Recent violence shows that members of the Lebanese ruling class want to fight for political survival at all costs.
Lebanon’s most powerful political figures have ruled for decades, and some have been in office since the early 1970s. They have survived civil wars, assassinations, riots, and other unrest, and have been in power for decades in turbulent and unforgiving regions.
They are now struggling to hold on to power and wealth after Lebanon’s worst economic collapse in decades and the aftermath of an explosion in the capital a year ago that left many dead. More than 215 people.
The hours-long armed struggle on the streets of Beirut this week was the latest manifestation of the desire of the country’s ruling class to fight for political survival at all costs.
Dissatisfied with last year’s investigation into the port bombing, they closed their ranks to make sure they weren’t hit.
On Thursday, the extremist group Hezbollah and the Amal movement staged a protest demanding the resignation of the investigating judge. They are armed and marched into a neighborhood inhabited by most Christians in the Lebanese capital, some shouting “Shiites, Shiites!”
Hezbollah and Amal, Shiites who fought against each other in the 1980s but are now close allies, have accused Lebanese forces, the Christian Lebanese party, of firing during the 1975-1990 civil war. Lebanese forces initially denied the allegations, accusing Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the port’s investigation, of inciting Hezbollah supporters.
The two sides clashed for hours, reaffirming to the Lebanese people that they must choose justice, responsibility, or civil peace.
For many, this is an example of why Lebanon is mired in today’s swamps.
“They are inciting people against each other and then sitting at the table to negotiate,” said Hanan Raad, whose sister-in-law was killed in Thursday’s fighting. Mariam Farhat, a mother of five, was shot by a sniper while sitting near the balcony of her second-floor apartment, her family said Friday.
Investigating the port explosion is at the heart of the current tensions, and Lebanon’s impunity culture and judiciary have been rife with corruption and crime, but they have never pursued those in power.
This is the explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020, which drew international attention to the huge amount of corruption and negligence. Within days of the blast, several senior politicians and security officials learned that hundreds of tons of flammable ammonia nitrate were stored in the port’s warehouse, according to undocumented documents.
Politicians, who are obsessed with almost everything, close their posts to undermine the investigation.
Opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry, and several religious figures, have launched a campaign to discredit Bitari and accuse him of bias.
When judges began summoning officials, they used parliamentary immunity and various legal challenges to avoid interrogation.
The 46-year-old judge protested and ordered the arrest of Amal members and former Hezbollah close allies, including the former Minister of Finance and Public Works.
Thursday’s street clashes cast doubt on the future of the investigation and whether Bitar could continue to lead.
“We are solving a new equation: Tarek Bitar will leave, or the country will collapse,” said political scientist Yusuf Diab. “We are facing this new and dangerous equation.”
Observers say the parties have worked together to block any serious protests or reform efforts that could harm them. They are obstructing the international bank’s investigation into the country’s central bank, a key requirement of the international community to restore confidence in the crisis-stricken Middle East, and accusing the bank’s longtime chief of corruption and mismanagement in Switzerland and France. at home.
It is impossible to overthrow the Lebanese system of separation of powers. The protest was stopped. Warlords consider themselves defenders of their religion and praise their followers.
Rebellion against the status quo means dismantling the sponsorship network developed by the ruling elites and benefiting the majority of the divided population. Many Lebanese politicians have big, even blind, followers. They have blamed other factions for the country’s countless problems and are fueling fears among their supporters that another group could take them by force.
In late 2019, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Beirut and Lebanon to protest. For months, protests have rallied the public in revolt against strong leaders who have brought the economy to the brink of bankruptcy.
The protests were met with violence, arrests and intimidation, and were eventually expelled.
Some are bankrupting that there will be some change in next spring’s election. However, the opposition does not have a political program or candidates that can challenge the political elite. In addition, the economic crisis has plunged three-quarters of the population into poverty, making it much cheaper to buy votes.
Violence is on the rise as many Lebanese become increasingly angry and want the political class to play its special role.
Michael Young, chief editor of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said that if Hezbollah and Amal could disrupt the port’s investigation, it could have serious consequences.
“The sharp rise in violence could trigger new events that could lead to the cancellation of elections in Lebanon and bring the country into a darker period than it is today,” Divan wrote on Carnegie’s Middle East blog.