“This crime was a result of corruption that is bigger than the state. A step back so he could stand with the people and fight the battle for change alongside the. I declare today the resignation of this government. May God protect Lebanon, May God protect Lebanon, May God protect Lebanon“. With this theatrically repeated appeal, Hassan Diab, the prime minister since the beginning of the year, abdicated responsibility for the August 4 bombing, which levelled the port of Beirut, killing at least 200 people.
If there is one certainty that emerges from the pile of ruins of the once “Middle East Paris” it is that no one takes responsibility. Neither those who transported the 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate to the port of Beirut in 2013, nor the port authority that had the dangerous explosives under its supervision for so many years, nor the judges who were asked to release the cargo for sale, nor the security services, nor the governments of previous years, no one.
But the explosion happened and the relatives of the dead, the 6,000 injured, the tens of thousands of people who lost homes and shops, but also millions of others who will be called to pay their taxes with the reconstruction bill, demand explanations. In the streets of Beirut, protesters are demanding not only the resignation of the government, which was actually submitted on Monday but the total cleansing of a system that has failed in the most basic: safeguarding security and economic prosperity.
In order to avoid tensions, positions in Lebanon are divided between religious communities, so that each community can turn to its own established customer networks. The answer he gave to the veteran correspondent of the Independent newspaper, Robert Fisk, a shipping agent in Beirut, is interesting when Fisk asked who is finally in charge of the port. “Everyone has their people in the port – Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, everyone. If I want cargo to be cleared through customs quickly, I can fall on the people of Berry (the leader of the Shiite movement Amal and Speaker of Parliament). “If they ask for a lot, I go to Hezbollah to see if their customs can do the job with less.” “Either to the Christians or to the few Druze”,
Customer networks operate two-way, with the top promising to “arrange” their own, a system that operated while money was circulating and the country was a pole of attraction from the Middle East but was torpedoed when the White House imposed sanctions on banks that have trade with Iran, causing serious problems in the banking system and the economy. In December, the economic collapse had already taken people to the streets, in huge demonstrations, which erupted when the government took over the “independent experts” of Diab.
Danger of war
The current, new expression of popular anger could serve the pre-existing, declared desire of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel to detach Lebanon from the Iran-Iraq-Syria Shiite axis. In other words, there is a possibility that the calls for sweeping changes will not only concern the fight against corruption, but attempts will be made to change the strategic orientation of the country by changing the system of government.
As Israel’s former foreign minister, Shlomo Ben Ami would be eager for something like this to happen to rid Israel of the fear of Hezbollah. He cannot, however, ignore the enormous dangers. “In the last fifteen years, Iran has spent a lot to turn Lebanon into its own privileged strategic field. “As a result, Hezbollah is stronger than ever and Lebanon is more dependent than ever on external forces – including Iran, Syria and Russia.” “These forces will not allow the reform of a political system that makes Lebanon such an important link in their regional strategy, even if the country becomes a new Libya.”
Ben Ami concludes with a warning: “Instead of a new Cedar Revolution (a wave of demonstrations that led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005), reform efforts could lead to a clash of civil war standards. 1975-1990, with foreign forces and rival local militias joining forces to dismantle Lebanon.” This will not be the first time that the people have called for an existing system of government with high ideals, such as democratization, the fight against corruption or the overthrow of a dictator, to find that the whole country is collapsing.
The fatal ship from the Black Sea
The route of the ship “MV Rhosus”, which transported ammonium nitrate from the Black Sea to Mozambique (where it never arrived) in 2013, brought it to Piraeus. “When the captain met Gregushkin (the Russian resident of Cyprus who had chartered the ship) in Piraeus, at a gas station in October, he realized the magnitude of his financial problems,” the Independent reported. Gregushkin asked them to stop in Beirut before passing through Suez to load additional cargo, but the Lebanese authorities deemed the ship unseaworthy and did not allow it to sail further. Two years later, the “MV Rhosus” sank at the port of Beirut, while the cargo was unloaded at Warehouse 12, where it coexisted with paint thinner, extremely volatile in hot conditions, as well as fireworks.