By A. Bassam

The Big Bang of Lebanon

December 3, 2021 - 21:30

TEHRAN - During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1989), the first time Lebanon suffered from the collapse of its Lira was when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) departed the country in 1982, after the Israeli invasion. The Lebanese lira’s price fell from 3 to 3000 against the American dollar in one go. However, at that time no one felt that the Lebanese existence as an independent state was in jeopardy.

Nowadays we live in different times; it is clear that Lebanon’s fate is now in Question.

According to World Bank reports, there are 2.3 million persons under the poverty line in Lebanon. The data are consistent with the latest assessment conducted by ESCWA, which concluded that “the poverty rate in Lebanon doubled from 42 percent in 2019 to 82 percent of the total population in 2021, with nearly 4 million people living in multidimensional poverty; they represent about one million families, including 77 percent, or approximately 745,000 Lebanese families.

Lebanon is heading towards the abyss every day. And on a daily basis, people ask what is next. It seems that with the lack of solutions, we are about to reach the bottom, except that the bottom is not known yet. Lebanon is under a vicious kind of undeclared siege. Everybody loves Lebanon, and everybody wants to save Lebanon, but the humongous dilemma is that Lebanon doesn’t want to save itself and head east.

To understand what is going on, we need to understand the internal factors that are preventing Lebanon from taking different decisions to stop the ongoing collapse of the country. And we need to understand the interests of the external factors that meet oddly with internals to bind the Lebanese free will.

Clearly, the struggle with the Lebanese deep system which controls the economic and the political system, which controls the state, has reached its peak. The system was laid down by the founding fathers of the Lebanese State during the French mandate, which defines the role of Lebanon as a service country, a mediator, and/or a monetary service provider between the West and its neighbors. This role was broken during the 1970s and it was one of the main reasons behind the break of the civil war.

The system crippled any attempt to change the Lebanese economic policies. It prohibited developments in the industry and/or agricultural capabilities. Hence, it limited Lebanon’s ability to widen its external economic and developmental options. The mentality the Lebanese were brought upon, in particular those who monopolized the trade and economic system, which is still limited to certain families who run the deep state, not only prevailed among this group but also was contagious. Almost everyone in Lebanon lives under the code “Spend what is in the pocket, and the unseen will come to you”, in the sense money will come as if it is a gift from the sky.

The layers of the system are the actual rulers of Lebanon; they are the cartels that manipulate the trade of medicine, petroleum, and other key products. They do not only control the economy, but they also run the judicial system, development system, and the social services system, which relies on aid, donations, and civil associations, instead of being regulated by the state. This is not only going to drive Lebanon to its dilemma, but to its doom. 

Therefore, the Lebanese will barrow from any source to provide luxuries. In the same manner, the political system is driving the economical Lebanese system. The country’s leaders believe that Lebanon is able to lead commerce, tourism, medical tourism, and be the main service provider in the region, even though it is in semi war conditions with “Israel” on its southern border and in deep conflict with Syria which is its gate towards the east. However, Lebanon’s mission was crippled because the founding fathers were basically mediators between Europe on one side, and Syrian and Iraq on the other, and their services were not required anymore, especially after the independence of those states.

The system founders perceived themselves as superiors to their Arab neighbors. This supremacy was well fed by the French colonialism and the missionaries that spread through Lebanon. Later on, the system, during Camille Chamoun’s presidency in the 1950s deepened the relationship with the US and the Arabian Gulf kingdoms at the expense of the progressive Arab countries, Syria, Egypt, Algeria, etc… they owed the free trade tools, in particular the private banks, which depended on money flowing from immigrants to aid the unprivileged in the society. 

The war against Lebanon is a war, to be more precise, in favor of the security of Israel.

It is clear that the system is too strong. The others who were able to change their social status in Lebanon by working abroad and getting higher education were not able to change it. Accordingly, the gap between the system and the others expanded, so that the Lebanese Civil War [LCV] erupted in 1975, which opened a wide window for the Israeli invasion in 1976.

We are not going back in history; we are trying to figure out the roles of the factors that are running the Lebanese present. Until 1975, the Lebanese right-wing government was able to stabilize the southern borders in the best interest of the “Israeli” security. However, since 1969 the Palestinian resistance was intensified, the Palestinian freedom fighters, the Fedayeen, were sported by the left-wing parties.

The humongous rise among the Fedayeen was a direct threat to Israeli security. A series of Israeli invasions were executed, and the last one was in 1982. Accordingly, Hezbollah has established a resistance movement, as many other resistance movements, against the Israeli occupation of the south. 

Unfortunately, the settlements, after the end of the Civil War, in al-Taef in 1989, did not change the state system in Lebanon. When the government began the reconstruction process, it was based exactly on the same economic policies established by the founding fathers, who continued to control the Lebanese institutions and governmental sectors. And the government as ever began to borrow from the banks with high interest.

In 2000 the south was liberated. However, the resistance continued to be a threat to Israel’s security. All external attempts to disarm Hezbollah have failed. Especially, after the “Israeli” outrageous loss in Lebanon in 2006, which shifted the external political decision into a different mood? Syria, the main supporter of the resistance, was under vicious skims and it was under international attack in 2011, which affected the Lebanese political and economic situation even more. However, Syria was able to defeat the conspiracy, led by an American coalition against it, with the support and help of its allies and friends, mainly Hezbollah.   

When the military operations failed to weaken Syria; the war to disarm Hezbollah and secure Israel was moved back into Lebanon. It is clear that the American decision was to revive the civil war in Lebanon again. Since the 17th of October 2019, the situation in Lebanon was deteriorating. The dollar game was on as if someone pressed a button. And the war on Hezbollah was declared.

In this war every weapon was used: chaos, hoarding food and medicine and oil products, lira’s value against the dollar dropped, commodities and food prices climbed, and starvation war in Lebanon began. Hezbollah was blamed, by the rightist parties, to be the causes of disasters that came upon Lebanon. 

As the deep state players and politicians were able to smuggle their money, small depositors’ savings were trapped for the sake of the banks’ survival. This manipulation with depositors’ right to reach their assets contributed to further drop out of the Lebanese Lira’s value. It is a continuous process that aimed to drive Lebanon into total poverty, chaos, and demonstrations against Hezbollah and the state, so that the country may go back to the 1975 stage.  

 When Hezbollah, a few months ago took the initiative to import gasoline from Iran, it was a measured step that challenged the old deep system and the West. The step was meant to prove to the Lebanese that there are options to save Lebanon from the horrible situation created by the lack of gasoline. Almost everything that depended on gasoline was withheld, whether it was to move goods, run water turbines, operate private electricity generators, etc…Hezbollah wanted to prove that Lebanon can solve its problems and head towards the east: China, Iran, Russia, and most importantly Syria. Such a step needs a collective decision because Hezbollah cannot save his partisans and leave the other Lebanese to their fate. It cannot isolate itself from the others in the homeland.

The war against Lebanon is a war, to be more precise, in favor of the security of Israel. The international world will never care if this leads to the collapse of the Lebanese community or the Lebanese State at all. Lebanon is not Argentina. It is not a resourceful state that can survive the demands of the World Bank or and the International Monetary Fund. If the economic breakdown will continue in the same rate, Lebanon will cease to be. It will be divided into provinces or mini-states. Its only hope lays in the solidarity with Syria and accordingly in heading east. 


 

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