According to itypeusa, Lebanon embodies to the highest degree the political, religious and ethnic fragmentation that characterizes the Middle Eastern area. Lebanese political life has long been influenced and unstable both by internal political divisions and by regional tensions. The country, once defined as ‘the Switzerland of the Middle East’ due to the regional importance of its financial system, plunged between 1975 and 1990 into a civil war that changed its internal balance and relations with the region. Since then, the ‘land of the Cedars’ has been at the center of the geopolitical competition of the most important players in the Middle East region – from Israel and Syria to Saudi Arabia and Iran – becoming almost an object, more than a subject, of the political dynamics of the Middle East. The central element of Lebanese international relations is the tension with Israel, with which it does not officially maintain diplomatic or economic relations. During the civil war, Israel intervened militarily in Lebanon (1982), a refuge for various Palestinian armed groups, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) by Yasser Arafat. The Israelis maintained a military presence in the south of the country until 2000, when then Prime Minister Ehud Barak ordered the withdrawal. After the civil war, the presence of the Shiite Hezbollah party fueled the tensions between the two countriesin the Lebanese political and institutional landscape. Israel engaged in two armed conflicts with Hezbollah on Lebanese territory: in 1996, with the ‘Clusters of Wrath’ operation, and in 2006, in what is known as the Lebanon War. Even today, Israel considers the presence of Hezbollah in Lebanon to be one of the greatest threats to its security, as well as a potential reason for conflict between the two countries. Lebanon and Israel are divided by territorial disputes, the result of Beirut’s claims on the area of the so-called Shebaa Farms, on the border between Lebanon, Syria and Israel, still under Israeli occupation.
Conflicting relations also exist between Lebanon and the other close and historical interlocutor, Syria. Damascus has traditionally viewed Lebanon as a natural offshoot of its territory and maintained occupation troops in the country until the end of 2005, when the two neighbors normalized their diplomatic relations. Even today, however, both the Syrian regime and Iran – another major player in Lebanese politics as the reference power of Hezbollah – maintain a certain degree of influence on internal political equilibrium, through the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal parties. Saudi Arabia also exerts a significant weight on Lebanon’s equilibrium since it economically and politically supports the Sunni faction headed by Saad Hariri (son of Rafiq, Lebanese premier assassinated in 2005), above all in an anti-Iranian role. In the last few years, Turkey and Qatar have established themselves as credible mediators for internal stabilization. Internationally, Lebanon maintains good relations with the Western world, especially with some European countries such as Italy and France, the two most active states within the United Nations Interim Force mission in Lebanon (Unifil). The Lebanese institutional structure was born from the Ta’if agreements, signed in 1989 by all the political forces in the homonymous city of Saudi Arabia, at the end of the civil war. Although the subject of criticism, the pact constitutes a regulatory paradigm of a political system characterized by strong internal fragmentation. Lebanon presents itself as a parliamentary republic, in which the institutional balances are regulated by the division of power on an ethnic and religious basis. According to this scheme, as a rule, the president of the republic is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the president of parliament a Shiite Muslim. Furthermore, within the unicameral parliament, in which 128 members sit.
Changes in the composition of the two major blocs (pro-Shiite and pro-Sunni) are frequent: this causes a continuous change in the national balance, aggravated by external influences. According to the Doha agreement of May 2008, Lebanon should be led by a government of national unity, in which 15 ministers are appointed by the majority, ten by the minority and five by the president of the republic. In the 2009 elections the Alliance of March 14, led by the Future (Tayyar al-Mustaqbal) of Saad Hariri, obtained a majority and formed the government. In January 2011, members appointed by the March 8 Alliance (including those of Hezbollah) resigned, causing an executive crisis, following which billionaire Najib Mikati was appointed prime minister. The worsening of the riots in Syria, erupted in 2011, and radicalized in a civil conflict, they also created instability in Lebanon and directly involved Hezbollah, which sent hundreds of men to fight alongside its ally Bashar al-Assad. Since the end of 2011, clashes and attacks have also occurred on Lebanese territory, especially in Beirut and in the northern city of Tripoli. The Mikati government, which for a long time tried to follow a neutral policy with respect to the Syrian conflict, had to resign in March 2013, due to the withdrawal of Hezbollah from the majority. President Michel Suleiman then asked Sunni exponent Tammam Salam to form a for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from the majority. President Michel Suleiman then asked Sunni exponent Tammam Salam to form a for Hezbollah’s withdrawal from the majority. President Michel Suleiman then asked Sunni exponent Tammam Salam to form a new government. The new executive, however, only came to life in February 2014 due to the disagreements between the various political factions and soon found itself facing a further worsening of tensions due to the Syrian conflict. Meanwhile, in June 2014, the mandate of the parliament elected in 2009 expired without the political parties being able to agree on either the new electoral law or the name of the new President of the Republic after Suleiman’s mandate is also it has come to an end. The political stalemate dragged on into 2015 and both parliament and government continued to hold office despite the end of their mandates, while the office of president remained vacant. The Lebanese political scene, strongly conditioned by external influences, first and foremost the conflict between the Gulf monarchies and Iran, the main sponsors of the Sunni Futuro faction and the Shiite Hezbollah party respectively.