CSAG STRATEGY PAPER
By: LTC GIAMPIERO CURRADO, ITA Army (CSAG/CCJ5)
16 January 2024
Years of political instability in combination with an ongoing economic crisis — exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion in the Port of Beirut in August 2020 — have brought the country close to collapse. Moreover, the current institutional vacuum (with no president and no cabinet) delays any agreement on resolving the crisis while strengthening and legitimizing the imperialist ambitions of Iranian leaders who seek to rule Lebanon through their well-armed proxy, Hezbollah.
Nevertheless, Lebanon is still the missing piece in the “Shia Crescent”, and it could be the keystone left for the U.S. to balance influence in the wider Middle East and the Mediterranean. This paper will explain the reason for the Lebanese crisis and why it is crucial for the U.S. and its international allies to help Lebanon preserve its independence, sovereignty, national unity, stability, and territorial integrity to counter Iran, curb Russian ambitions in the Mediterranean, and challenge Beijing ‘s diplomatic role in the region.
- The country does not currently have a cabinet of ministers and its major political parties are unable to agree on a forward path to elect a new President.
- Since the start of the Syrian crisis (2011), Lebanon has the highest per capita number of refugees in the world and the second highest total number of Syrian refugees in the world.
- The country’s complex political system has long been framed by sectarian division, with Iran-backed Shiite Hezbollah on one side and the Saudis supporting Sunni politicians on the other.
- The political ascendancy of Hezbollah threatens to bring it under Iranian control and accelerating the trajectory towards Lebanon as a possible “second front” on Israel’s northern border.
- Local civil society movements and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are the last remaining bulwarks against endemic political corruption, Hezbollah dominance and Iranian influence, but they are struggling with local legitimacy and conflict management.
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The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are those of a number of international officers within the Combined Strategic Analysis Group (CSAG) and do not necessarily reflect the views of United States Central Command, not of the nations represented within the CSAG or any other governmental agency.