Lebanon between internal and international pressures

Fights between armed groups continue to tear Lebanon, a land which has been continuously witnessing resurgence of war outbreaks within itself. Furthermore, the outbreak of the crisis in Syria and its evolution combined with the threat of the Islamic State contributed to raise more attention towards this country. The latest events date back to October 24 in Tripoli which is the second biggest Lebanese city in the northern region, in terms of population and importance. On this particular date, the regular army and the Sunni armed groups considered close to the Syrian group of al-Qaeda came into contact[1]. To prove how connected are the Lebanese situation and the Syrian crisis, it is sufficient to say that Sunni Islamists accuse the army to work with the Shiite movement Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to aid Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Clashes that took place in Bab-al-Tibbaneh, the predominantly Sunni neighborhood, such as the entire city of Tripoli, also involved fighters of the Alawite minority, mainly resident in the neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen. The city, like the entire country, is a victim of the tensions between different religious souls. It also suffers the pressure of the difficult situations in the neighboring countries. On the eve of the fighting in Tripoli, the Lebanese government announced its unavailability to accept any more refugees from war-torn Syria[2]. Truthfully, in August, Lebanon had already decided to place restrictions on entering its borders. Unfortunately, thanks to inside sources of the UN Refugee Agency, it is now well known that the flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon reached unprecedented dimensions.

In this perspective, it must also be taken into account that, since May 25, the seat of Head of State has been vacant. Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, announced on Monday in Beirut, after months of abstinence from public appearances, that the Shiite movement will support Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement[3]. The announcement came during the Ashura, the controversial celebrations whose meaning is different to the Sunnis and the Shiites. Following this ceremony, the Islamic State threatened to attack the holy places in Lebanon, in Syria and in Iraq[4]. In the same speech, Nasrallah accused Zionists of taking advantage of the Islamic world’s turmoil but he also assured that resistance to their offensive is a real threat to Israel[5].

In Lebanon, just like in other countries of the Middle East, it seems that the problems and the solutions to the tensions can come from both the internal and the international spheres. The widespread of Islamic radicalism represents a globalizing factor to the internal cleavages of the countries that now have to face, and possibly overcome, this tumultuousness. Tribal and religious clashes are likely to be echoed across national borders. Lebanon, once depicted as a model of religious cohabitation, has changed a lot in the last years. Even the Christians have been often forced to support one or the other of the two parties in the Muslim struggle[6]: the Shiites and the Sunnis. Domestic political stability is just partially compromised. The real game will most likely be the one of preventing Lebanon from becoming a hotbed of international conflict. Syria, a country historically very lumbering to Beirut, can become a serious problem. The recent agreement reached between France and Saudi Arabia to supply the Lebanese army with weapons to the tune of $3 billion[7] proves the will of not leaving the country at the mercy of irregular armed groups.


Francesco Angelone

Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)



[1] Alexander Dziadosz, Lebanon Army clashes with gunmen, kills two in Tripoli: sources, “Reuters”, October 24, 2014 – http://ca.reuters.com/article/idCAKCN0ID2DT20141024.

[2] Anon., Lebanon tells Syrian refugees ‘to return’ or go elsewhere, “BBC”, October 24, 2014 – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29755970.

[3] Anon., Hezbollah’s candidate for the presidency is FPM leader Michel Aoun: Nasrallah, “The Daily Star”, November 3, 2014 – http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Nov-03/276394-hezbollahs-candidate-for-the-presidency-is-fpm-leader-michel-aoun-nasrallah.ashx#axzz3I6UbcJVv. Anon., Libano: svolta nell’elezione presidenziale, Hezbollah annuncia Aoun come proprio candidato, “Agenzia Nova”, November 3, 2014 – http://www.agenzianova.com/a/5457cb67b13fd5.57936281/879665/2014-11-03/libano-svolta-nell-elezione-presidenziale-hezbollah-annuncia-aoun-come-proprio-candidato.

[4] Anon., Lo Stato Islamico annuncia attacchi nel giorno dell’Ashura, “Lookout”, November 4, 2014 – http://www.lookoutnews.it/ashura-iraq-siria-libano-sciiti-sunniti/.

[5] Anon., Shiites mark Ashura as Nasrallah plays down Israeli threats, “Naharnet Newsdesk”, November 4, 2014 – http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/153845-shiites-in-lebanon-mark-ashura-amid-security-concerns.

[6] Sandro Magister, Cristiani e musulmani in Libano. Un’inchiesta, “L’Espresso”, February 3, 2014 – http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1350422.

[7] Anon., France says $3B Lebanon weapons deal to go ahead, “The Daily Star”, October 9, 2014 – http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Oct-09/273450-france-says-3b-lebanon-weapons-deal-to-go-ahead.ashx#axzz3I6UbcJVv. Anon., Libano, Francia fornirà 3 miliardi di armi pagate da Arabia Saudita, “La Presse”, November 4, 2014 – http://www.lapresse.it/mondo/asia/libano-francia-fornira-3-miliardi-di-armi-pagate-da-arabia-saudita-1.606919.

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