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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

Improved Situation

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.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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 Turkey’s neo-Ottoman project. 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
2 Jan 2018
[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. Jewish Week

Ofer Zalzberg

Former Senior Analyst, Arab-Israeli Conflict

Latest Updates

Riots in Lebanon’s Tripoli are Harbingers of Collapse

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.

Also available in العربية

Avoiding Further Polarisation in Lebanon

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.

Also available in العربية

How Europe Can Help Lebanon Overcome Its Economic Implosion

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.

Also available in العربية

Preventing State Collapse in Lebanon

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.

Also available in Français

The Beirut Blast: An Accident in Name Only

The catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port is a manifestation of the Lebanese political elite’s predation and dysfunction. Among the country’s long-suffering citizens, shock is quickly yielding to fury. It may be the last chance for those in power to effect long-overdue structural reforms.

Also available in العربية