More Questions Than Answers Over the Beirut Blast

Lebanon was already a country on the brink. Things will likely get worse.

There is no sense in trying to make sense of what happened in Beirut on Tuesday. We will never know the full truth about the massive explosion that destroyed the country’s major harbor, caused incalculable damage throughout the capital, inflicted more than 4,000 casualties and left unknown the fate of scores of missing people. Military analysts say the explosion occurred accidentally in an area where public safety measures did not exist. Welders were repairing the door of an adjacent warehouse storing firecrackers when the excessive temperature precipitated by hot and humid weather and welding caused some ammonium nitrate to evaporate and mix with wheat dust released from nearby wheat silos. The reaction probably triggered the disastrous explosion. We know for sure that the blast that happened amid an unprecedented economic crisis and hyperinflation will further complicate Lebanon’s political stalemate. Even so, we have more questions than answers. Why was a shipment of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the harbor for six years, and who owned it? Why was this dangerous chemical stored in a warehouse so close to the business and residential areas? The explosion comes at a particularly bad time. Lebanon was already a country on the […]

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Hilal Khashan
Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.