EDITOR’S NOTE: While Hezbollah has publicly denied any connection to the chemicals that exploded and devastated Beirut this month, our Jordanian correspondent, Rami Dabbas, reports that in the Arab world there is much talk that Hezbollah is to blame, for one reason or another.
Last week’s tragic explosion in Beirut boosted Israeli deterrence without the Jewish state having to fire a single shot.
The Lebanese people were long wary of the presence of Hezbollah weapons and bomb-making materials in residential areas. But after the Beirut explosion, they are now aware of the true extent of the danger posed to them by the Iranian proxy militia. The Lebanese now realize the widespread destruction that association with Hezbollah could mean, and not only in the event of accidents, but also if and when the terror group next provokes Israel.
Without delving into the specifics of who’s responsible for the Beirut port explosion, or touching on any of the many conspiracy theories, there is no doubt that this event will continue to send shockwaves throughout the country. As rescue forces continue to pull people from the rubble and find shelter for the nearly 300,000 who lost their homes, we are just at the beginning of this process.
As Lebanon starts to emerge from the trauma of last week’s blast, the more troubling questions are being asked:
- Who is responsible for storing these dangerous chemicals in such quantities so near to the civilian population?
- Why were necessary precautions not taken?
- Does that warehouse where 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate was stored belong to Hezbollah?
Hezbollah is remaining relatively quiet for the time being. It is no doubt also in shock over the event, and must analyze its impact on the group’s future. In the meantime, it came as no great surprise that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah cancelled a speech in which he was to address mounting tensions with Israel. He no doubt understands where the wind is currently blowing, and that the Lebanese have absolutely no patience for renewed conflict with Israel.
But the Beirut explosion was a strategic event, and its long-term impact and potential to effect change can’t be so easily curbed. Fingers of blame are rapidly being pointed at Hezbollah, which the United States and many European countries long ago labeled a “terrorist” organization. In fact, that very designation is now doing great harm to Lebanon since the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank can’t easily aid the country while Hezbollah is a dominant part of its government. Otherwise, they’d be supporting a terrorist organization.
People in Lebanon are also now certainly more wary of the fact that Hezbollah’s large missile arsenal is stored and deployed in civilian areas as a means of protecting it from Israeli airstrikes. And while Israel has repeatedly stated that it will not hesitate to target this arsenal despite the presence of civilians, Hezbollah has maintained the policy, knowing that the Jewish state will not purposefully cause widespread death and destruction among Lebanese civilians. Even so, the Lebanese people are now angrier than ever over Hezbollah’s cynical exploitation of them as human shields.
Even amid its own crippling political quagmire, the balance of power just shifted undeniably in Israel’s favor thanks to the stupidity of Hezbollah. Both Israelis and Lebanese remember well how Nasrallah just a few years ago threatened to bomb the ammonium nitrate storage facilities in the Israeli port city of Haifa. And now Beirut has been hit by precisely the kind of explosion Hezbollah wanted to visit on Israel. The widespread destruction Hezbollah foresaw for Israel has instead devastated Lebanon, all without Israel lifting a finger.