Armageddon out of negligence? Beirut Blast and Its Implications

Armageddon out of negligence? Beirut Blast and Its Implications

How the world reacted and what is known about the Beirut Blast.   

 

On 4 August 2020 in the port of Beirut was hit by a devastating blast, visually similar to a nuclear explosion. The buildings in the port terminal and the immediate vicinity were almost literally razed to the ground or obliterated. The human loss was terrible, with over 150 people killed and some 5,000 wounded. The explosion wave hit thousands of building even as far as 10 or 15 kilometers from the ground zero, leaving homeless some 300,000 people and destroying ca. $5 bn worth of property.

There were a quite high number of Lebanese-Armenians among the victims; according to the latest sources, 13 community members were killed, including Kataeb Party’s Secretary-General Nazar Najarian, while some 300 more were injured. In fact the disproportionately high number of the community losses was due to the close location of Beirut’s Armenian neighborhood to the ground zero. The Armenian community through its own organizational structures tries its best to provide relief to those of its members, who have suffered the most. 

This sudden and tragic incident, which by specialists was considered as the most powerful non-nuclear explosion – in fact the power of its detonation was even slightly higher than that of the currently most powerful conventional weapon, the US-produced the so-called “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) – raises a number of questions. 

Currently the most circulated explanation of the tragic accident says that it was a detonation of highly explosive ammonium nitrate fertilizer, which was confiscated from a vessel owned by a Russian businessman transporting them from Georgia to Mozambique back in 2013. The vessel owner went bankrupt and the 2750 tons of the highly explosive cargo was seized and simply placed in a port depot in 2014. The fact that for the following six years no relevant authority had taken any efficient measure to remove the fertilizers from the port, stock it properly or distribute it for further use, shows that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.

This was shown and even admitted to some degree by the Lebanese authorities as well with the president Michel Aoun calling such manner of handling the explosives as “unacceptable”.

Meanwhile, with Lebanon and the whole region, characterized by a pitted rivalry between various factions and regional and global players, any intentional involvement by foreign or domestic actors in this tragic incident cannot be dismissed too easily.

US President Donald Trump was among the first to hint at it, calling the explosion an “attack”. While he failed to mention its provenance, we can almost be sure that the he implicitly placed the blame at the door of the Hezbollah.

In fact on those days the Lebanese court was expected to issue a verdict on a group of Hezbollah militants accused of the former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination in 2005, so the Iran-backed group immediately appeared on the list of the “suspects as usual.” Next in the list could be Israel, which as a means of dismissing such accusations, offered humanitarian aid through UN and even in a quite unusual move of support, illuminated a tall building’s façade in Tel Aviv with the national colors of the country with whom they are still technical at war, at the dismay of some in the Israeli society.    

It is currently hard to deny or confirm any possible intentional explosion theory, yet one thing is sure: this was a major blow to the very fiber of the Lebanese statehood on multiple levels. The Lebanese authorities have already confessed that the country, already weakened by the severe economic crisis and the effects of the covid-19 pandemic, is not capable of overcoming the crisis alone.

And here is where foreign actors, offering their support, come into play.

So far, it seems that France, maintaining traditional ties with Lebanon, took the most active steps with president Emmanuel Macron personally visiting Beirut and being welcomed by many ordinary Lebanese.

However it seems that other players seeks to enhance their presence in Lebanon, by offering their support, including major regional and global players, such as the USA, Russia and Turkey and even Azerbaijan, who offered financial support to Beirut.

Armenian officials at the top level have been in touch with their Lebanese counterparts as well as the Armenian community representatives on the matter. “We will support the Lebanese government and the Armenian community there,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated at a government sitting on 6 August.  

Yerevan also announced it would send 12 tons of humanitarian aid to Beirut, while businessmen from Armenia and Russia offered financial support to those who were most severely affected by the explosion.

It seems that this kind of tragedies could have been averted, had the authorities on multiple levels been more responsible and prudent. This hopefully can lead to a more transparent, accountable and responsible governance, as Macron noted in his speech in Beirut.

Armenian authorities should support the Lebanese authorities and the Armenian community there in their hard task of reconstruction amid the economic and pandemic crises, which the country faces.

Lebanese-Armenians who opted for leaving fro Armenia should be given such an opportunity. Artsakh authorties have already announced that they are ready to accept some 100-150 families from Lebanon, while individuals in Armenia have also volunteered to shelter their compatriots in need.

High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs Zareh Sinanyan said that Yerevan should provide opportunity for those who would like to find refuge in Armenia. Meanwhile some in the Lebanese Armenian community opine that there are many who would opt for at least temporarily moving to Armenia, however have no sufficient financial means and need Yerevan’s support on the matter.

On the other hand encouraging an exodus en masse seems not quite expedient, for their presence in this small but important corner of the Middle East is very important for Armenia and Armenians in the whole world.

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