By Sarah Zettinger
A country constantly dealing with problems old and new, Lebanon is the site of one of the longest running and overlapping political crises in history. In a conflict that dates back officially to 1948, and unofficially earlier, Israel and Lebanon has yet to sign a peace accord, so war is formally ongoing. Following the acceptance of Lebanon into the group of Arab nations against the Israeli state, tensions grew and facilitated numerous conflicts ranging from small guerilla fights to US-sponsored negotiations that fell through due to resurgence of civil war. Often caught between the agendas of the larger and more powerful countries, Lebanon is currently stuck between the countries of Saudi Arabia and Israel against Iran and the Hezbollah, a Shi’a Islamist political and militant group based in Lebanon.
Recently, this resurgence in conflict, both internally and externally, has spurred Prime Minister Saad Haririr, a Sunni politician backed by Saudi Arabia, to leave his position. Whether it was because of his televised reasons, due to Iranian and Hezbollah influences in Lebanese politics, or more aggressive reasons, due to Saudi Arabia’s increasingly bold crown prince, this resignation has propelled the conflict to deeper waters. Though Hariri cited a fear of assassination as a secondary reason, the sudden decision gave rise to rumors that the real reason is the widespread anti-corruption purge of the Saudi government, though Saudi Arabia has denied these statements.
However, the departure of Hariri from the Lebanese government has facilitated a surge of anti-Hezbollah sentiment. The Saudi Arabian gulf affairs minister took it one step further and declared the intent to group Hezbollah into the entirety of Lebanon, treating the country that houses the group as a facilitator of the group itself. Because of this, war with Hezbollah is also war with Lebanon despite the differences.
For now, war is an option but not yet a certainty. Neither side desires war because of the most recent armed conflict, but that will not stop the possibility, according to a senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Each country has a desired outcome and until most of the cards can be put on the table, nothing is likely to happen.
The resignation of Hariri has also hit international tones since the US and the European Union has traditionally offered support to war-torn countries to sponsor democracy and stability. Since the resignation, a US embassy statement has reaffirmed this aim as well as delineating a separation between Lebanon and Hezbollah, something that Saudi Arabia refuses to do, supporting Lebanon and denouncing the branded terrorist group. A new prime minister is in Lebanon’s future, but there is no rush due to the current instability of the Lebanese pound as well as the government even after the resignation.
So what does this mean for the future? The hotspot for political conflict since the mid-1900s, Lebanon seems poised to fall back into a cross-country war with its neighbors despite the war being fought against an entrenched political group within Lebanon’s borders and not the country. Since the resignation of Hariri, there is a sudden imbalance of power in the government due to a tenuous agreement to even out religious influences: the prime minister must be Sunni, the president a Maronite Christian, and the parliament speaker a Shiite Muslim. The Lebanese Parliament knows that the balance is vital to maintain unity and stability within a divided nation and to ease the transition between leaders.
At the very least, this means watching Lebanon (and its neighbors) with a close eye. If the country’s shaky history is anything to go by, the next game changer is on the horizon and the next headline is just around the corner. In an analysis with quotes from Randa Slim, director of a conflict resolution program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, Slim states that Saudi Arabia and Iran were the main two battlers to keep an eye on. She also points out that Bahrain, a small island country including an archipelago off the coast of Saudi Arabia, has asked its citizens to leave Lebanon for their own safety, a firm marker that the fallout is already spreading.
 The Associated Press. (2006, July 17). History of the Lebanese-Israeli Conflict. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/17/AR2006071700340.html
 Narayan, C. (2017, November 05). Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigns. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/04/middleeast/lebanese-prime-minister-saad-hariri-resigns/index.html
 Loveluck, L., & Morris, L. (2017, November 08). Lebanon’s plunge into political crisis raises specter of war with Israel. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/lebanons-plunge-into-political-crisis-raises-specter-of-war-with-israel/2017/11/08/ddff445e-c332-11e7-9922-4151f5ca6168_story.html?utm_term=.6fb1b8213e9b
Perry, T. (2017, November 08). EU, U.S. affirm Lebanon support, diverging from Saudi. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-lebanon-crisis/eu-u-s-affirm-lebanon-support-diverging-from-saudi-idUSKBN1D811H
Abu-Nasr, D., Khraiche, D., & Nereim, V. (2017, November 04). Lebanon PM Resigns, Bringing Saudi-Iran Proxy Conflict to the Fore. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-04/lebanese-prime-minister-saad-hariri-resigns-from-government