Beirut street battles could spell even darker times

Beirut (AP) — The most powerful man in Lebanese politics has been in charge for decades since the early 1970s. They have survived civil wars, assassinations, uprisings and other turmoil and have been in power for decades in turbulent and relentless areas.

They are now sticking to their position and wealth as Lebanon is tackling one of the world’s worst economic collapses in decades and the aftermath of the explosion that struck the capital a year ago, killing more. Is fighting desperately. Over 215 people.

Hours of furious shootouts on the streets of Beirut this week were the latest manifestation of the country’s ruling class members’ willingness to fight for political survival at any cost.

Dissatisfied with where the investigation into last year’s harbor explosion was heading, they closed their ranks so they wouldn’t be affected by Fallout.

On Thursday, the radical Hezbollah group and the Amal movement organized a protest demanding the dismissal of the judge who led the investigation. Armed, they marched into the predominantly Christian district of the Lebanese capital and some shouted, “Shiites, Shiites!”

Hezbollah and Amal fought in the 1980s, but are now two Shiite parties with close allies, the Lebanese Forces (Christian party with strong militias during the 1975-90 civil war). ) Was the first to fire. Lebanese troops denied it and blamed the violence against the instigation of Hezbollah’s supporters against Judge Tarek Bitar, who is leading the port investigation.

The two clashed for hours and once again showed the country that the Lebanese had to choose: justice and accountability, or civil peace.

For many, it illustrates why Lebanon is trapped in today’s swamps.

“They incite people to each other, and then they sit at the table and trade together,” said Hanan Lard, whose sister-in-law was killed in the fight on Thursday. According to the family, five mothers, Mariam Farhat, were shot by a sniper bullet while sitting near the balcony of the apartment on the second floor.

The investigation of the harbor explosion is at the heart of current tensions. Lebanon’s culture of impunity has never been chased by the judiciary, despite widespread corruption and crime.

Until the August 2020 explosion at the port of Beirut drew international attention to the massive corruption and negligence behind it. Within days of the explosion, hundreds of senior politicians and security ministers knew hundreds of tonnes of highly flammable ammonium nitrate that were unplannedly stored in port warehouses and did nothing about it. It became clear from the document.

Trench politicians who honk and mess up almost everything else have closed their ranks to undermine the investigation.

Rival politicians, including former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrara, Speaker of Parliament Nabby Berry, and several religions, have launched a campaign to blame him for prejudice and damage Vital’s credibility. bottom.

When judges began summoning officials, they used parliamentary immunity and various legal challenges to avoid having to appear for interrogation.

Rebelliously, the 46-year-old judge issued arrest warrants, including former finance ministers and public works projects for both Amal members and Hezbollah’s allies.

Today, Thursday’s street clash raises further questions about both the future of the investigation and whether Bitar can continue to lead the investigation.

“We’re dealing with a new equation, either Tarek Beatal is leaving or the country is going to die,” said political analyst Youssef Diab. “We are in front of this new and dangerous equation.”

According to observers, the founding parties have worked together to thwart serious opposition parties and reform attempts that could harm them. They hampered a court audit of the country’s central bank, a major requirement of the international community to restore confidence in the crisis-stricken Middle Eastern state, and accused corruption and serious mismanagement in Switzerland and France. Despite being faced with, the bank’s longtime governor protected the house at home.

It proved impossible to disrupt the system of power sharing between Lebanese denominations. The protests have been subdued. The warlords cast themselves as guardians of their denomination and benefited their followers.

A rebellion against the status quo would mean dismantling the sectarian sponsorship network cultivated by those who benefit from the ruling class elite and many of the divided populations. Many Lebanese politicians support a large number of even blind politicians. They quickly condemned other factions for the myriad of issues in the country and enthusiastically aroused fear among their supporters that other factions could rule them.

In late 2019, across Beirut and Lebanon, hundreds of thousands of streets flooded in with some of the country’s biggest protests. For several months, demonstrators united the masses, often divided by rebellions against established leaders who put the economy on the brink of bankruptcy.

The protests were hit by violence, arrests and intimidation, and eventually failed.

Some say that next spring’s elections will bring some changes. However, the opposition has no viable political program or candidate to challenge the political elite. And voting purchases will be much cheaper, as the economic crisis has put three-quarters of the population in poverty.

Increasing anger among many Lebanese people, increasing tensions between denominations, and the political class eager to stick to their privileged role make further descent into violence possible. ..

Michael Young, senior editor of the Malcolm H. Carkernegie Middle East Center in Beirut, said that if Hezbollah and Amal derailed the port survey, serious consequences could occur.

“The sudden intensification of violence could lead to new developments in Lebanon leading to the cancellation of elections and could take the country in a much darker time than it is now,” Young wrote in Carnegie’s Middle East blog on Friday. I wrote to a certain Diwan.


Editor’s Note: The Associated Press news director Zeina Karam in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been covering the Middle East since 1996. Follow her on Twitter (

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