The value of the Lebanese pound is collapsing very quickly, while the government fixes its official rate of 1,500 pounds per US dollar, while the price of the pound on the black market is 10 times that value. The Lebanese have always realized how the ruling elites in their country divert or steal billions of dollars that the international community and the World Bank have provided to their government, but the decline their national currency is facing poses a great challenge to their daily lives, in a way they have not seen since the civil war stage 1975-1992. .
About two weeks ago, a fist fight broke out in a number of stores in the city of Nabatiyeh, in southern Lebanon, in the Hezbollah stronghold. A week ago, disturbances almost erupted in various areas of the “Rimal” chain of stores owned by “Hezbollah” in Dahiyeh, Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut, when shoppers were fighting to obtain subsidized foodstuffs.
During the past week, the situation has become tense again. The road that passes from southern Lebanon to its north along the Syrian border is considered a lifeline for Lebanon. Although diplomats and journalists say that the residents of southern Lebanon are mostly Shiites, this is not the case, but rather more complicated, because the road passes through many non-Shiite towns. During the past days, residents of Naameh, a town 12 miles south of Beirut, whose residents are not Shiites, blocked this important road. Other non-Shiites also came from the mountain town of Barja, to block the road in the town of Jiyeh, which is six miles from Naameh. In fact, the closure of the road is not just a clear protest movement, but rather results in impeding the ability and movement of “Hezbollah” to distribute the goods and money that it receives from Beirut’s port and airport to its followers in the south.
That is why the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, was alarmed. On March 18, Nasrallah said in his speech: “I say to those who block the road and cause many people to starve, that you are increasing poverty and putting the country on the brink of civil war. I tell good people who have been insulted in certain ways, to be patient because we will find a solution to this problem.
During his speech, activist Jamal Tiro, from the town of Barja, tweeted, saying: “Nasrallah speaks in his speech about blocking the road, while he closes the entire country and prevents it from breathing.” Hezbollah responded to him by posting his photo, address and phone number on social media, and this means, nowadays, a reward for whoever kills the activist Teru. However, the latter expressed his challenge, noting that the party has no choice “but to remain calm or suffocate, because no one will come to its aid.”
Hezbollah’s actions show the extent of its emotion and weakness, and the increased willingness of the local population, even after the killing of Luqman Salim, to stand up to the party. At the same time, the party’s strength appears to have diminished, and large numbers are still in Syria, and the party’s reduced ability to provide bribes has reduced its influence on the Lebanese army.
There is a belief in the US State Department that the United States should release funds to Iran, or enable the Iranian government to receive frozen funds from elsewhere to start the diplomatic process. The irony is that not only does providing such funds to Tehran reduce US influence, despite the great importance of this influence, but because such funds can increase Hezbollah’s resources and power, at a time when the United States wants to strip it of this power. In practical terms, the diplomatic strategy of US President Joe Biden and his secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, toward Tehran strengthens Hezbollah. It is illogical and evidence of a far from reality and useless policy to reach its desired goals.
It is time, now, for Biden and Blinken to reconsider the implications of their Iran policy, so that it does not backfire.
• Hezbollah’s behavior shows the extent of its emotion and weakness, and the increased willingness of the local population, even after the killing of Luqman Salim, to stand up to the party.
Michael Rubin – American writer specializing in the Middle East
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