Lebanese should use tragedy to come together, not come apart
The devastation in Lebanon caused by an explosion of more than 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate deserves a serious investigation. And there first place to look is in the circle of Russian influence including its trerrorist partners Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is the most destructive e force in the world today and needs to be exposed. Putin should be prosecuted as a war criminal
By Ray Hanania
The terrorism of Sept. 11, 2001 managed to bring the people of America together, even if it was for a short decade of unity and resolve against outside terrorism.
But instead of bringing the people of Lebanon together, the August 4 explosion of a 2,750 ton stockpile of ammonium nitrate that destroyed Beirut’s sea port and business district has only created an even larger chasm than the one that has existed in Lebanese politics for decades.
Some 160 people were killed, 5,000 were seriously injured, another 300,000 were made homeless including some 80,000 children, according to media reports.
Lebanon is more divided today than it ever was. Instead of finding ways to overcome challenges, the Lebanese people have divided over politics, each side using the massive explosion as a foundation to attack their rivals.
Members of the opposition in the parliament have resigned and the population is in the streets protesting against the government of President Michel Aoun. A conservative Christian, Aoun has formed a powerful alliance with the violent and mercurial Hezbollah militia that America calls terrorists, that Israel fears, and that is a violent pawn of both the Iranians and the Russians.
But when I look at the crisis, I see the indelible imprint of outside interference playing a key role in the controversy. And that handprint belongs to Russia and its new dictator, Vladimir Putin.
I have no evidence to blame Russia for the explosion, but given Russia and Putin’s history and ties, it’s a good place to start.
Putin has been engaged in a campaign to destroy Western governments ever since he overturned Russia’s Democratic system to install himself as a President for Life.
The Russian dictator and former KGB head has meddled in American elections, supervised terrorism in Syria, helped expand Hezbollah violence and terrorism throughout the Middle East, and used his powers to block Middle East peace at the United Nations.
Putin’s record is abysmal. And he should not be allowed to escape responsibility for the devastation caused last week by a Russian cargo ship from Bulgaria that moored in Beirut more than six years ago and was the source for the ammonium nitrate that exploded.
Ammonium nitrate is a chemical agent that is a fertilizer for agriculture and a key ingredient in the making of terrorist bombs. It’s safe to say that there has been more use for it in violence than in producing foods in the Middle East.
I highly doubt the shipment of the ammonium nitrate cargo, which was abandoned at the Beirut port in November 2013, was solely intended for agricultural purposes. That the cargo sat in storage unused for more than six years suggests that farming was not its purpose.
The videos of the massive explosion have inundated social media including on the Chinese-government-owned spy site TikTok are frightening. The initial explosion looks like a typical act of terrorism, causing a tall black cloud of destruction. But that was followed by a mushroom cloud explosion that reminded people of the nuclear threat that we continue to face because of the refusals of countries like Russia, China, and Israel to allow international controls over their nuclear arsenals.
The explosion could easily have been a nuclear disaster. That it wasn’t is no consolation but should serve as a small reminder of what could happen if a nuclear weapon is detonated in a civilian area.
Public rage at the devastation has focused on Lebanon’s government, which is in economic and political turmoil. But Lebanon’s governments have always been in economic and political turmoil, the victims first of a campaign of violence directed by Syria’s terror regime led by the Al-Assad family, and by the growth of Hezbollah, both empowered by support from Russia.
The explosion at the port was bigger than the one driven by the corrupt Syrian government that was complicit with Hezbollah in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
I saw the crater that was formed in the street in front of the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Two tons of TNT were concealed in a car parked nearby as Hariri’s vehicle approached for a meeting. The Beirut explosion was the equivalent of 1,500 tons of TNT.
According to media reports, the ship that originally carried the ammonium nitrate was owned by a Russian businessman and the captain was Russian, too. When the ship was moored in Beirut, stick there because the owners claimed they didn’t have the money to pass through the Suez Canal, they were unsuccessful in getting help from Putin’s government.
The ammonium nitrate was headed for delivery to Mozambique, which in 2013 was one of the places where Putin began a diplomatic drive to strengthen his country’s ties with several African Nations. The ammonium nitrate supposedly was to assist farmers, there, not to support the terrorism of his satellite clients like Syria, Hezbollah or Iran, we’re told.
I don’t blame the Lebanese people for being angry. But to allow their emotions to further destroy Lebanon at a time when the Lebanese people should be united is an even greater disaster.
Although the government has launched an investigation and other independent nations and groups have launched investigations of their own, my suggestion would be to begin with Putin and Russia.
If it looks like a Phoenix, the mythical Russian firebird, flies like a Phoenix, and sounds like a Phoenix, chances are it probably is.
This tragedy has Russia written all over it.
The worst thing that can happen is to see Lebanon falter even more than it has, giving Russia’s client agents like Syria, Iran and Hezbollah an even stronger base from which they can promote their violent extremist agendas.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author. Email him at www.Hanania.com.)