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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

Amid ongoing political paralysis, Central Bank took measure prompting currency devaluation, and France sought to mediate Beirut’s diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia. Cabinet meetings still on hold with little apparent prospect of resolution. Attempts to reach political deal ended in acrimony: PM Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri met 20 Dec, but did not succeed in resolving disputed issues – including Hizbollah and its allies demanding removal of Judge Tarik Bitar from investigation into Aug 2020 Beirut port explosion, Free Patriotic Movement party asking modifications to mode of expatriate voting, and issue of reshuffling senior security positions. On economic front, currency fell to record low. Following 3 Dec resignation of Information Minister George Kordahi, whose comments on Saudi-led war in Yemen had caused frictions with Gulf countries, Lebanese lira improved by nearly 10% within less than 24 hours, reaching 22,000 to U.S. dollar. However, in unexpected move Central Bank 9 Dec raised amount of lira that depositors can receive for U.S. dollars from 3,900 to 8,000, triggering fears of inflation that sent lira to record lows at 29,000 to U.S. dollar on 14 Dec; currency stabilised at 27,000 after Central Bank same day announced injection of additional dollars into market. Shooting 12 Dec erupted at funeral procession in Palestinian camp Burj al-Shemali in Tyre city killing three Hamas members; Hamas blamed factions affiliated with Palestinian Authority (PA) while PA rejected allegations. During visit to Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, French President Macron 3-4 Dec sought to restore relations between Riyadh and Beirut; Macron’s attempt to arrange meeting reportedly failed but PM Mikati and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman 4 Dec held telephone call during which they struck agreement on unspecified mechanism for humanitarian cooperation. After Shiite Bahraini opposition group Al-Wefaq 11 Dec held press conference in capital Beirut criticising Bahrain’s human rights record, Minister of Interior Bassam Al-Mawlawi 15 Dec ordered deportation of non-Lebanese members of Al-Wefaq in likely attempt to curry favour with Gulf Cooperation Council. UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 19-21 Dec visited Lebanon on “mission of solidarity”, met religious, civil society and political leaders.

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Reports & Briefings

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 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

Latest Updates

Event Recording / Global

EU Watch List: 10 Cases Where the EU can Build Peace in 2022 (Online Event, 28th January 2022)

Crisis Group’s Watch List identifies ten countries or regions at risk of deadly conflict or escalation thereof in 2022. In these places, early action, driven or supported by the EU and its member states, could enhance prospects for peace and stability.

Lebanon: A State on the Brink

This Crisis Group documentary gives voice to those coping with a state nearing collapse. It shows why today's interlocking crises are so much deeper and more dangerous than many others that have plagued Lebanon over nearly half a century of deadly conflicts.

Lebanon is Falling Apart

In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen about Lebanon’s unprecedented economic meltdown and the threat it poses to the country’s politics, society and stability.

Picking Up the Pieces One Year After the Beirut Port Blast

The enormous explosion that ripped through Lebanon’s capital one year ago left deep socio-economic and political damage as well as physical devastation. The challenge today is not only to rebuild but also to establish accountability for the disaster and ensure better governance in the future.