The Beirut Explosion and Lessons Armenia should Learn from such a Calamity
Posted on August. 9. 2020
BY GARBIS KORAJIAN
Millions of people around the globe, including thousands of Armenians, are extremely saddened by what has happened in Lebanon and would like to extend their heartfelt thoughts to the Lebanese people. The unexpected explosion of 2500 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut is the reported cause of this unimaginable disaster. On Thursday, August 6, 2020, for some unknown reason, the ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse caught fire and exploded, creating shock waves through the city of Beirut. The explosion created a huge mushroom cloud resembling that of a nuclear explosion.
Commonly used as a fertilizer in commercial farming, ammonium nitrate is also known to be used as a lethal weapon by terrorists. This chemical compound was stored in a warehouse for six years without receiving the attention it required by the people who were entrusted to look after the safety and security of this small nation, which was once known as Paris of the Middle East. As such, this calamity could have been avoided should the responsible parties have paid the issue the attention it deserved. Unfortunately, leadership and administrative failure, inefficiency, negligence, corruption and nepotism on the ground did not help an already fragile situation.
Unfortunately, this accident caused much additional suffering, including death, injury, and economic destruction, for the population (including Armenians) living in Lebanon. According to Minority Rights Group International, there are 156,000 Armenians in Lebanon, which accounts for approximately 4% of the total Lebanese population. Armenians who live in and around Bourj Hammoud (or Burj Hammud), a town and municipality in Lebanon located north-east of the capital Beirut, were gravely affected by this accident. As of Thursday, August 6th, 18 Armenians have died, 250 are injured, hundreds of businesses are damaged, and countless homes have become uninhabitable. As for the extent of financial losses, it is too early to tell. However, so far, the estimated cost of rebuilding Beirut is over 15 billion US Dollars.
The disaster that took place in Beirut should serve as a special warning to our Government in Armenia. As we all know, Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is located only 25 kilometers from Yerevan. The recent threats by Azerbaijan to target and bomb the nuclear plant could cause 100 times more damage to Armenia than what we witnessed in Beirut. Therefore, it is high time for our leaders to pay special attention and take immediate action to shut down Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant and replace it with safer source of energy. Waiting any longer is like playing with a ticking TIME BOMB! God forbid Metsamor was to be hit, we would not survive as a nation.
Many of my friends think the threat from Aliyev is a bluff and no Azeri Leader would dare act on such stupidity, as it would cause serious repercussions for not only Azerbaijan, but Turkey as well. However, we should not forget that Turkey is a big country. It extends 860 KM from East to West. The Eastern part of Turkey bordering Armenia is sparsely populated. Azerbaijan, on the other hand, is 300 KM away. Nakhichevan would be somewhat affected, but it is still a bit far. A nuclear explosion of Metsamor Nuclear Plant would destroy Yerevan, Gyumri, and all surrounding towns and villages beyond recognition, but would only have a minimum impact on Turkey and Azerbaijan. Not only would such an explosion will destroy Armenia, it would make it uninhabitable because of the spread of nuclear radiation.
The time has come to think about this issue seriously. The Lebanese government had 6 years to do something about the 2500 tons of Nitrate improperly stored in a warehouse and did nothing. Now that the worst has been realized, punishing officials will neither bring back the lives of the poor Lebanese citizens who lost their lives unnecessarily, nor contribute to rebuilding the country. Fifty years has passed since the primitive pressurized-water nuclear plant was built near Yerevan. It served its purpose for many years, however, the time has come to replace this ticking time bomb with a safe alternative, especially when crazy leaders like Aliyev openly threaten to blow it up.
Taking lessons from history, this week also marks the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima nuclear attack that killed over 250,000 thousand innocent Japanese citizens and caused immeasurable short and long-term suffering of its people. Fortunately, aside from this, in the last 75 years, the 9 countries that own nuclear weapons (the US, UK, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea) have not exercised their nuclear might. The reason: deterrence.
“Deterrence is a strategy intended to discourage an enemy real or imaginable, from taking an action not yet started by means of threat of reprisal, or to prevent them from doing something that another state desires. The strategy is based on the psychological stand that the other will also do the same, if attacked. A credible nuclear deterrent, Bernard Brodie wrote in 1959, must be always at the ready, yet never used.”
When it comes to nuclear weapons, I have always opposed their development and maintenance. However, in the last week, I have changed my mind. Changing my mind does not necessarily mean I would like to see a nuclear arms race happening all over again, like we saw during the Cold War. However, now that the issue is right at our doorstep and hits so close to home, especially with direct threats coming from President Aliyev of Azerbaijan, I have indeed had a change of heart regarding the development of nuclear weapons, when discussing the topic of deterrence.
Without a doubt, threats of nuclear aggression should be taken very seriously. My recommendation to Armenia regarding such coercions is to build its own nuclear arsenal. The father of my good friend Sergei Maradjian, Baron Hrant Maradjian, was a scientist, mathematician, master of Algorithms, and recipient of the highest order of achievement from Armenian Academy of Sciences. He confided in me that Armenia has the human capacity and the required scientific expertise to build nuclear weapons. In fact, he stressed the fact that a very large number of our nuclear scientists were instrumental in the Soviet Union when they were manufacturing their own nuclear arsenal. He also informed me that we still have a sizable number of Armenian scientists working in Russian nuclear centers that could and would assist Armenia reach its nuclear ambitions.
Having such a valuable asset in our hands, our scientists should immediately get to work and start building nuclear arsenal for Armenia. Our leaders should begin conversations with counterparts around the world to garner support. Although I am putting a very complicated issue in quite simplistic terms, if and when Armenia possesses nuclear capacity, it will not be threatened by the whims of anyone, including crazy Azeri or Turkish leaders. Furthermore, Armenia will neither beg Russians, Americans or Europeans for military assistance, nor will it have to worry about how powerful Turkey’s militarily is or if Israel sells arms to Azerbaijan. We will become a TRULY INDEPENDENT and a POWERFUL NATION. Procrastinating will be very dangerous for the Armenian people. Let’s wake up and address this problem and do something about it, now. Tomorrow might be too late!