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CrisisWatch Lebanon

Deteriorated Situation

Unprecedented currency collapse sparked renewed anti-govt protests while negotiations with International Monetary Fund (IMF) stalled due to disagreement between govt and banks over magnitude of financial losses. As anti-govt protests 6 June erupted in centre of capital Beirut, clashes fuelled by sectarian invective broke out as some protesters called for disarmament of Hizbollah, leaving 48 demonstrators and 25 soldiers reportedly injured; political and religious leaders next day called for calm. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 17 June reaffirmed group’s resistance to any attempt to coerce party into disarming through economic pressure. Exchange rate on black market 11 June for first time crossed 5,000 Lebanese lira to the dollar and stood above 8,000 on 30 June, despite govt’s new pricing system aimed at gradually reducing rate; currency depreciated by more than 80% since beginning of crisis in Oct 2019. Following currency crash, anti-govt protesters across country including in cities of Beirut, Tripoli and Sidon 11-13 June took to streets; some rallies turned violent, with protesters attacking banks and commercial property. PM Diab 12 June held emergency meeting, announced Central Bank will inject dollars into market to mitigate currency collapse. Meanwhile, negotiations with IMF over rescue package stalled due to disagreement between govt and banks over scale and distribution of financial sector losses; banks insist on repayments of internal debt and deposits through selling state assets whereas govt previews “bail-in” solution affecting shareholders of banks and depositors alike. PM Diab 10 June announced senior govt appointments widely seen as controversial due to background of appointees, sparking doubts that govt is serious about installing technocratic experts to address economic crisis. IMF 19 June emphasised need for consensus to move reforms forward, warned of “deeper-than-expected” GDP contraction in second quarter of 2020. President Aoun 25 June convened national dialogue despite opposition’s boycott and protests; warned of “atmosphere of civil war”. Govt 30 June raised price of partially subsidised bread, sparking further protests in Beirut.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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

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

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
13 Nov 2017
Hariri as [Lebanon's] Prime Minister created the impression that coexistence with Hezbollah and by extension with Iran was possible; his departure is designed to erase any doubt. New Zealand Herald

Robert Malley

President & CEO
11 Nov 2017
For months now, [Israel] has been sounding alarm bells about Hezbollah’s and Iran’s growing footprint in Syria, and about the Lebanese capacity to produce precision-guided missiles. Business Insider

Robert Malley

President & CEO

Latest Updates

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

Hezbollah and Israel: Deterrence at the Edge of Destruction

After 13 years of maintaining the status quo, Israel and Hezbollah are now negotiating new rules of engagement.

Originally published in Middle East Eye

Keep the Calm in Lebanon

The Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively quiet for the past 13 years. The latest tit-for-tat threatens the balance.

Originally published in The American Prospect

In Lebanon’s Elections, More of the Same is Mostly Good News

Lebanon’s elections yielded few surprises, says Crisis Group’s Lebanon, Syria and Iraq Project Director Heiko Wimmen in this Q&A. Hizbollah is slightly stronger and its main rival weaker. But the polls do represent a return to normalcy.