A “week of wrath” has descended on Beirut where bank branches have had their windows smashed as protesters destroyed their ATMs and broke the security cameras.
The central bank of Lebanon has been targeted with protesters and security forces clashing outside of it.
“Beirut’s most bustling commercial boulevards, Hamra Street, also packed with theaters and restaurants, was deserted late Tuesday save for protesters and security forces,” says the Associated Press. “Local TV stations carried the pitched street battles live, including late night arrests of at least half a dozen protesters.”
“Security forces injured a Reuters video journalist who was treated in hospital and released. Lebanese broadcasters Al Jadeed and MTV said security forces injured a cameraman for each of them as well,” says Reuters.
A financial crisis has engulfed Lebanon for months with banks imposing informal restrictions on withdrawals and transfers outside of the country.
The crisis was met with peaceful protests, but anger has now seemingly reached new levels as Lebanese people become frustrated with the political process.
The country is without a mandated Prime Minister since October, with a UN official blaming the political class for the outpouring of anger on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Some 40 protests have been injured and a likewise number of security forces as the latter threw tear gas while the former responded with rocks and fireworks in street battles.
The Lebanese Pound has collapsed, down 60% in the past two weeks in informal markets, while formally it is pegged to the dollar.
“Some people don’t have food on their table,” said Samer al-Khoury, a 29-year-old protester.
Some are claiming students are joining. Rabie al-Zain, an activist protesting in Jal el-Dib, north of Beirut, said:
“Today we add the students to the revolution — those who will handle the country when the current rulers will go to the dustbin of history.”
The government of Lebanon borrowed dollars from banks, with such dollars mostly deposited by Lebanese people.
They borrowed and borrowed to the point there was nothing left to borrow, with debt spiraling out of hand.
So they turned to Lebanese people and made them aware the government had fiddled accounts and had spent too much and now there was no money left.
They asked them to pay up through numerous taxes, including on whatsapp messages. The response they got was the entire Lebanon on the streets.
The Prime Minister said: F this, I’m out. While the people danced hand in hand as they raised the fist of revolution.
Hezbollah moves in at this point, sending in its own “protesters,” and to pay for it they turn to Iran.
Iran obliges, given them a lot of money, but Iran barely had any for itself. So Iran turns to its own people and basically says you pay for this. What they told the people however was they were removing fuel subsidies to give more money to the poor.
Iranians rose up, knowing well what was going on, and they burned a bank in the biggest protest since the theocratic revolution came to power.
The Iranian people were gunned down by their own government during a week of no internet.
In Iraq protests had been going on for weeks with the government there unable to calm them despite gunning down many, many of its own people.
Then we have the New Year interlude that begins 2020 with a very bizarre week of Trump v Khomenei which conveniently distracts them both from their own troubles back home, with the show ending just as quickly as it began.
So the people of Lebanon have turned back to the problem of no money and for some of them, no food.
Well, no more wars would be a good start. Lebanon is a sophisticated and cultured country, primarily because of its opportune geographical location that made them a trading nation.
The rise of the theocratic ideology, however, torn this once rich and beautiful nation apart in one of the longest war between Lebanese muslims and Lebanese christians, both being around 50% of the country.
The end of that civil war did not bring an end to war. There were troubles and troubles and troubles, including a brief war with Israel in 2006.
To pay for all these animosities, countries usually just inflate their own currencies, but because that is expected in the case of Lebanon, no one wants the Lebanese Pound.
The economy is instead dollarized and only the FED can inflate that one. So the government did the next best thing and just “borrowed” from their own people to the point of bankruptcy.
In addition you’d expect some incompetence at the political level because instead of appointing key positions based on merits, they have a unique sectarian system which requires “its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, its prime minister be Sunni Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister be Greek Orthodox.”
Imagine for example Boris Johnson being shiite and Jeremy Corbyn being sunni and they being the only best ones to fulfill these key positions and so have to work together in government.
There was a period in the 60s however when this system did work fine, but now even amidst a crisis they can’t agree on who should be Prime Minister.
These political troubles are compounded by regional troubles, in particular Syria. As its neighbor, Lebanon hosts 1.5 million Syrian refugees. America and Russia, as well as Iran, should pay for them instead of innocent Lebanon, but they’re obviously the main ones paying for it.
So the solution is simple. No more wars. Get secular democracy that keeps religion in the home and not in government maybe under some banner like the religion of Lebanon is Lebanon. Implement a robust civil service that enforces the rule of law. Open up the borders and get those trading ships going again. Maybe even invite some French advisors to guide on how to get a functioning civil service that can restore trust on their national money.
Implementing all of that however in a way most in Lebanon are in agreement is obviously very difficult, if at all possible, but Lebanon knows it can be a rich and prosperous country because it was before 1975, so there’s no fundamental reason why it can’t be rich and prosperous again.