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.
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.
Executive vacuums continued without end in sight, economic hard-ship deepened, and tensions over land border surfaced between Hiz-bollah and Israel.
Double executive (president and govt) vacuum continued. Parliamentarians failed to elect new president, prolonging vacuum in place since 1 Nov. Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri 19 Jan convened 11th parliamentary session to elect president, which failed to achieve breakthrough as political factions insist on electing their preferred candidates. Meanwhile, attempts to form new govt to replace current caretaker ad-ministration practically ceased. PM Mikati 18 Jan managed to convene cabinet meeting, which was boycotted by Christian party Free Patriotic Movement that sees cabinet meetings as unconstitutional without president. Meanwhile, General Prose-cutor Ghassan Oweidat 25 Jan ordered release of suspects held in relation to Aug 2020 Beirut port explosion and sued investigative Judge Tarik Bitar after latter at-tempted to resume investigation, frozen for year due to pending charges against Bi-tar; protesters against decision clashed with security forces near central courthouse.
Economic crisis persisted, fomenting pockets of public unrest. Lebanese Lira (LBP) 25 Jan reached new record low value of 60,000 to USD$1, contributing to worsening living conditions for many households. Fuel prices continued to rise and citizens increasingly struggled to purchase imported products, such as medicine. Health Minister Firas Abiad 10 Jan announced that infant milk would no longer be subsidized, removing one of few remaining state subsidies. Deteriorating conditions led public school teachers to announce week-long strike on 9 Jan; depositors 10 Jan conducted armed hold-ups of two separate banks to demand access to savings. Doz-ens of protesters 25 Jan burnt tyres outside Central Bank to protest devaluing curren-cy.
Hizbollah and Israel exchanged hostile rhetoric over land border. Hizbollah 3 Jan released video purporting to demonstrate how group’s militant wing would in-vade northern Israel; several days later, Hizbollah reportedly announced that it had enlisted 9,000 new recruits to bolster military reserves. Israel same week announced plans to conduct military manoeuvres in disputed Shebaa Farms area. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 3 Jan said Israeli infringements to “status quo” at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade could trigger regional chaos, after Israel’s new national security minister visited site (see Israel-Palestine).
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.
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.
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...
The Lebanese state has been hollowed out by decades of corruption and patronage, and this has undermined due process and any sense of accountability.
[The Trump administration] is content allowing Israel to take the lead in pushing back against Iranian and Hezbollah influence in Syria.
The real risk [for Israel and Lebanon] is that of a miscommunication or accident being a trigger of a conflict across their border.
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.
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.
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’s imploding economy is deepening instability in the country. Public safety is further imperilled as state institutions weaken and regional tensions play out in Lebanese domestic politics. In this excerpt from the Watch List 2022, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to provide financial support to the Lebanese state, press for elections to be held on schedule and intensify efforts to reduce tension in the region.
While warning signs of Lebanon’s economic meltdown have been apparent for some time, as Crisis Group expert Heiko Wimmen writes, it is still shocking just how close things are to falling apart.
Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.