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CrisisWatch Lebanon

Unchanged Situation

Currency slide triggered fresh wave of protests, while government formation remained stalled despite international pressure. Lebanese pound 2 March fell to low of 10,000 to $1, triggering five consecutive days of protest in response to prolonged govt inaction over economic crisis; 50 demonstrators 7 March burned tyres and protested in front of banking association in capital Beirut demanding access to deposits, while protesters in northern city Tripoli blocked roads and staged sit-in. Market dealers 16 March said Lebanese pound was trading at 15,000 to dollar, representing loss of 90% value since late 2019 financial crisis began; downturn same day triggered further protests and roadblocks in Beirut. Armed forces Commander-in-Chief Joseph Aoun 8 March affirmed people’s right to peaceful protest in meeting with military commanders, warning govt that army should not be relied upon to repress popular discontent. Meanwhile, govt formation efforts faced continued deadlock. PM-designate Saad al-Hariri 17 March met President Aoun to discuss cabinet; Hariri same day agreed to additional meeting to discuss his proposed cabinet candidates, indicating Aoun should call early presidential elections if candidates are not approved. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah next day pledged support to new cabinet if announced, but cautioned against reliance on technocrats and specialist appointees. Hariri 22 March publicly rebuked Aoun over latter’s demands for veto powers in govt and continued rejection of proposed cabinet line-up. French diplomat 17 March reportedly indicated France and international partners were set to increase political pressure on Lebanon’s leadership in coming months; UN special coordinator for Lebanon next day urged Lebanese authorities to facilitate cabinet formation during address to UN Security Council. NGO Amnesty International 23 March published report documenting alleged abuses committed by Lebanese military intelligence against Syrian detainees, including fair trial violations and torture; prosecutor general 29 March ordered probe. NGO Human Rights Watch 30 March said security forces “forcibly disappeared and allegedly tortured” detained protesters in Tripoli.

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Reports & Briefings

In The News

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
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

Latest Updates

Preventing State Collapse in Lebanon

Lebanon’s socio-economic and financial crisis accelerated greatly in the first half of 2020. The government resigned after the Beirut port blast, compounding the disarray. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 – Autumn Update, Crisis Group urges the EU and its member states to coordinate continued emergency assistance and revitalisation of key infrastructure, create reforms roadmap, boost civil society, and pool and coordinate emergency funds.

Also available in Français

The Beirut Blast: An Accident in Name Only

The catastrophic explosion in Beirut’s port is a manifestation of the Lebanese political elite’s predation and dysfunction. Among the country’s long-suffering citizens, shock is quickly yielding to fury. It may be the last chance for those in power to effect long-overdue structural reforms.

Also available in العربية

Pulling Lebanon out of the Pit

An uprising of unprecedented scope has rocked Lebanon as the country’s economy tumbles deeper into recession. Poverty and unemployment could lead to violent unrest. Donors should put together an emergency package but condition further aid upon reforms to tackle corruption, a major grievance driving protest.

Also available in العربية

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