with Michel Aoun and Saad al Hariri, were mere political expedients which served their insidious and progressive control of political institutions, transformed into appendages and platforms of a domination strategy.
In parallel, it has created a vast international criminal network ( South America, Africa, Shiite communities across different continents ), and built a professional army financed and trained by Iran, and engaged a wide arc of conflicts extending between Yemen and Turkey, with Lebanon as an epicenter.
This exponential dynamic has destroyed the very foundation of Lebanese Statehood, political and economic sustainability, and set the dynamics of the second wave of regional disintegration. The alarmed intervention of President Macron is based on the careful assessment of a meteoric degradation.
His impressive improvised international humanitarian conference ( 40 States and international organizations ) to preempt the tidal entropy, and create the lifelines of a sustainable survival strategy is a redemptive undertaking at this critical juncture.
Otherwise, he was emphatic about the need for an internal political accommodation which puts an end to the destructive political course initiated by Shiite power politics, and gives back a chance to consensual political arrangements and reformist policies to preempt their inevitable destructive outcomes, be it internally or at the regional level.
Hopefully, Hezbollah is going to dampen its delusions before dragging us unto its everlasting quagmires and conflict cycles ( the perpetuated conflict cycles, تناسل الازمات , W. Sharara ), and annihilate the chances of a steady recovery and an urgent reformist era.
Israel TV: Hezbollah apparently wanted Beirut’s ammonium nitrate for Israel war The Times Of Israel/August 10/2020
TV cites assessment Nasrallah may have intended to use stockpile that caused port blast in ‘Third Lebanon War’, notes cases in Germany, UK where Hezbollah caught with same material.
Hezbollah apparently planned to use the ammonium nitrate stockpile that caused a massive bast at Beirut’s port this week against Israel in a “Third Lebanon War,” according to an unsourced assessment publicized on Israel’s Channel 13 Friday night.
The report was broadcast hours after Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech “categorically” denying that his group had stored any weapons or explosives at Beirut’s port, following the massive explosion there Tuesday that has claimed over 157 lives and wounded thousands. “I would like to absolutely, categorically rule out anything belonging to us at the port. No weapons, no missiles, or bombs or rifles or even a bullet or ammonium nitrate,” Nasrallah said. “No cache, no nothing. Not now, not ever.”
Israel has not formally alleged that Hezbollah was connected to the Tuesday blast.
Ammonium nitrate is used in the manufacture of explosives and is also an ingredient in making fertilizer. It has been blamed for massive industrial accidents in the past, and was also a main ingredient in a bomb that destroyed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Last year, reports in Israel claimed that the Mossad had tipped off European intelligence agencies about Hezbollah storing caches of ammonium nitrate for use in bombs in London, Cyprus and elsewhere.
The Channel 13 report noted that “the material that exploded in the port is not new to Nasrallah and Hezbollah.”
It detailed Hezbollah’s previous connections to ammonium nitrate, including incidents in Germany and the UK, both widely reported at the time, in which its agents were reportedly found with substantial quantities of the material. In London in 2015, following a Mossad tip off, British intelligence found four Hezbollah operatives with 3 tons of ammonium nitrate held in flour sacks, the TV report said, citing foreign reports. A similar process led to the discovery in Germany of Hezbollah operatives with enough ammonium nitrate “to blow up a city,” the report said. Germany subsequently banned Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
“That’s what Nasrallah intended to do in Europe,” the TV report said. “Regarding what was stored in Beirut port, the assessment is Nasrallah intended to use it in the Third Lebanon War.” (Israel has fought two wars with Lebanon — in 1982, and, following a cross-border raid by Hezbollah in which Israeli soldiers were killed and abducted, in 2006.)
Meanwhile former Israeli army chief and ex-defense minister Moshe Ya’alon told a Saudi news site that a blast in a large Hezbollah weapons depot at the port preceded the explosion of ammonium nitrate.
Ya’alon, of the Yesh Atid-Telem party, was quoted by the Elaph Arabic website as saying Hezbollah had been aware of the material’s presence there and had control over the port. He said Israel had warned Lebanon about Hezbollah’s weapons stores and stockpiling of dangerous materials in Beirut and elsewhere in the country. He added that it was up to the Lebanese people to choose independence or continued servitude to Iran through Hezbollah.The Channel 13 report also noted that Nasrallah, in a 2016 speech, threatened to fire missiles at an Israeli ammonia storage tank in the northern port city of Haifa. “Lebanon has a ‘nuclear bomb’ today,” Nasrallah said in the speech. “The idea is that some of our missiles, combined with the ammonia in Haifa, will create the effect of an atom bomb.” (The tank has since been emptied out.) . And it also cited a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UN General Assembly in 2018, in which Netanyahu accused Hezbollah of storing missiles and other weapons in civilian areas. The prime minister alleged that one such site was “on the water’s edge” in Beirut.
Preliminary evidence released by Lebanese officials indicates that the explosion was connected to 2,750 metric tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate which was left unsupervised in the port for almost six years. Documents allege that customs officials asked to move the vast trove numerous times but never received a reply
They had 2750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse after they confiscated it from a cargo ship a while back, they were welding near a door where the fertilizer was located, it caused an explosion.
In May, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that the Jewish state carried out a months-long delicate operation to assess Hezbollah’s operations in Germany and presented its findings to German intelligence and law agencies. Mossad reportedly gave Germany information about warehouses in the south of the country where Hezbollah stashed hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate. Israeli intelligence was also said to have handed over details of key individuals in Hezbollah’s operations in Germany.
The Friday Channel 13 report speculated that Nasrallah is fearful of an international probe of this week’s blast, possibly out of concern that Hezbollah might be implicated.
Amid rising tensions with Israel in recent weeks, Nasrallah had originally intended to address the country on Wednesday, but postponed his speech after Tuesday night’s port explosion sent the country reeling. So far 157 people have been confirmed dead and over 5,000 wounded. Around 300,000 Beirut residents were rendered homeless as the blast tore apart homes miles from the port.
Israel firmly denied initial speculation that it had anything to do with the explosion, has sent condolences, and offered medical aid. Senior Hezbollah officials speaking on condition of anonymity to Lebanese media have been equally insistent that neither Hezbollah nor Israel were involved.
UN chief calls for independent inquiry into Beirut explosion Agencies/Arab News/August 10/2020
NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a “credible and transparent” investigation into the causes of the explosion at Beirut’s port last week that killed dozens of people and left thousands injured.
His comments echoed the demands of protesters who took to the streets throughout the weekend and on Monday. They blame years of government corruption and incompetence for the blast.
Amal Mudallali, Lebanon’s ambassador to the UN, likened the blast to “15 years of war in 15 seconds, the darkest 15 seconds we have ever seen.”
In an emotional keynote speech during a UN virtual briefing on the humanitarian situation in Lebanon, she added: “People are demanding, and deserve, justice — and rightly so.”As he opened the international gathering on Monday, Guterres saluted the spirit of the Lebanese people in the aftermath of the massive explosion, giving the example of “neighbors helping neighbors, people clearing their streets of broken glass and opening their homes to those who have lost theirs.”
He urged international donors to provide aid “speedily and generously” to help the devastated country, but also stressed the importance of implementing longer-term political and economic reforms in the country that address the needs of the Lebanese people. The UN has sent search-and-rescue experts to assist first responders in Beirut, along with desperately needed medical supplies to treat the injured. In addition, the organization has provided $15 million to help fund urgent needs such as temporary shelters for families whose homes were damaged, and the import of wheat flour and grain for bakeries to help address food shortages across the country after grain silos at the port were destroyed.
Lebanese need world’s help to weed out corruption Chris Doyle/Arab News/August 10, 2020
Sept. 1 will mark 100 years since France carved Greater Lebanon out of Syria. Of all the many highs and lows this coastal Mediterranean gem has faced, this anniversary may be the gloomiest in that century, amid serious doubts over the country’s political, social and economic viability. As brilliant and capable as Lebanese are, their ossified system has failed them. The triple whammy of last week’s Beirut explosion, a failing economy, and the coronavirus disease pandemic means the Lebanese can only look to the outside to salvage what they have left.
No doubt driven by frustration, bitterness and anger, nearly 60,000 people last week signed a petition calling for the reintroduction of the French mandate. Everything seems brighter in the distant past, but not one of those post-First World War mandates in the Near East furthered the interests of the peoples the colonial powers of Britain and France were granted responsibility for. France has always viewed Lebanon as its fiefdom, even before the mandate, intervening as it did in 1860 and maintaining a close involvement in Levantine affairs.
Everyone wants to help the Lebanese in the wake of the Beirut blast. Everyone has declared their solidarity. Everyone has made all the right noises and offered platitudes. An impressive $300 million was pledged at a donor conference on Sunday. The question is can aid be delivered without entrenching the very system of corruption, self-interest and criminality that caused all these crises? Shoveling funds into official circles to help rebuild Beirut and the shattered Lebanese economy would be akin to taking a paracetamol for smallpox. You have to pull the weeds out by their roots if you do not wish to see them flourish again. Let us be in no doubt. Whatever ignited the fire that led to the explosion, the root cause was criminal negligence on a gargantuan scale. Such is the secrecy and obfuscation surrounding official comments, conspiracy theories are running amok as to what else was in those port warehouses and why. How come 30 to 40 nylon bags of fireworks were stored next to nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate? How could this substance have been allowed to languish in what looked like a dilapidated warehouse in the heart of the Lebanese capital for more than six years? How come all the warnings from port and customs officials, as well as judicial figures, simply vanished into the city’s quagmire? How was it that explosives deemed too dangerous for a ship to carry were safe enough to be stored in this urban center? Moreover, why did Lebanese leaders not plan for a strategic reserve of wheat, instead of leaving the country dependent on one major grain silo, which is now in ruins?
The Lebanese elite has deployed a whole school of red herrings to defend itself. But the warlords and mafia bosses who run the country have to be held accountable in a way they never were at the end of the civil war. President Michel Aoun claims he only found out about the stash of ammonium nitrate last month — a barely credible statement. His son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, claims that what really matters is not why the materials were there but how they were ignited. No surprise then that both Aoun and Bassil reject any international probe, as of course does Hezbollah.
Bassil, the leader of the largest parliamentary bloc, claims his party is “anti-corruption” — a lie that will stick in the throats of the people of Beirut. Hezbollah’s standing will also be eroded even further. Everyone knows that it has considerable control over the port area and that the head of customs, clearly a designated scapegoat, was an Aoun appointee.
Enter President Emmanuel Macron of France, who landed in Beirut with the fires still smoldering. Macron did something that none of the main warlords and mafia bosses, who remain hunkered down in their strongholds, dared to do — he went on a walkabout and spoke to the Lebanese people. Will Aoun leave Baabda Palace to visit the scene of the crime? Will Bassil? Hassan Nasrallah cannot even leave his bunkered lair. Many Lebanese noticed the stark contrast between the Hezbollah leader’s relaxed speech after the Beirut explosion that killed at least 220 people and his quasi-hysterical performance of grief after the US killed the Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani in January.
Hezbollah will either hide behind force against the Lebanese public or feel compelled to inch toward a compromise to safeguard its dominant position. Many Lebanese and others will be demanding the militia be dismantled.
What should the international community do and, just as importantly, not do? Credit to Macron. He did not fall into the obvious trap of showering Beirut with promises of bounteous aid. His message was crystal clear: No reform, no aid. This was delivered to all the Lebanese party leaders inside the magisterial French Embassy. Other international leaders must stick to this line.
In the first stage of search and rescue, all aid must be directed to nongovernmental outfits, with cast-iron guarantees of how the funds are to be spent. The costly rebuilding of this ancient port city, which will require billions of dollars, must not be funded through the rotten core of the existing government system. Richer countries must also start shouldering some of the burden of the more than 1 million Syrian refugees that Lebanon has hosted at great cost over the last eight years.
The warlords and mafia bosses who run the country have to be held accountable in a way they never were at the end of the civil war.
Accountability is key. No official Lebanese inquiry will hold water with the Lebanese public. Just as there was an international tribunal into the assassination of Rafik Hariri — which is now due to give its verdict later this month — an international inquiry with teeth and full access has to be a condition of support for Lebanon. But the international community may not be able to do the essential weeding on its own. The Lebanese people, tired and fed up, will have to dig deep into their reserves of resilience. Many went out into the streets to protest against the system last October. They know a new constitutional order is vital to initiating a cleansing of the Augean stables. They are back on the streets again now, even before finishing sweeping up the smashed glass and burying the bodies. The international community must not just watch from the sidelines. Already, the security forces have used violence. The true measure of international solidarity will be how much backing we give the people, or else we will have to watch what is left of Lebanon being flushed away down the freshly created 150-meter-wide crater in Beirut port.
*Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding. Twitter: @Doylech
‘Balance of terror’ drives Israel’s approach to Lebanon Ramzy Baroud/Arab News/August 10/2020
Last Tuesday, hours before a massive explosion rocked Beirut, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an ominous warning to Lebanon. “We hit a cell and now we hit the dispatchers… I suggest to all of them, including Hezbollah, to consider this,” Netanyahu said during an official tour of a military facility in central Israel.
Netanyahu’s warning did not bode well for Israel when, hours later, a Hiroshima-like blast devastated entire sectors of Beirut. Those who suspected Israeli involvement in the deadly explosion had one more reason to point fingers at Tel Aviv.
In politics and in war, truth is the first casualty. We may never know precisely what transpired in the moments preceding the Beirut blast. Somehow, it may not even matter, because the narrative regarding Lebanon’s many tragedies is as splintered as the country’s political landscape.
Judging by the statements made and positions adopted by the country’s various parties and factions, many seem to be more concerned with exploiting the tragedy for trivial political gain than in the tragedy itself. Even if the explosion was the unfortunate outcome of an accident resulting from bureaucratic negligence, sadly, it is still inconsequential. In Lebanon, as in much of the Middle East, everything is political.
What is almost certain about the future, however, is that the political discourse will eventually lead back to Israel versus Hezbollah. The former is keen to undermine the group’s influence in Lebanon, while the latter is insistent on thwarting Israel.
But what is Israel’s plan? After decades of trying to destroy the Lebanese group, the Israeli government is keenly aware that eradicating Hezbollah militarily is no longer feasible, at least not in the foreseeable future. Hezbollah proved its prowess on the battlefield when it played a major role in ending the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in May 2000. Subsequent Israeli attempts to reassert its dominance over Lebanon’s southern border have, thus far, proven futile. The failed war of 2006 and the more recent conflagration of September 2019 are two cases in point.
Hezbollah is uninterested in inviting another Israeli war on Lebanon. The country is on the verge of economic collapse. And, while Lebanon has always been in the throes of political division and factionalism, the current political mood in the country is more destructive than it has ever been. Losing hope in all political actors, the Lebanese people have taken to the streets to demand basic rights and services, an end to endemic corruption, and a whole new social and political contract.
While stalemates in politics are somewhat ordinary occurrences, political deadlocks can be calamitous in a country on the brink of starvation. Last week’s explosion that shocked the world was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.
Former Israeli Knesset member Moshe Feiglin was jubilant as he celebrated the near-demise of the Arab city. Feiglin described the horrendous explosion as a “day of joy,” adding that, “If it was us” — meaning Israel being behind the blast — “then we should be proud of it, and with that we will create a balance of terror.”
Regardless of whether or not Feiglin is speaking from a position of knowledge, his reference to a “balance of terror” remains the basic premise in all of Israel’s dealings with Lebanon generally and Hezbollah in particular. The convoluted conflict in Syria has expanded Israel’s war of attrition, but has also given it the opportunity to target Hezbollah’s interests without registering yet another aggression on Lebanese territory. It is much easier to target war-torn Syria and escape unscathed than to target Lebanon and pay a price.
For years, Israel has bombed targets in Syria. Initially, it was not forthcoming about its role. Only in the last year or so has it begun to openly brag about its military conquests. This is because the embattled Netanyahu is desperate to gain political credits while he is dogged by multiple corruption charges, which have tarnished his image. By bombing Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria, the Israeli leader hopes to garner the approval of the military elite — a critical constituency in Israeli politics.
Netanyahu’s comments before the Beirut explosion were in reference to a series of incidents that began on July 21, when Israel bombed an area adjacent to Damascus International Airport, killing, among others, senior Hezbollah member Ali Kamel Mohsen. A subsequent state of emergency on Israel’s northern border was coupled with massive political and media hype, which helped Netanyahu distract ordinary Israelis from his ongoing trial.
Last week’s explosion was a perfect metaphor for Lebanon’s seemingly endless woes.
But Israel’s strategic interests in the Syria conflict go beyond Netanyahu’s need for a cheap victory. The conflict has the potential to yield a nightmare outcome for Israel. For decades, Tel Aviv has argued that an “axis of terror” — Iran, Syria and Hezbollah — had to be dismantled, for it represented the country’s greatest security threat. That started long before pro-Iran forces and militias began operating overtly in Syria as a result of the ongoing war.
While Israel argues that its regular bombardments of Syria are aimed largely at Hezbollah targets — such as the group’s military caches and Iranian missiles on their way to Lebanon — its involvement is largely political. As per Israeli logic, the more bombs it drops over Syria, the more relevant a player it will be when the conflicting parties engage in future negotiations to decide the fate of the country. However, by doing so, Israel also risks igniting a costly military conflict with Lebanon: One that neither Tel Aviv nor Hezbollah can afford at the moment.
*Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Twitter: @RamzyBaroud
Lebanon must disband Hezbollah to survive Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Al Arabiya/August 10/2020
From time to time, Lebanese authorities try to enforce traffic laws by fining drivers not wearing their seat belts. Those who get busted often complain: “Hezbollah is free to stock missiles, but the state comes after me for a traffic violation.”
Articles written in the wake of the August 4 Beirut explosion have focused on corrupt politicians and have avoided the big elephant in the room: Hezbollah and its role as ruler of Lebanon. But while a corrupt oligarchy has been the mainstay of Lebanon’s politics since inception in 1920, Hezbollah is a relatively new phenomenon on whose watch the country has sunk to unprecedented levels. Since massive protests in 2005 forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon in 2005, Hezbollah has taken over as the chaperone of the Lebanese state. In fact, Hezbollah has transformed Lebanon from a traditional sovereign state into one modeled after Iran, which the party calls the resistance state. In Hezbollah’s model, two organizations rule the country – Hezbollah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah, and a subordinate state.
In Iran, the resistance state model is enshrined in the constitution. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his paramilitary group the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hold most of the power and leave day-to-day management to the state, headed by a much weaker, elected president Hassan Rouhani and his toothless army and security forces. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has forced the Iranian model onto the country without constitutional cover. If anything, the constitution, as amended in the Taif agreement in 1989, stipulates that all militias be disbanded.
The Iranian-backed group has ensured that subsequent governments have adopted the tripartite formula when a new Cabinet is presented to Parliament for a vote of confidence. The formula – consisting of the people, the army, and the resistance – is Hezbollah’s nod at legitimacy.
By receiving recognition that its formidable paramilitary force be called “resistance” instead of militia, Hezbollah maintains its place in the formal government. If Hezbollah were to hold the title militia, it would be subject to UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701 that demand all militias in Lebanon be disarmed.
Hezbollah needs the structure of a state to carry out its plans. It has employed a system of carrots and sticks it uses with subordinate politicians. Defiant ones are assassinated. Loyalists are rewarded with senior state positions and allowed to rule with unprecedented nepotism and corruption. Hezbollah needs the state, but not a strong one that can stand up to the party and potentially regain sovereignty, just a lousy, corrupt and minimally functioning one.
Corruption is as old as Lebanon, which celebrates the centennial anniversary of the French-proclaimed State of Greater Lebanon next month. But Hezbollah has flouted sovereignty and allowed the state to erode and corruption to spread like never before.
Lebanon has fallen apart.
And with Hezbollah copying Iran’s choice of engaging in regional conflicts at the expense of maintaining international friendships and relations, both countries are sinking, both their economies are in free fall, and both their populations are suffering increasing homelessness and hunger. Other factors, like US and international sanctions on Iran and the banking sector and liquidity crisis in Lebanon have also contributed to the countries’ downfall.
If Lebanon is to be saved, disbanding and disarming Hezbollah is key to restoring a sovereign and accountable state, or as the patriarch of the Maronite Church Bechara Al-Raii puts it: Lebanon must become a neutral state and steer clear of regional conflicts.
Corruption exists in almost every state. In some countries, it is more manageable than others. The Lebanese oligarchy, perceived as being corrupt, is as old as Lebanon itself. Sectarian chiefs, like the Jumblatts, the Gemayels, the Salams, the Franjiehs, the Khazens and the Arslans, among others, have been in government since the country was founded. But throughout their past, Lebanon and its corrupt oligarchy have never witnessed a situation as miserable and as desperate as the one Lebanon lives in today. Even the civil war years now compare favorably to Lebanon under Hezbollah.
The Lebanese oligarchy has watched the country’s golden years from 1949 to 1969 and benefitted from its neutrality on regional conflicts. In the post-civil war era that began in 1990, the Lebanese oligarchy watched the country fall under Syrian tutelage until 2005. The same oligarchs who watched Hafez al-Assad’s troops leave Lebanon have watch Hezbollah grow and take over. But this last epoch has proven to be the worst.
The key to solving Lebanon’s problem is to restore its regional neutrality, a demand that patriarch al-Raii has raised since June. If Hezbollah’s militia is disbanded and state sovereignty restored, some institutional reforms can take place, and the future of Lebanon will brighten. It will still not be ideal, but it will be much better.
Once the statelet and its “resistance state” model are replaced by a “normal state,” even with an oligarchy, the Lebanese can start focusing on further improving their polity by chipping away at the oligarchy until it vanishes. But going after the oligarchs while ignoring Hezbollah’s militia will prove to be the antithesis of change and a mere distraction from the real problem.
Beirut’s apocalyptic blast needs an international probe for justice Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/August 10/2020
Lebanon must have an international probe into the deadly Beirut explosion – it is the only way justice will be achieved.
The people of Beirut are no strangers to turmoil and violence, but the events that transpired on August 4 are no short of an apocalyptic movie – hundreds were killed, thousands injured and made homeless, and an ancient city was left in utter shambles.
The explosion that occurred in the heart of the city in the Beirut Port was heard all the way in Cyprus, as 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that is commonly used in manufacturing explosives, was detonated causing a mushroom cloud and a terrifying blast that looked similar to the Hiroshima nuclear blast.
The true cause of the tragedy has yet to be explained, and the majority of the Lebanese are convinced that the explosion was related in one way or another to Hezbollah – the Iran-backed organization that allegedly uses the Beirut port as a hub to smuggle weapons and other merchandise on which they pay little or no tax. The fertilizer had reportedly been confiscated in 2013 but had not been stored properly or disposed.
The Lebanese state’s main narrative to explain the blast centers around mismanagement of the port and negligence from key officials that oversaw the port and failed to take proper measures. Both Lebanese President Michael Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab have vowed to bring whoever is involved to justice, which in their book might only mean locking up a few senior bureaucrats, many of which should already be incarcerated for corruption and abuse of power.
The death of hundreds and the destruction of Beirut is a real tragedy, but having the ruling establishment that is responsible for the calamity to handle the investigation makes it worse, allowing the ruling establishment to redirect blame and ultimately escape retribution. There are many factors that render the Lebanese state and its various security agencies and the judiciary as suspects, as both are subservient to the political establishment as well as afraid of Hezbollah which was days away from being named as the perpetrator in the killing of former PM Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.
The main principles of justice and accountability dictate that all those who were in leading posts within the government at the time of the explosion be curbed and disallowed to view or meddle in the investigation as this simply would corrupt and derail the course for the truth.
Perhaps above all, the Lebanese state and its agencies have a proven track-record of incompetence not to say malicious intent in many previous crimes whose culprits were never brought to justice. The many local investigative bodies are central to the Lebanese clientlist system, and their heads do not report to the government but rather to their feudal lord or to Hezbollah.
Even discarding these alarming factors, the colossal obstacle remains the Lebanese state’s lack of proper resources to probe the scene of the crime and to collect and scientifically reconstruct the event and track down whoever is involved, either directly or by association. All these factors make the Lebanese people’s demand for an international investigation led by an independent and credible body more pressing and mandatory.
President Aoun and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah have spoken against an international investigation, claiming that it infringes on Lebanon’s sovereignty. However, Lebanon and its state already has no sovereignty as the Lebanese are victims and hostages of an evil alliance of a corrupt class that uses Hezbollah to stay in power.
It is not just the Lebanese people demanding international oversight into the investigation, but also the international community, which has said that its willingness to come to the aid of Lebanon is contingent on the Lebanese authorities carrying out radical reform, made clear in the Paris
donor conference held on Sunday to aid in the reconstruction of Lebanon. From within the rubble and carnage of the explosion, French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed his own and the international community’s commitment to help the Lebanese people and made a clear distinction – this aid is not a “blank cheque” to the Lebanese government nor the politicians.
Macron went as far as to warn the irresponsible Lebanese political class that what is needed to overcome the cataclysm was a new social contract a, giving the political class an ultimatum that expires when he is scheduled to return to Lebanon on the anniversary of the centennial of Greater Lebanon, which was proclaimed by the French Mandate on September 1, 1920.
August 4 will go down in history as the day that Lebanon experienced its near-death experience.
However, the real light at the end of this very bleak tunnel starts with the Lebanese themselves rising up –
not just to rebuild and nurse their wounds, but to uproot those who are responsible for the death of their children and loved ones. Only then can Lebanon and its people can look for their friends across the globe who would rush to remedy years of lack of clear policy and complicity with the region’s demonic forces.
No more impunity! Raghida Dergham/August 10/2020
If the Lebanese government and the rest of the political establishment pulling the strings of Lebanon continue to rebuff any international investigation and to hinder the involvement of a mere international technical team in the investigation, the European Union, spearheaded by France, must convene a group of world-renowned legal experts in order to explore the accountability mechanisms in the case of the three heads of power – President of the Lebanese Republic Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, and Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister Hassan Diab along with his ministers – for resisting and impeding an international investigation into a crime against humanity.
These three presidents, and every person previously involved in allowing the storage of explosive materials in Beirut Port amidst a civilian population, in leaving this port under Hezbollah’s control and for its own uses beyond State control, must be met with accountability and punitive measures. The same shall apply to Hezbollah and the Iranian leaders instructing it and benefiting from manufacturing missiles and planting explosives in the corpses of innocent Lebanese. Perhaps was it Israel that orchestrated yet another shady covert operation – along the lines of its undeclared operations inside Iran – targeting a certain hangar in Beirut Port which it had previously accused Hezbollah of using to manufacture Iranian missiles and concealing explosives. Then, it was taken aback by that substance rapidly turning the “limited” operation behind the first explosion into a disaster and a war crime in the second. If the investigation proves that Israel is indeed involved in Beirut’s disaster, then Israel too shall not go unpunished, no matter how hard it tries to deny, along with Hezbollah and Lebanon, its involvement in the incident of August 4, in a questionable scheme tying between these enemies.
Humanitarian aid for the afflicted population is essential, it is even direly needed, however, it should never dilute the urgency of ending impunity, otherwise, such crimes against humanity, acts of terrorism and crimes of war will become normalized recurrence in Lebanon.
Ethical responsibility requires that the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, daringly requests the immediate dispatch of a fact-finding team before it is too late, and evidence is destroyed. The Security Council will be crippled by procrastination as some of its Member States will hinder calls for an international investigation or the dispatch of a fact-finding team. The International Criminal Court does not have the mandate to intervene as Lebanon, Israel and Syria refused to join it.
Yet, when there is a will there is always a way. The UN General Assembly will not convene under “United for Peace,” which would grant it a mandate similar to that of the Security Council. But it could demand that the Lebanese State complies with calls for international participation in the investigation in crimes against humanity. It could also appeal to the Secretary-General to promptly call the Security Council to dispatch a fact-finding commission.
At the same time, influential States must unite under international law and mobilize legal experts to explore relevant mechanisms for ending any impunity for those who rejected transparency and deliberately concealed evidence, whether they be ministers or presidents, senior or junior officials in all State institutions, or leaders of forces operating outside state the parameters of the state.
Impunity must end now, as failing in doing so in the past has organically contributed to criminal resurgence, as perpetrators exploited such lack of impunity given that the world’s memory is rather weak and accountability inexistent, and that political bargains have always ended or hindered the course of justice.
French President Emmanuel Macron might have taken one of his most historical stands by visiting Lebanon on day one of the disaster that swept through Beirut. Not only did he sympathetically hug a distraught woman amidst the Coronavirus epidemic, but also rebuked and reprimanded all political leaders when he spoke of the “missing funds” from international donations to Lebanon and insisted on channeling aid through NGOs. He stated that he called upon Aoun, Diab and Berri to assume their responsibilities and re-establish confidence, speaking of a new political charter for the Lebanese. Marcon added that there will be no more blank checks given to a regime that no longer enjoys the confidence of its people. He promised to mobilize support through an international conference, stressing that it will not be unconditional and uncontrolled, but support that is governed by transparency and accountability.
Rumor has it that Lebanon’s ruling junta will most likely make use of the aid and donations to float its ranks and turn the situation to its advantage, while it keeps dodging reform and doing patchwork to advance its own interests. Here again, accountability must be ensured internationally, because the cartel pulling the strings of Lebanon has become accustomed to political and financial debauchery, to looting and preying on people’s misery.
The Lebanese themselves must turn against their own sectarianism, their leaders, and the political system governing the country. Let the Lebanese army take charge of the country to save it from what has befallen Beirut. Let there be an international custody to help the Lebanese army salvage the remains of Lebanon, torn apart by its own leaders. ‘All of them, means all of them’. And, let the Lebanese legal practitioners now focus on mobilizing international legislators in an organized and pragmatic fashion to explore options and means of trial and accountability. Impunity ends now!
The biggest bomb since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, detonated the beautiful capital of the East leading to a real disaster. This is not a natural disaster. It is a crime against humanity. Period.
Accountability shall spare no one. Israel, if found implicated, must be held accountable. Let Iran be told, enough is enough. Let there be international action against the Islamic Republic of Iran if it is responsible for storing explosives at Beirut Civil Port, because this would amount to a crime against humanity. The same shall apply to Hezbollah.
Shame on Hassan Diab and his ministers for not resigning. Who brought this wolfman dressed in sheep’s clothing? Once a friend, I never imagined him so unscrupulous, as he proved to be in the aftermath of the Beirut tragedy. He has become a clerk answering to Hezbollah at the expense of the Lebanese people. He must leave. But he will not resign because he lacks courage. He must be ousted either through punishment and accountability or by the people who will drag him out of the Serail.
Nabih Berri boasts about being the most seasoned of politicians. However, wisdom is not about being savvy and shrewd. After seeing what happened to Beirut, he, too, must leave unless he stops providing cover to Hezbollah through the “Shiite Duo” and truly dismantles it. Lebanon’s Shiites do not deserve to bear the stigma of destroying Beirut because their leaders either participated in or turned a blind eye to storing massive explosives in a civilian port.
Michel Aoun is not the “Father of All”, otherwise he would not have wandered in Beirut Port, an alien from another planet. His reign is not the “powerful reign”, but rather a “reign of failure”. It is in his interest to willingly resign before he is dismissed by force. In people’s minds, his name rhymes with “jinx”. Clear your name, Michel Aoun. Resign. Let the people say farewell with any respect that might be left for you.
This government, clearly oblivious to mass panic, must be dismantled, as it reeks the unbearable stench of the regime. Volunteers were the ones who took to the streets in Mar Mikhael, Gemmayzeh, and Ashrafieh to help people. These young men and women were the ones who carried brooms and put on masks while searching for bodies or removing glass and debris. God bless you, our wonderful children. God bless you.
One last observation – a personal one. My same floor neighbor, in a 60-apartment building, presently all hollowed with dislodged dwellers, a beautiful woman, was killed in front of her daughter and son, barely fifteen and ten years of age. Our other next-door neighbor was rushing to the ground floor after the explosion only to find these two children crying for help, before their severely injured mother. He took the pulse of the dead body, then insisted that the two children accompany him, as they were screaming, refusing to leave their mother’s body behind. Sultan was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions in his life, to forcibly draw them away from their dead mother to save their lives. The horrific scene of the two children should be enough to haunt each and every person responsible for what happened.
However, those people know no shame for they are criminals, par excellence. They have always enjoyed impunity, despite their terrorism, war crimes, or crimes against humanity.
Most of the residents of the Skyline Tower, iconic landmark of the port, are young men and women in their forties, graduates of international universities, who work, day and night, to lead a life of normalcy they deserve. Most of the older residents from the diaspora came back home, longing to Beirut, with the earnings of a lifetime of hard work, to invest in this landmark of the port where criminals had hidden explosives in its silos. They killed the dreams of an entire generation without blinking. For they knew what they were doing, they deliberately chose this location to destroy this normalcy, this lifestyle of hard-earned luxury.
Whether they were envious, greedy, ideologues, employees, decision makers or implementers, they shall not go unpunished. They have committed crimes against humanity. Israel too shall not go unpunished if it had any involvement in the Beirut Port crime, whether intentionally or accidentally.
On a personal level, it was God, only God, who protected me, my daughter, and the Beirut Institute team. It is from there, from the tenth floor, in front of Yehia al-Warraq’s painting that rejects silencing, that I broadcasted the 13th and final episode of the first season of the e-Policy Circles of Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi. It was on Wednesday July 29, with the idea of taking a break during August. It was only God’s will that guided me to suspend broadcasting in August, otherwise we would all have been killed. Only God’s will had it that I would be in Batroun and not in Beirut on Tuesday, 4th of August.
Nevertheless, the Beirut Institute team and I will not be deterred by displacement and incapacitation. We will find any place, even if it were a deserted street or among the rubble, to resume the Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circles on September 9th, only without that painting. We will remain the voice of moderation and modernity. We shall prevail, no matter how insolent extremism, corruption and bankruptcy get.
Our outcry today to the world shall remain: They must not go unpunished. No more impunity!
We will be waiting for you. Join us!
An Emergency Meeting at The Remote Hotel Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 10/2020
Suddenly, the atmosphere became very tense at the remote hotel. Features of growing turmoil and the smell of fresh sorrow invaded the place. The scenes are horrific. An explosion of the size of an earthquake hit the city.
It killed people and destroyed walls, balconies and windows. Never before had the city been struck by a killer of this kind. As if a series of wars folded in one stab. As if mountains of hatred have attacked the living. A season of death, lethality and destruction.
The hotel residents feared for the country, in which and for which they were martyred. They were afraid that their last identity papers would be lost, the papers that prove their belonging to that place, which fell in the custody of men the size of balconies.
As sailors try to hold together to avoid drowning, they called for a meeting before the official invitation arrived. They all flocked to the hall. Maarouf Saad, Kamal Jumblatt, Tony Franjieh, Bashir Gemayel, Nazem Al-Qadri, Rashid Karami, Dany Chamoun and Elie Hobeika. They were followed by Rafik Hariri, Bassil Fleihan, Antoine Ghanem, Pierre Gemayel, Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Mohammad Shatah, Francois Hajj, Wissam Eid and Wissam Al-Hassan.
Before the opening of the session, Karami asked President Rene Mouawad for the name of the Lebanese Prime Minister, and he replied that it was Hassan Diab.
He commented that he was never against expanding the membership of the Prime Minister’s Club and injecting new blood in it, but he did not believe that this position should be given to an amateur or a trainee.
He said that Lebanon paid a heavy price for an equation that secures the right to share powers and decisions, and that returning to breeding presidents without a history and no future is a return to the time of monopoly.
Mouawad asked the attendees to stand for a minute of silence to mourn those killed in the port explosion, and they responded. The session opened with a discussion on the disaster that struck the Lebanese capital and initial estimates of the high casualties and the enormous property losses. He referred to President Emmanuel Macron’s visit, acknowledging the embarrassment he felt when he heard the visiting president repeat his appeal to Lebanese officials to fight corruption and help themselves so that the world can help them.
Mouawad stopped at the statement of President Michel Aoun, who considered the demand for an international investigation a waste of time. The late president said that the probe into his assassination did not make a single step forward, and that the case remained cold despite the passing of three decades.
Gebran Tueni intervened. He said that Aoun’s position was a continuation of the ambiguous approach he took regarding the wave of assassinations that struck Lebanon in 2005. Back then, he argued that the assassinations should not be politicized, as if they were caused by a dispute over a parking lot. Tueni explained that Aoun’s position was part of his strategy to reach the presidency.
Here, Dany Chamoun interfered, congratulating his daughter Tracy on resigning from her post as Lebanon’s ambassador to Jordan and joining the revolution. He admitted making a big mistake the day he was drawn in by the general’s storm.
Kamal Jumblatt, for his part, expressed relief that his son Walid was opposed to transforming the Baabda Palace into a retirement home for Yarze generals. He acknowledged that he did not regret the circumstances that led to the decision to assassinate him, considering that it was better to sleep dear in a grave than to sleep accused in a palace.
Then Bashir Gemayel spoke with some anger. He said that he did not know the current Lebanese president, stressing there was nothing in common between this president and the officer with the same namesake.
He pointed out that he had long avoided attacking the presidency, but was now aware of the terrible disinformation process that led to the current situation.
Gemayel’s voice rose: “When the official does not dare to wander in the afflicted Ashrafieh area, fearing the anger of its residents, how can he claim to continue to represent them and express their aspirations and interests? Which mandate did the president use to undermine Lebanon’s traditional Arab and international friendships, in exchange for inflating a parliamentary bloc or a ministerial share?
How is a president entitled to waste years of the lives of the Lebanese, while boasting of non-existent power and achievements that lie only in his imagination? How can a president accept that the name of the country under his tenure becomes synonymous with corruption, isolation and failure to the point that the world fears to entrust with blankets for the displaced and infant formula?
Gemayel turned to Hobeika and asked him: “Is it true that General Aoun was your partner in the tripartite agreement that Syria sponsored between the three militias, as you mentioned in your memoirs?” Hobeika replied: “The fact is that secret meetings were held at night between me and General Aoun, once in the town of Halat and other times in his house, and we were close to each other. The military aspect of the tripartite agreement was prepared by Aoun and received through Officer Fouad Al-Ashkar, who was in charge of Aoun’s security.”
“We also agreed to raise problems when Amin Gemayel went to Damascus… Then I sent him that I would attack Samir Geagea in Ashrafieh, so he suggested entering from a place where the Lebanese army is not stationed,” he added.
During the session, Samir Kassir was turning the pages of a book entitled: “Bouteflika … The Secret Story.” George Hawi noticed that Kassir was highlighting phrases that talk about the damage caused to the president by his brother Said, as well as Bouteflika’s own insistence “not to leave the palace except to the grave.”Rafik Hariri’s intervention was concise. He said he had no grudge against his killers, but he was angry at their insistence on assassinating the nation. He said that he regretted General Aoun’s policy that jeopardized the country, the state, and the Maronites in particular. He called for joining efforts to rebuild what was destroyed. As interventions continued, the news from Beirut got darker. Mouawad suspended the session and announced that the master of the palace had been summoned to appear before the court of old and new martyrs.
Four Comments in the Wake of the Lebanese Disaster Hazem Saghiehl/Asharq Al-Awsat/August 10/2020
Suddenly, the atmosphere became very tense at the remote ho
1- The Lebanese regime is no longer merely one of “plunder”, “cronyism”, “sectarianism”, or the other familiar descriptions. After the latest disaster, it has become a regime hostile to nature itself. It has become an unrestrained monster.
In addition to those who were killed or went missing, those who were displaced after their homes were destroyed and those who lost their livelihood, the calamity was able to produce geological activity referred to using terms such as “dispersion”, “obliteration”, or “deracination.”
The “Lebanese Hiroshima”, the “Lebanese Chernobyl”, these are phrases used by some of the international media.
We know that “dispersion” is not new to this country, as we’ve seen precedents of it in the quarries in the mountains and in the process of stealing sand from beaches. This time, we went from the sporadic massacres of nature, from pogroms, to a genocidal massacre, to Holocaustization.
Entire neighborhoods are in ruins. The country is now without a capital. A commercial capital by the sea is now without a port.
We know that when nature goes insane, it can destroy itself. Beirut’s ancient history tells of a huge earthquake destroyed, in the middle of the sixth century, the city’s Roman Law School.
We also know that vicious wars chew cities up, or parts of them. World War II is especially notorious for this mission. Recently, we saw Bashar al-Assad and his Russian masters make an art out of the eradication of Aleppo…
The regime in Lebanon combined the madness that can come from nature and the absolute viciousness of war. When it faces its citizens, armed with these two characteristics, it declares only its hatred and contempt for them. They are redundant human beings who are dispensable, them and their world.
What is astonishing about all of this is that these criminals are not an imperial state a totalitarian power or rulers described as charismatic or heroic, who are experts at doing such things. They are frivolity at its most absolute and banality at its purest. With that, they had already survived a revolution that brought hundreds of thousands down to the streets, and they may survive today, despite the last terrible disaster. This calls for much contemplation and even more historical pessimism.
2- It was humiliating to the rulers of Lebanon for the French President Emmanuel Macron to deal with them the way he did. Distinguishing, more than once, between the people and the regime. Between the pain of the governed and the corruption of the rulers. He said that he only met with officials because “decency” required it, and stressed that his country’s aid to Lebanon would not get to the hands of the corrupt.
These corrupt officials did nothing but justify his statements, as they all abstained from resigning, and some of them were even preoccupied with clamping down on insults that “encroach” on their detestable names and symbols. Then, they responded by rejecting French medical aid!
The fact is, this schism between those governing and the governed is known to the Lebanese, or many of them. But when a state like France behaves on this basis diplomatically, through its president, this multiplies the affront. However, an affront is incomplete so long as its subject is not offended. This is what happens in Lebanon. 3- Many Lebanese, especially those who welcomed Macron on the streets, expressed their longing for reestablishment of the French mandate. This declaration, coupled with insults to the rulers, came a century after the emergence of “Greater Lebanon” and 77 years after its independence.
This longing is unrealistic, at least because the era of mandates and colonies has ended. However, the experience of the Lebanese, and many peoples in the “Third World,” allow for adding the word “unfortunately” after “has ended.” Independence and liberation, as countless experiences demonstrate, are not in themselves sufficient to justify themselves and their virtue. They need something else. In Lebanon in particular, some of us believed that, after the small war of 1958 was concluded with a happy ending, Chehabism, then that the 1975-1989 war also had a happy end, reconstruction. Both were not happy endings. Bringing happiness appears to be beyond our capacity, just as fighting corruption and establishing a respected judiciary is beyond us… and to change our rulers on our own.
4- Hassan Nasrallah addressed us again. However, his Eminence the Secretary-General presented the state as innocent thus far. It now faces a first test, one that it may fail and may pass. Thus, we remembered our experience in the October Revolution once again, that his party is, in the end, is the regime’s protector. As for the victimization that he said his party had been subjected, he denounced and condemned it, without stopping to address the reasons behind it. For fighters are those who have doubts when there is an explosion, be it small or large, and before its causes are known. Arms are always accused of destruction. This is how the majority of people think, and this is what they feel. A very small minority may be inclined to accuse the “National Bloc Party” or the “Tashnag Party”.
It’s time to listen to the Lebanese people about Hezbollah – comment Ron Prosor/Jerusalem Post /August 09/2020
If Europe doesn’t act now to save Lebanon from Hezbollah and Iran, there may never be another chance.
The tragic explosion at the Beirut Port sent shock waves not just through Lebanon, but through the entire Middle East and everyone who cares about the loss of innocent lives. It should also send a loud siren to the offices of the EU leaders, and if they truly care about the future of Lebanon and its people, they should act now. The most effective, immediate move they can do is to send European forces to monitor the crossings into Lebanon and ensure that any foreign and humanitarian aid arriving in Lebanon would get to those who need it, not Hezbollah.
For the past generation, Hezbollah and Iran have been holding Lebanon hostage. They’ve abused the country’s political system, financial system and resources. With Hezbollah’s military might being stronger than Lebanon’s own army, the Lebanese people were unable to do anything against the terrorist organization and its sponsors – the ayatollahs of Iran.
Now the tables are starting to turn. We, and the Lebanese people, don’t need a 15-year investigation, like the one that looked into former prime minister Rafic al-Hariri’s assassination, to know that Hezbollah’s fingerprints are all over the blast. While Hassan Nasrallah – Hezbollah’s leader – may claim that he knows the Haifa port better than Beirut’s, he can’t deny the terrorist organization’s tendency to hide huge stockpiles of ammonium-nitrate within civilian population centers. They’ve already done it in Beirut’s Dachya Quarter and airport as part of their precision missile program. They were caught red-handed doing it in the UK and Germany – that’s Hezbollah’s modus operandi.
Last week’s tragedy may have been the final straw for the Lebanese people. They are taking to the streets against Hezbollah, in images that are reminiscent of the Arab Spring of a decade ago, and they call on the international community not to give money to Lebanon’s leaders. These voices made it to Paris and other European countries, and Emmanuel Macron, president of France, is calling for a “New Political Order” in Lebanon. For the first time Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is hiding not from Israel but rather from the people of Lebanon.
However, it takes time to instill a new political order and Lebanon needs help now. The easiest thing would be to funnel money into the country and help rebuild the damaged buildings and infrastructures. But that would also be the worst thing that the international community can do at this moment.
The international community should send humanitarian aid – food, medicine and clean water to Lebanon immediately. However, supplying the country with building materials, petrol and money must go hand in hand with international control of the borders, that would make sure that Hezbollah isn’t abusing this aid. Failure to do that would be like giving aspirin to a COVID-19 patient. If the international community only deals with the here and now without neutralizing Hezbollah’s stranglehold of the country, not only will it not help Lebanon, it might actually cause more damage in the long run.
The European Union has the ability to make a difference. EUBAM forces (European Union Border Assistance Missions) – which operated between 2007-2015 in the Rafah crossing to Gaza and are still active on the Ukraine-Moldova border – are the model. They try (though not always successfully) to make sure that the crossings don’t become war zones and to prevent smuggling of arms and illegal supplies. A similar force can help give the Lebanese people the aid they need and deserve, while simultaneously weakening Hezbollah’s grip of the country.
uropean forces are already there. Since 2006, German Navy vessels are patrolling Lebanon’s territorial waters. Believe it or not, they do that at the request of Lebanon’s own government, which asked for this assistance in order to help enforce resolution 1701 after the Second Lebanon War.
All the mechanisms and methods are already there. What is missing is the will and decision to implement them. We should not ask for whom the bell tolls – it tolls loud and clear for the leaders of Europe. If they don’t act now to save Lebanon from Hezbollah and Iran, they may never get another chance.
The writer is chairperson of the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at IDC Herzliya, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN and the UK.
Lebanon-What Happened By Dr. David Wurmser/Foundation For American Security And Freedom/August 09/2020
Part 1: Lebanon-What happened?
Part I of this series will review the facts of what we know has happened and an analysis of the horrific catastrophe in Beirut on August 4 itself. Part II will focus on the ramifications.
A few minutes after 6PM on Tuesday August 4, a fire broke out, the cause of which the Lebanese government has said might be because of a welding accident, in hangar 9 of Beirut’s port. Videos from the first moments afterwards show black smoke, indicative of a grease or other material fire. A few minutes later, a second fairly large explosion (assuming there was a small explosion which caused the first fire) expanded the blast area into hangar 12 and set the stage for the third and final explosion about 20 minutes after the first and about 30 seconds after the second.
What we know about the blasts
We have no idea what caused the first fire or blast, if even there was a first blast since none of the videos so far provided captured those first few seconds. But the remaining smoke was moderate and blackish, consistent of an industrial fire. It appears some small munitions, or some claim fireworks, began erupting soon after causing a whitish-grey smoke to be added. One film, apparently taken from an adjacent building (no information on the fate of the photographer, although highly unlikely he survived), shows crackling and popping occurring before a much larger second blast. This could be fireworks, as the government has claimed.
The second explosion was much more significant, and produced thick whitish-grey “dirty” smoke, consistent with some high explosives and even rocket fuel. Several witnesses of the second explosion insisted at first they heard airplane engines, but closer examination by analysis of several videos and the commentary by eyewitnesses themselves on the ground ultimately place the source of that roaring sound within the fire, further suggesting that rocket engines were being set off rather than planes flying overhead.1 Smaller continuing explosions persisted, with white flashes seen in and above the building. While fireworks could still not be ruled out, after the second explosion, the thick dirty grey smoke, whooshing airplane-type sound rather than predominant whistling, the absence of a spectacular airborne display of streamers and sparkling explosions spraying in every direction as would be consistent with firework explosions (since the roof had already been blown off the building at that time) – all seem to suggest rockets, mortars and missiles of some sort rather than fireworks were igniting. About 20 seconds after the second blast, the escalating fire dramatically ramped up, as did the resulting pace of white flashes in and above the building, which seem to be consistent with small-caliber explosives, such as mortars and rockets.
In short, something much more explosive, which produces white-grey dirty smoke and a sound like a roaring aircraft engine, produced the second explosion, of which we know nothing else at this point since the government is sticking closely to the “fireworks” explanation entirely. That second explosion seemed to set in motion what eventually triggered the final and third explosion. In fact, it is clear that the Lebanese government It is determined to not have the cause of this second explosion known or discussed.
About 28 seconds after the second blast, during which the flames and white flashes intensified, more “humming” and a roaring crescendo can be heard in the videos suggesting missile engines roaring, and then a final round of white-flash explosions popping off which was followed suddenly by a massive eruption – the third and final explosion. Still frame photos of the exact moment of the massive explosion showed the entire warehouse – this time hangar 12 – simultaneously and uniformly detonated.
The magnitude of the blast was strong enough, with enough high humidity, to produce a perfect Wilson cloud. While some have said it might be a fuel air blast, the condensation halo vaporized instantly, as is consistent with a Wilson cloud rather than fuel air explosion. Also, the cloud did not have the initial yellow flash consistent with a fuel-air blast. It was in fact, a pressure wave according to physicists, not a shock wave, as a fuel-air bomb would produce.2 Thankfully, since the death toll would have been astronomically higher were it a shock wave.
Later analysis of the blast effects indicated that it was equivalent to a 1.1 kiloton explosion – comparable to a small tactical nuclear blast about 1/11th the size of the Hiroshima 12-15 kiloton nuclear blast.
Ahead of the Wilson cloud was a massive pressure wave spreading throughout the city, and rising behind the Wilson cloud is a broad and towering column of reddish brown thick smoke, generally indicative of a concentrated and high-quality bomb-grade ammonium nitrate explosion. Fertilizer-grade ammonium nitrate tends to explode with more blackish, oily smoke.
The Lebanese government claims that over 2700 tons of Ammonium Phosphate was stored in Hangar 12, confiscated from a Moldovan registry ship, the Rhosus, in 2013. This stated magnitude would be almost exactly equivalent to the sort of explosion the 2700 tons (2.7 kilotons) of ammonium nitrate would produce, assuming that it is of the highest-grade military explosives and not fertilizer grade (the conversion rate to TNT of the highest-grade Ammonium Nitrate is 0.4 %), namely 1.1 kilotons.3 Nitropril, which was seen to be marked on some of the bags in images which have since appeared, is the densely porous prilled (granularized) grade of ammonium nitrate used for the explosive version, not fertilizer.4 So this is also consistent with bomb-grade ammonium nitrate being the cause of the last massive blast.
It must be noted though, the ammonium nitrate cannot combust by itself. Indeed, the markings on ammonium nitrate containers in the US have the following safety label: “May explode under confinement and high temperature, but not readily detonated. May explode due to nearby detonations.”5 And indeed, Lebanon’s interior minister, Mohammad Fahmi, also noted this on August 6.6 This is why getting to the bottom of the second explosion is so critical, and why it is so important to press the Lebanese government on producing more information on the materials that caused this second explosion – which were likely munitions and missiles. Without it, there would never have been a catastrophe.
As a final note, there have been commentators claiming that the final blast looks more like a fuel-air blast from a shaped explosive charge, namely HMX (Octagen, or C4H8N8O8) missile fuel that accidentally detonated. The survival of the grain silos is raised as a sign that the charge which exploded was shaped upward – again consistent with a warhead pointed toward the sky. The smoke, however, of the third explosion was a dark reddish-rust color typical of an ammonium nitrate explosion, and the vast layer of dust left on everything in the area is typical residue of ammonium nitrate. About the grain elevator: it survived on the far side, but not the side facing the explosion. It is quite possible that the grain in the silos absorbed the kinetic energy of the blast, much like sand or water do. Still, this alternative explanation cannot be ruled out, nor could it be ruled out – indeed it is likely — that such high explosive material used for rocket fuel of extremely high-intensity explosions was the source of the second explosion (which appears to have been in hangar 9, which was whiter and quite substantial in its own right – certainly consistent with a missile blowing up), and was the ongoing source of the escalating fire, roaring and trigger for the third, massive explosion.
The last and third blast destroyed central Beirut, damaged buildings 10 miles away, and sent pressure waves 20 miles away onto the surrounding Lebanese mountains. It was heard in northern Israel, and even clearly in Cyprus 125 miles away. Hundreds were killed, several thousand wounded and 300,000 left homeless as a result of the blast.
Some effects of the blast are only beginning. Eighty percent of Lebanon’s grain supply (Lebanon’s strategic reserve) was incinerated, and the port through which most of Lebanon’s imported food arrived has been rendered dysfunctional. Lebanon relied on imported food for 90% of its needs, so this is a disaster which yet will unfold. Beirut port is the entry point for 70% of all imports of all goods. So Lebanon has a grave logistical challenge – few operating docks — in finding a structure to bring seaborn loads of goods and foodstuffs.
Hangars 9 and 12
Regarding hangars 9 and 12, Lebanese are universal in their belief that Hizballah rules the critical areas of the port as a government within a government. As head of the program on studying terrorism in Israel’s Herzliyah Center, Mordechai Kedar has noted that there are many videos of Hizballah officials bragging about their “Fatima Gate,” which is a nickname given their independent, clandestine port structure in Beirut completely out of the control and visibility of the Lebanese government.7 In those videos, it is noteworthy that Hizballah bragged that “the Fatima Gate” in Beirut port is where they can come and go at will, import and export freely, and smuggle unharassed, not only without interference by customs authorities, but often without their knowledge.
Kedar believes that the Hangar 9 and 12 structures are the noted “Fatima Gate.” They are closest to the water, meaning they are the most prime warehouses for unloading ships without being detected by satellite or aerial reconnaissance, and very close to the exit of the port as well. Lebanese port workers themselves regarded Hangar 12 as an off-limits Hizballah zone.
These two warehouses, being the closest to the waterline, were clearly the most sought-after structures for rapid movement and transfer, not long-term storage. Indeed, the port authority asked that the ammonium nitrate be removed to more distant storage sheds, but those requests were met with silence.
The Lebanese government, which has been diligent and fast in releasing information which builds its narrative (outlined below) has said nothing of the provenance of the ostensible fireworks, or other information in connection with the first blast/fire and the second blast. It has focused exclusively on the final blast – and with determination has suppressed discussion of anything other — leaving us no information with which to analyze regarding everything that preceded the final blast.
The official version is that a ship, the Moldovan registry Rhosus, was sailing in 2013 from the Crimea to Mozambique to deliver fertilizer or explosives for mining. The ship encountered mechanical difficulties – although some conflicting reports said it lacked the funds to pay the Suez Canal fees – and had to take to port in Beirut. The Lebanese government saw the papers were not in order and confiscated the ship. The owner of the ship, the Cyprus-based Russian oligarch Igor Grechushkin, abandoned the ship and the cargo and left the crew stranded. Ship crews are disturbingly often abandoned, but much less so with cargos.
The ammonium nitrate on the ship was offloaded and placed in hangar 12. After seven years of legal wrangling and bureaucratic back and forth, the cargo remained stored in hangar 12 until it exploded on Tuesday. The crew was stranded on the ship for several months longer, but eventually was flown home.
The ship was leaky, and some reports are that it sunk in port, and others report it set sail from Beirut, and that the ship has been seen since.
What we know about the ship is the official Lebanese government’s version. It has not been independently verified. And indeed, it took only a day or two, however, before Lebanese journalists, began accessing records and former officials, and began uncovering additional information of interest, although a good bit of it is impossible to independently verify. The popular and respected Lebanese journalist, Marcel Ghanem, on his MTV show, Sar el-Waet, on August 6, interviewed a retired prominent, perhaps chief, inspector of Beirut port whom had been involved in the whole Rhosus affair since the beginning, and was the one debriefing the crew. He tale was riveting, but again, would need independent verification.
Notably, the interview could cost the former inspector his life, so it is rather surprising that he openly recounted what he revealed. He claims he was the inspector who personally interviewed the ship captain, and the story he tells of the ammonium nitrate is shocking and worth summarizing here:
* The ship’s captain, Boris Prokoshev, said the ship was not seaworthy, and nor was he. The inspector noted the captain was consistently drunk. But both the captain and the inspector understood that is why this ship or captain were chosen. No respectable ship owner or captain would do this mission. The whole crew were desperados essentially. In short, there was something untoward about the very nature of the shipment from the start.
* When the ship passed Bosphorus, the Turkish transit authorities stopped it because they worried the ship was not seaworthy. Upon boarding, they inspected and saw the shipment, at which point they moved to seize it to prevent Bosphorus passage as a grave hazard. The head of Bosphorus maritime transit then received a phone call from President Erdogan’s officer saying that Erdogan personally requests it be released and allowed Bosphorous passage. The head of Bosphorus transit was so upset by this — fearing it could be a terror ship that could even be used in Istanbul — that he tweeted publicly his disapproval of passage as a self-protective maneuver.
* The ship, being unseaworthy, used its “SoS” status as cover and made straight for Beirut, not Cyprus which was just as close along its track, but where its owner was and where the ship had previously been flagged (before Moldova) after Bosphorus. Once in Beirut, the official story was established that the ship cannot continue, and the cargo was essentially bought out by unknown people. That is why the ship owner — an oligarch who did not build his reputation on being a pushover — never launched a court challenge over the confiscation of the ammonium nitrate by the Beirut port.
* The Beirut port inspector office had his team launch a quiet investigation as to where the money came from for the purchase. They concluded it led back to Iran.
* Also, receiving no cooperation from the government on the details of the ammonium nitrate, they brought in a chemist to see what grade ammonium nitrate they were dealing with. The tests showed it was the highest possible grade; not the sort used in fertilizer, and not even a common level of quality for mining explosives.
* They, the port authority and others started getting ever more nervous about this, suspecting foul play, and many times asked for further information about the shipment, not only in terms of asking it to be removed, but also information about it. Their letters and queries were always met with the cold silence that suggests “Don’t go there.”
In short, the Lebanese government is focused exclusively on the ammonium nitrate, ignores completely the causes and sources (likely munitions and missile fuel) of the second explosion which was the essential component in turning a small accident into a vast human tragedy. To reinforce its narrative, it has taken the odd tale of a unseaworthy ship crewed by derelicts and spun a tale solely of incompetence, not nefarious behavior, as the only story worth contemplating, which lays the bulk of the blame on …. The previous government under Saad Hariri.
Part 2: Lebanon–So what happens now?
Although the first hour or so after the blast produced wild stories – including the theory of Israeli Frogmen – both the Lebanese government and Hizballah – both of which are beholden to Syria and Iran — very quickly and decisively asserted there was no Israeli involvement in the blast.
The Lebanese government reaction
Careful study of all the available videos and freeze-frames confirms the Lebanese government account of the final blast, although there is a loud silence about what preceded it. In addition to the escalating behavior of the fires and explosions at the scene clearly emanating from their internal dynamics, there are also no external objects entering the immediate site. There is no video out there of what caused the very first fire or explosion – which was relatively minor. By early evening, less than an hour after the explosions, even al-Mayedin media, the mouthpiece of Hizballah, made clear there was no Israeli attack.
Instead, the government built a very different narrative, focusing on the climate of prevailing criminal negligence. To carry through this narrative, it has ordered anyone possibly connected to be placed under house arrest. It also on Wednesday (August 5) opened a commission of inquiry to determine the cause and culpability in this disaster.
The Lebanese government insists on limiting the parameters of public discussion to the scandal of corruption and incompetence over the last 7 years by previous governments regarding the stranded nature and storage of the ammonium nitrate.
It is suppressing discussion – not successfully, however — of all other inquiry into the ammonium nitrate ownership, nature or storage as irrelevant, as is any mention of the preceding fires and explosions, what was stored there that caused those preceding fires and explosions, and whose cargo was it. So for the Lebanese government, the ship and government incompetence is the entire story.
It is perhaps not entirely coincidental. This is the most self-protecting narrative possible. The international investigation into the 2005 mass-bomb murder of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was set to issue its final report this weekend, in which they have already revealed the Syrian government and Hizballah – as well as Iran – were clearly to blame. Blaming this new, worst calamity to have ever befallen the Lebanese people on incompetence and corruption lays the blame on the government for four of the seven years of the cargo saga … that of assassinated Rafiq Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Vectoring all the blame for this overarching event on the younger Hariri, the government could have reasonably expected that it would deflate all the anger and possible street unrest which could have been triggered by the release of the international assassination inquiry.
To add emphasis, on August 6, a small hire-a-thug mob attacked Saad Hariri’s convoy and stoned several of its cars while blaming Hariri personally for the corruption and blast.
Conspiracy theories emerge
Within about 36 hours of the blast, a radical-left Jewish organization marked by its animosity toward Israel, Tikkun Olam published an article by Richard Silverstein, that laid the blame for the catastrophe on a sloppy and uninformed Israeli raid on an Hizballah arms cache, being unaware that it was located next to a massive ammonium nitrate stash. He cited only the abandoned first-hour rumors that it was an Israeli frogman attack, which the Israeli paper Haaretz reported not as fact from Israeli sources, but a dutiful second-hand reporting of what some Lebanese sources were saying in those first minutes.
Within about 48 hours, photos began appearing showing various assortments of objects hurtling toward the doomed site at the time of the final, massive explosion. One showed a missile with an afterburning trail plunging down – although a) the missile was out of scale, b) missiles in terminal descent do not burn fuel and have no afterburn trail, and c) the image is a miniature SCUD, not any known missile from a Western arsenal and d) the original video is available and does not have that object in it.8 In fact, a close examination of other videos showed a deliberately fast-framed bird passing through, and others simply photoshopped images onto existing videos which in the original clearly had no foreign objects.
In short, about 48 hours after the blast, an escalating trend, perhaps campaign, of photoshopped images began appearing to make it look as if this was the result of an external attack by a foreign power – likely Israel.
Similarly after about 48 hours, Iranian propaganda outlets were saying that the United States had done this intentionally as well.
Lebanese government hints at shifting its story
By Friday (August 7), the Lebanese government began hinting that it is shifting its narrative. Until then, the government and Hizballah were disciplined in messaging that it was all the result of corruption, which implicitly blames the previous Hariri government for the tragedy. But on August 7, Michel Aoun, the president, hinted that the Lebanese government is examining the possibility that the affair was caused by an external force, either by a missile fired or by a bomb planted by an external power.9
If the reigning Hizballah-Syrian Quisling government, and its Syrian and Iranian patrons shift to this new narrative, it is a sign of increasing nervousness. Indeed, there are clear signs the Lebanese people have little patience for this, and small demonstrations – dispersed with tear gas — have already begun.
Moreover, another dangerous sign of possible deflection emerged late in the night between August 6 and 7: the attempted penetration of Israel by a Hizballah drone (it was shot down).
So, what now?
Almost universally, reports from Lebanon describe a population transitioning from shock to fury directed at the government and at Hizballah. Lebanon had already been in crisis, having lost nearly 100 billion in wealth over the last months. The previous government several months ago was ousted over street riots demanding its resignation because of the banking collapse which had eliminated these large amounts of personal assets. The Lebanese already before the blast understood the new government was merely the result of a game of musical chairs, and not a real change, and were thus already gripped by a despairing public sentiment.
In the coming days, several Lebanese who in the past managed to galvanize into the streets mass demonstrations to eject Syria from Lebanon on March 14, 2005 (the “March 14th movement”) have declared that “this now is war. Enough.” The leaders of the Lebanese opposition (to the government) initiative worked with the Vatican, through the Maronite Patriarch Boutrus el-Rahi, and have the buy-in of other Christian denominations and Sunni, Christian and some Shiite leaders for the initiative, the terms of which are the following:
1. Full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701. The upshot is Syrian withdrawal and Hizballah dismantlement completely. Trying to avoid the incomplete results of 2005, they are hoping to make these resolutions legally binding under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.
2. Restoration of the neutrality pact which governed Lebanon’s relations with the whole region in the 1950s and 1960s. This is explicitly stated in agreement already reached between various Christian and Sunni leaders to be “neither East nor West,” and – “neither Nasrallah nor Erdogan.” In other words, they reject Iran and Turkey alike.
3. Restoration of the May 17, 1983 Lebanese-Israeli non-Aggression agreement which followed the 1982 “Operation Peace for Galilee” Lebanese-Israeli war, which resulted in the PLO’s expulsion under Yasir Arafat from Beirut to Tunis. This is not a peace treaty between Israel and Lebanon, but it is a non-belligerence arrangement that returns the border to the situation it was before the entry of the PLO after the 1967 war (the “good fence” arrangement). The United States, as part of the Deal of the Century last year, attempted to negotiate a new Israeli-Lebanese non-belligerence agreement, and Foreign Minister Katz even met with his Lebanese counterpart, Foreign Minister al-Khalifa, but these efforts ultimately were impossible under the current state of domination of Lebanon under Iran, Syria and Hizballah.
French President Macron on his visit to Beirut to express support for the devastated city was heavily exposed to the street sentiments in Beirut, which was a demand to remove the Syria-quisling government and get rid of Hizballah. Macron promised all French aid would flow directly to the people, and not pass through Hizballah, the Syrian-Quisling and Iran-backed government for profit and skimming. He ultimately promised that he would present a “new national pact” for Lebanon shortly – a sign that he has adopted the emerging Lebanese opposition initiative.
At this point, there is no visible Shiite “official” buy-in to this agreement, because any sanctioned Shiite official is there at the indulgence of Hizballah. It is likely that we may see several Shiite clerics, who have long suffered in quiet discomfort, view this as an opportunity to finally assert their independence and come out in public to split from the Hizballah-sanctioned leadership.
Lebanon is at a tipping point, and in fact already had been before the horrific blast. This emerging initiative, which also has its roots before the blast, appears to represent a major push by various Lebanese sectors of society to push it over the tipping point into a rout of Hiziballah and Syria, and overall of their patron, Iran. At the same time, they are putting Erdogan on notice that even the Sunnis have had enough of foreign intervention and have no more desire to become a pawn of Turkey than to remain a pawn of Iran.
The Lebanese government, however, is attempting to build the narrative that this is a result of the endemic corruption and incompetence of previous administrations, such as the al-Hariri government. It thus hopes to follow the suit of the Iranians, who two weeks ago singed a salvation agreement with the Chinese (salvation for their government, not nation). Namely, the Lebanese government will likely attempt to launch a major rebuilding of the port and city under Chinese auspices and financing, and present themselves, Hizballah, Iran and China — rather than perpetrator of Lebanon’s woes – instead as Lebanon’s savior from the previous government’s catastrophic failure and reliance on the West. They fail, of course, to note that ever since 2008, when Hizballah launched what essentially was a military coup, Lebanon was no longer independent, but operating entirely under Hizballah. Syrian and Iranian tutelage, with nothing happening – especially not in the port of Beirut – without their knowledge and sign-off. In short, any Lebanese government was a fiction since 2008 to cover the real Iranian-Syrian-Hizballah power.
And they fail, of course, to note that Hizballah was keenly aware of what mixing ammonium nitrate, a detonation and population concentration would produce. They knew it would be a mini-nuclear bomb level explosion killing thousands. In fact, Hizballah, indeed Nasrallah himself, threatened explicitly in 2018 to do to Haifa in Israel exactly what just happened in Beirut, saying lobbing a bomb onto ammonium nitrate stores in Haifa with its population of 800,000 would be tantamount to a nuclear attack.10
As such, as hard as they are working to build their narrative, the Lebanese population with the exception of the few benefitting from Hizballah rule personally, are not buying it…at all.
What we are witnessing may indeed be the beginning of the end for Hizballah and the Syrian-Iranian Quisling government – either the official one, or the real one which has been dominating Lebanon with a steal grip since 2008.
It is imperative for Western powers to get to the bottom of the ship story, to establish that hangars 9 and 12 are indeed Hizballah’s “Fatima gate,” to expose what the suspicious materials were that led to the second blast (since it indicates an arms shipment), and finally, whether the ammonium nitrate was not in fact, a story of incompetence and a “stranded” cargo, but a Hizballah stash from which it could send ammonium nitrate deliveries to their operatives around the world, such as those caught in 2015 in London with 3 tons of ammonium nitrate trying to set up a number of bomb-making factories,11 those caught in Cyrpus with 9 tons of ammonium nitrate,12 and those caught in Germany with an unreported amount of ammonium nitrate.13
Lebanon protests, Macron visit highlight absurd EU policy on Hezbollah Lahav Harkov/Jerusalem Post/August 09/2020
Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite terrorist group, has held a firm grip over Lebanon’s governing coalition for years, even selecting Hassan Diab as prime minister in January.
Watching the protests in Lebanon that rose after the massive explosion in Beirut last week, and seeing videos posted on social media by anguished and frustrated Lebanese people, a clear theme emerges: People are angry, and many of them are pointing fingers at Hezbollah.
Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite terrorist group, has held a firm grip over Lebanon’s governing coalition for years, even selecting Hassan Diab as prime minister in January. And as former ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the Security Council last year, “the port of Beirut” – where last week’s deadly blast took place – “has become Hezbollah’s port,” used to transfer weapons and financially support the terrorist group as it develops advanced missiles.
Over the weekend, Lebanese demonstrators hung effigies of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, along with the political leaders who enable him, such as President Michel Aoun and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri.
When French President Emmanuel Macron visited the site of the blast in Beirut’s port on Thursday – even as many of Lebanon’s political leaders avoided doing so – he was met with large crowds shouting “revolution” and “the people want the fall of the regime.” As he walked through a Christian district of Beirut, some shouted: “Mr. Macron, free us from Hezbollah.”
On the one hand, Hezbollah surely feels the heat from people who clearly have had enough of the destructive, creeping Iranian-backed takeover of their country. It’s not hard to connect these dots and view Hezbollah as a prime suspect at this point, if not of an intentional bombing, then of deadly negligence.
Nasrallah felt the need to make the laughable claim that Hezbollah “did not intervene in Lebanese affairs.”
In the same televised speech on Friday night, Nasrallah denied that Hezbollah controls the port, despite strong evidence to the contrary, or that it kept any explosives there. Hezbollah also kept large stockpiles of ammonium nitrate, the explosive responsible for the huge second blast in the Beirut port, in numerous locales in Europe until the Mossad helped the UK, Germany and Cyprus uncover them in recent years.
A “French babysitter,” as analyst Shimrit Meir called Macron’s plan to help negotiate the formation of a national unity government in Lebanon, along with economic aid, will make it much harder for Hezbollah and Iran to have the freedom to continue in its destructive vein.
At the same time, Europe continues to legitimize Hezbollah.
When Macron met with the various Lebanese political factions, there was a Hezbollah representative at the table. And this was far from the first time that the government of France was in contact with Hezbollah. Will the national unity government Macron wants to facilitate include the Iran-backed terrorist group, as well?
France is one of the strongest EU member states and the leading country opposing a full ban on Hezbollah, maintaining that there is a separation between its “political” and “military” branches.
The protests and Macron’s visit highlight the absurdity of this policy.
Never mind that Hezbollah does not consider itself to have two different branches. France doesn’t want to fully ban Hezbollah, so they’ve come up with their own structure for the terrorist organization, rather than face the truth.
Earlier this year, after finding ammonium nitrate stored in multiple cities, Germany declared a full ban on Hezbollah, defying the EU differentiation.
Israel has pointed out for years that Hezbollah is antisemitic and homicidal, targeting Jews around the world. The government has called for all countries to ban them. Representatives of European countries who visited Israel in recent months have used the EU as their excuse to not ban Hezbollah – in effect, as their excuse for why they are legitimizing a terrorist organization.
Now that the destruction Hezbollah has sown in their own country is abundantly clear, and the people of Lebanon are directly asking Macron to be set free, perhaps France and the broader EU will recognize that their legitimization of a supposed Hezbollah “political arm” is nonsensical and dangerous. It’s a small step for Europe that could have great significance in the path to healing and rebuilding Lebanon.
Turkey and Iran concerned about Lebanese protests
Seith J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/August 09/2020
Iran supports Hezbollah, and any protests in Lebanon are sure to challenge the religious terrorist group’s stranglehold on the country. For Turkey the game plan is more complex.
Two of the most powerful countries in the Middle East that will seek to influence Lebanon in the wake of the explosio n that gutted the port of Beirut – and has killed and injured thousands of people – are concerned about protests upsetting their plans. Media in Iran and Turkey were noticeably silent on the massive protests in Beirut on Saturday. Sunday morning found few if any reports in the pro-government media of both states. How to explain the lack of coverage? While media linked to Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia or United Arab Emirates, were covering the protests on the ground – with some appearing to even enthusiastically embrace them – these two, big countries were more reticent and skeptical. In Iran’s case the answer is clear: Iran supports Hezbollah and any protests in Lebanon are sure to challenge the religious terrorist group’s stranglehold on the country. For Turkey the game plan is more complex.
Turkey’s vice-president Fuat Oktay and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited Beirut on Saturday. Surrounded by a huge entourage of men, apparently bodyguards, the Turkish delegation seemed to meet only with male Lebanese citizens and then promised to help rebuild the port that was destroyed. In a bizarre initiative, Turkey also said it would grant citizenship to ethnic Turks in Lebanon, a play for ethno-populism that seemed out of character with the non-sectarian support other countries were giving. It was not clear in this statement if Turkey’s main goal in Lebanon is to create a foothold as it has in Iraq, Syria, Qatar, Somalia and Libya in recent years.Pro-government media in Ankara seemed to ignore the protests or emphasize how “violent” they were, according to TRT. For instance, the Turkish national public broadcaster made an unconfirmed claim that a police officer was killed, and asserted that protesters had set up symbolic nooses “to hang politicians for corruption.” Indeed, protesters had done that. But they had targeted Hezbollah’s leader and specific leaders. Ankara seems worried that the protests in Lebanon will remind a Turkish public that increasingly faces bans on dissent at home of the days when they could protest. For instance, in recent months Turkish politicians have been handed long jail terms for merely critiquing the government on social media. Iranian media ignored the protesters or pushed conspiracy theories. For instance, Fars News didn’t mention the protests on its homepage on Sunday, but did have an article asserting that the French were responsible due to colonial rule. Tasnim claimed “suspicious elements” had infiltrated the protests and attacked government ministries in Lebanon. This followed reports in other pro-Hezbollah media about how the protesters have a secret plan to destroy files linked to corruption. But the protesters are protesting corruption, so why would they destroy the files? The goal of these reports is that Iranian-backed Hezbollah can then claim the protesters tarnished files at various ministries and “sabotaged” the investigation. It’s clear that Turkey and Iran, as well as other states, are preparing their narratives. They must tread carefully because much is in flux in Beirut and their media need to weave narratives that will fit long-term government goals. These narratives are already quietly being formed, on social media and online.