Unrest in Lebanon is continuing unabated with thousands of protesters taking to the streets and blocking main traffic intersections while demanding an end to the huge economic and financial crisis that has brought the country to the brink of disaster.
Lebanon also faces a food crisis that was exacerbated after the government raised the price of bread for the first time in a decade. People in the Cedar country have recently been rushing to supermarkets to buy food essentials, leading Al-Makhazen Coop, the largest food retailer in Lebanon, to close its branches in Beirut.
Bread prices rose by a staggering 33 percent this week. The Lebanese pound now trades officially at 1,507 pounds to one US dollar, but in reality people have to pay 9,000 pounds for one dollar on the black market since banks will no longer exchange the local currency.
Lebanon has to cope with an energy crisis as well with households getting only three hours of electricity a day. As a result, people are buying candles and again took the streets to protest the dire situation.
After the protests turned violent, Lebanese security forces used live fire to quell them almost killing a 14-year-old boy who was shot in his head.
The Lebanese government is now opening up the skies in the hope foreign tourists will return to the country, but it’s hard to see how this will cause a surge in tourism. After all, which tourist wants to travel to a country paralyzed by popular unrest and providing only three hours of electricity per day?
The economic and financial crisis in Lebanon dates back to 2008 and changed Lebanon’s status as a hub for tourism, trade and finance. The country is now dependent on foreign aid and has asked the International Monetary Fund for a bail-out, but negotiations over the conditions of an IMF loan are making little progress.
The dire state of affairs in the country of almost 7 million has everything to do with Hezbollah’s role in Lebanon, and with a huge refugee crisis that started right after the civil war in Syria began in 2011.
Today, Lebanon hosts over one million Syrian refugees and depends on European aid to feed and house these people.
The European Union on Tuesday issued a statement reaffirming its “commitment” to Lebanon in light of the refugee crisis after hosting a virtual conference dealing with the Syrian crisis.
“The Conference was an opportunity for the international community to renew its economic and financial support for the countries and communities affected by the Syria crisis, notably Lebanon,” the EU mission to Lebanon said in a statement that mentioned that the EU had transferred 34.6 million euros to the Lebanese government in order to alleviate the refugee crisis.
“To respond to the increasing needs of Lebanese people and Syrian refugees, the European Union stressed its readiness to engage constructively with a government that is committed to implementing structural reforms and improving its system of governance,” EU ministers who attended the online conference added.
The Lebanese government, however, isn’t committed to “implementing structural reforms and improving its system of governance,” as another EU diplomat told Lebanese media.
The unnamed European diplomat said Lebanon must “read the international position well and must realize that it has no chance of getting international and Arab assistance as long as it does not initiate the implementation of required reforms. Washington and all European Union countries are united over this position.”
The diplomat warned that Lebanon was heading for a “very difficult stage” in the history of the country as the United States is upping the pressure on Hezbollah with the introduction of fresh sanctions on the Iranian proxy.
The opinion of the EU diplomat was shared by Dorothy Shea, the American ambassador in Lebanon who in an interview with Al-Hadath Al-Arabiya’s TV Channel said that Hezbollah is the main problem in the Lebanese crisis.
“Hezbollah is threatening Lebanon’s stability and preventing economic solutions,” Shea saidduring the interview, and her remarks immediately caused a Shiite judge in the southern city of Tyre to issue a ban on interviews or reports on comments made by the American ambassador.
The judge, Mohammed Mazeh, a Hezbollah supporter, was ridiculed by independent Lebanese media that ignored the ruling and continued reporting on statements made by Shea. The ruling was also condemned by Manal Abdel Samad, the Lebanese Minister of Information, after which Mazeh resigned from his position.
In order to understand how Hezbollah, or should we say Iran, is controlling Lebanon and causing havoc not only in Lebanon but around the world, one should watch a short documentary made by Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.
Hezbollah has not only succeeded to take over Lebanon and to become the dominant force in the country, but has a global reach the documentary makes clear.
Lebanese ex-pats living across the globe are financing and participating in Hezbollah’s illicit activities, with Germany serving as Hezbollah’s headquarters in Europe until recently.
In the documentary, Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, can be seen declaring openly that his organization is nothing more than a branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that is totally dependent on Iran for its existence.
In April, however, Germany finally decided to outlaw Hezbollah and to add it to its list of terrorist organizations, after which a nation-wide crackdown on Shiite institutions started.
The move was welcomed by Israel and the United States, that is leading the effort to bring Hezbollah to its knees. The US Administration of President Donald J. Trump recently introduced new legislation called the Cesar Act that aims to deprive the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad of any outside support, including that of the Lebanese government and Hezbollah.
Israel and the United States are closely working together in the so-called maximum pressure campaign against Iran and its proxies, of which Hezbollah is the most powerful.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday held a meeting with the US envoy for Iranian affairs Brian Hook and made clear that Israel has more problems than the Corona pandemic.
Here’s a part of what Netanyahu said before the meeting with Hook:
“If Iran wants to be treated like a normal country, it should behave like a normal country. But it doesn’t.
“It deliberately deceives the international community. It lies all the time. It lies on solemn pledges and commitments that it took before the international community. It continues its secret program to develop nuclear weapons. It continues its secret program to develop the means to delivering nuclear weapons.
“Iran denies access to the IAEA inspectors to important sites, some of which we have uncovered through our own activity. It continues its rampant aggression across the Middle East and beyond. It arms, trains, finances and dispatches terrorists.
“Iran is doing all that and most of the international community is doing nothing in the face of it. And worse than nothing, many countries collude in this aggression.”
A couple of hours after Netanyahu made his remarks, the Israel Security Agency (ISA) released a report to the press about how Hezbollah is trying to recruit Israeli and Palestinian Arabs.
The press release said that the ISA had discovered that Beirut Hamoud, a former resident of the Israeli Arab town of Majd al-Krum, who immigrated to Lebanon and works as a journalist for Hezbollah’s al-Akhbar newspaper, had tried to recruit two other residents of Majd al-Krum.
The two apparently declined since they were released after the ISA investigation, but the agency says this case is only the tip of the iceberg.