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.
In this video, David Wood discusses the presidential vacuum in Lebanon and how it's affecting the country's ability to deal with its other compounding crises.
Palestinian factions battled in southern refugee camp and Christian and Shiite groups clashed near capital Beirut; Hizbollah-Israel tensions remained high and presidential vacuum continued.
Intra-Palestinian fighting continued, Shiite-Christian hostilities erupted. After 30 July assassination of Fatah general, violent clashes early Aug continued inside Ein el-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp in south, resulting in at least 13 deaths, destruction of 400 houses and displacement of several hundred families. Separately, vehicle allegedly carrying Hizbollah ammunition 9 Aug crashed in Kahaleh, Maronite Christian-majority village outside capital Beirut, triggering gunfight that killed resident and Hizbollah member; various Christian parties denounced incident as consequence of Hizbollah maintaining its independent weapons arsenal. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 14 Aug called for calm but warned that party’s rivals were seeking to push country into civil war. Leader of Lebanese Forces (LF) party Samir Geagea 14 Aug suggested that Hizbollah may be behind death of former LF coordinator in southern town of Ain Ibl.
Hostile rhetoric continued between Hizbollah and Israel. Following tensions in July over Hizbollah’s alleged build-up of military infrastructure along border, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant 8 Aug threatened to “return Lebanon to the Stone Age”; Nasrallah 14 Aug returned threat. Israel’s UN ambassador 30 Aug said Israel is closer to launching military action in Lebanon than at any time since 2006 war. Bellicose statements come after series of altercations at border, which have increased in regularity since mid-2022. U.S. Treasury 16 Aug designated Hizbollah-linked Lebanese NGO Green Without Borders as terrorist group.
Presidential vacuum entered its tenth consecutive month. Parliament speaker and Hizbollah ally Nabih Berri 8 Aug said Sept dialogue proposed by French envoy Jean-Yves Le Drian is opportunity that “should not be missed”. Lack of president kept parliament at standstill, as body 17 Aug failed to secure necessary quorum to hold proposed legislative session.
Economic hardship persisted. Interim Central Bank governor, who succeeded Riad Salameh on 31 July, 17 Aug announced that total liquid foreign exchange reserves are down to around $7bn. Army 9 and 13 Aug announced that it had arrested dozens of people accused of involvement with irregular migration to Europe.
Nothing happens in southern Lebanon without Hezbollah’s knowledge.
Israel and one of its neighbors [Lebanon] - a neighbor that doesn't officially recognize Israel - have come to a constructive solution for a conflict. And that's histor...
Israeli security interests are best served by Lebanon's economy being rebuilt rather than the crisis getting worse.
With tensions rising along the Israeli-Lebanese border, the UN peacekeeping force stationed in the area has arguably never been more important. With the mandate up for renewal, the UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries should reassert their backing for the mission in the strongest terms.
In this video, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Lebanon, David Wood, warns that tensions between Hizbollah and Israel risk ending the relative calm of the past seventeen years.
The CrisisWatch Digest Lebanon offers a monthly one-page snapshot of conflict-related country trends in a clear, accessible format, using a map of the region to pinpoint developments.
The erosion of Lebanese political institutions, which has already disabled the presidency and the cabinet, now threatens hundreds of municipalities. Amid its crippling economic crisis, Lebanon can ill afford to lose one of the last vestiges of state functionality.
Barring an eleventh-hour compromise, Lebanon will soon be without a president. An extended vacancy could stall action needed to ease the country’s economic crisis, risking unrest. With outside help, politicians should strive to avert this outcome – and to find ameliorative measures for the interim.
Domestic politics in Israel and Lebanon could scuttle talks about their claims in the Mediterranean – and to the gas riches underneath. With the U.S. mediator’s help, the two countries should refocus on achieving an accord that serves their mutual interest and spares them a confrontation.
On 15 May, amid a continuing economic meltdown, Lebanese voters chose a new parliament. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert David Wood parses the results and assesses the implications for efforts to resolve the country’s deepening crisis.
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.
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