The blast in the Beirut port left at least 200 people dead, 6,000 injured and 300,000 displaced.
It came at a time when Lebanon was dealing with a financial crisis along with the coronavirus pandemic.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that property damage from the explosion could cost more than $15 billion, according to the official Lebanese News Agency.
Lebanon’s political impasse continued with the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government on August 10.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon found Salim Ayyash, a member of Hezbollah, guilty of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005.
On the other hand, Western countries, especially the US and France, started to call for “political reform” by intervening in Lebanon’s internal affairs under the pretext of providing aid. The US sent an FBI team to Beirut to join the explosion investigation.
We talked about the current political situation in Lebanon after the explosion with Monah Hamadeh, member of the leadership of People’s Movement (Lebanon) / Harakat Al-Shaab.
‘THEY RESIGNED TO EVADE RESPONSIBILITY’
1. How is the political situation now in Lebanon? How did this terrible explosion affect Lebanese policy? Is there any possibility of a new ‘civil war’ ?
For nearly nine months, Lebanon has been going through a public frenzy in protest against the policies of the successive governments after the Taif Agreement, which brought Lebanon into a suffocating economic crisis.
These popular protests resulted in the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who is supported by the United States and Saudi Arabia, and the introduction of the government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
The popular protests put forward a set of demands, the most important of which was accountability for the corrupt, and a non-sectarian electoral law in preparation for early parliamentary elections that results in a new parliament that will legislate the political and economic livelihood of the state as it rebuilds.
The government of PM Hassan Diab did not give in to the protesters’ demands, and the economic crisis was further exacerbated the outbreak of the Coronavirus. This is the context in which the blast took place: on top of the numerous deaths, the explosion also destroyed and damaged large areas of the city in the vicinity of the port.
As a result of the blast, a major division erupted in society over who should be held responsible. Some of the Lebanese parties did not rule out the hypothesis of an Israeli assault while others blamed the negligence and corruption of the port administration and the successive governments in their security and judicial ministries. Later, the media and various politicians began to accuse Hezbollah of being behind the bombing, demanding an international investigation.
A number of parliamentary and ministerial political parties began to rush to evade their responsibilities and submit resignations claiming an inability to continue working within state institutions due to their corruption and deterioration, but in reality, the intention was to bring down the state’s presidential, legislative and executive institutions to place Lebanon under international control.
PM Hassan Diab announced his resignation as a result of the blast, internal and international political pressure– and before the results of the investigation that the Lebanese government promised to be issued within five days of the blast. He left even before the removal of the rubble from the affected areas of Beirut, dodging his national responsibilities.
These quick accusations led to a large gap between the Lebanese people and the political parties, leading many to discuss the possibility of this rift becoming an internal battle, though most believe a civil war is unlikely. This is especially the case given that whoever holds power, (that is, Hezbollah) knows that internal fighting would not be in the interests of its resistance project. Whoever commits to engaging in a serious civil conflict would be doing so without direct external military, material and political support.
‘HEZBOLLAH STAY AWAY FROM CIVIL WAR’
2. What is Hezbollah’s position?
The Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, made a speech a few days ago to clarify Hezbollah’s position on the recent developments after the Beirut blast. Their first statement was that they did not exclude any hypothesis regarding the origins of the explosion, whether it was contrived or a result of Israeli negligence or aggression. Nasrullah said he would continue to hold officials accountable until an investigation is concluded. In the event the blast was the result of Israeli aggression, he vowed a response of the same magnitude. Nasrallah confirmed that Hezbollah had no confidence in any international investigation committee. Citing the International Court of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which lasted fifteen years, exhausting Lebanon financially and politically due to leaks in the investigation, false witnesses and biased Western intelligence reports accusing Syria and Hezbollah of being behind the assassination. This came alongside increasing American and international sanctions against persons and institutions affiliated to Hezbollah and the Syrian state.
There was a great fear that the announcement of the decision of the case of Prime Minister Hariri would affect figures within Hezbollah, which could put the country at risk of serious civil strife, and even Lebanon being put under 7th chapter of the United Nations Charter, which would mean a fierce war on Lebanese soil between the resistance and foreign armies. After a long time and serious exhaustion, the court process was like an Agatha Christie story without an ending, inspiring resentments from the March 14th team and its supporters, destroying public trust in the international parties who were relying on them to punish an enemy. The family of Prime Minister Hariri and the Lebanese political leaders knew well that this decision was the culmination of a political deal that would result in Saad Hariri enacting economic and political terms restrictive for Hezbollah. He is striving to keep the specter of civil war away, and to fortify his reputation by easing the pressure stemming from the economic crisis.
What matters the most to Hezbollah is to calm its popular base, which is furious that internal fighting might affect his open battle with the Zionist entity, which is exactly what foreign intelligence services are trying to achieve.
As for the government, Nasrallah emphasized the necessity of establishing a new government of consensus and national unity in which all parliamentary blocs of politicians and specialists would be represented. The mission of this new government would be to lift the rubble from Beirut after the big explosion and put in place an economic plan to advance the country and hold the corrupt accountable.
‘THE POSSIBILITY OF SABOTAGE CANNOT BE RULED OUT’
3. Do you see the possibility of sabotage? Or is this a case of negligence and omission…
We cannot exclude any hypothesis about Beirut blast, especially in light of the open war with the Zionist enemy and American attempt to pursue its “New Middle East” plan in another field after the failure of its project in Syria; the most fragile field in the region is Lebanon. There is a large number of external intelligence services at work in the country, while strong political divisions allow any party to easily get involved, including intelligence and security forces. So the assumption that it is an act of sabotage or Israeli aggression can not at all be excluded, especially given the media and political attack, including rapid direct accusations against Hezbollah. This was followed by the summoning of Western military fleets under the pretext of relief that may also be an indirect threat in the Turkish-Greek dispute over oil borders in the Mediterranean, not to mention the preparation for a military presence which is covered internationally by Chapter Seven after the court decision following PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination.
‘THE PROTESTS AS A TROJAN HORSE’
4. What are the demands of the protesters on the streets? Is there any external influence on these demonstrations?
The situation in the street and the demands of these popular protests differ from their beginnings. On October 17, the Lebanese people took to the streets to protest the economic and tax policies pursued by the government. The protesters at first had no clear demands. Consequently, divisions in the street began, in addition to the intervention of many externally funded associations and anti-resistance parties using the protests as a trojan horse. Problematic issues were raised, and some of them organized normalization seminars calling for global peace padded with peace with Israel, and then began direct incitement against Hezbollah, holding it responsible for the crisis.
‘OCCUPATION UNDER THE PRETEXT OF HELP’
5. The US is sending the FBI to Lebanon to conduct an investigation. On the other hand, France said they would help under the condition that ‘political reforms’ were made. How do you evaluate such statements?
Western statements came in a predictable way, in accordance with their own interests. Immediately after the Beirut blast, the US administration stated that it doesn’t trust the Lebanese authorities’ investigation due to Hezbollah’s military control over Lebanon. According to them, a team of investigators from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is ready to go to Lebanon and start the investigation pending an international decision, not that of the Lebanese government. This is basically an occupation under the cover of international law.
And regarding the French authorities’ statements that aid is conditional on the implementation of “political reforms”: this is an attempt to exploit a humanitarian in order to impose their political line and attempt to establish a presence in Lebanon politically and economically.
‘NATIONAL UNIFICATION POLICY’
6. How do you see the future of Lebanon?
The Arab countries were divided with artificial borders due to the influence of the victorious countries after World War 1, and on the principle of divide and rule, sectarian and tribal entities were established in the Levant region. The establishment of a racist entity on the land of Palestine began. Multiple loyalties, international and sectarian affiliations existed in a small area adjacent to the customary Zionist entity. Lebanon was carved out in order to play this role, exploiting its multiple loyalties as a base of operations in the East Arab region. A constitution and two sectarian forces were established in order to maintain and perpetuate division. However, what was not taken into consideration is that Lebanon is a military operations base for the inherited resistance and the spearhead of the conflict in the Middle East because of its resistance and hostility to the Zionist-American project.
The multiplicity of loyalties, projects, and dependencies in Lebanon prevents it from stabilizing, even temporarily. The sectarian system prevailing in Lebanon assures these conflicts continue. Stability can only be achieved by a radical change in the structure of the system, and by beginning work on a united national project.