The “official” owner of the chemicals responsible for the massive explosion in the port in Beirut Tuesday evening was Russian businessman Igor Grechushkin, who supposedly pulled into the port with his ship on an unscheduled stop close to seven years ago, went bankrupt and abandoned the cargo.
Yet the 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a chemical used for fertilizer and making bombs, did not go unnoticed in the Beirut port. Despite warnings of the extreme danger the chemicals posed (the quantity of chemicals was equal to 1,100 bombs of the size made by Timothy McVeigh when he blew up the federal building in Oklahoma in 1995), the chemicals were allowed to be stored at the port with no safety measures in place.
Both the U.S. Treasury and Israel believe that Hezbollah, the Iranian-back Lebanese terror organization, is largely in control of Beirut’s ports, which means that the terror group had a vested interest in keeping such material close at hand.
Robert Baer, a former CIA operative described by CNN as having “extensive experience in the Middle East,” said that while video of the explosion indicated that ammonium nitrate may have been present in the warehouse, the chemical was not responsible for the second massive blast.
Rather Baer thinks that there were military munitions and propellants present and speculated that it could have been a weapons cache. “You look at that orange ball (of fire), and it’s clearly, like I said, a military explosive,” Baer said.
That assessment would be consistent with Hezbollah’s history of stockpiling chemicals and explosives. As reported by The Jerusalem Post,
“Hezbollah kept three metric tons of ammonium nitrate, the explosive thought to be behind the mega blast in Beirut this week, in a storehouse in London, until MI5 and the London Metropolitan Police found it in 2015.
“The Lebanese terrorist group also stored hundreds of kilograms of ammonium nitrate in southern Germany, which were uncovered earlier this year.”
In 2019, the UK banned Hezbollah in its entirety and in April, Germany banned the group.
In February of 2016, Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah was videoed threatening to blow up Israel’s ammonia storage facilities in Haifa. As documented by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute), Nasrallah quoted an Israel expert who said that a missile attack on the facility would have the effect of a nuclear bomb.
Watch the video of Nasrallah. The explosion in Beirut can be seen at the end of the video:
Lebanese #Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah explained in a 2016 speech a “nuclear explosion” that could come detonate in #Israel, using a description that matches the #BeirutBlast which shook the capital.https://t.co/Zk8N7zIncv pic.twitter.com/zRjMlTuID3
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 5, 2020
At press time, the death toll from the blast had risen to 137 with thousands wounded and more than 300,000 left homeless. Residents 10 kilometers away from the blast reported windows in their buildings blown out. The blast was so powerful it was also felt in Cyprus.
Whether or not the explosion can be traced to Hezbollah, anger at the terror group, which is now also in control of the government, including the country’s military, will most likely intensify to a degree larger than the massive demonstrations against Hezbollah and Iran’s influence over the country that rocked Lebanon less than a year ago.
The explosion also comes at the same time that a verdict is expected to be handed down by a UN special tribunal that has been investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in 2005 by a massive bomb attack by four suspected Hezbollah operatives (who are in hiding).
If the UN finds Hezbollah guilty of Hariri’s death, it will only exacerbate the problems for the terror group in Lebanon and their ability to maintain power over the country.
Meanwhile, a previously bipartisan bill up before Congress to cut millions of dollars in funding for the Lebanese army, which is also controlled by Hezbollah, was just nixed by House Democrats. In addition, amendments to the bill proposed by Republicans that sought to separate the Lebanese forces from Hezbollah were also nixed by House Democrats.