Focus on Beirut for a moment. What did we just witness happening at the port there? The massive explosion that rocked the whole city felt like an attack. And I use the term “felt” for a purpose here. For in a world where media or even governments can no longer be trusted, we are left with our gut and intuition to protect us. Yes, everything about the Lebanon incident feels like an attack, instead of a freak accident. Here’s a breakdown of what I believe happened based on media analysis, unofficial reports, and the PR signals emanating from Jerusalem, Moscow, Washington, and London. Here’s what I think happened.
The BBC reported a few hours after the colossal explosion shattered thousands of lives in Lebanon’s capital, that an initial explosion in the port area around about 18:00 (15:00 GMT) followed by a fire, was followed by a second blast that leveled a large portion of the city. In social media, video, and images of a gigantic mushroom cloud went viral for obvious reasons. And many analysts quickly attributed the blast to some new kind of tactical mini-nuke launched by the Israelis. In Washington, a loose-lipped president Donald Trump blabbed about his generals telling him the event was assuredly an attack. But at the New York Times, a string of stories described an “accident” involving a seized shipload of ammonium nitrate from a Russia (amazing coincidences).
From a media perspective, the tone and the sheer number of New York Times stories about this event sets off any number of alarms for me. If you Google the venerable newspaper and the term Beirut explosion, dozens of articles come up within a few hours of the catastrophe. Immediately, NYTs reporters were directing the blame for the disaster on a leaky cargo ship full of ammonium nitrate from Russia. Next, the newspaper’s writers focused the blame on Lebanese officials. “As Smoke Clears in Beirut, Shock Turns to Anger,” by Ben Hubbard adds in human touches, before telling readers that the Lebanese people want a new government. The smoke over Lebanon has yet to clear, and a motive for the bombing has been established. Only not in typical fashion. I am sure A. G. Sulzberger never intended that his world-renowned newspaper be used as circumstantial evidence of an Israeli attack. You read it correctly.
The Beirut blast was so massive that it was heard in Cyprus, about 200km (125 miles) across the Mediterranean Sea to the west. The seismologists at the United States Geological Survey claim the explosion was the equivalent of a 3.3-magnitude earthquake. And the amateur videos of the catastrophe bring to mind something out of a Hollywood hero film, but in this case, Bruce Willis, Stallone, or Schwarzenegger will not be coming to the rescue.
And another thing. The blast occurred at the worst possible place in Lebanon, right next to the silos where almost all of the country’s grain is stored. And another coincidence leaves the wheat that’s left in those silos inedible.
I know, you never read a report like this one. Then again, most people don’t spend their professional lives analyzing the media and geo-politics. Most people don’t feel what I feel when The Times of Israel comes out denying Israel had any role in the blast, within minutes of the news their story “Israel not behind Beirut blast, sources on both sides say; at least 10 killed,” hit the presses. The number killed tells you how soon after the explosion their story went out. And get this, The Jewish Press rolls out a story only minutes after the Beirut explosion titled, “Israeli Ambassador Warned UNSC About Hezbollah Control Over Beirut Port,” with a satellite photo of what’s supposed to be a Hezbollah missile conversion site in Beirut marina. Author Hana Levi Julian calls to readers’ attention Israeli officials labeling this part of Beirut as “Hezbollah’s Port” way back in 2019 at the UN.
A couple of days later and fifty New York Times reports about fertilizer accidents and Haaretz.com gets the point, subliminally at least. “For Hezbollah, Beirut Devastation Makes Provoking Israel Even Riskier,” by the Israeli military and defense reporter Amos Harel gives us more evidence that Israel’s regime had tons of motive. Changing the Lebanese government and striking Hezbollah, what better way than to blast the Lebanese capital to kingdom come, and then blame it on the incompetence of the victims’ elected choices?
Then there’s the always cheeky Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told his Twitter followers he had instructed his National Security Council to make contact with UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov “in order to clarify how Israel can further assist Lebanon”. This comes days after Israel accused the Lebanese group Hezbollah of trying to send gunmen across the UN-demarcated “Blue Line” border. In this grievance, Israel said it held the Beirut government responsible for what it termed an attempted “terrorist” attack. And we all know what Israel does when a hint of a terrorist attack is in the wind.
When I first saw Russian space agency’s satellite images of Beirut before and after the explosion I immediately recalled Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the A-bombs hit those Japanese cities. Banned by Facebook and YouTube videos of what appears to be a missile or shell hitting the warehouse where the ammonium nitrate was stored tweak my imagination and my gut feeling on the matter. I guess the images affect many similarly. Factor in what right-wing Israeli politician Moshe Feiglin said about the blast being “a gift from God”, and the case against Israeli leadership gets stronger. Feiglin, who fought in the 1982 Lebanon War. His plan for the Gaza situation includes killing, arresting, and then throwing out what remains of the Palestinian population, and then populating the region with Jews. He asserts that there is no such thing as a Palestinian. Ergo, God must have condemned the Lebanese in this most recent event, right?
Finally, take a look at this. At Forbes, their Aerospace and Defense expert Michael Peck chimed in how Israel’s involvement in the Beirut blast is unlikely. This was hours after the gargantuan explosion put 300,000 people out of their homes. This “expert’s” reasoning is that Israel could not be guilty because Hezbollah and Iran would have already attacked in retaliation if this were so? Yeah, this one has me scratching my head too. Next the defense expert names Mossad as a top suspect right after mentioning the US commander in chief’s remarks about the Pentagon saying the blast was a bomb attack! Yeah, more head-scratching. Finally, Peck says Israel had no motive! This, right after he wrote 200 words explaining how Lebanon is so hated by the Israelis. The Forbes rocket scientist gives a bonus proof Israel is not to blame by claiming the Israelis are afraid of Hezbollah missiles. The author sums up like this:
“If Israel wants to keep its northern front quiet, blowing up a Beirut neighborhood would be stupid. Whatever the cause of the explosion, it probably wasn’t Israel.”
It’s should be painfully obvious that the Israeli leadership does not want quiet on any front. For this writer, Netanyahu and the people who put him in office want Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, and most of its frontier zones to be free of Arab people. End of story. Let’s just be real here. Israel’s methodology is a sound one, it’s a strategy of overkill, all or nothing grounded in the same fear every minority population in the world fears. The Israeli leadership operates (and has operated) from the only position they feel will work. Strength, cold steel, immovability, and utter ruthlessness toward enemies perceived or real. What I am saying here is unequivocal, undeniable, as certain as death and taxes.
Finally, let’s punch all this circumstantial narrative into a probability machine. The chances of anything going on unnoticed in a neighbor country of Israel are minuscule. If a drunk guy welding a rusty pipe in the Beirut warehouse caused the blast, Mossad would probably have photos. Israel, the Pentagon, the White House, and probably the Kremlin all know exactly what took place. Like the MH17 catastrophe over Ukraine, the one nobody ever truly settled, the Beirut bombing is going to be another mystery to everyone except the people who were meant to get “the message”.
The blasts came at a point of high tensions between Israel and Lebanon and hours after Netanyahu issued a new warning to Iran-backed Hezbollah? The “responsible” media is reporting that even Hezbollah has denied an attack on their alleged weapons stored at the port. Like Hezbollah is going to admit a weapons cache at the part to the world. The IDF had struck targets in Syria hours before the Beirut blast. Back in August of 2019, Israel conducted a drone attack that targeted a Hezbollah precision missile facility in Beirut. And my suspicions are, this was a precision attack on another such facility. Only the “opportunity” to send a greater message was located right next door to the primary target. I think the IDF targeted a missile cache or lab in the port of Beirut, and they knew full well the possibility the ammonium nitrate might go up too. Overkill, remember. This kind of thing would put Lebanon’s leaders in a pinch, and Hezbollah too. The Lebanese opposition, with confirmation Hezbollah, was storing or building missiles next to a gigantic bomb… Remember, Israel has said it won’t allow Hezbollah to obtain advanced weapons like precision-guided missiles it says the Lebanese group is trying to develop with Iranian assistance.
The rest you can surmise. 60/40 “for” Israel being behind this devastating event. Unfortunately, Mossad and the Israelis are hardly ever caught red-handed. No one will be able to find Israeli munitions residue. Any eyewitnesses will quickly become conspiracy theories or Hezbollah pawns. We are already seeing that everyone and I mean everyone is trying to make this go away. The chances somebody finds a box of advanced Iranian guided missiles in Beirut’s port are zero, especially if no one is looking for them. Means, opportunity, motive, all the components for Israel as the perpetrator are there, but I am a conspiracy theorist, I guess.
All that’s going to happen is exactly what Israeli intelligence and the leadership knew would happen. “Message received,” is what I see written all over this. Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, anybody in the region struggling with the Israelis got it, “We will stop at nothing. We are here to stay. It is you who must go.” And the more dangerous message is; “We’ll do what we want, and get by with it.”
Phil Butler, is a policy investigator and analyst, a political scientist and expert on Eastern Europe, he’s an author of the recent bestseller “Putin’s Praetorians” and other books. He writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”