For much of the last several decades, Lebanon has been wracked by instability and tangled up in the affairs of larger or more powerful neighbours. Its confessional political system, based on power sharing among its eighteen officially recognised ethno-religious groups, is arguably both the cause and the effect of recurrent strife, notably the 1975-1990 civil war. Today the elites who run the system are also implicated in ever-deepening state dysfunction and economic recession. Meanwhile, Lebanon is at risk of spillover from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian war and regional turmoil, due partly to the rise of Hizbollah, the Shiite Islamist movement opposed to Israel and allied with Iran and the Syrian regime, as a political force. The country hosts hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees as well as nearly 1.5 million Syrians. Pending changes that would allow resolution of the outside conflicts, Crisis Group works to keep Lebanon insulated from their flare-ups, to seek durable solutions for refugees and to encourage structural reform that might alleviate the country's internal problems.

CrisisWatch Lebanon

Unchanged Situation

Govt formation remained stalled ahead of October expiry of President Aoun’s term and violent street clashes erupted amid deepening economic crisis.

Govt formation efforts made no progress. PM Mikati and President Aoun failed to reach breakthrough; new govt may remain unattainable during Aoun’s term, which ends 31 Oct. Parliament 29 Sept held first round of presidential elections, failed to elect new president; uncertainty persists that new president will be appointed before Aoun’s term ends. Parliament 26 Sept passed 2022 budget, which fell short of International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s standards for bailout package; IMF delegation 19 Sept visited capital Beirut to “accelerate” reform process, concluded progress was “very slow”.

Insecurity flared, notably in north Lebanon. Central Bank 12 Sept lifted last remaining fuel subsidies, fuelling further price hikes for gasoline and diesel. Lebanese lira weakened to all-time lows, trading at 39,000 to $1 on 19 Sept. In various regions – notably Tripoli, North and Bekaa Valley – street clashes over robberies and family issues led to deaths and injuries. Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi 13 Sept announced govt would impose “sustainable” security plan for North Lebanon; 16 Sept reiterated need for state intervention after bank depositors held up seven banks across country within three days to gain access to their own funds trapped inside illiquid banks.
Transport minister 23 Sept confirmed that days earlier boat carrying Lebanese en route to Europe sank off Syrian coast, killing over 100.

Govt and Israel inched closer to maritime deal, notwithstanding risk of escalation. U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein 9 Sept met separately with President Aoun, PM Mikati and House Speaker Nabih Berri to discuss Israel’s response to proposal in which govt renounces claims to Karish gas field – some 90km off coast of Lebanon and Israel  in return for exclusive rights to unexplored Qana prospect; Hochstein said that “very good progress has been made” but noted “work to be done.” After drilling company Energean 8 Sept announced it is ready to resume work “within weeks”, Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 17 Sept reiterated previous warnings that Israel’s exploitation of Karish field before border negotiations conclude is “red line”.

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In The News

26 Jan 2022
It is in Hezbollah’s interest to have at least the outward appearance of a functioning political system [in Lebanon] where everyone is involved, including the Sunnis. Reuters

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
12 Aug 2021
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. CNN

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
22 Aug 2020
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 Turke... Cyprus Mail

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
13 Aug 2020
The Lebanese state has been hollowed out by decades of corruption and patronage, and this has undermined due process and any sense of accountability. Voice of America

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
21 Feb 2018
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria. The Washington Times

Robert Malley

Former President & CEO
9 Feb 2018
The real risk [for Israel and Lebanon] is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border. The Daily Star

Joost Hiltermann

Program Director, Middle East and North Africa

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