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CrisisWatch Lebanon

Unchanged Situation

Political infighting continued to stall govt formation while Lebanese pound fell to record low amid worsening economic crisis. Amid ongoing stalemate over govt formation, President Aoun 2 June released statement criticising PM-designate Saad Hariri’s “continuous evading of responsibilities” that “constitutes a persistent violation of the constitution and national accord”; Hariri same day hit back stating presidency is held “hostage to the personal ambitions” of Jibran Bassil, Aoun’s son-in-law and leader of Christian group Free Patriotic Movement. Economic crisis and living conditions continued to deteriorate. Protesters 2 June blocked main roads in capital Beirut to protest economic situation after court previous day suspended Central Bank decree that allowed withdrawal at better rate than fixed exchange rate; suspension reversed next day. Lebanese pound 13 June hit low of 15,300 to dollar on black market, marking lowest rate since March. Workers 17 June held general strike to protest economic situation and political stalemate, accompanied by roadblocks in Beirut and other cities; Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar same day stated petrol subsidy is poised to end. Ministry of economy and trade 18 June raised price of subsidised bread for fifth time in one year. Lebanese pound 26 June dropped further to 18,000 to dollar, prompting new roadblocks and minor riots in Tripoli and Sidon cities as well as other locations. Energy ministry 29 June raised fuel prices. Meanwhile, international stakeholders maintained pressure. France 17 June convened virtual donor conference over concerns about pressure of economic crisis on Lebanese Armed Forces, with French defence ministry calling for “increased commitment and coordination from everyone”. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell 19 June berated govt stalemate as putting country on edge of “financial collapse”, warning EU response could include targeted sanctions; Borrell next day pinned “strong mistrust” as root of crisis.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
26 Nov 2017
Hezbollah thrives on its position of being a state within a state, an alternative provider for all kinds of things [when Lebanon's political institutions are weakened]. The Washington Post

Heiko Wimmen

Project Director, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon

Latest Updates

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

Pulling Lebanon out of the Pit

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.

Also available in العربية

Lebanon is on the Brink of Economic Collapse

The accumulation of crises is driving ever greater numbers of Lebanese into absolute poverty. While the COVID-19 lockdown is gradually easing, the loss of jobs and purchasing power triggered new protests that are turning violent and may prefigure the disintegration of state capacity and institutions.

Arab Protests: A Wicked Dance Between Rulers and Subjects

A new wave of popular protests has jolted an already deeply unsettled Arab world. Nine years ago, uprisings across the region signalled a rejection of corrupt autocratic rule that failed to deliver jobs, basic services and reliable infrastructure. Yet regime repression and the protests’ lack of organisation, leadership and unified vision thwarted hopes of a new order. As suddenly as the uprisings erupted, as quickly they descended into violence. What followed was either brutal civil war or regime retrenchment. Tunisia stands as the sole, still fragile, exception.

Originally published in Valdai Club