The leader of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Shi’ite group in Lebanon, referred to recent violence in Beirut as a “dangerous and critical new stage” in the country’s internal political situation. He also accused the Lebanese Forces, the right-wing Christian party, of attempting to start a new civil war in the country. Hassan Nasrallah delivered his fiery speech in response to the bloodshed that killed at least seven people and marked some of the worst street violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
“The real program of the Lebanese Forces is a civil war that will lead to demographic change,” said Hassan Nasrallah in his speech, and advised the “Lebanese Forces party to give up this idea of internal strife and civil war.” He added, “The region has never seen Hezbollah as strong as it is now,” asserting Hezbollah’s dominant position in the country’s politics.
While both parties denied their involvement in incitement of violence it is quite clear that this tension was triggered by a recent demand to remove the leading judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation of the August 2020 massive port explosion. The condemnation came from the majority of Lebanon’s political class as Bitar inquired several highly ranked politicians to be questioned on their involvement in the events of the port explosion. When the arrest warrant for Ali Khalil, a former finance minister, was issued, and he did not appear for questioning, Bitar started receiving more criticism and opposition.
Both Hezbollah and its Shi’ite ally from the Amal Movement called for a protest in the former front line between Muslim and Christian areas. However, they claim that their protesters faced gunfire that was coming from the rooftops which sparked the accusations. The violence that was sparked between allegedly two opponents is extremely concerning for the country as it brings back the memories of the 1975-1990 civil war adding to the seriousness of the economic turmoil stimulated by the port explosion, pre-existing economic struggles, and the effect of the pandemic.
As a failed state, Lebanon is already facing enormous problems including an economic meltdown characterized by massive hyperinflation, electricity blackout, gas and oil shortages, and rising poverty. Last year’s massive port explosion worsened the country’s economic and social problems. Its impact makes the investigation of the explosion needed for the future of the country. The process is hampered by the conflict of interests between several political players that are heavily influenced by internal and external forces.
The solution to eliminating economic problems in Lebanon would not be easy to find without better cooperation between different political and religious groups. The burden of the economic and energy crises is heavy enough to allow more bloodshed to erupt. The future peace solutions should also incorporate an economic recovery plan for the Lebanese crisis to not be prolonged.
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