Although attention naturally is focused on possible ripple effects on Lebanon from Syria’s conflict, it would be wrong to ignore the unresolved legacy of the battle that shook the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp five years ago. The risk of renewed flare-up, already significant, is now compounded by the regional crisis.
The crisis that has gripped Lebanon since the murder of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri five years ago has taken a new and dangerous turn.
To succeed, Prime Minister Saad Hariri faces the challenge of moving Lebanon from the logic of sectarian mobilisation and confrontation in which it has been embroiled. Much will depend on others but his role as head of a national unity government makes him central.
Lebanon’s 7 June elections risk offering a false hope. That the parties agreed to shift their conflict from street to ballot box is surely a good thing, but it should not be misinterpreted.
The vast Palestinian refugee population is routinely forgotten and ignored in much of the Middle East. Not so in Lebanon.
After decades during which they saw their influence consistently decline, Lebanon’s Christians are in a position to once again play a decisive political role.
A refugee crisis was feared before the coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, but it came later than anticipated, and on a greater scale.
Hizbollah’s takeover of much of West Beirut began as a cost-of-living strike on 7 May 2008. Yet the course of events, their speed and ultimately violent turn exposed the true stakes.
The Lebanese crisis has receded from the headlines but has not gone away. Today, all eyes are on the presidential election, the latest arena in the ongoing struggle between pro- and anti-government forces.
Lebanon has badly lost its balance and is at risk of new collapse, moving ever closer to explosive Sunni-Shiite polarisation with a divided, debilitated Christian community in between.