SAT 8 - 8 - 2020
Dec 2, 2019
The Daily Star
Lebanon’s instability, in 15-year increments
Joseph Haboush| The Daily Star
Lebanese officials recently celebrated the country’s 76th year of independence. For citizens - in the country and abroad - it has mainly felt like anything but independence.
Nearly every 15 years since its so-called independence, a major crisis has struck Lebanon.
In 1943, the Lebanese succeeded in breaking off from the French mandate. What has been referred to as the golden days of Lebanon the era that many refer to the country as “Switzerland of the Middle East” was enjoyed by many tourists and Lebanese alike. What came next was the beginning of something that seems to come and go, and hasn’t fully ended.
Political, economic and security instability have plagued the country since. In the late ’50s, Muslim-Christian strife broke out after the sides were pitted against one another as one side was backed by Egypt and Syria against a majority of the Christians, who were pro-West.
In the early ’70s, hundreds of thousands made their way to Lebanon. Controversial as their presence in Lebanon was and continues to be, the Palestine Liberation Organization established bases in Lebanon to fight Israel.
This was a main cause of the 15-year Civil War that broke out in 1975 and lasted until 1990. Throughout this period, Syrian troops invaded Lebanon followed by an Israeli occupation and another infiltration of Iranian-backed fighters to fight the Jewish state.
Lebanon’s economy plummeted, its infrastructure was destroyed - something which has not fully recovered since - and the ruling class that was put in power in 1990 remains the same.
In 2000, the first batch of occupying forces withdrew with Israel from south Lebanon.
In 2005, Syrian troops were pressured to withdraw after 29 years of hegemony.
This led to deep divide in the country with two major political movements forming: a pro-West March 14 Movement and the pro-Syria March 8 Movement.
In 2006, Hezbollah dragged Lebanon into a 34-day war with Israel. No all-out winner emerged, although Israel withdrew from the remaining areas of southern Lebanon except for Ghajar, Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba Hills.
Tensions remained high in the country and Gulf powers injected billions of dollars into Lebanon for reconstruction after the war ended.
And in 2008, Hezbollah fighters turned their arms against Lebanese in the streets of Beirut, which led to the most escalated tensions since the country’s Civil War.
The global economic crisis that broke out did little harm to Lebanon and investors and expats pumped money into Lebanon.
But five years later, the Syrian war began and Hezbollah’s participation in the neighboring war served as a pretext for Gulf countries to halt aid to Lebanon and sour ties with Beirut.
The economic crisis that ensued still affects Lebanon today, which is witnessing its most severe economic crisis since the Civil War.
Eight years after the outbreak of the Syrian war, Lebanon teeters with its own threat of chaos in 2019. With that, and, 76 years later, the Lebanese state has yet to experience any increments of more than 15 years of stability at a time.
Friday marked one month since Saad Hariri resigned and left Lebanon without a fully functioning government. With no light at the end of the tunnel yet, 2020 will come around and hopefully break the 15-year cycle.
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