Who Is Exacerbating Lebanon’s Humanitarian Tragedy?
TEHRAN (FNA)- On Tuesday, August 4, a massive explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital Beirut, killing scores of people and injuring thousands. The city's crucial port region was also devastated along with the surrounding area.
The National Council for Scientific Research said a warehouse containing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive material used for fertilisers, was the source of the incident. Health Minister Hamad Hassan has described the incident as "a disaster in every sense of the word", and warned that the death toll is likely to rise.
While government officials have said they are investigating the cause of the blast that started in an adjacent warehouse where a large cargo of fireworks was stored, experts say the blast resembles Israeli-style operations in the past. Speculations that Israel could have been behind the catastrophic explosion reinvigorate as analysts worldwide believe that Tel Aviv is the number one beneficiary of te incident. An Israeli party leader even came to publically thank God for gifting the Jews with such a present on their eve.
The tragedy couldn’t have come at a worst possible time. The country is already experiencing a plethora of disasters. Hyperinflation and serious economic instability, ongoing political turmoil, and the coronavirus outbreak will all certainly be compounded by the inactivity of this key port responsible for crucial imports.
Since October, the Lebanese pound that is pegged to the US dollar has lost some 80 percent of its value while the supply of foreign currencies diminished under the US sanctions, resulting in unofficial capital controls put in place by the banking sector. The overall shortage of foreign currencies has made importing goods, including the vast majority of the country's food supply, already difficult.
Together, these factors have led to horrifying realities: Unemployment at over 30 percent by the end of May, annual food inflation at around 190 percent, unprecedented business closures unlikely to halt soon and power cuts at over 20 hours per day in some parts of the capital. It is estimated that nearly half of the country lives below the poverty line – something that an unlikely bailout from the International Monetary Fund wouldn't even address, specially considering the US sanctions.
Political and banking elites involved in the US-backed campaign to bankrupt Lebanon have smuggled an estimated six billion US dollars out of the country, according to Alain Bifani, former director general of finance at Lebanon's Finance Ministry.
Bifani has described the situation as a "dismantling of the state," which is a sentiment also shared by Nassif Hitti, who resigned as Lebanon's foreign minister, citing a fear of the country becoming a "failed state."
As those at the top have lost faith in the government, so too have those on the streets. Seen as a major catalyst for worldwide protests against neoliberalism, the Lebanese protests that kicked off in October last year have only continued, reflecting despair and desperation. But this is nothing new as political leaders have for decades found themselves in deadlock, failing to form governments and failing to properly reform in order to meet popular demands.
Then there's the coronavirus which knows no class or political affiliation. The virus has managed to spread to previously untouched parts of the country, prompting a new lockdown. Confirmed cases in the country have risen and doctors are already warning of the strain on the healthcare system – one already dilapidated from the increasingly difficult economic climate. Without any mechanism to control the virus in a targeted way, the Lebanese economy only stands to suffer further from the eventuality of continual lockdowns.
All of this should also be understood in a broader context that also involves Western involvement, namely by the US, which is busy serving to suffocate the country through illegal sanctions and restrictions. Last month, Iranian cargo ships carrying food, medicine and fuel – all crucial to Lebanon during the crisis – were illegally halted under pressure from the United States and its allies.
The Caesar Act, a wide-ranging illegal US sanction regime placed against Syria, has also negatively impacted much of the trade between the two neighboring states, which will continue to bleed Lebanon's foreign currency reserves.
If nothing else has proven that the United States is the reason why Lebanon is suffering, the August 4 tragedy surely has. The monumental tragedy for the Lebanese people is set to continue as the US refuses to stop meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs and allow the government to operate properly for the common good of its people.
As maintained by Hezbollah Secretary-General Seyed Hassan Nassrallah, the United States aims to starve Lebanon just as it aims to starve Syria.