The coronavirus pandemic is threatening economies everywhere, but the crisis in Lebanon is pushing the country to the brink of collapse.
By Paul Shindman, World Israel News
Anti-government protesters in Beirut carried a symbolic coffin carrying their national currency and called for government action to save Lebanon’s collapsing economy, an Arab news outlet reported Sunday.
A video showed demonstrators waving national flags and wearing masks to protect against coronavirus while carrying the coffin on their shoulders, “laying the Lebanese Lira to rest.” The currency lost over 50 percent of its value recently and food prices shot up almost 58 percent, the Dubai-based Smashi-TV reported.
Lebanon’s economy is in shambles, having defaulted on some $90 billion of debt in March with the government and the central bank apparently not working together to renegotiate with creditors, the Financial Times reported.
In Tripoli, where protesters clashed with security forces last week, residents said “dying of coronavirus is better” as starvation is now a bigger fear in the city, Beirut’s Daily Star reported.
The country has been in a near-constant state of political crisis for years as the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group works to strengthen its grip on the government and help complete what analysts call the “Shiite crescent” of Iranian military control from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran has spent years smuggling illegal arms to Hezbollah, and the terror organization’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, who parrots Iran’s calls of “death to America,” in January told his followers they should kill all American soldiers in the region.
For their part, ordinary Lebanese have never backed away from being outspoken on social media.
“A militia like Hezbollah needs a weak state to prosper. The current state of Lebanon is ideal for them,” tweeted Elie Jabbour, a Lebanese Christian. “A strong state with strong institutions doesn’t suit them at all. That’s why they choose corrupt allies … to keep the weak state rolling.”
Hezbollah justified its independent military force as necessary to get Israel out of Lebanon, but after Israel withdrew its forces in 2000, the organization only worked to strengthen itself.
Following the 2006 war Hezbollah started with Israel that devastated Lebanon’s infrastructure, the terror organization rejected UN Security Council resolution 1701, which demanded all militias in Lebanon disband and transfer their resources to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
“The thing is Israel isn’t in Lebanon anymore, and Hezbollah is using its arms to control Lebanese politics, not to ‘resist’ Israel,” Jabbour tweeted, noting other militias complied with the UN resolution.
When Bloomberg News reported last week that Venezuela handed over half a billion dollars in gold bars to Iran, Lebanese businessman Waleed Abu Nassar tweeted his despair.
“How can we believe for a moment that a tiny country such as Lebanon will ever get out from under the influence of the Iranian regime and its leading militia Hezbollah,” Abu Nassar said.
As the economic crisis in her northern neighbor worsens, worried Israelis fear it is only a matter of time before Lebanon collapses economically and Hezbollah, armed and financed by Iran’s Ayatollahs, takes over.
“The only way to save Lebanon from Hezbollah’s clutches would be if the world responds to the plea of state officials for loans, but the corruption of the leaders makes it difficult for the world to do so,” Israel’s Makor Rishon newspaper commented.