Clashes on 14 October over a judicial investigation into the 2020 Beirut port blast evoked the sectarian divisions of Lebanon’s civil war and threatened what's left of the rule of law. Hizbollah must allow the investigation to proceed or risk further weakening of the state.
Parliament approved formation of new govt led by Najib Mikati, ending 13-month period with caretaker authorities. Lebanese leaders 10 Sept agreed on formation of new govt under leadership of PM-designate and billionaire Najib Mikati; appointment ended extended stalemate that had left country without empowered govt since resignation of PM Hassan Diab on 10 Aug 2020 in wake of catastrophic Beirut port explosion. Parliament 20 Sept passed vote of confidence in new govt, with support of 85 out of 117 sitting members of parliament. Following dramatic deterioration in fuel crisis last month, long queues at gas stations and shortages of goods continued throughout month. Hizbollah during month realised its previous commitment to import fuel directly from Iran, in direct violation of U.S. sanctions; first deliveries of fuel reached country 16 Sept, after transiting Syria and crossing border without official knowledge or involvement of Lebanese authorities. Hizbollah-linked and U.S.-sanctioned Amana company distributed diesel fuel for electricity generation to public sector institutions and bakeries across country for free, while charging consumers about 25% below govt-mandated price ceiling. State electricity company 23 Sept said country risked total blackout by end of month as its fuel reserves dwindle. Some 300 protesters in capital Beirut 29 Sept protested govt’s decision two days earlier to suspend enquiry into port explosion. In highest-level contact in decade, govt delegation 3 Sept met Syrian officials in Syrian capital Damascus to discuss importing natural gas for power generation from Egypt through Jordanian and Syrian pipeline network. Israel’s 18 Sept decision to award offshore drilling contract to U.S. corporation Halliburton prompted PM Mikati and FM Abdallah Bou Habib to reiterate Lebanon’s claims over disputed maritime border with Israel; President Michel Aoun so far has refrained from signing amendment that would expand country’s claims to Exclusive Economic Zone by 1430 sq km, potentially affecting Israeli-claimed Karish gas field.
As it tries to pull out of its economic tailspin, Lebanon badly needs a functional cabinet able to make reforms. Such a government must have broad support, including from Hizbollah. The party’s domestic and external foes should accordingly stop attempting to curtail its role.
Lebanon’s reeling economy badly needs outside aid. Yet the political class, which largely created the problems, is resisting necessary change. The European Union should keep limiting its assistance to humanitarian relief until Lebanese politicians make reforms that benefit all citizens, not just the privileged few.
An uprising of unprecedented scope has rocked Lebanon as the country’s economy tumbles deeper into recession. Poverty and unemployment could lead to violent unrest. Donors should put together an emergency package but condition further aid upon reforms to tackle corruption, a major grievance driving protest.
Most Syrian refugees in Lebanon have thought many times about going home but in the end deemed the risks too great. Donors should increase aid allowing the Lebanese government to continue hosting the Syrians, so that any decision they make to leave is truly voluntary.
Four years after plunging into Syria’s civil war, Hizbollah has achieved its core aim of preserving the Assad regime. Yet with no clear exit strategy, the Lebanese “Party of God” faces ever greater costs unless it can lower the sectarian flames, open dialogue with non-jihadist rebel groups and help pave the way for a negotiated settlement.
The fate of the border town Arsal mirrors Lebanon’s many policy failures. The government applies heavy-handed security at the expense of basic services and fair economic opportunities. It should change its policies to become more flexible, accountable and supportive of Syrian refugees – and receive more international help in return.
For a large part of the population [in Lebanon], electricity will become a luxury. Driving your car will become a luxury, too. Transportation will become a luxury.
Turkey is also one of the candidates to rebuild Beirut harbour. There is also a section within Lebanese society – amongst Sunni Muslims – who have some sympathy for Turkey’s neo-Ottoman project.
The Lebanese state has been hollowed out by decades of corruption and patronage, and this has undermined due process and any sense of accountability.
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria.
The real risk [for Israel and Lebanon] is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border.
[The return of Assad’s forces to the border] has the potential of creating a more united front of resistance between Lebanon and Syria against Israel.
Read the full alert here: Violence Threatens Fraying Rule of Law in Lebanon.
Four days of violent unrest in Tripoli on Lebanon’s northern coast could presage more to come, as a new coronavirus outbreak deepens the country’s severe socio-economic crisis. Humanitarian aid is urgently needed to keep the worst-case scenarios at bay.
Lebanon’s socio-economic and financial crisis accelerated greatly in the first half of 2020. The government resigned after the Beirut port blast, compounding the disarray. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to coordinate continued emergency assistance and revitalisation of key infrastructure, create reforms roadmap, boost civil society, and pool and coordinate emergency funds.