Can Lebanon be saved?

This is the last chance for the country's elite to turn things around

The flag of Lebanon.
(Image credit: Illustrated | iStock)

The world watched in horror Tuesday as footage poured in of a gigantic explosion in Beirut, Lebanon. It appears that more than 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate were touched off by an accidental fire in a nearby fireworks factory. The explosion wrecked the Port of Beirut, flattened multiple nearby buildings, and caused damage all across the city. At time of writing more than 130 people were reported dead, and more than 4,000 injured. Some 300,000 are estimated to now be homeless.

The explosion is the latest in a series of disasters that have smashed the Lebanese economy and created enormous unrest. Its economy was in freefall by late 2019, brought down by a failed development model and galloping corruption — which was only made much worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, many nations, including France, Britain, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, and even Israel (which is technically still at war with Lebanon) have promised humanitarian supplies and money to aid recovery from the blast. Accepting this aid, and previous offers to address the underlying economic problems, may be the last chance for the Lebanese political elite to save their skins, and their country.

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