If there was a city on planet Earth that was free from all concepts of sins, crimes, and other similar thoughts, it was Lebanon’s Beirut. Back in the 1970s, people from across the globe used to travel here. Free flow of liquor, high intensity of open flirt, and diversity at its peak could easily be witnessed in this city. But not anymore. The civil war of the mid-1970s snatched that status from Beirut particularly, and Lebanon generally. Fifteen exhaustive years of the war crippled the economy of the very state. Then in the 1990s, Lebanon’s business tycoon Rafic Hariri introduced a revive program to uplift the economy. Since the eruption and then the end of the civil war, Lebanon never witnessed that happy diversity and prosper economy again. The humanitarian crisis in the state, involvement of the foreign actors in Lebanese affairs, the pandemic, and then a big blow in August 2020, displacing over 300,000 citizens in one day. To cut the story short, this article attempts to evaluate, what’s going on in this Middle Eastern state. And what are the possible options that can convert this ‘hell on earth’ to ‘heaven on earth’.
Lebanon has seen dozens of protests against corrupt leaders and the severe economic crisis. Even it’s still shackled between deprived protesters and alleged corrupt politicians. Last week, protesters were in the streets, as often they are. They are protesting against the continuous deterioration of the country’s currency. This deterioration is threatening the food supplies of the country. Even the supermarkets and the grocery stores have been forced to be closed down for this week across the state. Though the closing is temporary but still threatening. People are easily witnessed to be seen confused and angry everywhere in Lebanon. They are sick of the daily bad news.
“What we are afraid of is that these eventually turn from temporary closures…,” says Nabil Fahed, head of supermarket owners syndicate, “that it becomes final because it is a dire situation, supermarket owners’ capital is being eroded and they do not have money to pay for the goods.” He adds. Though there are a few grocery stores that are still open but they are not sure if they can survive much longer. Because grocers complain that they are left helpless and they do not have money to buy more supplies.
The state heavily relies on imports for quite a long time now and closures raise the possibility of food shortage. That is salt in the injury. For instance, videos are going viral on social media of fighting over bottles of oil and bags of rice. Every citizen who can afford is attempting to buy and store eatables, as much as he can afford. “For example, yesterday, 5,000 gallons subsidized cooking oil were sold at one point of sale within four to five hours, which usually take a month to be sold,” says Nabil Fahed.
Most probably, due to massive borrowing and mismanagement, Lebanon’s economic crisis has seen the value of the Lebanese pound fall by 90 percent against the US dollar in 2019. The GDP of the state has seen a decline of over 19 percent last year. The inflation rate is in triple figures. And the poverty rate increased to 45 percent and extreme poverty 22 percent in 2020 alone.
Foreign Involvement in Lebanon
As per Britannica, ‘Hezbollah is a political party and militant group that first emerged during Lebanon’s civil war as a militia after Israel’s invasion of that country in 1982.’ But this is only a short and one of the most possible concise definitions of this group. Whereas arguing on its backers and haters inside and out are much attention needed topics. In short, it is a Shia majority political party and military group. You are guessing right, if it was a Sunni military group then the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have definitely supported this group. But as far as it is a Shia majority group, it is an ideological and political obligation for the Islamic Republic of Iran to back it. And as far as Iran is involved in a state, how can that state escape KSA’s or Israel’s attention? Therefore, Israel and KSA both are interested and somehow involved to a great account in the state to counter their rivals. Who is paying the price? You know it well.
Moreover, when Israel is involved in a state then how can a western power ignore that state? It is another political reality. USA particularly, other western states generally show an inclination towards Tel Aviv in the region for a number of reasons but holocaust. Israel often strikes across the border and alleges Hezbollah for starting first or intending first. The war of 2006 is not a forgetting chapter at all. Though Iran had panicked when Israel made an attempt to erase Hezbollah from the Lebanese soil but met with great defeat in terms of acquiring any bigger objective.
Roots of this rivalry are not only bound to Lebanon or Israel alone. Hezbollah along with its backers usually attempts to hamper Israeli personnel or troops on the Syrian grounds too, and vice versa. If Hezbollah is an asset for Iran then Israel is one for the United States. The tug of war among these powers and actors often cost those who are armless and many even do not know the exact scenario, for instance, the children.
To conclude, Lebanon is termed ‘hell on earth’ on account of severe economic conditions and continuous involvement of the foreign states and powers in the state. One can find very simple and objective reasons disturbing the peace and the economy there. But not all the reasons are objective and curable that soon. United Nation’s peace efforts are encouraging for it often tries to do whatever it can do. Otherwise, it is mostly ignored by the power full states, the very states who formed it. But still, such organizations can keep trying to play their roles and resolve such issues. As far as the economy is concerned it cannot be resolved that soon and foreign involvements might lessen only once Lebanon gets political and economic stability.
Co-authored by Samra Hamid