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The Impact of the Beirut Port Explosion on the Syrian Regime

In Focus | The Impact of the Beirut Port Explosion on the Syrian Regime
 
Over the course of the years of war in Syria, the regime has benefited from the Beirut port and it is likely the regime will be among the most affected by the port explosion last week.  
The direct and indirect impact of the explosion on the Syrian regime
Direct Impact
The Syrian regime has benefited from the Beirut port as a part of its mechanisms to evade international control by working with Lebanese or Syrian businessmen relying on the port. These collaborations facilitated moving shipments back and forth to and transporting shipments from Lebanon to Syria. Shipments varied from petroleum materials, scrap metal sales (copper, aluminum ...), to chemicals or military equipment and supplies.
Due to Hezbollah’s influence over the airport, the regime has been able to move all the goods and cargo it wanted over the years. 
With the shifting of maritime commercial work towards Tripoli and Saida, the regime will be unable to carry out its operations in the same way. While the regime will try to use the widespread corruption and favoritism in Lebanon to establish new networks in alternative ports, it is not expected for these new arrangements to be as effective.
Indirect Impact
After the port explosion, Lebanon faces two main scenarios and both scenarios might have an impact on the regime: 
1. Lebanon undergoes a broad reform process that includes economic reforms and reforms to state institutions
This scenario will answer to the popular movements and forces demanding change. It will require responding to the conditions set by international institutions, and the countries in the background who are active in the Lebanese file (including France, the United States, and some regional countries to a lesser extent). This scenario will also ensure that Hezbollah is excluded from accessing or controlling the country’s main resources (including Beirut’s airport and port), as well as opening Lebanon’s institutions and modes of work to the international community.
This will result in the reduction of the influence of the regime’s partners in Lebanon and with it, their ability to support the regime, at least in the medium term.
2. The second scenario is that the situation is exacerbated due to Hezbollah and other forces’ rejection of the reform process, as allowing this change to occur directly targets their interests.
Resisting the reform process will lead to the explosion of the situation in Lebanon and the worsening of the situation in the coming months. The situation may reach the point of the different sides involved resorting to the use of arms, and perhaps to starting a civil war.
According to this scenario, the regime will benefit from the state of chaos in Lebanon, given its experience in manipulating the situation and its extensive knowledge of Lebanon, its players and methods of engagement. However, the regime’s gains will be limited and do not resemble the benefits the regime reaped from its influence in Lebanon during its period of stability in previous years. 
In conclusion, Lebanon is at a crossroads at this point and the situation will either escalate due to the intransigence of the parties involved, and here the regime will have ample room to maneuver, or it will undergo a reform process that will restrict the role of Hezbollah and the regime’s allies and separate Lebanon completely from the Syrian regime in the medium and long term.
 
Unit of Analysis and Thinking - Jusoor for Studies
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