Nearly Two Years Have Past From the Explosion at the Beirut Port: Where is Lebanon Now?

Jack Thompson

    On August 4th, 2020, tragedy struck the nation of Lebanon. At the port of the capital, Beirut, nearly 3000 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded. Videos of the blast and its aftermath flooded social media around the world, as questions of the cause became front and center. Was this a terrorist attack? A military strike? Nope, just ignorantly stored materials. This fact on its own did not necessarily implicate the government. However, the fact that the government knew that this was being stored at the port in an unsafe fashion and failed to act was enough to upset the people of Lebanon. Protests reminiscent of the Arab spring erupted and six days later, the government resigned. Essentially, the prime minister and his cabinet abandoned ship, leaving parliament to appoint a new prime minister. The issue with this however, was that parliament was the root of the sectarian conflicts that the protests sought to destroy. The Lebanese parliament is made up of religious factions, none of which are able to gain a majority. This typically leads to fierce fighting upon religious lines, which renders the government as a whole relatively impotent. Chaos ensued and nearly two years later, it is time we revisit the small nation.


    After Saad Harri, the former prime minister, failed to form a government, a member of parliament, Najib MIkati, was chosen to fill the role. A former minister, Mikati was most well known for his career as a businessman. On July 26th of 2021, he was sworn into office, and swiftly declared that he intended to have a technocratic government, with no parliament or representatives. This dampened the joy of having a new leader for the Lebanese people, who now found themselves in a worse position than before. After tense negotiations with Lebanese politicians, Mikati agreed to form a government of twenty-four members in September of 2021. From this point, things took a turn for the worst in Lebanon. Economically, the country was well past the point of collapse, something that was not helped by the copious amounts of corruption in Mikati’s government. This corruption has prevented other Arab nations from jumping in to save the drowning Lebanon. Syrians taking refuge from Bashar Al-Assad in Lebanon complain of the immense poverty that they find themselves in upon arriving in Lebanon. 


    For many, the course of events that led to this economic crisis was confirmation of what they had feared for years. The political class had become the only class to control the wealth of the country. With the invasion of Ukraine, prices of everyday goods skyrocketed and the economy tanked even further. As the disintegration of the country played out before his eyes, Mikati announced he would not run for reelection, upending the balance of power that the Sunniś had cultivated, and further destabilizing the country that has still not recovered from the blast that crippled them. Sixty-three percent of the population says they want out of Lebanon permanently, per a Gallup poll. In that same poll, eighty-five percent said they are struggling to get by, meaning being able to eat and clothe themselves properly. Recently a judge indicted a bank chief who had served for three decades in a corruption scheme that saw the political elite of Lebanon blatantly stealing foreign aid for themselves. While all of this is happening, there are 6.8 million people who can hardly afford to eat. There is still another year of Mikatiś term, and there is little hope for him to fix the issues plaguing Lebanon. However, the larger fear is what will happen in September of 2023, when the government again sits vacant.