With at least 157 people dead and 5,000 people wounded, immense public anger is rising in the Lebanese capital.
As the smoke clears from two horrific explosions that leveled the Port of Beirut, some of that anger is directed at the Lebanese government, which some say is corrupt and possibly criminally negligent for allowing such a huge amount of dangerous, explosive materials to be stored in such an unsafe manner at the port.
Some of that anger is directed at Hezbollah — the “Party of God” — the Iranian-backed terrorist organization that increasingly controls the political and economic life of the country and is widely blamed for the economic suffering of the country.
Such anger boiled over Thursday as crowds welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived in Beirut on Thursday to see the devastation first-hand and to offer both his condolences and his country’s financial assistance to recover and rebuild.
“Free us from Hezbollah!” some of the crowd demanded of Macron.
“Macron visited shell-shocked Beirut Thursday, pledging support and urging change after a massive explosion devastated the Lebanese capital in a disaster that has sparked grief and fury,” reported French TV news channel 24.
“I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact,” Macron promised. “I am here today to propose a new political pact to them.”
Macron, whose country once ruled Lebanon and Syria from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I to the establishment of two independent nation states after World War II, insisted that did not endorse the current “regime” governing Lebanon.
What’s more, he vowed that the financial aid that France is offering would not fall into the “hands of corruption.”
“I see the emotion on your face, the sadness, the pain — this is why I’m here,” the French president said, according to a Reuters dispatch, adding that “what is…needed here is political change. This explosion should be the start of a new era.”
Is Macron really calling for regime change?
It certainly sounded that way. Indeed, that’s the way many heard it.
But does he really intend to pry Hezbollah’s grip — and, by extension, Iran’s grip — from Lebanon’s throat?
Lebanon was once described as the “Switzerland of the Middle East.” Today, tragically, it is an economic basket case and effectively an Iranian vassal state.
Could Macron possibly commit the political will, much less the economic and military muscle, that would be necessary to truly liberate the people of Lebanon from the forces Iranian radicalism and home-grown corruption and mismanagement?
That would be something — but count me skeptical.
Macron said he plans to return to Lebanon on September 1st.
For the moment, “the Lebanese Army stepped in Wednesday to assume security operations in the capital amid a two-week state of emergency,” reported Fox News. “Losses from the blast are estimated to be between $10 billion to $15 billion, Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud told Saudi-owned TV station Al-Hadath, adding that nearly 300,000 people are homeless.”
Those estimates are double or triple what Lebanese officials were saying just 24 hours earlier.
[Photo credit: Reuters / Al Arabiya]
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