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Beirut Blast-Impact on Region and World (17 August 2020)

Beirut Blast - Impact on Region and  World (17 August 2020)

Why in News:

The Lebanese government has resigned amid growing public anger following a devastating explosion in Beirut on 4 August that killed at least 200 people and injured about 5,000 others.

Context:

The blast came at a difficult time for Lebanon, which is not only trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus but is also mired in an unprecedented economic crisis. The economic situation has pushed tens of thousands people into poverty and triggered large anti-government protests.

Background:

According to the Lebanese government, the source of the explosion was 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical often used as fertilizer and sometimes in bombs, which had been stored in the port warehouse after being confiscated from an abandoned Russian-owned ship in 2014.

In the following years, court records show, senior customs officials had tried and failed to win court permission to remove the dangerous stockpile by donating it to the Lebanese army or selling it to the privately owned Lebanese Explosives Company.

Summary of the Debate

Lebanon:

  • Lebanon is a country in Western Asia, bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, while Cyprus lies west across the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has contributed to its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity.
  • At just 10,452 km2 (4,036 mi2), it is the smallest recognized sovereign state on the mainland Asian continent.

History of the Lebanon:

  • The 100 years of creation of Lebanon was done after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and during the occupation of France of Syria and Lebanon, they have been grabbed a lot of the Syrian territories.
  • French tried to make a Christian majority state which called greater Lebanon during their occupation and there were the problems have started, so the civil war in Lebanon have created 17 years of inter-fighting among different groups have also led to The Taif Agreement, which was signed in 1991 in Saudi Arabia and they came up with new government which is a sectarian democracy, where they have had that structure of different sect.
  • The route of terrorism started after the invasion of Iraq by the USA where Al-Zarqawi had a quiet activity inside Syria and Lebanon and he was bombed with the Gulf money into the region where he has created a new way of buying terrorist and taquiri group which have been flourished inside Lebanon.
  • Hezbollah in Lebanon, the national resistance to the occupation of Israel was created because of Israel occupation, therefore to counter the shia power in Lebanon, the sunni movement have come into Lebanon and that’s why Turkey is stepping in for sunni and France is stepping in for the Christians and the Saudi Arabia and Qatar also pumping the money to their sunnis supporters.
  • Apart from other major powers in the region, the principle foreign actor which is destabilizing the peace and security and stability is its neighbour Israel, because Israel invaded in 1982 and it expected Lebanon to sign a peace treaty like Egypt and Jordan have signed but because of the unresolved Golan problem with Syria and Syrian influence in Lebanon, the situation could not go in the direction of Israel and West.
  • The 2006 Israel invasion was aimed to decimate Hezbollah like they did in 1982 to decimate the PLO, which did not solve the problem because there are huge numbers of Palestinian refugees there and Israel has been targeting Lebanon and after the Iranian support to Hezbollah and to Syria, Israel is alarmed that its border have become more insecure.

Current situation in the region:Beirut: Australian victim named as Isaac Oehlers, 2 | Adelaide Now

  • The region has many other things, for example, there are regional hotspots that are still not addressed like civil war, blockade between Saudi Arabi and the other four countries that is still continuing, the Iran, Saundi Arabia, and USA conflicts, etc.
  • Turkey is becoming a new major player in the region, whether it is in Libya intervention. The Turkey China, Pakistan, Russia kind of group is emerging, the USA seems to be withdrawing from the region but at the same time playing a negative role.

Conclusion:

  • Lebanese, most of them who are young people who have been born since, after the Tayyip Accord, the majority of them are young people they have become tired of the constitution which has become non-functional because it is based on the sectarian division of government.
  • So, what common Lebanese are demanding is an end to this old political systems which ha slost its legitimacy and non-functional, they want a normal constitution like and other written constitution which allows all of them to participate irrespective of the communal association whether it is Maronite Christian or Greek orthodox or Sunni, Shia, Jews or so on so forth. So the youngsters are earning for a transparent political system.
  • India has been present for a long time there and the United Nations on the southern border of Israel, their Indian forces have been contributing a great deal for of stability in the region.

Important points made by the Guests

Anil Trigunayat, Former Ambassador

  • This was said to be the biggest and most powerful non-nuclear blast in several decades and it has created an unprecedented disaster like any war happens.
  • More than 3, 00,000 people are really homeless today and about 200 people died and more than 6000 people were injured.
  • The country has been very unfortunate in many ways. For several years they have had a civil war, they have had invasion by Israel and Syria at one time, the interplay of French and Saudi Arabia.
  • Moreover, the economy of the country is going down, there have been problems of corruption and there is the problem of entrepreneurship and people don’t get the opportunities, Lebanese are very well known entrepreneurs all over the world.
  • This country was used to be known as Switzerland of the east because of its financial institutions and banking institutions and it was also called Paris of the middle east because of its beauty and brilliance.
  • The people have really become very frustrated with the inept government and also the kind of political system that they have really devised for themselves, which is based on confessions that is; President has to be from Maronites; the Sunni should be the Prime Minister and the speaker should be the Shia.

 Prof. A. K. Pasha, Centre for West Asian Studies, JNU

  • Lebanese state and its economy are intrinsically linked with the regional economies and Lebanon has been a victim of foreign intervention from almost all countries in the region apart from the global major players from Israel to Syria to Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Turkey; all have dabbled in the internal affairs of Lebanon, with the result when Saudi Arabia took upon itself as supporter of Hariri family, he got billions of dollars of financial aid from the Saudi Arabia both public and private and from other rich Gulf countries which fuelled the economic development which was necessary because after the civil war in the 1980s when it ended, there was not much of development.
  • Lebanon prospered even though it had to face a war in 2006, which led to the Israeli attack on Beirut and devastated much of its economy and this pouring of resources from Iran to Gulf countries and the large Lebanese diasporas of Maronites, Sunni and Shia also poured billions of dollars to make Lebanon what it was before the civil war in 1975.
  • The problem with Lebanon is the weak government there and because of the French imposed constitution. Apart from Japan, Lebanon is the only other country which has a foreign imposed constitution way back in 1924 during the mandate period.
  • During the mandate period and up to 1948, the French ruled through emergency powers because they had created a greater Lebanon from a small Lebanon of Christian Maronites based on the mount Lebanon area, so they expanded, took away much of the Syrian Sunni dominated areas and attached it to Lebanon which led to this problem because the French expected the Syrian Muslims to leave the territory and go back to Syria just as the Israelis expected the Palestinians to leave the Palestinian territory and go back and merge in the Arab territory.
  • So, the root cause of the problem is created by the French and that has got inextricably linked with its ambitions in the region and it has become a free play for all the regional actors, the Egyptians were dominant in the 1950s-60s and after the Iranian Revolution, Iran came into the picture to prevent the division of Lebanon, Syria intervened there officially in 1975.
  • The emergence of Hezbollah in the 1990s, mainly because of the Israeli invasion in 1982 has become a source of resistance, because Hezbollah is seen as a powerful actor which got Israelis out in 2000 after its invasion and occupation.
  • So, now the Israelis, the Americans and the others are trying to articulate the grievances of the Lebanese putting the blame on Hezbollah as the real culprit, whereas Lebanon does not have a strong military to defend against a military superpower like Israel.
  • So, Israel is rampantly attacking not only targets in Lebanon but also in Syria in the name of preventing the flow of weapons from Iran to Syria and from Syria to Lebanon. Whereas, the actual reason is to force Lebanon to sign a peace treaty like it has done with Jordan and Israel.

Waiel Awwad, West Asia Expert

  • The government of Lebanon is totally corrupted. Rafiqul Harari, when he was approached Lebanon; Lebanon had only $5 billion debt and Lebanon having $90 billion debt. The corruption in Lebanon has made half of the Nitrite which was stored in Beirut being smuggled into Syria and bombing Idlib, the public property and the hospitals.
  • It was all because of the Nitrite which was stored in an unknown and mysterious ship landed there and because of corruption kept there.
  • Turkey as a new element stepped in to support the Sunni now, France came to support Christians and then Iran is supporting the Shias for two reasons; one is that there is a discovery of gas and oil in the Mediterranean where the Lebanese shore having two-thirds of it and Israel is forcing Lebanon to have the maritime border which they have accused; second is Hezbollah and the resistance forces they have failed military to remove it.
  • For the USA including these two issues is the dominance and security of Israel is a prime important for them.

 

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