Lebanon is a mess.
For those of us lucky enough to be living in the Western world, it is almost impossible to fathom just how bad the situation in Lebanon is. Since August of 2019 — and that is just 28 months ago — the Lebanese Pound, their currency, has lost 90% of its value.
If you lived in Lebanon, the $1,000 in savings you had two-plus years ago, is now only worth $100.
Lebanon was once a thriving economic and cultural center. It was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East, a center of banking and investment. Despite wars and even internal conflicts, Lebanon was always able to rebound and rebuild.
But that was once upon a time. For Lebanon, what once was, is no more.
Experts suggest that even if there was a way to build back Lebanon, it would take a good seven to10 years. It’s not that the Lebanese government is dysfunctional. Actually, dysfunctional would be a compliment, a step-up. Lebanon, as a country, has stopped functioning.
The Lebanese government and the Lebanese economy are paralyzed.
As a result of an investigation into the gargantuan explosion that crippled the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, the government, the prime minister and his cabinet, have not met since October 12th.
Nearly 3,000 tons of explosive that were being stored in a cargo hold in the port exploded. The blast was 2.75 kilotons of force. As a point of comparison, “little boy” the bomb that hit Hiroshima, had a force of 13 to 18 kilotons.
The spontaneous explosion resulted in 218 deaths and 7,000 injuries. Three-hundred thousand people were, in an instant, homeless. And these are numbers that are vastly under-reported.
The explosives sitting in that storage facility, an explosion so powerful that people felt it 50 miles away, are widely believed, though not publicly acknowledged, to belong to Hezbollah and Iran. And that is the crux of Lebanon’s impasse.
Lebanon’s President, Michel Aoun, went on TV recently and said: enough. The president proceeded to blame the problems besetting and besieging Lebanon on Hezbollah and Iran.
Aoun declared that Lebanon must stand up and stop Hezbollah from destroying Lebanon. He said: “The deliberate, systematic and unjustified disruption that leads to institutions dismantling and the dissolution of the state must stop,” He said that Hezbollah is causing the “ruin of the state.”
The president also voiced another gripe against Hezbollah. He voiced his conviction that Hezbollah’s support for the rebels in Yemen has caused a huge rift between Lebanon and other Arab countries who would help them, the Lebanese. Those other countries are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and The UAE. The Arab world, he contends, now view Hezbollah and Lebanon as one and the same.
“What is the justification for straining relations with these countries and interfering in matters that do not concern us?” Aoun asked. And he said Hezbollah should not be protecting Lebanon, that is the role of the Lebanese army.
“It is true that defending the homeland requires cooperation between the army, the people, and the resistance,” Aoun said. “But the primary responsibility lies with the state. Only the state sets the defense strategy and guarantees its implementation.”
It is a direct attack on Hezbollah. And the president is fighting the ripple effect of Hezbollah — and in many ways controlling, his country. Israel, he says, is attacking Lebanon because Hezbollah is provoking Israel.
Taking a cue from their president, the people of Lebanon are awakening and shaking off their paralyzing despair and beginning, publicly, to take a stand against Hezbollah.
But good intentions may not be enough. The system is stacked against the president and the citizens of Lebanon. The entire system of government permits Hezbollah overwhelming power.
In broad strokes, Lebanon is roughly divided into three parts. One part is Sunni, they are 28% of the population. One part, Shiite, is another 28%. The last part, Christian, is 22% of the country. The reminder are smaller groups.
The Lebanese system of government is called “Confessionalism.” The president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni, the speaker of the parliament a Shiite. The deputy prime minister and the deputy speaker of the parliament must be Eastern Orthodox Christian.
By its very nature, this system allows Hezbollah, a Shiite organization sponsored by Iran, enormous power. Even if the other two-thirds of Lebanon were to make their voices known, Hezbollah/Iran would still have a significant voice.
There is no reason for either Hezbollah or Iran to change their points of view and their behavior vis a vis Lebanon. There is no threat that the rest of Lebanon can hold over them. Hezbollah/Iranian forces are stronger, better trained and better equipped than the Lebanese Army.
The only force that frightens them is the small country situated on Lebanon’s southern border — called Israel.
In a strange twist of fate, if Hezbollah was to all-out attack Israel, Israel might actually liberate Lebanon from the noose around their neck by destroying or substantially degrading Hezbollah.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.