Editorial of the “World”. The apocalypse in a country already on its knees. No words are enough to describe the enormous explosion that ravaged Beirut on Tuesday, August 4 at the end of the afternoon. Bloody bodies, overwhelmed hospitals, buildings blown away for miles around, smashed cars… The disaster that killed more than 100 people and injured nearly 4,000 others according to a provisional assessment, would be, according to President Michel Aoun, linked to the storage without precaution in a warehouse of the port of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate. Highly explosive, this product, used as a base in many nitrogenous fertilizers, caused the disaster at the AZF factory in Toulouse on September 21, 2001.
The explosions of Beirut “Looked like a terrible attack”, believed he could assert Donald Trump after meeting with the American soldiers, contradicting the thesis of the accident put forward by the Lebanese authorities. Whatever the cause, the gigantic orange and gray mushroom that rose above the port of Beirut implacably evokes the implosion of a system and the bankruptcy of political structures supposed to allow the reconstruction of Lebanon already devastated by the civil war of the years 1975-1990. The end of the interminable conflict did not interrupt the descent into hell of a country formerly known as “Switzerland of the Middle East” because of its tourist wonders and the security of its banks.
Breaking out of an almost existential impasse
2020 was to be the year of the celebration of the centenary of the creation of the country of the Cedar, placed under French mandate in 1920 and independent since 1943. The vintage will remain like that of catastrophes. Long safe for the region’s elites but also a bloody receptacle for countless rivalries in the Middle East, Lebanon plunged when its banking system, the object of predation by its political elites, collapsed, causing the collapse of the national currency and an astronomical rise in the prices of basic necessities. Many Lebanese are now struggling to eat their fill. Even the once prosperous middle classes are ravaged, oscillating between anger and the desire to emigrate. The August 4 explosion, death, suffering and destruction hit a country already in shock.
The street demonstrations of autumn 2019, during which tens of thousands of Lebanese of all faiths proclaimed their disgust for leaders plagued by corruption and demanded an end to communitarianism, led to believe, for a time, a sudden burst. But they withered away, victims of the inertia of the system and the pandemic due to the coronavirus. The political system, supposed to ensure fair representation of religious communities – Shiite, Sunni, Christian, Druze – is in reality based on a division of the country between steadfast clan leaders, often former heads of armed militias, unable to get along and more concerned with maintaining their privileges than with the well-being of the population.
A mosaic of cultures and religions, a place of pluralism in a torn region, a bridge between East and West, the Land of the Cedar is a precious asset that must absolutely be defended. France is sending a civil security detachment and several tonnes of medical equipment there, and Emmanuel Macron expressed his “Fraternal solidarity”. The United States, Germany, the United Kingdom but also Iran and Qatar have offered to help. International solidarity must be fully exercised, not only to heal the new wounds in Lebanon, an eternal ground of rivalry between foreign powers, but to help this country unlike any other to emerge from an almost existential impasse and to reinvent itself.