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Battleground Beirut: Western Colony or Back to the East?
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As much as Covid-19 has been instrumentalized by the 0.001% to social engineer a Great Reset, the Beirut tragedy is already being instrumentalized by the usual suspects to keep Lebanon enslaved.

Facing oh so timely color revolution-style “protests”, the current Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Diab has already resigned. Even before the port tragedy, Beirut had requested a $10 billion line of credit from the IMF – denied as long as trademark, neoliberal Washington consensus “reforms” were not implemented: radical slashing of public expenses, mass layoffs, across the board privatization.

Post-tragedy, President Emmanuel Macron – who’s not even capable of establishing a dialogue with the Gilets Jaunes/Yellow Vests in France – has opportunistically jumped in full neocolonial mode to pose as “savior” of Lebanon, as long as the same “reforms”, of course, are implemented.

On Sunday, France and the UN organized a videoconference to coordinate donor response – in conjunction with the European Commission (EC), the IMF and the World Bank. The result was not exactly brilliant: a paltry 252 million euros were pledged – once again conditioned by “institutional reforms”.

France came up with 30 million euros, Kuwait with 40 million, Qatar with 50 million and the EC with 68 million. Crucially, neither Russia nor Iran were among the donors. The US – which is harshly sanctioning Lebanon – and GCC allies Saudi Arabia and UAE pledged nothing. China had just a pro forma presence.

In parallel, Maronite Christians in Brazil – a very powerful community – are sending funds for the color revolution protests. Former President Michel Temer and industrialist tycoon Paulo Skaf even flew to Beirut. Former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel (1982-1988) maintained a lot of businesses in Brazil with funds he skimmed when in power.

All of the above points to neoliberalism taking no prisoners when it comes to keeping its deadly grip on Lebanon.

The Hariri model

Lebanon’s profound economic crisis, now aggravated by the Beirut port blast, has nothing to do with Covid-19 or the US proxy war on Syria – which brought a million refugees to the nation. It’s all about proverbial neoliberal shock and awe, conducted non-stop by the Hariri clan: former Prime Ministers Rafiq, assassinated in 2011, and Saad, chased out of power last January.

The Hariri model was focused on real estate speculation and financialization. The Solidere group, controlled by Arab investors and a few Lebanese, Hariri included, destroyed Beirut’s historical downtown and rebuilt it with luxury real estate. That’s the classical rentier neoliberalism model that always profits a tiny elite.

In parallel, the Bank of Lebanon was attracting funds from the tony Lebanese diaspora and assorted Arab investors by practicing very generous interest rates. Lebanon suddenly had an artificially strong currency.

A small middle class sort of flourished throughout the 2000s, comprising import-export traders, the tourism sector and financial market operators. Yet, overall, inequality was the name of the game. According to the World Inequality Database, half of Lebanon’s population now holds less wealth that the top 0.1%.

The bubble finally burst in September last year, when I happened to be in Beirut. With no US dollars in circulation, the Lebanese pound started to collapse in the black market. The Bank of Lebanon went berserk. When the Hariri racket imposed a “Whatsapp tax” over calls, that led to massive protests in October. Capital embarked on free flight and the currency collapsed for good.

There’s absolutely no evidence the IMF, the World Bank and assorted Western/Arab “donors” will extricate a now devastated Lebanon from the neoliberal logic that plunged it into a systemic crisis in the first place.

The way out would be to focus in productive investments, away from finance and geared towards the practical necessities of an austerity-battered and completely impoverished population.

Yet Macron, the IMF and their “partners” are only interested in keeping monetary “stability”; seduce speculative foreign capital; make sure that the rapacious, Western-connected Lebanese oligarchy will get away with murder; and on top of it buy scores of Lebanese assets for peanuts.

BRI or bust

In stark contrast with the exploitative perpetuation of the Western neoliberal model, China is offering Lebanon the chance to Go East, and be part of the New Silk Roads.

In 2017, Lebanon signed to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2018, Lebanon became the 87th member of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Over the past few years, Lebanon was already taking part in the internationalization of the yuan, offering bank accounts in yuan and increasing bilateral trade in yuan.

Beijing was already engaged in discussions revolving around the upgrading of Lebanese infrastructure – including the expansion of Beirut harbor.

This means that now Beijing may be in the position of offering a renewed, joint rebuilding/security deal for Beirut port – just as it was about to clinch a smaller agreement with Diab’s government, focused only on expansion and renovation.

The bottom line is that China has an actual Plan A to extricate Lebanon from its current financial dead end.

And that’s exactly what was, and remains, total anathema to US, NATO and Israel’s interests.

The Trump administration recently went no holds barred to prevent Israel from having China develop the port of Haifa.

The same “offer you can’t refuse” tactics will be applied with full force on whoever leads the new Lebanese government.

Beirut is an absolutely key node in BRI’s geopolitical/geoeconomic connectivity of the Eastern Mediterranean. With Haifa temporarily out of the picture, Beirut grows in importance as a gateway to the EU, complementing the role of Pireus and Italian ports in the Adriatic.

It’s crucial to note that the port itself was not destroyed. The enormous crater on site replaces only a section quayside – and the rest is on water. The buildings destroyed can be rebuilt in record time. Reconstruction of the port is estimated at $15 billion – pocket money for an experienced company such as China Harbor.

ORDER IT NOW

Meanwhile, naval traffic is being redirected to Tripoli port, 80 km north of Beirut and only 30 km away from the Lebanon-Syria border. Its director, Ahmed Tamer, confirms “the port has witnessed during the past years the expansion work by Chinese companies, and it has received the largest ships from China, carrying a big number of containers”.

Add to it the fact that Tripoli port will also be essential in the process of Syria reconstruction – to which China is totally committed.

BRI’s Southwest Asia connectivity network is a maze including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

China is already planning to invest in highway and railroads, further to be developed into high-speed rail. That will connect BRI’s central China-Iran corridor – fresh from the $400 billion, 25-year strategic partnership deal soon to be signed – with the Eastern Mediterranean.

Add to it the role of the port of Tartus in Syria – bearing a strong Russian naval presence. Beijing will inevitably invest in the expansion of Tartus – which is crucially linked by highway to Lebanon. The Russia-China strategic partnership will be involved in the protection of Tartus with S-300 and S-400 missile systems.

Historically, in a larger axis that went from Samarkand to Cordoba, with strong nodes such as Baghdad and Damascus, what slowly evolved in this part of Eurasia was a syncretic civilization superimposed over an ancestral regional, rural and nomad background. The internal cohesion of the Muslim world was forged from the 7th century to the 11th century: that was the key factor that shaped the lineaments of a coherent Eurasia.

Apart from Islam, Arabic – the language of religion, administration, trade and culture – was an essential unifying factor. This evolving Muslim world was configured as a vast economic and cultural domain whose roots connected to Greek, Semitic, Persian, Indian and Arab thought. It was a marvelous synthesis that formed a unique civilization out of elements of different origin – Persian, Mesopotamian, Byzantine.

The Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean were of course part of it, totally open towards the Indian Ocean, the Caspian routes, Central Asia and China.

Now, centuries later, Lebanon should have everything to gain by ditching the “Paris of the Orient” mythology and looking East – again, thus positioning itself on the right side of History.

(Republished from Asia Times by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Mr. Grey says:

    The internal cohesion of the Muslim world was forged from the 7th century to the 11th century

    Funny how when the West does that it’s called imperialism, colonialism, genocide.

    Arabic – the language of religion, administration, trade and culture – was an essential unifying factor

    I guess erasing indigenous cultures can sometimes be fun, if it’s done the “right” way.

    • Agree: anonymous1963
  2. JVC says:

    According to the World Inequality Database, half of Lebanon’s population now holds less wealth that the top 0.1%

    seems to me that has become universal in the west

  3. A123 says:

    After the explosion of Iranian al’Hezbollah Warehouse #12, Christians and Druze are rejecting Muslim rule. The most likely scenario is partion:

    — North Lebanon — Muslim
    — South Lebanon — Christian & Druze

    Trying to hold Lebanon together will lead to a failed state. However, there is the possibility that external pressure will prevent a partition plan. This must be considered as a possible worst case scenario.

    PEACE 😇

    • Agree: Bardon Kaldian
    • Troll: Iris
  4. TG says:

    Don’t forget the population pressure. It’s difficult to get hard numbers because there hasn’t been a formal census in Lebanon since I think 1932, but I see estimates that in 2000 the population of Lebanon was about 3.5 million, and today is perhaps double that. That’s a lot of poor people to dump into a small resource-poor country in an historically short amount of time. Certainly Lebanon is being targeted by the neoliberals for de-facto slavery, and they have all manner of external and internal political problems, no denying it. But this massive population increase, for a nation with no open frontier, has pretty much never gone well.

    I know, many people will scream in mindless frenzy “the more the merrier! People are the ultimate resource!” Well, that hasn’t worked out so well in Mexico, or India, or Pakistan, or Indonesia, or Haiti, or Yemen, or Syria, or Guatemala…. Without an open frontier, more people can only produce more if FIRST the investments in developing new resources and building more industrial infrastructure are made. The mere existence of a few million penniless refugees dumped into a country does not automatically and instantly cause water desalinization plants to spring up out of the desert sands…

    “The great events of history are often due to secular changes in the growth of population and other fundamental economic causes, which, escaping by their gradual character the notice of contemporary observers, are attributed to the follies of statesmen or the fanaticism of atheists”
    John Maynard Keynes, “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”, 1919.

  5. There are re-sets and then there are re-sets. My trust in China is far from absolute. My trust in the bank$ter-dominated West can be closely calculated as absolute ZERO.

    In the case of China, the lesser of two evils must prevail if Lebanon is to be rescued from their own money grubbers in total alliance with the Rothschild Crime Clan, their Zionist pet-project and all Western nations ruled from behind the scenes by their privately-owned central banks.

    • Agree: Joe Levantine
  6. @A123

    A-hole123 has been directed from his Mo$$ad handlers to get on this one asap and to smear Zionist feces all over the protectors of Lebanon (Hezbollah) from genocidal intent on the part of the alien current occupiers of the land which has been the native homefor countless centuries by the folks 80% genetically descended from the ancient Hebrew people of Palestine.

    The Rothschild-Zionist plotters are becoming desperate that messages other than those under their controlled media memes are getting out of their control.

    The Sayanim, Hasbara and Anti-Defecation League posters who infest ALL internet discussion sites are part of those ultra-racists who consider themselves “chosen” by their own self-created tribal WarGod, Yahweh—may he drown in boiling excrement.

  7. jsinton says:

    Always trust Escobar to see everything from the prism of the Silk Road initiative. As if that’s all that matters.

    While I think the NWO Neo-liberal powers are actively trying to sink the Silk Road, that’s not what is the primary motivation of the war against the Lebanese economy. In Lebanon, the priority is the destruction of Hezbollah and the Iranian influence in Syria and beyond.

    Port of Beirut has long since seen its heyday. It was once the gateway between the Middle East and Europe, but now no more. Successive conflicts with the Zionists, the Lebanese Civil war, the wave of car bomb assassinations during the 00’s with the coinciding of Hezbollah to political power, and the Syrian civil war have made it something of a pariah destination. The Silk Road initiative could only hope to use it as a port for trade to Lebanon and Syria. Jordan doesn’t need it. There’s no links through Turkey under the present condition. The gulf states don’t use it anymore. The Turks want to kill off Syria and Hezbollah too.

    The real issue is Hezbollah and Iran. Hezbollah and Iran are the Zionist’s greatest enemy. The destruction of Hezbollah is key to Israeli security. Without bases in Syria and Lebanon, the Iranians cannot really mount an effective counter to the Saudi-Zionists foe in the immediate region. Without Hezbollah, the Israelis finally get a little peace and quiet. The destruction of the Lebanese economy, the US sanctions on Lebanon in spite of the port explosion are a means to that end.

    It’s all about Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a “state within a state” with it’s own army that ordinary Lebanese have no sovereign control over. Lebanon suffers because if it. That’s why Lebanon has gone steady downhill for 20 years. When Hezbollah is gone or neutralized, you’ll see a prosperous Lebanon again. Otherwise the potential for war and the total destruction of Lebanon is more than likely in my judgment. The Hariris know this, as does everyone else with a brain in Beirut.

    Every article Escobar writes revolves around his Silk Road. He’s got to be a China shill. I guess the money is good.

    • Troll: L.K
    • Replies: @A123
    , @L.K
  8. Speaking of $hills, here’s jewsintown again attempting to look objective while smearing dreck all over Hezbollah, the only obstacle in the way of the Eretz Yisroel project from conquering Lebanon and seizing/stealing their land at least up to the Litani River Valley.

    Note to all posters: If the general tone of a posting comes down hard on Hezbollah, you may rest assured that that individual works for the enemies of common humanity (we Goyim).

    • Agree: GeeBee, Joe Levantine
  9. A123 says:
    @jsinton

    Always trust Escobar to see everything from the prism of the Silk Road initiative. As if that’s all that matters.

    It is quite puzzling. Despite the name “One Belt, One Road” [OBOR], it is actually One Belt, Two Roads:

    — The Silk Road leg has consumed huge amounts of money with little to show.
    — The Iron Road (or Steel Road), rail and pipeline with Russia, is a no brainer financial and resources win.
    — The Sea Belt is also a win, and ties to long term strategy. Western companies have been burned in Africa so many times that there is near 0% attention and thus no Western resistance to Chinese ventures.

    One would think that writing about China’s successful Sea Belt achievements & global vision would be much more interesting and valuable. There is very little English language coverage of the Sea Belt, so the author would have the opportunity to gain new readers.

    PEACE 😇

    • Thanks: jsinton
  10. Brilliant essay.

    All for China rebuilding and expanding the port. Beirut should be a cultural and commercial hub of the east Mediterranean.

    How about China parking there some of its new generation carriers, destroyers, and amphibious landing craft to keep the peace? Something like Wyatt Earp bringing peace to Dodge City. New sheriff in town.

    Better yet, how about Russia and China team up to rebuild both Syria and Lebanon. Their burgeoning partnership could bear practical fruit in the West. China’s new maglev trains (600km/hr) could unite these ME outposts with military and economic powerhouses, just as railroads helped build the American west.

    If the Whore of Babylon (the West) had her way, she would enslave every inch of God’s green earth. And should we land on Mars, she would immediately turn that fair red planet into a strip mining colony named Off-World USA Inc. Let Lebanon find new partners and declare her freedom. For Beirut, how about Shanghai on the Med?

    • Replies: @Robert White
  11. @SeekerofthePresence

    I fully agree with your comments here. The USA and Israel can literally fuck off when it comes to Lebanon now that this false flag bombing has occurred to devastate their entire economy and markets.

    The Lebanon bombing is yet another 911 debacle foisted upon the world. The CIA and Israeli Intelligence has gone too far vis-a-vis Lebanon IMHO.

    Smedley Butler comes to mind regarding the latest USA and Israel incursions into Lebanon markets via the IMF whoredom of Neoliberalism run amok.

    RW

    • Agree: SeekerofthePresence
    • Thanks: Joe Levantine
  12. The Israelis are supposed to be smart. Why is it that they think getting rid of Hezbollah and grabbing more land will give them a peaceful existence?

    The Israelis should be grateful that only Hezbollah is in their way. If they were successful in terminating Hezbollah and annexing the lands of Lebanon, they would simply run up against larger and more powerful obstacles, China and Russia directly.

    Be careful what you wish for comes to mind.

  13. MEexpert says:
    @A123

    You must have nightmares about Al-Khamenei and Al-Hezbollah. Get some sleeping pills.

    • Replies: @A123
  14. A123 says:
    @MEexpert

    You must have nightmares about Al-Khamenei and Al-Hezbollah. Get some sleeping pills.

    My opposition to evil delivers unto me, “The Sleep of the Just”.

    Unusual posting times are due to needing less sleep than many. My sleep is just, righteous, and efficient.

    PEACE 😇

  15. Lebanon is a shithole like all Arab, Muslim and middle eastern countries. If it wants to “look east” that is fine. And the west should keep its aid money for its own countries. Let “the east” take care of it.

    • Replies: @MEexpert
  16. MEexpert says:
    @anonymous1963

    The western aid is a myth. The East would love for the West to leave it alone. But the West wants to steal East’s oil under the guise of Western aid. The so-called liberation of Iraq was nothing but another country with oil that the West could steal. Iran has done nothing to the West, yet the West is trying hard to bring her down so that they could then go in steal Iran’s oil as well.

    • Agree: Iris
  17. @A123

    Where is there any evidence that Hezbollah was storing weapons there…. In fact – that would defeat their purpose. Their fight is not in Beirut. Nor can they use those to make weapons to fight Israel. So what would be the point???

    • Troll: A123
    • Replies: @A123
  18. @MEexpert

    More than the oil – it was also about the currency. Saddam – like Ghadaffi after him wanted to break the US dollar stranglehold. That’s why both were taken out. Neither of them were saints – but yeah it was all about the money….

  19. Great article by Escobar though I note one correction: Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in 2005 not 2011.

    Now, for the historic choice that Lebanon should follow, there is no doubt that those in Lebanon still clinging to the nostalgia of Beirut serving as the hospital, the hotel, the university, the bank, the night club and the transit point into the Middle East, are nothing more than drifters into self delusion. The service economy served Lebanon well until the beginning of the civil war in 1975, which finally ended in 1990 after the signing of the Taif Agreement in 1989 in Saudi Arabia, which was soon followed by the entry of Rafiq Hariri into the political scene where he announced a reconstruction program that immersed the Lebanese society into the worst neoliberal nightmare that this country had ever experienced based on oligarchic control through monopolistic shenanigans in the cellular telecommunication sector and outright theft of private property in downtown Beirut from it’s generational owners in favour Hariri and his Lebanese and Arabian Gulf business buddies. Hariri’s bet was that peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours would soon materialise and Lebanon should be prepared to reclaim his role in the service sector. The reckless Hariri plan, where corruption and the partitioning of the pie between the warlords turned politicians and the mega rich capitalist class, put Lebanon on the road to total bankruptcy which was postponed by Hariri bringing new funds from the international community through Paris I, Paris I and Paris III financing conferences.

    Lebanon had suffered from the presence of close to half a million Palestinian refugees which was the catalyst for the civil war, and is now burdened by an additional more than one million refugees from Syria courtesy of the Western instigated war against Bashar Al Assad, for the sole purpose of securing Israel’s position as the guardian of Western imperialist interests, the Levant be damned. Lebanon’s total lack of sovereignty under the Syrian, Saudi, American influence totally decimated the democratic process and gave the oligarchs unrestrained access to looting the country under a constitution that is designed to weaken the leadership of the executive branch with the added curse of a judicial system that gradually lost its independence after the end of the civil war and drifted under the thumb of the political body.

    This miserable state of governance will be unable to reach out for the big opportunities that the BRI could open to Lebanon. The only party that is able to boldly push in the direction of the East is Hezbollah and this is one more reason, beyond Israel’s plans to controls South Lebanon and its water resources, to keep the party of resistance in the West’s crosshairs. Until a new constitution is agreed to by the the Lebanese protagonists that would strengthen the executive head of the government, Lebanon will pander to the IMF and suffer the economic and social consequences and will miss the BRI train.

  20. A123 says:
    @showmethereal

    Lebanese Customs Col. Joseph Skaf was going to have the NH4-NO3 removed from the port. To keep the material there, Nasrallah had him assassinated.

    Use of human shields is a core Iranian al’Hezbollah tactic. By leaving the material near civilians, Nasrallah discouraged attacks on the weapons depot.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @showmethereal
  21. L.K says:
    @jsinton

    He’s got to be a China shill. I guess the money is good

    SAYS PAID ZIONIST SHILL “jsinton”.

  22. @A123

    You don’t seem to understand what “evidence” means.

    • Replies: @A123
  23. A123 says:
    @showmethereal

    You do not seem to understand what “reality” is.

    PEACE 😇

    • Troll: showmethereal
  24. Escobar presents a very romanticized view of the Silk Road civilization that Islam forged from the 7th century on. The West did the same at it was considered colonialism. Islam has a wonderful side, but they forced a lot of conversions, and killed a lot of people in the quest for dominance. In the end sans any interference from the West, Islamic countries and Muslims never get along amongst themselves. They are always fighting. Lebanon has to work out their sectarian problems. Most problems will be solved if all of Arabia could make peace with Israel, especially Lebanon. Iran is the cancer over there, not Israel.

  25. @MEexpert

    I opposed the war on Iraq and oppose any war with Iran.

  26. Avianthro says:

    Thinking a bit longer term and on the larger, overall Middle Eastern scale here: The overwhelmingly important, virtually only real interest the US has in the Middle East is its oil fields, and the maintenance of the petrodollar system. Our support of Israel depends more on this than on anything else, with Israel long being our “aircraft carrier” in the ME to help protect our oil interests there.

    Every day the oil fields are a bit closer to running dry…

    For China right now, the oil fields are also clearly the major feature of interest, absolutely essential to keep their economy running, but for them Lebanon and Israel are also nations that offer key port facilities to connect with the EU via land and sea. Lebanon’s short term fate may remain in the hands of those who want to stay on the US side, but its longer term fate, post-oil, seems inevitably leading back to simply being a place along the land road and with a port on the Mediterranean, a pass-through between the Orient and Europe. The same may also turn out to be Israel’s best future although at least Israel has been developing its own hi-tech domestic scientific and industrial abilities that could make it more than just a pass-through service nation. As the ME oil runs out like sand in an hourglass, the game in the ME is heading for a return to a ME whose role is simply as a crossroads between the East and the non-US West (Europe), and the US may on some golden, glorious day be free of its cares in the ME…Oh, of course the US MIC will remain a happy provider of weapons to those left in the ME who have money to buy, but then that may not be many.

    • Replies: @Fran Taubman
  27. @Avianthro

    That is why peace with Israel is so strategic over there. When the oil runs out there is only Israel to lead all those countries out of the dark ages. And they will do it. Altruistically help those countries become normal economically. It is a done deal. The Jihad against Israel and the Jews is over. What does Hezbollah or Hamas have to offer? They all want to be close to Israel. The Palestinians bet wrong.

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