High drama in Lebanon.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab and his entire Lebanese government resigned en masse on Monday, but took no responsibility for the explosion or destruction, nor provided clear indications of what would come next.
“I discovered that the system of corruption was bigger than the state and that the state is bound by this system, and that it is not possible to confront it or get rid of it,” Diab said at a press conference on Monday night.
“Between us and change, a very thick wall is protected by a class that resists with all dirty methods in order to control the state,” Diab added. “We fought fiercely and with honor, but this battle has no equivalence.”
Diab also took no responsibility for the corruption that he so forcefully denounced.
However, an exclusive Reuters story indicates that Diab and Lebanese President Michel Aoun had recently been warned about the enormous risk of storing the explosive materials at the Beirut Port.
“Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources,” Reuters reported.
“Just over two weeks later,” Reuters added, “the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities.
The big question: Now what?
Are serious, sweeping reforms coming? Or will Iran and Hezbollah be free to tighten their grip even further?
“Diab was assigned to lead the government on Dec. 19, 2019, following street protests that toppled the government of his predecessor, Saad Hariri,” noted Arab News. “His government won the confidence vote of parliament on Feb. 11 with the support of Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Amal Movement. The Lebanese Forces, Future Movement and Progressive Socialist parties did not take part in the vote.”
The first indication that the entire government was stepping down came on Monday afternoon when Hamad Hassan, Lebanon’s Minister of Health, told the Associated Press and other reporters that the government has resigned after the devastating blast at the Beirut port which sparked mass protests.
“The whole government resigned,” Hassan said.
Pledges of aid to help Beirut recover and rebuild are beginning to come in.
“An emergency international donor conference on Sunday raised pledges worth nearly 253 million euros ($298 million) for immediate humanitarian relief,” Arab News and Reuters reported. “But foreign countries demand transparency over how the aid is used, wary of writing blank cheques to a government perceived by its own people as deeply corrupt. Some are concerned about the influence of Shiite movement Hezbollah, which is designated as a terrorist group by the United States.”
This article was updated on August 11, 2020