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Last Tuesday, a massive explosion ripped through the heart of Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, killing some 180 people and injuring an estimated 6,000.
On top of the loss of life, estimated property damage hovers between $3-15 billion, and hundreds of thousands are now homeless due to the explosion’s widespread damage.
The source of the explosion was a warehouse near the center of the city that caught fire, triggering 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate, an explosive chemical compound used in agriculture and construction.
It is reported the nitrate was shipped from Georgia and subsequently impounded by authorities in 2014, and then it was stored negligently for six years with little regard for public safety. Many Lebanese view this deadly incompetence as a stinging indictment of the country’s corrupt political establishment.
Indeed, as we have been reporting since last October, demonstrations erupted across the nation with tens of thousands taking to the street in protest of government corruption, poverty, skyrocketing unemployment, a diving currency… an economic crisis that has paralyzed the country over the last year.
Inflation has soared, and foreign currency reserves have dwindled. For the average citizen, banks are no longer functioning. With a critical shortage of foreign currency, depositors have been prevented from taking their money out of bank accounts, and inflation is running near 90 percent.
Hundreds have been injured as protesters clashed with police and occupied key government ministries, erecting mock gallows as a grim symbol of their discontent. And now, following the blast, they continue.
Suffering a 6.5 percent contraction in 2019, the IMF projects Lebanon’s GDP will contract 12 percent this year… the largest contraction since the end of the country’s 15-year civil war.
Then and Now
The Hezbollah-backed government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab was in meltdown before the blast. The day before the explosion, Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti resigned, citing the government’s inability to legislate structural reforms. “Lebanon today is sliding towards becoming a failed state,” he said.
The cabinet was further depleted by the resignations of the justice, information, and environmental ministers. The finance minister as well has announced his intention to quit.
Last night, Prime Minister Diab announced his resignation and that of his government in the wake of the explosion, which he called a “disaster beyond measure.”
TRENDPOST: While deep anti-government rage runs through the streets of Beirut, the future of the nation, which is in deep socioeconomic and political crisis, may ignite into civil and possibly regional war.
Lebanese politics may revert back to the sectarian conflict that defined its recent history – most notably during the bloody 15-year civil war that took place between Sunni, Shi’ite, and Christian factions between 1975 and 1990. The heavily-armed, Iran-aligned group Hezbollah finds its power threatened by the protests. As the tensions in Lebanese society continue to inflame, the country may join Iraq and Yemen as yet another staging ground for Saudi-Iranian proxy wars.
And tensions with Israel – another regional nation in political disarray with a history of military interventions and occupations in Lebanon – may again escalate.
Moreover, just as the neglected store of ammonium nitrate has wracked death and destruction, there are few stabilizing forces that will rebuild and restore the nation, once considered a beacon of progress the region’s most noted center of culture, renowned for its fine architecture, art, cuisine, and toleration.  

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