Beirut’s apocalyptic blast needs an international probe for justice

Makram Rabah
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Lebanon must have an international probe into the deadly Beirut explosion – it is the only way justice will be achieved.

The people of Beirut are no strangers to turmoil and violence, but the events that transpired on August 4 are no short of an apocalyptic movie – hundreds were killed, thousands injured and made homeless, and an ancient city was left in utter shambles.

The explosion that occurred in the heart of the city in the Beirut Port was heard all the way in Cyprus, as 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that is commonly used in manufacturing explosives, was detonated causing a mushroom cloud and a terrifying blast that looked similar to the Hiroshima nuclear blast.

Firefighters douse a blaze at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP)
Firefighters douse a blaze at the scene of an explosion at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP)

The true cause of the tragedy has yet to be explained, and the majority of the Lebanese are convinced that the explosion was related in one way or another to Hezbollah – the Iran-backed organization that allegedly uses the Beirut port as a hub to smuggle weapons and other merchandise on which they pay little or no tax. The fertilizer had reportedly been confiscated in 2013 but had not been stored properly or disposed.

The Lebanese state's main narrative to explain the blast centers around mismanagement of the port and negligence from key officials that oversaw the port and failed to take proper measures. Both Lebanese President Michael Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab have vowed to bring whoever is involved to justice, which in their book might only mean locking up a few senior bureaucrats, many of which should already be incarcerated for corruption and abuse of power.

The death of hundreds and the destruction of Beirut is a real tragedy, but having the ruling establishment that is responsible for the calamity to handle the investigation makes it worse, allowing the ruling establishment to redirect blame and ultimately escape retribution. There are many factors that render the Lebanese state and its various security agencies and the judiciary as suspects, as both are subservient to the political establishment as well as afraid of Hezbollah which was days away from being named as the perpetrator in the killing of former PM Rafik al-Hariri in 2005.

Fireworks are set off in front of police officers during anti-government protests that have been ignited by a massive explosion in Beirut. (Reuters)
Fireworks are set off in front of police officers during anti-government protests that have been ignited by a massive explosion in Beirut. (Reuters)

The main principles of justice and accountability dictate that all those who were in leading posts within the government at the time of the explosion be curbed and disallowed to view or meddle in the investigation as this simply would corrupt and derail the course for the truth.

Perhaps above all, the Lebanese state and its agencies have a proven track-record of incompetence not to say malicious intent in many previous crimes whose culprits were never brought to justice. The many local investigative bodies are central to the Lebanese clientlist system, and their heads do not report to the government but rather to their feudal lord or to Hezbollah.

Even discarding these alarming factors, the colossal obstacle remains the Lebanese state’s lack of proper resources to probe the scene of the crime and to collect and scientifically reconstruct the event and track down whoever is involved, either directly or by association. All these factors make the Lebanese people’s demand for an international investigation led by an independent and credible body more pressing and mandatory.

President Aoun and Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah have spoken against an international investigation, claiming that it infringes on Lebanon’s sovereignty. However, Lebanon and its state already has no sovereignty as the Lebanese are victims and hostages of an evil alliance of a corrupt class that uses Hezbollah to stay in power.

It is not just the Lebanese people demanding international oversight into the investigation, but also the international community, which has said that its willingness to come to the aid of Lebanon is contingent on the Lebanese authorities carrying out radical reform, made clear in the Paris

donor conference held on Sunday to aid in the reconstruction of Lebanon. From within the rubble and carnage of the explosion, French President Emmanuel Macron affirmed his own and the international community’s commitment to help the Lebanese people and made a clear distinction – this aid is not a “blank cheque” to the Lebanese government nor the politicians.

Macron went as far as to warn the irresponsible Lebanese political class that what is needed to overcome the cataclysm was a new social contract a, giving the political class an ultimatum that expires when he is scheduled to return to Lebanon on the anniversary of the centennial of Greater Lebanon, which was proclaimed by the French Mandate on September 1, 1920.

August 4 will go down in history as the day that Lebanon experienced its near-death experience.

However, the real light at the end of this very bleak tunnel starts with the Lebanese themselves rising up –

not just to rebuild and nurse their wounds, but to uproot those who are responsible for the death of their children and loved ones. Only then can Lebanon and its people can look for their friends across the globe who would rush to remedy years of lack of clear policy and complicity with the region’s demonic forces.

Read more:

Lebanon must disband Hezbollah to survive

The Beirut explosion is the latest disaster – Lebanese ruling elite must face justice

Without dismantling Hezbollah’s arsenal, Lebanon will always be at risk

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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