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Monday Morning Meeting on "Deepening Internal Crises in Lebanon”

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  • October 31, 2022
    Monday Morning Meeting
    1000 hrs

    Dr. Jatin Kumar, Research Analyst, West Asia Centre at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, spoke on “Deepening Internal Crises in Lebanon” at the Monday Morning Meeting held on 31 October 2022. The session was moderated by Dr. Md. Mudassir Quamar, Associate Fellow, MP-IDSA. Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy (Retd.), Director General, MP-IDSA, Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi (Retd.), Deputy Director General, MP-IDSA and the scholars of the Institute were in attendance.


    Since 2019, Lebanon has been facing one of the world’s worst economic crisis which is exacerbated by political instability in the country, owing to several factors such as corruption and economic mismanagement. The crisïs has further deepened after the departure of President Michel Naim Aoun, who left office on 30 October 2022. The situation is also influenced by regional (Hezbollah, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel) and international actors. Various countries such as the United States (US), France, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have come forward to help Lebanon but they have also urged that a new government be formed and structural reforms be introduced so that the international community can extend its support.


    Dr. Md. Mudassir Quamar, the moderator, during his opening remarks introduced the attendees to the crises in Lebanon. He began by explaining the general causes of instability in the region of West Asia along with their repercussions such as violence, terrorism, civil wars etc., and highlighted the impact felt throughout the world. For years, countries such as Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen have been facing several challenges. Now, even Lebanon faces severe economic and political crises to the point that the country is on the verge of collapse.

    Dr. Jatin Kumar began by discussing Lebanon’s consistent political and economic crises since 2019. He highlighted that the severity of the crises is evident in the difficulty faced by Lebanon in government formation, especially after the election of May 2022. The situation has got further aggravated after the departure of President Michel Aoun from office.

    Dr. Jatin began his analysis by first explaining the geographical positioning and strategic importance of Lebanon in the region. He stated that though small, Lebanon has strategically important in the region of West Asia with respect to countries such as Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s relation with Hezbollah, Lebanon’s political and militia group which functions as a state within a state, has always been a rallying point in Lebanon’s internal politics and its relations with other Gulf countries. For Israel, Lebanon is an immediate neighbouring hostile country which has not yet officially signed a peace agreement unlike Jordan and Egypt. Further, the speaker highlighted how Iranian influence in Lebanon is a problem for Israel’s national security as Iran has been training and providing dangerous arms and ammunition to Hezbollah. Similar to Israel, the Iranian influence on Lebanon is also a problem for Saudi Arabia.  The speaker emphasised how the deepening crisis in Lebanon can add to the misery of the region of West Asia and can trigger another refugee crisis.

    Dr. Kumar proceeded to describe the current political system of Lebanon and various problems associated with it. He stated that Lebanon follows a Confessional political system, where the key political positions such as President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Parliament are reserved on the basis of religious and sectarian lines. In order to explain the political system he also provided the details of various religious communities residing in Lebanon. Thereafter, he highlighted the sectarian problems which the country is facing since its independence and that festered during the long civil war that continued between 1975 to 1989. The Ṭāʾif Accord which ended the civil war, did not change aspects related to sectarian divisions which over a period of time has become one of the major issues for Lebanon. The situation in Lebanon has continued to deteriorate on multiple fronts since 2019. Since then, Four Prime Ministers have changed but political instability remains. The parliamentary elections of May 2202, failed to provide a clear winner which made government formation even more difficult.

    Dr. Kumar listed several reasons for the delay in government formation. According to him, the first reason is the political system of Lebanon, which does not allow any single political party to secure a majority in the parliament. The people of Lebanon have consistently protested against the system due to the problems associated with it. Second reason is the misplaced priorities of the political elites in the country, usually with respect to securing lucrative portfolios such as the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior and Energy etc. which provide profitable contracts. There was also a disagreement between Prime Minister Najib Azmi Mikati and President Aoun regarding the distribution of key ministries.

    Dr. Kumar further spoke about the economic crisis that has engulfed Lebanon. Since 2019, Lebanon has seen consistent economic degradation. Lebanon’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell, inflation skyrocketed and unemployment worsened. Corruption in the country has been one of the major reasons for economic crises, which has led to underutilisation of funds provided by countries such as the US and France.

    The speaker also discussed the role of regional rivalries in worsening Lebanon’s conditions. Iran’s relation with Hezbollah becomes an obstacle in receiving financial support from the Gulf countries especially Saudi Arabia. He further highlighted the role of other international actors such as the US and Iran in the crisis. The international community has come forward to help Lebanon to deal with the current situation. Countries like France, US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and European Union (EU) have given financial aid. India provided 70 metric tons of medical, food, and relief supplies to Lebanon.

    In his closing statement, Dr. Jatin concluded that the constant political crisis in Lebanon is a result of sectarianism and a confessional political system. He also concluded that assistance from the international community will not be enough to stabilise Lebanon, as the need of the hour is robust economic and political reforms.


    Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy highlighted the importance of Lebanon in shaping Israel’s threat perceptions, not only with regard to Iranians or Hezbollah but also with regard to Palestinians. He encouraged the speaker to further examine Lebanon from a multifocal lens, in terms of Israel’s assessment of Lebanon, the impact of tumultuous upheavals in the Levant on Lebanon, impact of normalisation of relations between Israel and other West Asian countries in the region etc. He also suggested that the impact of Lebanon's internal crisis on the Lebanese diaspora throughout the world be studied and urged that any changes taking place within this community owing to the crisis, if any, be examined.

    Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bipin Bakshi stated that apart from corruption and sectarianism, in the last three years, the impact of COVID-19 must also be taken into consideration for contributing to Lebanon’s dire state. He also observed that the rising prices of oil and grains due to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated the crisis. Unemployment has increased, people are raiding the banks at gunpoint for their own rightful money. He emphasised that the effects of the crisis are colossal and that we might be witnessing a major humanitarian crisis looming large, and soon witness regional or multilateral intervention to contain the crisis.

    Points Made During Q&A

    1. The confessional political system has a role to play in Lebanon’s current crisis but cannot be considered the only cause of the crisis. There were several reasons as to why the system was adopted. However, it is the lack of reforms within the system which has created political unrest in the country.
    2. Hezbollah is a major player in the domestic politics of Lebanon. Its relations with Iran have been an obstacle in unlocking the support from the Gulf countries, especially from Saudi Arabia.
    3. The maritime boundary agreement signed between Israel and Lebanon is historic in many respects. It is the first maritime agreement signed between two countries having no diplomatic relations. It is an indirect agreement brokered by the US and yet accounts for a treaty under international law.