Lebanon’s AK-47 index may be pointing to war

From The National:

[Abu Mahdi, an arms dealer in southern Beirut] says the high point for the price of the AK-47 was in the period of major Sunni and Shiite sectarian tension that preceded the May 2008 clashes between Hizbollah and its allies against groups of Sunnis loyal to the government.

“In the days before the action, I knew that something was going to happen because prices jumped to $1,300 per AK,” he said. “It’s come down just a little but business is too much for this peace to last. Everyone is walking the streets acting all good, but they’re lying.”

This prediction is based on several factors, according to Mr Mahdi. The first is a widespread concern by Hizbollah that al Qa’eda-style groups, who cannot resist having their biggest enemies – the Shiite and Israel – in such close proximity, will target Lebanon. The second problem is a lack of faith in Lebanon’s government.

“There is no government, those people are useless,” says Mr Mahdi. “No one trusts them to keep the peace, so everyone buys weapons to protect their homes and families. Normally I sell about 30 to 40 machine guns a month but right now, it’s double that. And the price is $1,200 for a gun in good condition, almost as high as May 2008.”

“But I know there is a real problem on the streets right now not just because of the machine guns but because I am selling so many RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) launchers. People only buy grenades when they think war is coming. An RPG isn’t really a weapon you use to protect your house, but everyone is buying them anyway. Not good.”

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