On October 13, 1990, major factions all around Lebanon who have been trying to seize control of the country since 1975, signed a historic peace deal between each other. Throughout Lebanon’s history in the late 20th century. Lebanon has gone under a long period of a civil war, invaded by Israel and Syria, and has been interfered with by other state actors who gave financial help and training to these militia groups they favored. Since then, in 2020, that peace deal has kept the peace in the country, but recent events, a failed economy, and the lack of any policy moves by the government have left the country on a brink of a failed state or possibly another civil war? In the last 5 years in the country, Lebanon has been facing major corruption, financial crisis, and the lack of government ability to do basic daily tasks into day to day operations. The failure of this so-called democratic government has made the people who were once fighting each other based on religious lines turned against the whole system who once was praised for ending the war. Most notably, all of this mixture cumulated to the world to see in 2020 with the port exploding ammonia nitrate. So, the question is this, how did Lebanon since the peace deal, lead to the state the country is in right now, and the answer is basically because of Factionalism, Hezbollah and Iran, Corruption, and the Banking Ponzi Scheme.
So, when the peace deal was created, many of the faction’s elites were trying to decide how to maintain the peace and how to maintain equal power between each other. So, what was compromised was that the President would be given only to the Marinate Christian, Prime Minister would be given to a Sunni Muslim, and the House Speaker would be given to Shia Muslim. In theory, the point of giving each major religion in the country to have proportional power so that no one can outdo the other when managing the government. It has left the country divided by religious ties rather than political ties. This in turn lead politicians to try to adequate resources to their side rather than focusing on working the country. Hence the reason why the politicians are unable to compromise with the other factions. There is a lot of mistrust. Over the years, Lebanon was not only divided by party lines but as well as influenced by other countries that sided with one of each religious party. France plays as a mediator to all of the factions in the country. They are the ones that make sure and force upon the factions to make deals and compromise with each other as its goals are to prevent the stability of the country to decline. Syria and Iran have a huge influence on the Shia communities who are very connected to the terror organization group known as Hezbollah. The Sunnis would be influenced by Saudi Arabia. For the longest time, Syria stayed in Lebanon up to 2005 after Rafik Harari assassination that led to countrywide protest against the Syrians and Hezbollah. The US and Russia mainly watch Lebanon on the outside and influences the other regional powers like France and Syria. As recently the US interest grows in the country as the US does not want to give any aid to Lebanon until Hezbollah disarms itself. All of this leads to the factions not willing to work with each other until the situation is dire.
Hezbollah plays a huge role in the country as it is considered the most powerful faction in politics. Of all the winners in the civil war, the Shias have won the most. The minority that represents only half of the Muslim population in the country gets the most resources and financial control of the country with the support of Iran’s generous donations to support its proxy. Added as it is the only major faction that has not to disarm itself and goes out of the country and fight in Syria. Hezbollah is not only able to fund itself, it can exert military control and threaten other factions to whatever it wants. So far, the militia has been restrained in the protest as angering the populous would not help them.
What is most pressable noticeable in Lebanese day to day life is the rampant corruption that plague the country. The everyday municipal task that every city is expected to do lack in funding, efficiency, and even doing the task routinely. Lebanon garbage crisis is a major look at how bad the state has done its job taking care of the people. Mainly it is created due to the factionalism in the country that prevents any form of the money from being distributed into the bureaucracy. Most of the public and international government right now does not trust the aid through the government and rather wants the aid to go through a local organization that people can trust upon. As an example, the Canadian’s International Development Minister states that the aid will not go through government-run channels but NGOs. As preferably the government has not attempted to crack down the corruption as it hasn’t even been able to form any parties when the government resigns after the explosion in the port. Despite international efforts to help it seems like most of the governments have taken a side of doing nothing until Lebanon reforms itself. With no back way or money to go through the country, it is impossible to know how this would lead. Civil war, Revolution, or a formation of a government that can effectively reform itself. It is hard to know.
What started the downward spiral in the country was the Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the political elite in the banking sectors and the government. As directed by the FDD article James Rickards, “Lebanon’s economy was effectively a Ponzi scheme. Such schemes can last a long time. They are based on their participants’ confidence in the solvency and liquidity of the scheme. Inevitably, however, one or both of those pillars breaks down. That is when the system collapses.” The article continues talking about the government and the conflict of interest it had with the banks that broke the whole system in 2014 where both oil prices crash and US sanctions started on the country where the whole system crashed. Today most of the money that was in Lebanon was taken out in the country. In the reaction to the wealth leaving the country, the banks themselves limited the amount of the money that Lebanese can take out. Most Lebanese are not able to extract their wealth which they have put into the banks and the banks themselves are on the brink of collapse while the elites run free of prison. I surely recommend reading this as it is a long article but a very interesting one that goes into deep detail. Just in summary the banks and the government created the whole Ponzi Scheme that was bound to fail.
The fallout of all the failures that this democratic government has led to the situation today we see. They are unable to make any form of progress in the government, corruptions, the isolation of the country with Hezbollah in control, and the financial Ponzi Scheme has broken the camel’s back. What is the future for democracy is unknown but worrying signs show it might open up old wounds that weren’t solved in the civil war despite a new generation of Lebanese who grew up under the peace are united for their anger towards the corrupt regime. There has been a unity for all the religions in mass protest of the whole system. So, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. The future is unknown but recent protests around the Middle East have shown to be more unity calls for their country rather than divisions in sectarian violence that was created by regional powers. The Middle East is a place that sees no rest in political turmoil.