(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) From South Asia to the Middle East a new arch By Pierre Oborne
OUTSIDE my hotel in South Beirut, there is a gasoline queue over a mile long. Emotions run high in the scorching heat of the day.
Many drivers are out of gasoline. Every time the queue moves forward, they come out and push. Other cars sometimes try to barge in. This is when confrontations and angry fights occur.
I walk in the queue talking to the drivers. Some have lost their jobs. I ask them how they plan to feed their families and pay for electricity, rent and water. They don’t have answers.
Even those lucky enough to keep their jobs are desperate. Fouad, a 50-year-old civil servant, tells me how the currency crash destroyed the value of his salary: âBefore the crisis, I had $ 3,000 a month. It is now $ 150.
I ask him how he can provide for his wife and his three children, two of whom go to school. He raises his arms in the air. ” I do not know. God help me!”
Fouad has been waiting for gas for four hours, and I guess he still has about three hours left.
An easy-going man in a polo shirt comes up to me. He said, âI used to eat meat every day. Now I eat meat one day a month.
He is one of the luckiest victims of the economic disaster in Lebanon. Over and over again, I hear the same story: no money, no work, no electricity. A hopeless future. And a growing, hot and inexperienced rage against the government backed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. A man shouts at me: “If I meet a minister, I will kill him.” “
All the drivers in the gasoline line tell me their utter contempt for the politicians who run their country. As Lebanon faces what the World Bank calls one of the worst economic crises since 1850, one of the country’s most despised men today is Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
He has barely been in power for six weeks, but the nomination of the billionaire businessman – hailed by Forbes as the richest man in Lebanon – has not been popular. As Lebanon sinks into an economic and social quagmire, it is seen as the representative of the morally bankrupt ruling elite that caused the crisis.
Perhaps only one man is hated more: Riad Salameh, who has served as governor of Lebanon’s central bank since 1993, making him one of the oldest bank governors in the world. Once hailed as a financial wizard, he’s now blamed by many for the current mess – and with so many people losing their savings and jobs, it’s not hard to see why.
With Lebanon in ruins, it has become reasonable to wonder whether the Lebanese financial and political model of the post-civil war years – subsidized Saudi loans and firm American and European support – can survive. And reasonable to ask what replaces it.
The elections scheduled for next spring may not help much. Lebanon’s denominational system, in which high state functions are reserved for religious groups (the president must be a Maronite Christian, for example, and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim) was invented to avoid sectarian conflict. Today, it only entrenched corruption and venality.
Karl Marx noted long ago that economics drives politics. If this is correct, then a lot has to change if we are to avoid a complete social and economic collapse in Lebanon.
Whether you like it or not – and many don’t – only one organization has emerged stronger and more respected from the current disaster: Hezbollah. And only one major figure: the secretary general of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah.
With the political system crippled by the fuel crisis, Nasrallah acted to bring diesel from Iran into the country. At first he was laughed at, but now the tankers have crossed the border by land from Syria to Lebanon.
This decision was denounced by Mikati as a “violation of Lebanese sovereignty”. Few people agree with him.
A man who had lost his job during the crisis told me: âI am Lebanese. I want to eat. I am grateful to anyone who can help.
Worrying for the Prime Minister, even some sympathizers say the same thing. In an interview with Al Mayadeen, Cesar Maalouf, member of the pro-American and pro-Saudi Lebanese Forces party, thanked Iran’s “brother country” for “helping the Lebanese people” in these difficult times. He explained, âWe are all hungry. We are all humiliated today. If you have a problem with Hezbollah and its weapons, put that problem aside. “
New political landscape
Significantly, Maalouf also criticized a fuel pledge from US Ambassador Dorothy Shea as “too little, too late”.
Not surprising. Such is the scale of the crisis that the United States was forced to cede to Hezbollah. He did not have a choice ; Lebanon is in mortal need.
A new regional architecture is being built at an astonishing speed
Hezbollah took a dismissive decision against the will of the Lebanese political establishment and the United States. Because the oil was shipped via Syria, the purchase defied the Caesar law, which sanctions the Syrian government.
Nasrallah’s daring paid off, presenting new evidence of a new political landscape rapidly emerging across the Middle East. Barely a month has passed since Kabul fell to the Taliban, but the consequences across the region are already severe.
A new regional architecture is being built at an astonishing speed. And the drivers in the queue are finally offered a glimmer of hope.
The article was originally published by The Middle East Eye
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