Lebanon

Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians of all the nations in the Middle East. Estimates suggest that more than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian – Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Melkite, Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Assyrian, and Armenian. Half of Lebanon’s members of Parliament are Christian. Lebanon also has a unique parliamentary democracy that reflects its rich ethnic and religious diversity.

Since the end of Syria’s occupation of Lebanon (2005), Lebanon has emerged as a beacon of pluralism in the Middle East, a nation where Christians, Muslims, Druze, and others generally live in peace, despite internal and external threats.

Lebanon’s refugee population is estimated to be at least one quarter of its native population.  Lebanon, despite its diminutive size, currently has more Syrian refugees than all of Europe (as many as 1.5 million in Lebanon).  Lebanon has shown remarkable resilience and generosity, but without international support will be unable to accommodate the humanitarian, social, and economic burdens of so many refugees. In addition, the potential radicalization of refugees is a particular danger to Lebanon, its neighbors, and the world.

Lebanon has also been a target of regional powers, which too often exert undue influence on Lebanon’s domestic politics. For example, Iran provides Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, with significant financial support including weapons, training, intelligence, and logistical assistance. Similarly, wealthy Gulf state actors have supplied significant funds for the radicalization of Sunni refugees in Lebanon and elsewhere.  The influence of these regional powers has also caused political gridlock in Lebanon, which has undermined its governance. (Lebanon has not had a President for more than two years, and Hezbollah’s political wing has consistently stated that it will continue to block elections until a candidate who supports Hezbollah is elected.)

Recommendations:

  • Recognize the importance of bilateral U.S. assistance to the Lebanese government in order to build its capacity to provide services and security for Lebanese citizens and particularly to curb the influence of Hizballah.
  • Work with the international community and regional partners to end the conflict in Syria and to to enable the eventual return of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
  • Strengthen military and diplomatic ties with Lebanon to promote Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability, and the integrity of its governance.