The head of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group in Lebanon, called the recent violence in Beirut “a new dangerous and critical step” in the country’s internal political situation. He also accused the Lebanese Forces, the right-wing Christian party, of trying to start a new civil war in the country. Hassan Nasrallah delivered his fiery speech in response to the bloodshed that left at least seven people dead and marked one of the worst street violence since the 1975-1990 civil war.
“The real program of the Lebanese Forces is a civil war which will lead to a demographic change,” said Hassan Nasrallah in his speech, and advised the “party of the Lebanese Forces to give up this idea of internal conflict and civil war”. He added: “The region has never seen Hezbollah as strong as it is now,” asserting Hezbollah’s dominant position in the country’s politics.
While both sides have denied their involvement in inciting violence, it is clear that this tension was sparked by a recent demand to remove Senior Judge Tarek Bitar from the investigation into the massive explosion at the Port of August 2020. The condemnation came from the majority of the Lebanese political class as Bitar asked a number of high-ranking politicians to be questioned about their involvement in the events of the port explosion. When the arrest warrant for Ali Khalil, a former finance minister, was issued and he did not appear for questioning, Bitar began to receive more criticism and opposition.
Hezbollah and its Shiite ally in the Amal movement have called for a demonstration on the old front line between the Muslim and Christian areas. However, they claim their protesters faced gunfire from rooftops which sparked the charges. The violence that has been unleashed between two suspected opponents is extremely worrying for the country as it brings back memories of the 1975-1990 civil war, adding to the severity of the economic turmoil spurred by the port explosion, pre-existing economic struggles and the effects of the pandemic.
As a failed state, Lebanon already faces huge challenges, including an economic collapse characterized by massive hyperinflation, blackout, gas and oil shortages, and growing poverty. The massive port explosion last year has exacerbated the country’s economic and social problems. Its impact makes the investigation of the explosion necessary for the future of the country. The process is hampered by the conflict of interest between a number of political actors strongly influenced by internal and external forces.
The solution to eliminate the economic problems in Lebanon would not be easy to find without better cooperation between different political and religious groups. The burden of the economic and energy crises is heavy enough to allow more bloodshed to break out. Future peace solutions should also include an economic recovery plan so that the Lebanese crisis does not continue.