Volcanic rage at the government and at Hezbollah is rapidly rising all across Lebanon.
The economy is melting down. Hyperinflation is ravaging the country. And since September, the Lebanese currency “has lost 85 to 90 percent of its value,” noted a recent news report.
Then came the devastating twin explosions on August 4th that killed at least 158 people and injured more than 6,000.
On the defensive, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah was forced to deliver a televised address on Friday denying any responsibility for the storage of weapons or ammonium nitrate at the Beirut Port.
“I absolutely, categorically deny the presence of missiles or any material for us in any warehouse at the port,” Nasrallah said, despite widespread beliefs among the people to the contrary.
Yet even as the public demands answers and accountability, Lebanese President Michel Aoun is adamantly refusing to allow an international investigation into the cause of the disaster. “The goal of calls for an international investigation in the port case is to waste time,” said Aoun’s media office.
Are conditions ripening for a full-scale revolution? Perhaps.
Consider the latest events:
- Tens of thousands of Lebanese flooded the streets of Beirut on Saturday in what is being described as a “Day of Judgment” against the rulers of Lebanon.
- Anti-government protestors stormed and briefly seized control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Economy Ministry, the Energy Ministry, and the Association of Lebanese Banks, before being ousted by security forces.
- Protesters erected mock gallows and hanged images of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and current Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah in effigy, a display of anger and desire for violent retribution rarely, if ever, seen in public in Lebanon before.
- “We were born and raised with this regime in place — we believe it’s time for it to go especially after the last explosion,” an 18-year-old protester, Dana Itani, told CNN. “These politicians deserve to be hanged here, they deserve even worse honestly.”
- Lebanese security forces opened fire on the protestors with tear gas and rubber bullets — the Red Cross reported that at least 117 people were injured.
- “The US embassy in Beirut voiced support for peaceful protesters,” noted CNN. “The Lebanese people have suffered too much and deserve to have leaders who listen to them and change course to respond to popular demands for transparency and accountability,” the embassy tweeted on Saturday night. “We support them in their right to peaceful protest, and encourage all involved to refrain from violence.”
Will it be enough to truly set Lebanon free from corruption and terror?
Wave of Resignations
As the wave of anti government rage grows, senior Lebanese officials have begun to resign. Consider the latest examples:
- Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad resigned on Sunday, the first cabinet-level official to resign since the twin explosions.
- Five Lebanese Members of Parliament also resigned over the weekend — three were from a political bloc known as “Kateab,” another was from an independent party, the other was a member of the Progressive Socialist party.
- “The current constitutional institutions and those who are in charge of them do not represent my aspirations nor the aspirations of those who gave me the trust and honor to represent them,” wrote Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel in his resignation letter to the Speaker.
- On Monday — well before the explosions — the nation’s Foreign Minister resigned, saying, “Lebanon today is not the Lebanon that we loved and wanted as a beacon and a model. Lebanon is slipping into a failed state,” and warned that there was no serious reform effort underway.
Resignations Not Enough
Many Lebanese, however, say such resignations are not nearly enough.
“The head of Lebanon’s Maronite church meanwhile called on the entire government to step down over the 4 August explosion, a blast widely seen as shocking proof of the rot at the core of the state apparatus,” reported Agence France Presse. “Maronite patriarch Beshara Rai joined the chorus of people pressing Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s cabinet to step down over a blast he said could be ‘described as a crime against humanity.'”
“It is not enough for a lawmaker to resign here or a minister to resign there,” the Patriarch said in a Sunday sermon. “It is necessary, out of sensitivity to the feelings of the Lebanese and the immense responsibility required, for the entire government to resign, because it is incapable of moving the country forward.”
This is not the first time that Lebanese Christian leaders have called for government ministers to resign. Last October — well before the explosions — Reuters reported that “the head of the Maronite Christian Lebanese forces party Samir Geagea said he asked his party’s ministers to resign from the government…amid widespread national protests” against corruption and poor leadership.
Where Is Lebanon Heading?
Prime Minister Hassan Diab is now calling for early elections.
The critical question is this: Will the leaders of Iran who fund and control the Hezbollah terrorist organization — and by extension effectively control Lebanon as almost a province of Iran — allow real reforms to take place, much less free and fair elections designed to drive Hezbollah and Iranian influence out of the government?
The corollary question is this: Will world governments ready to donate billions of dollars to help the Lebanese people rebuild and recover condition their aid on the removal of the current government and all of its ties to Iran and Hezbollah?
Worth noting was a scathing editorial this week by Faisal J. Abbas, the editor-in-Chief of Arab News. Excerpts from his column:
- If any one group is to blame for the mess in what was once the “Switzerland of the Middle East,” it is the Iran-backed Hezbollah.
- For too long, these agents of doom have hijacked Lebanon’s opportunities, dreams and aspirations.
- They decide, unilaterally, to drag the country to war, or to be involved in the affairs of other Arab states. They have been given numerous opportunities to lay down their weapons (which have in any case been redundant since Israel’s withdrawal in 2000) and confine themselves to peaceful politics. Instead they stand accused of assassinating former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005, for an unnecessary war in 2006, and for the takeover of Beirut in 2008, which may have ended in the direct sense but continues indirectly.
- Hezbollah-backed Bashar Assad when he slaughtered his own people, they backed the Houthi militias in Yemen when they attacked Saudi civilians, and now they are slowly killing off any hope of Lebanon’s survival as a functioning state….
- Hezbollah, the root of this cancer, must be isolated, targeted, and removed. The imminent tribunal verdict on Hariri’s assassination may begin that process, followed by an international “Marshall Plan” for Lebanon conditional on this terrorist group’s eradication….
- If this disaster does not rid the beleaguered Lebanese people of their accursed leadership, nothing will. And the flood of aid already pouring in from countries such as France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE proves that the friends of Lebanon have not given up on it. Neither should the Lebanese.
Please continue to pray for the people of Lebanon as they face tremendous suffering and government oppression. It is time they be set free.
[Photo #1: Protesters gather in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to demand sweeping political changes. AFP/Getty Images; Photo #2: screen capture of Sheikh Nasrallah’s televised speech on Friday.]