By Pepe Escobar – republished from Asia Times by permission of author
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.
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.
Inspiring article by Pepe……the Joe Who Never Sleeps. As opposed to the Dem nominee and his Running Mate……who sleeps around….A LOT.
(if the above joek is incomprehensible to any reader…..just note that “Pepe” is what Russians call the “sweet name” for the Iberian José = Joseph = Joe just as “Sasha” is the sweet name for both Alexander and Alexandra.)
The article puts me in a very upbeat, but ironic……… frame of mind. AND, speaking of names there is one that we may not be able to forget about this winter (unless you’re betting on the two sleepers….I’m not….) so we need to think ahead about Beirut as the Port to the Occident (as opposed to Pearl of the Orient) for MINIMALLY the next half decade of its becoming that………
Which is why I am “playing around”….like Kamala….with this sentence from the fine article by Mr Escobar:
“Reconstruction of the port is estimated at $15 billion – pocket money for an experienced company such as China Harbor.”
And, ever in search of rhymes for important names and verbs….my thought was,…..” Hmmm….’pocket money’?…..yeah, OK…that’s magnitude accuracy. But how about THIS alternative, that is multidimensional, maybe more multi-use…..including for a bit of fun Master Troll trolling: “chump change”
Which naturally leads to “Trump Change”.
He DOES have a sense of humor, you know!
In my imagination Xi is needling him with that formulation…..in the near future. After the new port is completed.
“Don’t worry Don. We took care of it! And it only cost us some Trump change.
You know, some of those T-bills that bear Zero Interest? we finally found a use for them!”
What does Trump have to do with this issue??
Pardon Pepe mais… as I mentioned on previous discussions, now further indications from En.globes.co.il Chino-Haifa project is still creepi g discreetly ahead. Sure, Pompeissimo pleading visit means all Haifa and Telaviv politicos and media are deadly silent.. Yes, in spite of loud sqawks from concerned citizens and overpaid dock workers. But Chinese ZPMC delivered cranes, robots etc., Shanghai Port whatever, are NOT speaking of cancellation. Its due to start ops in early 2021. Chinese also successfully completed Carmel tunnel etc., Zionists have to give poor ranting Pompeo some slack.. nobody out of US takes this depraved evangelical nitwit seriously. Silence is golden… After US elections it will be far away… China-Iran 400 billion deal, now that will need one hell of a suppository to stop that…
Uh, sorry but there will be no Chinese built port in Haifa. Why would there be one.
Israel sure isn’t acting in a peaceful way to her neighbors. And it simply would make no sense. Perhaps wishful thinking.
Israel put in a bid, Lebanon put in a bid. Naturally, Beirut won. Exactly after the announcement, Trumps admin put sanctions and tariffs on China.
Now that makers sense.
Yes, you are right the US since 2018 have been making loud protests about Chinese investments in many infrastructure projects in Israel-Palestine. Over the past 2 years ex-CIA director, fatso Pompeissimo has been sqawking/shouting particulary loudly, with visits to Telaviv. But like his so called boss, Trumpissimo, who squawks even more, many non-US zombies and goyim ie., myself, are now suffering from deafness (self induced..).
Please remember the WISE WORDS of their noble leader Bibi Naughty, still out on parole (he should be in jail..Guantanamo has free cages at the moment!!).
´´The support we have from the USA is ABSURD“..
There are more rabid/fanatical Christian Evangelical Zionists in the USA than there are Israelis (Note: lumping/collecting together genuine Jews, Zionists, Bible thumping settlers, Talmudic Khazanis, Sephads, new Russian secular opportunists etc.,)
Please refer to::
“The residents of Haifa Bay are living on a barrel of explosives´´.The Beirut attack could be heard in Haifa…..
Telaviv politicians and media are maintaining strict silence and secrecy on the almost completed Chino-Ziono Haifa container port. The same silence/denial technique has been applied to the Zionist nuke program since 1960s..it is seemingly most effective!!!
Jul 20, 2020 – The familiar view of Haifa Bay is changing beyond recognition. The construction of the new Bay Port by Chinese company SIPG is well …
ZPMC shipped the first batch of 4 STSs and 2 RMGs of Israel Haifa Automatic Terminal to HaifaPort, the largest one on May 5th 2020. These cranes have now been erected.!!
also Shanghai port website http://www.portshanghai.com.cn/en/
Jordan and Saudi Arabia will also be delighted with the completion of this container terminal, as Saudi port building plans in Yemen are suffering delays caused by those ungrateful Houthis!!
Furthermore, the North Stream gas pipeline from Russia to still occupied Germany (25000 US grunts left) will also be completed by mid 2021. Again endless cubic meters of flatulent mendacity streaming out of Washington and Langley..
PSSST.. Quote: for a familiar view of Haifa Bay !!, apparently my Google Earth suffers from amnesia too.. the latest photos are only 2016….well, well…could it be those nude Zionist lovelies sunning their secular buns on the polluted beaches or.. perhaps those super quiet German built (and subsidized..) submarines equipped with mini-nuke missiles etc., need discreet and secure `Hezbollah rocket proof` pens (shelters..).
Really appreciate your perspectives. I couldn’t understand Macron’s actions. I was.far from.thinking that he was so committed to the international financial world. I’m afraid of his initiative in building the new Europe. I hope Germany sees through all this. His bosses (the City) are really despirate to keep control (financial) of that 500 million plus workers production even after the Brexit.
Very nice article!
Reagrding Iran not being among donors, how could Iran provide that when they can’t use international banking system and SWIFT? How will those effected people in Iran under hard sanctions react to that? On the other hand Iran will for sure help Libanon
With Russia’s immediate aid, 5 IL-76 plane loads of medical, search teams and doctors, with supplies, mobile hospital, etc, the government also asked for Russia to provide reconstruction aid in the form of aluminum, wood, and other materials.
Iran could do the same. Aid in materials is better than sending money. Too much corruption in Lebanon.
Also, such aid would empower Hezbollah’s role on the ground aiding the whole of society. It’s physical and immediate. And rebuilding homes and businesses will help them rebuild their reputation, countering the Infowar demonizing them and Nasrallah.
If Iran could ferry aid all the way across the Atlantic to Venezuela, running the gauntlet of the US navy, it should find no difficulty in ferrying material aid to Lebanon.
It already did. Iran was the first country to send tons of aid. As usual they dont credit for it.
thank you saker, thank you pepe.
Who controls the port of Tripoli, I wonder …
I never hear about the Lebanese people. There used to be a fairly strong left. Where is it? Are there any political organizations, any parties that want progressive change? If not why not? Are the people going to passively wait for the elites and foreign powers to determine their fate?
@carl 122 This Grayzone interview speaks a lot to the miserable condition of the Lebanon political scene.
As per our exchange.
“As much as Covid-19 has been instrumentalized by the 0.001% to social engineer a Great Reset”.
Some more answers here. https://swprs.org/a-swiss-doctor-on-covid-19/
And the great reset is based on the great climatebunk – A technocratic world order based on scientific fraud throughout.
Actually, I keep on re-reading the first sentence of this great article and as much as I wouldn’t want to assume what Pepe is actually saying. Well…
A pandemic was THE best way to bring about a great reset according to the terms of the guys who planned it and who are behind SDG 2030 and a bunch of other things. So no, no nuflu and it was pre-ready to be super-hyped so as to bring their agenda about. I actually discussed this at length during two-side events at the UNHRC in Geneva in front of dozens of people since early 2019. Do I have a crystal ball or is it in your face and you guys are not seeing it?
Like I said Saker, I am happy to debate you and Pepe. If Pepe says what he is saying, then it doesn’t add up.
And with the greatest admiration for you both and much respect, this is precisely where the fanboy thing clogs one’s judgment.
The natural road to the east is Beirut, Damascus, at-Tanf, Baghdad, Tehran, and so forth. US military blocks the road at at-Tanf. Luxury condos/hotels/playgrounds built on the newly cleared harbourlands, occupied by wealthy elites from all over the Mediterranean and Middle East, will nicely block Beirut.
The next route, Tartus, Homs, Palmyra, and Deir ez-Zor, is blocked by US military in the east bank oil region.
The ancient route Latakia, ar-Raqqah, and al-Hasakah, is blocked by US, Turk, Kurd militaries.
US chaos in Syria (as in Ukraine), while certainly about pipelines and Iran, is surely more significant to blocking the New Silk Road.
However as usual you completely sidestep Africans as contributors to islam.
The author writes:
“This evolving Muslim world was configured as a vast economic and cultural domain whose roots connected to Greek, Semitic, Persian, Indian and Arab thought.”
This is typical of Orientalists (the term Orientalist is wrong. No, Africa is not part of the East or the West)
I hope the author corrects that thinking in the future.