Rania Khalek of BreakThrough News explains the various aspects of the crisis faced by Lebanon. Banks have been shut down following heist attempt by desperate account holders and electricity and telecom networks are crumbling. Most Lebanese are struggling to purchase essentials. Meanwhile, the country is locked in a dangerous dispute with Israel over offshore gas fields – all of this while having no government.
A friend in Beirut asked me teasingly as we walked the darkened streets, “Are you happy now? You wanted degrowth and you’re getting it.” He was referencing the economic crisis and recession Lebanon is experiencing — although he knows very well the stark difference between this deep recession and degrowth. Recession happens when growth dependent economies stop growing, i.e., GDP goes into the negative. This typically ends up in the loss of jobs, economic uncertainty, and sometimes austerity measures with long-term impacts. Degrowth, on the other hand, is an intentional shift in economic activity, revolving around a rethinking of measures of progress and what gets to grow and why. Its policy-making revolves around the wellbeing of people and planet.
Unarmed protesters affiliated with Hezbollah and Amal were gunned down by the Saudi-backed Lebanese Forces militia in Beirut on Thursday, October 14, provoking a sectarian gun battle that risked igniting a civil war. Why did this happen? Why are some trying to pin the blame on Hezbollah? And what's with the media obscuring the fact that it was a fascist group behind the violence, the same group responsible for the 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps? Rania Khalek, journalist and host of the Breakthrough News program Dispatches, breaks it all down.
Beirut, Lebanon – The first of several truck convoys carrying Iranian fuel has arrived in Lebanon from Syria, a Hezbollah spokesperson told Al Jazeera – a shipment intended to help ease crippling fuel shortages amid a dire economic crisis. The first shipments of the fuel, carried by two convoys totalling 40 trucks according to Hezbollah’s Al Manar television channel, arrived in Lebanon on Thursday. The fuel delivery has been portrayed by the Iran-linked Lebanese group as a huge boost to the cash-strapped country. However, the shipments violate United States sanctions imposed on Iranian oil sales and have gotten a mixed response in Lebanon. The first of four Iranian fuel tankers docked in Syria’s Baniyas port earlier this week.
The chokehold on Lebanon has grown even tighter, thanks to the embargo imposed against it by the United States and its Arab allies in the Persian Gulf. This comes at the lowest point of Lebanon’s two-year-old economic crisis, a catastrophe the World Bank calls the worst the world has seen since 1850. The country’s sudden-but-deliberate fuel shortage, vital to essential daily activity and life-saving medical services, has accelerated this alarm. Today, bread is in shortage and hospitals are sending out distress calls, civilians are camping in front of petrol stations, and water has all but disappeared from supermarket shelves. With general government inaction and the failure of Lebanon’s political parties to form a new government, Hezbollah has forged ahead with its plan to import fuel from Iran.
Lebanon is under unprecedented economic and social pressure, paying the price for Hezbollah’s military capability that causes a threat to Israel. The options offered by those (US, EU and Israel) effectively participating in cornering Lebanon -notwithstanding decades of domestic corruption and mismanagement – are limited to two: either disarm Hezbollah or push Lebanon toward a failed state and civil war. However, the “Axis of the Resistance” has other options: Iran has responded to the request of Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah by regularly sending to Lebanon food supplies and medicine. It is now sending oil tankers, which are expected to reach the country in the coming weeks via the Syrian port of Tartous.
Around one quarter of the world lives in countries under unilateral United States sanctions. While American government officials insist that sanctions are targeted at officials committing human rights abuses in foreign countries, the United Nations notes that they always “disproportionately affect the poor and most vulnerable.” In Cuba, U.S. sanctions are causing shortages that led to widespread protests earlier this summer and are slowing the worldwide rollout of Cuba’s domestically produced coronavirus vaccine. U.S. government documents explicitly state that the goal of the blockade of the island is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government.” U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, too, have been widely condemned, and are estimated to have caused the deaths of over 100,000 people.
Lebanese Hezbollah has claimed responsibility for the firing of the 19 rockets into northern Israel in response to a series of Israeli air and artillery strikes carried out earlier this week on southern Lebanon. The rocket fire reportedly shocked the Israeli military establishment and sparked further aggression against targets in Lebanon’s south; and, in defiance of all evidence, Western mainstream media quickly took to painting Israel as the victim.
Debt, according to standard economic assumptions, emerges from a purely private exchange. Independent rational agents willingly enter into a contract in a free market. That market, in turn, sets a fair price for the debt. Freedom and fairness: these are the assumptions that underpin the common narrative about debt and indebtedness. This essay sets out to explode these assumptions. Contrary to the common narrative, the massive dollar-denominated debts in the Global South did not arise from private exchange in a regulatory vacuum. Rather, they are the product of an international financial system carefully designed to facilitate neo-colonial extraction. Debt is a vicious cycle that is neither free nor fair.
On February 4, a Lebanese employee of foreign embassies and NGOs was murdered in the southern Lebanese village of Addousiyeh. Few Lebanese people had heard of the 58-year-old socialite who had made his living in recent years by informing on his own community. But the Western diplomatic and NGO community reacted in horror and grief, as did the small clique of Lebanese citizens who worked with them. The kidnapping and assassination of Lokman Slim on a dark and lonely road attracted substantial Western media attention as well. His death was immediately politicized, with Slim portrayed as a martyr slain for his criticism of Lebanese Hezbollah. But Slim was not merely an opponent of the militant populist Shia group known as Hezbollah.
There’s been a lot of nonsense passing as truth in post-blast Lebanon reporting. Most centers around alarmism about Hezbollah’s nefarious influence, the West’s "opportunity" to destroy it, and the supposed struggle with Russia, China, and Iran for paternalist-preeminence in a country that isn’t ours (or theirs) to preside over in the first place. There’s little discussion in most mainstream reporting on the minor matter of why Hezbollah gained influence in the first place. Shia Muslims are difficult to provoke and almost impossible to suppress once aroused. Long led by a more "quietist" strand of conservative, apolitical, clerics, these massive Mideast minorities – all 100 million of them – have, since Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, emerged as the most effective regional resistors to Israeli expansionism and Western neo-imperialism. They’ve met with meaningful and unexpected success – where nearly all Sunnis states and subgroups have mainly failed – combating Israel, America, and both’s assorted Arab clients for more than 40 years. Indeed, while hardly immaculate, the Shia resistance record is rather impressive.
Judges at a U.N.-backed tribunal said Tuesday there was no evidence the leadership of the Hezbollah militant group and Syria were involved in the 2005 suicide truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. ... The trial centered on the alleged roles of four Hezbollah members in the suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others and wounded 226 people. Prosecutors based their case largely on data from mobile phones allegedly used by the plotters to plan and execute the bombing. Based on that 'almost entirely circumstantial' evidence the tribunal found that only one of the accused, Salim Jamil Ayyash, is guilty of the charges. That person, an alleged Hizbullah member, has vanished years ago. The reading of the 150 pages summary of the 2.600 pages long judgment is still ongoing. Independent reporter Bel Trew is live-tweeting the proceedings. The outcome is a big nothing burger that will leave the many enemies of Hizbullah unsatisfied. But it also saves Lebanon from more strife.
Chinese peacekeepers will provide medical aid to Beirut following the deadly explosion on Tuesday that killed at least 135 people and injured 5,000 others. Upon the request of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), the 18th batch of Chinese peacekeeping troops to Lebanon organised an emergency team of nine medical personnel from fields including surgery, internal medicine, burns and anaesthesiology, state news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday. The personnel and vehicles would head to Beirut, carrying medical supplies and protective equipment, the medical unit said.
Plenty of folks finally know the CIA-Soviet-Afghan thread of that backstory; fewer are familiar with the Lebanese layer. They should be. After all, an impressionable young Saudi named bin Laden tuned in to America’s dastardly dalliances there in the 1980s, and vowed revenge. Then as now, the US was hardly alone among the opportunist foreign vultures who’ve picked the Lebanese carcass throughout its centenary existence. However, Americans – those most confidently uninformed and incurious of peoples – keep proving those repeatedly-wrong-on-the-Mid-East New York Times editors right: Lebanon does remain "beyond" their "understanding." In place of serious study or basic empathy, most US leaders substitute fear-mongering platitude. When it comes to Lebanon generally – and Hezbollah specifically – American alarmism has long infested both parties and their media machines.