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In Sending Aid, Arab Nations Bypass Lebanon’s Politicians

A cyclist rides past destroyed buildings and cars in a neighborhood near the site of last week's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 11, 2020.

Arab nations are offering Lebanon financial and in-kind support following the destruction of Beirut’s commercial center, businesses, offices, and port in last week’s devastating explosion.

Mideast analysts say there is some hope that the humanitarian assistance they offer, circumventing the government, will help to weaken the ruling elite that has maintained a system of patronage and financial mismanagement for decades since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Arab states including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others have sent tons of food and medicine, medical equipment and teams, as well as field hospitals to help the Lebanese people badly affected by the explosion that killed scores of people and left hundreds of thousand others homeless.

People sit near the site of last week's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 11, 2020.
People sit near the site of last week's explosion that hit the seaport of Beirut, Lebanon, Aug. 11, 2020.

Iraq has sent 800,000 liters of gasoline to Lebanon to help run generators for electricity. Qatar is the biggest single donor, contributing $50 million out of the $297 million pledged in international assistance.

Jordanian political analyst Labib Kamhawi tells VOA that primarily Sunni Arab donors are purposely bypassing Lebanon’s corrupt politicians and going straight to the people.

“So, bypassing the Lebanese government contributes to weakening this government further and to throw doubt on its legitimacy and credibility," Kamhawi said. "This could be used as a prelude to undermining the Lebanese state itself, and open the possibility to either civil war or the partitioning of Lebanon.”

Lebanon’s Cabinet has resigned over last week's devastating blast at the Beirut port, with several ministers quitting or expressing their intention to step down.

Columnist Baria Alamuddin and others writing in the Saudi daily, Arab News, say no one in the region is fooled by Lebanon’s powerful Iranian-back Shiite militia, Hezbollah, who ultimately holds the reins of power in the current government and “controls Lebanon’s ports, airports and national borders,” and has a “standard practice to store its weapons, in crowded areas, acting as a human shield against inevitable Israeli airstrikes.”

Alamuddin says Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is anxious to deny involvement in the blast. She says “Even if Hezbollah played no part in stockpiling these explosives, at the very least it failed to raise the alarm, despite its pretentions to act as Lebanon’s protector.

“Lebanon has deteriorated with such terrifying rapidity that it is now obvious to everybody that only a radical change of direction can save this nation,” Alamuddin warns.

Still, Kamhawi says the Lebanese government is already unraveling with resignations of ministers and lawmakers and threats issued by Nasrallah to anyone who tries to accuse Hezbollah of being responsible for the explosion whether directly or indirectly. Although, many do not want to see conflict erupt again, will the Lebanese be able to join hands across sectarian lines to unite?

"Maybe there is not enough polarization at the same time at the bottom, but at the top there is very, very clear polarization," Kamhawi said. "If, for example, the Christians or the Sunnis feel that they cannot get rid of Hezbollah and its hegemony over the state, I think they will go into civil war.

Alamuddin warns that “it is in Nasrallah’s interest to read the warning signs and acknowledge that attempts to dominate Lebanon have backfired, having served only to unite citizens against the movement and drag Lebanon to the brink of collapse.”