Saturday, June 25, 2016


Downtown Beirut in 2017 ?
Recent statements, coming from senior Hezbollah officials, indicate that the terrorist organization intends, in the next round of hostilities between it and Israel, to invade Galilee, occupy villages and towns, and take civilian hostages. The concept is that Israel will be deterred from attacking targets inside Lebanon, for fear that Hezbollah will kill its hostages in retaliation. This arrogant misplaced reliance could prove to be be a fatal mistake, where the country's financial center, located in downtown Beirut, is concerned. Allow me to explain.

Many Israeli general officers have, publicly, stated that the IDF is committed to the Dahiya Doctrine, in the next Hezbollah-Israel war; this policy, which includes a massive response against the Lebanese infrastructure, in the event that hostilities occur, was seen, in part, during the last conflict. The result was the complete destruction of a large part of the Shi'ite neighborhood in the south of Beirut. The next war will most likely see Israel attacking downtown Beirut, damaging or destroying the nation's financial center, which, in the present absence of tourism, is the most important sector in the Lebanese economy.

Without the brick and mortar structures that house the financial industry, with the attendant records and documents, and the individuals that staff those institutions, Beirut's banks will not be able to operate, let along support, any postwar Lebanese recovery program. Lebanon would be thrown into chaos, and the loss of life, which would then impact the Sunni, as well as Christian, communities, for the first time, could return Beirut to the stricken state it was in, during the 1975-1991 Lebanese Civil War, or worse.

Imagine Beirut without its banks and financial advisers; given that Hezbollah has bragged that its rockets and missiles will kill scores of civilians in Israel, in the event of war, one cannot expect that the Lebanese capital will be spared by Israeli retaliation, and given Israeli air superiority, every bank in Beirut could be out of business in one terrible day.

I bring this dark scenario up, for the purposes of risk assessment by compliance; should more Hezbollah officials come to believe that their organization could successfully invade Israel, and occupy a large amount of territory, then this nightmare for Lebanon becomes a distinct possibility. Perhaps Lebanese leaders might want to take a look at photographs of 1945 Berlin, to get an idea of what their capital could look like, and then see what they can do to prevent the unthinkable from happening in 2016.

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