Broken City: The Modern Decimation of Beirut

Broken City: The Modern Decimation of Beirut
Broken City: The Modern Decimation of Beirut
Broken City: The Modern Decimation of Beirut
Published August 10th, 2020 - 08:26 GMT

The explosion in Beirut last week was reportedly caused by the ignition of ammonium nitrate. But the events that led to blast can be traced back decades. Lebanon is at its most critical juncture since the end of the civil war.

Corruption and economic mismanagement had bought the country to the precipice of economic catastrophe before the explosion. It is now unclear how Lebanon will be able to respond to the blast. There have been at least 220 killed and thousands injured. The extent of the devastation is thought to have left up to 300,000 people homeless.
 

Lebanon is at its most critical juncture since the end of the civil war.

An estimated $3bn to $4bn worth of damage has been done to Beirut’s homes and businesses. Talks on international aid seem to be reliant on systematic governmental change. Protests have reignited across the country with a new fervour. There’s even been a petition with tens of thousands of signatories asking for a  renewal of a French mandate.

The explosion hit a city and country already reeling in economic disruption. International organizations and governments had already been warning that more than half of the population could be below the poverty line by the end of the year with instances of child mortality from malnutrition highly likely.


| © AFP | JOSEPH EID

Before the Explosion

The streets of Lebanon have been going dark before the explosion occurred. On the roads, in the hospitals treating Covid-19 patients, in schools and houses, electricity is in short supply. The government, unable to pay the Turkish company that provides a quarter of Lebanon’s electricity supply, has been struggling to import fuel to generate new power. Beirut, home to a third of the county’s population, is running on less than three hours of electricity per day.

Lebanon’s economic crisis began in October 2019 but in recent months has gathered pace and it seems the country will soon be in complete economic meltdown. Over the last four months the currency has plummeted, food prices have risen by up to three times, and the middle classes are beginning to see a hardship to which they are not, even in light of the turmoil in Lebanon’s modern history, not well accustomed.

The streets of Lebanon were going dark before the explosion occurred.

In northern Lebanon, brides are selling their wedding dresses, a possession normally prized and held as a family heirloom. Shops are permanently closing, unable to pay their staff, and bread queues are forming across the country.

Where does one look to find the origins of the crisis? Home to 18 different sects, including Druze, Sunni’s, Shiites and Christians distributed across a slither of land along the Mediterranean, with Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Israel to the south, Lebanon’s history of colonial rule has left an unusual and corrupt system of governance.

The system, known as confessionalism, sees certain offices of state distributed among the main ethnic and religious sects of the country. The economy, too, is run along sectarian lines with fuel, tech, food and waste management, all highly profitable, passed along through an informal system of backhanders and monopoly capitalism.

Home to 18 different sects, including Druze, Sunni’s, Shiites and Christians distributed across a slither of land along the Mediterranean, with Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Israel to the south, Lebanon’s history of colonial rule has left an unusual and corrupt system of governance.

Can such a system of governance respond to economic catastrophe and a blast that has violently bought to the fore the ineptitude of the current system? Is Lebanese society too fragile to go through deep political reform? Will the political class give up the reins of power from which they have profited for so long?

The creation and collapse of confessional Lebanese society


The modern state of Lebanon was founded on ethnic categories. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the second decade of the 20th century France justified its claim on the Syrian territory by invoking the potential danger posed to minority groups.

Whilst the British sought to bring forward a Jewish ‘national homeland’ at the expense of the Arabs living in Palestine following the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the French pointed to the necessary defence of Christians, Druze, Alawi, and Shi’a minority communities in the zone of influence that had been handed to them under the Sykes-Picot agreement.

In order to secure a mandate over the Syrian territories, France relied on the support of the Maronite Church represented by Patriarch Elias Huwayik who would eventually go on to see his church victorious under a French mandated Lebanon in 1920.

As the historian of modern Lebanon Fawwaz Traboulsi writes, “almost all of Greater Lebanon’s Muslim population rejected the mandate, opting instead for an independent Arab state and, short of that, for annexation to Syria.”

The declaration of a French Lebanon was met with widespread violence against Christians along the coast. Assassination attempts were made on Georges Picot and another naval commander and between 6 December 1920 and 6 January 1921 there were 30 attacks on Christian villages in south Lebanon. As Traboulsi details, in May 1921 a raid by the inhabitants of Bint Jubayl on a neighbouring Christian village left 50 people dead. This raid was in retaliation for a Christian collaboration with French forces.
 

Over twenty years of confrontation and turmoil would follow between those who wanted to belong to a French mandated Greater Lebanon, incorporating the west with the sea-boarding east of the country, and those who argued for the land to be completely independent of French rule or to be ruled by Syria.

Over twenty years of confrontation and turmoil would follow between those who wanted to belong to a French mandated Greater Lebanon, incorporating the west with the sea-boarding east of the country, and those who argued for the land to be completely independent of French rule or to be ruled by Syria.

In the emerging postcolonial world of 1943, it was desirable for Christians and Muslims to agree on a way forward. Christians consented to living without colonial protection whilst Muslims agreed to cease pushing for Lebanon to belong to a wider Arab state or to Syria.

An agreement was made, known as National Pact 1, that saw an attempt towards proportionate representation of religious communities in the offices of state. This form of confessionalism meant, among other things, that parliament would be formed on a ratio of 6:5 for Christians and Muslims, based on a census conducted in 1923 under French mandate.

Under the National Pact it was decided that the presidency had to be held by a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister was to be a Sunni Muslim, and the President of the National Assembly had to be Shi’a. Many of the key military posts were also taken by Maronites.

The Pact lasted for over 30 years until a violent civil war broke out in 1975 that would last until 1989. The Maronite Christians clashed with Palestinians. Soon other Muslim militias became involved and the country descended into a civil war of shifting allegiances. Israel invaded South Lebanon in 1982 to defeat the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and support their Christian allies, the South Lebanese Army.  

Under the National Pact it was decided that the presidency had to be held by a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister was to be a Sunni Muslim, and the President of the National Assembly had to be Shi’a.

The civil war made Lebanon synonyms with sectarian violence. A new word even entered the French language: “Libanisation,” or Lebanonization in English. It meant the fragmentation of a state due to internal violence.

As William Morris noted in his 1997 book Faces of Lebanon: Sects, Wars, and Global Extensions, the collapse of Lebanese society came at an important point in global geopolitical affairs. The Soviet Union was unwinding, and the West had begun to look towards the Islamic world as a place of threat. Similar scenes then ocurred in Yugoslavia, Somalia, Liberia, and Iraq.

Although to the outside world Lebanon, and particularly Beirut, looked like a well-functioning society, the civil war saw groups close in on themselves and become suspicious of each other. Morris writes:

“In the 1980’s Beirut was a patchwork of militia jurisdictions, under the command of warlords who alternately fought and collaborated with one another. These warlords, from various social backgrounds, scorned the traditional political  classes, which still exerted influence through what survived of the state machine. The militias were blatantly sectarian and, through much grief and strife, compartmentalized the population into artificial homelands of religious communities.”

“In the 1980’s Beirut was a patchwork of militia jurisdictions, under the command of warlords who alternately fought and collaborated with one another" - William Morris, 1997

The war ended with 144,000 killed, 184,000 injured, 13,000 kidnapped, and at least 17,000 missing. The massacre of civilians at Sabra and Shatila put international attention on Phalange militants, a right-wing arm of the Christian Lebanese, who killed up to 3,500 people under the watchful eye of the Israeli army. A hasty amnesty agreement was put in place and the violence and atrocities that occurred during the civil war were never faced.

A Druze community meeting in Beirut, AFP

Entrenching the internal divide and regional influences

The Ta'if Accord in 1989, also known as the Document of National Reconciliation, marked the formal end of the civil war. It was agreed that seats would be distributed on a 50:50 ratio between Muslims and Christians. Some internal and external reforms were necessary and certain powers were shifted from the presidential office to the prime minster and the cabinet, with portfolios equally distrusted between Muslims and Christians. Lebanon’s Second Republic came into being.

But many of the problems that this new parcelling out of power aimed to solve – the end of sectarian violence and civil war – left open the possibility that those in power could partake in corruption essentially unchallenged because the population would tend to stick with politicians from their own background.

“Sectarianism led to the introduction of an accommodationist political system that gave each sect immunity from prosecution. Members of the political elite have always sought shelter in their sects that shielded them from accountability,” Hilal Khashan, Professor of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut, told Al Bawaba.

the end of sectarian violence and civil war – left open the possibility that those in power could partake in corruption essentially unchallenged because the population would tend to stick with politicians from their own background

“Lebanon is not a civil society, and the idea of the state is nebulous, and there is no national political community. The combination of these factors produced a soft state and made it a weak link in regional affairs,” Khashan continued.

But the civil war had also let a new element enter Lebanon: Hezbollah. In response to the Israeli occupation of the south of the country various Shiite militias grouped together under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran. 1,500 troops from the Revolutionary Guard were sent to provide training and military support.

Despite its beginnings as a military force to push back Israeli advancements into Lebanon, Hezbollah has evolved, in large part thanks to the financial backing of Iran, into a political organisation closely aligned with the bordering regime in Syria as well as Iran.

Hezbollah is now torn between its internal and its external strategies; its need to represent the interests of the Shiite community in Lebanon and to push forward its wider regional objectives, such as the taking of the Shebaa farms in the Israeli occupied Golan Heights which it believes belong to Lebanon.

But the civil war had also let a new element enter Lebanon: Hezbollah

Between the end of the Israeli occupation in May 2000 and the Hezbollah-Israeli war in 2006, violence was relatively low. Despite a few skirmishes along the border there appeared to be little risk of a future Israeli invasion. Nevertheless, Khomeini insisted that the work of liberation was incomplete, and Hezbollah’s mission must continue. The group began to gain seats in elections and saw a partial transition from a militia group to a political entity.

But Lebanon’s curse of outside influence began to plague the party. Syria had an interest in the maintaining balance in the country and imposed what became known as saqf al-suri (Syrian ceiling). The result was an effective Amal-Hezbollah alliance, known as the Resistance and Development Bloc, that aimed to win all seats in Southern Lebanon and over a quarter in the overall parliament.

Today, Hezbollah is backing the Assad regime in Syria by sending fighters over the border. Many Lebanese see this as contributing to the current economic crisis. Van Meguerditchian, a journalist and activist from Lebanon, told Al Bawaba that Lebanon is frozen by fear in the face of Hezbollah. “Most people tell you in Lebanon, ‘what can we do? We cannot do anything or else there will be war.’ In the minds of many Lebanese terror has taken root like an illness.

"In the minds of many Lebanese terror has taken root like an illness."

“They fear war. What does this mean? It means that each Lebanese person is afraid that Hezbollah could mobilise thousands of people, tomorrow, on the streets and arm them. They don’t even need to use their soldiers. They could just use new recruits, arm them, and send them to the streets. It could be a civil war on the 'Streets Beirut' like what happened in May 2008. That’s why they say they should avoid talking about it.”

The 2005 assassination of anti-Syrian Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, thought to have been committed by Hezbollah, demonstrated the hold the group has on Lebanese politics. “My generation all think about the bombs between 2005 and 2013. There were car bombs targeting the prime minster, police, and politicians. They all have these memories and they think this could be repeated at any moment. They are afraid. Unfortunately, the fear is the result of these memories,” Meguerditchian told Al Bawaba.

 

Hezbollah’s stronghold over certain elements of Lebanese society is symptomatic of many of the conflicts in the Middle East. The Iran-Saudi Arabia Cold War, as it has come to be known, is fuelling proxy conflicts and political crisis throughout the region as either side backs different groups, both fearing the growing strength of the other. Hezbollah today is the main ruling group in Lebanon with influence over the judiciary and a significant part of the coalition.

As such, external influence is not only reserved from the side of Iran and Syria. In one of the most blatant and dramatic enactments of Lebanon’s loss of political control, the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, was effectively taken hostage by Saudi Arabia before being forced to announce his resignation on television from Riyadh. ​

When Hariri, second son of the assassinated prime minster, flew into Saudi Arabia his phone was confiscated. The next day he resigned. Saudi had long been trying to limit the influence of Hezbollah in Lebanon and was unhappy with Hariri’s inability to confront the Iran-backed group.

In one of the most blatant and dramatic enactments of Lebanon’s loss of political control, the Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri, was effectively taken hostage by Saudi Arabia before being forced to announce his resignation on television from Riyadh. ​

Part of the tragedy of Lebanon’s current crisis is how the state’s now deeply entrenched sectarian divide has made it an epicentre for the regional power struggle between Tehran and Riyadh. Oil-rich gulf states are now unwilling to provide funding to a country that it sees as being unable or unwilling to get on the side of their political will.

According to Professor Hilal Khashan, who spoke to Al Bawaba, a failed economic summit in January 2019 marked the end of financial support from Gulf states. “The Arab summit in Beirut was boycotted by Arab heads of state, except for the Emir of Qatar, who attended briefly, for several reasons, including disagreement on Syria, Libya, and Yemen. Arab leaders from the Gulf were also upset with the Lebanese government's inability to rein in Hezbollah. It is safe to say that the failed summit ushered in the decline of Arab interest in Lebanon.”

Professor Khashan also argues that the withdrawal of Gulf and US support only bolstered Hezbollah’s political position. “Hezbollah's involvement in regional wars triggered the US and Gulf States' sanctions on Lebanon due to the government's failure to dissociate itself from the problems of the region. The sanctions curtailed foreign aid to Lebanon, aggravating the economic problem exacerbated by Hezbollah's dominance.”

The Arab summit in Beirut was boycotted by Arab heads of state

Fractured from within and unable to receive help from the international community, Lebanon’s sectarian politics seemed primed for an economic catastrophe. The idea of a pluralist modern Middle Eastern state, capable of accounting for various sects and the protecting minorities crumbled. What remained was Hezbollah’s continued influence at the expense of the welfare of Lebanon’s citizens.

“Lebanon should play its role of being a message of a pluralist, multicultural, and liberal country,” Meguerditchian told Al Bawaba. “Today there is an attempt to completely end the Lebanese model in the region. It is an attempt to make Lebanon unlike what it was founded on. This attempt is being done in the name of resistance against America and anyone who doesn’t agree with Iran.”

Lebanon remains the party capital of the Middle East. Sky Bar, Beirut, October 2019

A united resistance and an economic crisis

 

It began on 17 October 2019 after the government threatened to tax internet calls. Tens of thousands of peaceful protestors entered the streets of Beirut. The sectarian chasms seemed to have dissipated. “Fall of the regime,” “All of them means all of them,” read the banners being held amongst Lebanese flags.

Shiite, Sunni, Druze and Christian seemed to be acting together to demand an end to government corruption, an end to the sectarian political system, the recovery of stolen funds and holding the corrupt accountable, and fair tax and financial procedures.

In less than two weeks, on 29 October, Hariri quit as prime minister against the wishes of Hezbollah. A hard currency liquidity crunch means the banks limit the issuing of cash. Talks began but failed to find a new Hariri-led coalition until Hassan Diab took the office of prime minister on 21 January 2020.

It began on 17 October 2019 after the government threatened to tax internet calls.

As this year has progressed the economic situation has gotten worse and worse. The difficulty in getting hold of US dollars, to which the Lebanese lira has been pegged at 1507 to 1 since 1997, has caused a monthly inflation rate of almost 56% in 2020. The government now warns that 60% of the population could be living under the poverty line by the end of 2020. 

 

 

Dr Manal Shehabi, OIES-KFAS Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, told Al Bawaba that “unfortunately, the economic crisis in Lebanon has exploded to the point that the economy is on the verge of collapsing.  The various factors that have contributed to the crisis existed even prior to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, which also worsened the economic situation. Moving the country away from the crisis is as complex as the crisis itself which is the culmination of various factors over multiple years.”

The country relies on 12.5% of its GDP being sent from abroad in remittance payments but the global economic meltdown resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have slowed cash payments. Tourism too has all but stopped.

The currency had been under pressure since the outbreak of civil war in Syria. In order to give the impression that the Lebanese lira was stable, banks offered interest rates of up to 14% in order to encourage citizens to deposit funds which necessarily required more deposits in order to pay the higher interest. A Ponzi scheme was created, and all the cards began to collapse with the slightest falter in the economy.

The country relies on 12.5% of its GDP being sent from abroad in remittance payments but the global economic meltdown resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic is thought to have slowed cash payments. Tourism too has all but stopped.

Lebanese society is one of the most unequal in the world; with 1% of the population earning 25% of the country’s GDP. Lebanese banks, the go-to stop for Iranian and Syrian money laundering were hit by US sanctions over their support for Hezbollah. 

The poorest in the society are now facing famine and the middle classes are not far behind. Lebanon, a country that normally imports 80% of its products, has no currency to import food, medicine, or energy. Talks with the IMF are slow, and the Hezbollah-backed government is twiddling its thumbs.

Soha Zaiter, Executive Manager of Lebanese Food Bank, told Al Bawaba that “the middle class used to be able to continue from their salaries but most of them were fired from their jobs because the companies have shut their doors. Those that do have a salary are also struggling because everything is very expensive.

“A big percentage of people are relying on NGOs because the government is not giving them anything. A taxi driver, for instance, if he doesn’t work, he can’t eat. There is no plan B for those people. So, they rely on NGOs in their areas.”

The limits on withdrawals is having an effect even on the food bank. “Due to the financial situation you cannot receive any big amount from the bank. We cannot see, touch or smell dollars either. So, we are relying on fresh money that is donated from abroad which we can receive and buy fresh dollars with. One dollar used to be 1,500 liras, now it is 8,000,” Zaiter said.

"Lebanon needs a revolution to empower a new set of the ruling class who have a sense of public commitment. Unfortunately, sectarianism and regionalism divide the Lebanese people. The future outlook is bleak.”

Professor Khashan says that “the problem is that the ruling elite lacks the will to introduce genuine reforms. They are out of touch with reality and utterly inattentive to the hardships of the people. Lebanon needs a revolution to empower a new set of the ruling class who have a sense of public commitment. Unfortunately, sectarianism and regionalism divide the Lebanese people. The future outlook is bleak.”

For Van Meguerditchian, too, the only option is a complete reform of the government and political system. “We need to become neutral. We need to focus on our own environmental problems, energy problems, social problems, economic problems. The political system needs to be reformed. The young people are leaving. We have tied up the country's fate in a stretch of land contested between Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and in the name of other causes, the young Lebanese are paying the price and are leaving their homes.”

Ashura commemorations in a southern Beirut suburb, 2019

Reform or fall

“Lebanon’s people are being robbed of basic rights every day while politicians squabble over the size of the country’s financial losses and hamper efforts at reform,” Human Rights Watch have said. The situation is not going to get any better without meaningful change, but protest can be dangerous in Lebanon and change can be hard to foster.

There have been multiple reports of the arrest and use of excessive force against peaceful protestors by police and security forces. The torture of people in custody is still prevalent and at least two people have appeared in military courts since the October 17 uprising.

Nevertheless, people across the country are asking for political reform. What would this need to look like? Dr Shehabi told Al Bawaba that “the Lebanese government's economic recovery plan released in April 2020 was set up on the assumption that assistance will be received from abroad.  International organizations, most notably the IMF, can offer funds to Lebanon's economic recovery as well as assistance in setting and ensuring transparent processes to ensure funds are used appropriately to assuage the economic crisis.

“Indeed, the IMF has offered assistance to Lebanon, but the Lebanese government has been slow to respond.  I think it is a difficult situation for donors as there is a looming loss of confidence in Lebanon's banking and financial system, so donors would typically require in return for offering fund concrete reform programs as well as transparency in how the funds would be used to support economic recovery.
 

the urgent current crises at hand, namely the financial crisis, the electricity and energy crisis, the major food shortage, and the alarmingly rising unemployment (over 30%) and poverty rates.

“I think it is imperative that external funds are provided to Lebanon from impartial sources to be used in impartial ways and require in turn credible commitment to reform along with strict transparency processes.  Finally, support in managing and maintaining transparency processes is also another area in which international institutions can offer assistance.”

Amer Bisat, Senior Portfolio Manager at BlackRock and member on the Council of Foreign Relations, told Al Bawaba that “the magnitude of the Lebanese problem may indeed be larger than elsewhere but the nature of the crisis itself is fairly similar to what we’ve seen in other countries. What needs to be done is standard and well understood. There is neither mystery nor magic to the needed measures.  But while those steps are well understood, that doesn’t make them politically easy—in fact, they certainly will be very difficult to implement.

“First you need to deal with the extreme level of indebtedness through debt restructuring. The country simply had too much debt and that debt became unserviceable. The debt required ever higher interest rates and all the government’s resources were going to pay that interest burden.  After the debt is restructured, you also need to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again. The government is extremely inefficient and prone to running large deficits.  There’s waste, inefficiency and corruption.  There is a desperate need for electricity,  pension, and tax reforms.”

For Dr Shehabi three things need to be done soon. “First, liquidity for the balance of payment and for welfare assistance, with access to funds being associated with strict transparent processes and anti-corruption rules.

Amer Bisat says that “if you look today, almost all politicians are either the son or the grandson of someone who used to run the country in the past. The political class is extremely entrenched

“Second, appropriate immediate-term policy responses to address the urgent current crises at hand, namely the financial crisis, the electricity and energy crisis, the major food shortage, and the alarmingly rising unemployment (over 30%) and poverty rates.

“Third, for the long-term, fully-coordinated and meaningful multi-level economic reforms to address underlying structural, socioeconomic, and financial sector problems; and prioritizing said reforms over the sectarian and oligarchical political economy.  Part of said reforms include improving regulation and the management of resources as well as ceasing the continued deleveraging in the financial sector at the expense of the real economy.”

“Ideally, economic reforms would be multilevel reforms to improve management of resources including capital and the electricity and energy sectors, regulate the oligarchs, recover stolen public funds, address socioeconomic and distributional inequalities and the huge brain drain; reform the financial sector, improve governance and transparency, reduce corruption, and provide meaningful employment and safety nets.”

But making these changes won’t be easy, not least because of the vested interests of the political class. Amer Bisat says that “if you look today, almost all politicians are either the son or the grandson of someone who used to run the country in the past. The political class is extremely entrenched: it is rich, powerful and is brilliant at manipulating sectarian loyalties. It is so difficult to transform a society whose political class is so entrenched and benefits from the continuation of the status quo.

This is the first time the establishment is threatened by economics.

“If I were to be optimistic today,” Bisat continued, “it would be on the following grounds. The political class knows at some level that the economic collapse would hurt it. This is the first time the establishment is threatened by economics. If there is a silver lining it is there. But I am not too optimistic. The reality is it won’t be easy to see the kind of political shift that would allow for the needed economic transformation.”

Patrick BAZ / AFP

 

After the explosion

 

Since the blast on Tuesday calls for a change in government have stepped up. Over the weekend clashes between protestors and the police occurred in Beirut. A video posted online purports to show shots fired at protestors by a man wielding a handgun. Thousands have now moved on to the streets against the current leadership.

Protestors have thrown stones at police and governmental buildings. One 19 year-old protestor has been quoted as saying that he wants to “destroy and kill the government. They gave us no jobs nor rights.”

 

 

The foreign ministry, the economic ministry, and the environment ministry have all been stormed and occupied by protestors. The Banking Association, which protesters blame for the country's worsening banking crisis, was also taken over by protesters and set on fire. The foreign ministry has now been called “the centre of the revolution.”

The Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad announced her resignation saying that the Prime Minister Diab had failed to live up to his promises to the people of Lebanon. Shortly after, Environment Minister Damianos Kattar also resigned from his post, saying that he had lost faith in a "sterile regime that botched several opportunities.” Other MPs, such as Michel Moawad, have also resigned.

The foreign ministry has now been called “the centre of the revolution."

France has led efforts to, alongside the United Nations, in an online pledging event that raised £300m in humanitarian assistance. But in a sign that faith in the incumbent government has failed, it has been said that the aid will be “directly delivered to the Lebanese population.”

Diab has said that he will call for early elections and that he will remain in power for two months until major parties can reach an agreement. Early elections are no doubt necessary but there is a real chance that the sectarian system won’t give independent candidates a real chance of victory. 


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Nick Pritchard is a staff writer and analyst at Al Bawaba Insights. John Lillywhite contributed to the development of this story. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News.


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