Lebanon

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 efforts continued without breakthrough as economic crisis deepened, while hopes persisted of deal to resolve maritime dispute with Israel. Efforts to form govt following 15 May parliamentary elections made no progress. PM Mikati and President Aoun 17 Aug held consultative meetings after discontinuing such discussions after Mikati 29 June proposed cabinet lineup, citing lack of progress; progress has reportedly been hampered by disagreement on allocation of various ministries to different sectarian communities. As obstacles continue to beset legislated reforms required to unlock International Monetary Fund (IMF) financial bailout package, economic crisis continued to deepen. After intermittent bread shortages triggered fights at bakeries nationwide in mid-to-late July, civil servants during month conducted open-ended strikes for weeks, protesting their heavily devalued wages, which has brought most state institutions to standstill. In mid-month, pressure on Lebanese lira increased once more, with currency weakening from 31,000 to one U.S.-dollar on 10 Aug to 34,000 on 20 Aug. European vessel 6 Aug rescued over 75 Lebanese citizens near Turkish coast from sinking boat, on which they had been trying to reach Europe. Amid rising tensions between Israel and Hizbollah over maritime dispute, hopes continued during month of resolution after U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein late July met with Aoun, Mikati, and House Speaker Nabih Berri, as well as Israeli leaders. Govt reportedly offered to back down from its expanded claim (known as “line 29”), thus renouncing any claim to Karish gas field, in return for solution that adopts “line 23” (which places demarcation line further north) but awards Lebanon additional 80km² that includes Qana prospect – gas deposit of unproven worth; Israel reportedly expressed willingness to accommodate proposal, subject to receiving compensation for ceding 80km² pocket. Despite reported progress, Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 19 Aug publicly accused Hochstein of wasting time, warning that “escalation will be inevitable” if negotiations do not conclude promptly and allow Lebanon to begin exploring its offshore natural gas reserves.

Continue reading

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

Latest Updates

Our People

David Wood

Senior Analyst, Lebanon
David Wood