“Washington Post”: Lebanon is facing a false and fatal choice… What is it!?

“Washington Post”: Lebanon is facing a false and fatal choice… What is it!?
“Washington Post”: Lebanon is facing a false and fatal choice… What is it!?

The “Washington Post” newspaper highlighted the recent developments in Lebanon, and considered that the Lebanese people are facing a false and fatal choice: either impunity or chaos.

According to the newspaper, the armed clashes that erupted suddenly on Thursday between rival militias in Beirut brought back memories of the Lebanese civil war.

The battle quickly took on sectarian undertones, said writer Mohamed Bazzi, director of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at New York University.

Hezbollah, and its ally, the Amal Movement, blamed the Lebanese Forces, a right-wing Christian Maronite party, for inciting the fighting using snipers.

He pointed out that the three groups played a major role in the civil war that ended in 1990.

But that is not the only way this week’s clashes, which have killed seven people, injured dozens, and drawn parallels with the civil war, have taken place.

The central legacies of the conflict in Lebanon

One of the conflict’s central legacies – a general amnesty that allowed sectarian militias and warlords in Lebanon to evade responsibility for their crimes. dividing public institutions and expanding their patronage networks. Create a culture of impunity for Lebanon’s political elite.

The same leaders and parties still retain power three decades after the end of the war.

They have responded to every challenge to their authority, often by fueling sectarianism and the specter of renewed fighting.

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The clashes come at a time when the Lebanese state is collapsing in light of three interrelated crises:

  • An economic meltdown that the World Bank has said could be among the world’s three most severe crises since the mid-19th century.
  • Political paralysis as the country’s sectarian parties continue to fight over the spoils of a bankrupt regime.
  • A stalled investigation into the massive explosion that occurred in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which killed more than 200 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

A timeline of the worst events

Since 2019, the Lebanese currency has lost more than 90% of its value, leading to hyperinflation and a shortage of dollars in a country that relies heavily on imports.

In the summer, Lebanese queued for hours trying to buy fuel, causing massive traffic jams and sometimes deadly fights at gas stations.

In June, UNICEF found that 77 per cent of households do not have enough money to buy food.

Earlier this month, the Lebanese electricity grid was forced to shut down after two main stations ran out of fuel.

Investigation of the explosion in the port of Beirut

Despite two years of sporadic protests over the economic collapse, the biggest threat to today’s political elite is Tariq Bitar, a judge in his mid-40s who rarely appears in public.

Bitar is investigating why senior Lebanese officials have ignored warnings for years that 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate were improperly stored in a warehouse in the Beirut port until the stockpile caused one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

Read also: The Country of the Cedars is on the Brink of Civil War, and Saad Hariri breaks his silence: “Fear God in our country”

The judge tried, unsuccessfully, to question former Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab, who resigned with his government a week after the port disaster.

But Bitar then asked Parliament to lift the immunity of three MPs who had served in previous governments:

Former Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. Nohad Al-Machnouk, former Minister of the Interior. and former Transport Minister Ghazi Zuaiter.

The judge also wants to question two of the country’s most powerful security leaders: Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of the Public Security Directorate, and Major General Tony Saliba, head of State Security.

Tariq Bitar .. “an unprecedented threat to the regime”

By targeting members of the political elite, Bitar poses an unprecedented threat to Lebanon’s post-civil war order built on amnesty and amnesia. He seeks accountability in a country plagued by political interference that undermines the judicial system.

Most Lebanese sectarian parties have mobilized to undermine the judge and his investigations.

Over the past few weeks, Hezbollah leaders have stepped up their criticism of Bitar and have called for his removal.

On October 12, Bitar issued an arrest warrant for Khalil, a current member of parliament and a senior official in the Amal movement, after he failed to appear for questioning.

In response, Hezbollah and the Amal movement called on their supporters to take to the streets on Thursday to demand the judge’s dismissal after Lebanon’s Supreme Court refused to dismiss him.

farer offset

Unfortunately, sectarian ghosts and fears of a renewed civil war that erupted in Beirut this week could hasten Bitar’s removal.

This may be by allowing the country’s rulers to argue that the investigation into the port has contributed to instability and is a distraction from resolving Lebanon’s multiple crises.

It does not matter that the ruling clique has thwarted most of the reforms.

In 2018, France persuaded the World Bank and other donors to pledge $11 billion in loans and other aid.

But Lebanese leaders have so far refused to meet Western demands for economic reform and transparency at the Lebanese Central Bank, whose policies have helped incite economic collapse.

Today, the Lebanese are presented with a choice by the ruling parties and former warlords who have wrecked their country: Forget about accountability for the port explosion. Or risk all-out street conflict.

The writer concludes: This has been Lebanon’s wrong choice – between impunity and chaos – since the end of the civil war. The Lebanese gave up accountability three decades ago. Yet their rulers consistently failed to provide stability.

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