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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

Standoff over investigation into Aug 2020 Beirut port explosion continued, while economic decline triggered protests across country. Shiite groups Hizbollah and Amal maintained demand to remove investigative judge Tarik Bitar. Cabinet meetings remained suspended since 12 Oct due to political divisions; attempt by Maronite patriarch to mediate compromise solution to standoff failed to achieve breakthrough and judiciary faced increasing paralysis while facing political pressure amid flurry of procedural objections and counter-suits by some of politicians Bitar seeks to question. Work on measures to alleviate worst symptoms of economic crisis, in particular to increase electricity supplies and release rationing card to support poorest citizens hit by removal of subsidies, continued throughout month but without significant breakthroughs. Govt also continued consultations with International Monetary Fund on financial assistance. Protesters 26 Nov broke into ministry of social affairs building in capital Beirut citing further economic decline and continuing currency collapse. Protesters 29 Nov constructed roadblocks in central Beirut, northern city Tripoli and southern city Sidon, calling on govt to act to address collapsing currency. UNICEF 23 Nov reported “dramatic deterioration of living conditions” as over 50% of families had at least one child who skipped meal by Oct 2021. After diplomatic spat late Oct erupted with Gulf states after footage emerged of Information Minister George Kordahi criticising Saudi-led war in Yemen, relations with Gulf continued to face strains and deepened govt paralysis. Affair worsened 2 Nov when leaked statements of FM Abdallah Bouhabib (appointee of President Aoun) revealed minister criticising Saudi positions. After Riyadh declared ban on all commercial transactions with Lebanon, govt faced prospect of obliterating export earnings from Saudi Arabia, which already fell from $250mn in 2020 to $100mn this year, thus increasing economic and financial hardship at home; Aoun 29 Nov expressed desire for reconciliation with Riyadh.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
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

Latest Updates

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.

Riots in Lebanon’s Tripoli are Harbingers of Collapse

Four days of violent unrest in Tripoli on Lebanon’s northern coast could presage more to come, as a new coronavirus outbreak deepens the country’s severe socio-economic crisis. Humanitarian aid is urgently needed to keep the worst-case scenarios at bay.

Also available in العربية

Avoiding Further Polarisation in Lebanon

As it tries to pull out of its economic tailspin, Lebanon badly needs a functional cabinet able to make reforms. Such a government must have broad support, including from Hizbollah. The party’s domestic and external foes should accordingly stop attempting to curtail its role.

Also available in العربية