The imminent collapse of Lebanon is certain to give Iran, Turkey, Russia, and China the perfect foothold to project power against Europe’s soft underbelly and Israel’s northern border, but the United States and its allies currently seem too preoccupied to care. Beleaguered friends inside this resource-rich enclave on the Mediterranean Sea are begging for help, but the response from Western powers has been tepid at best. Click here for more Lebanon News.
The collapse of a multiethnic and multireligious democracy—what St. John Paul II called a message of pluralism and coexistence—will eradicate that message in the place where it is needed most. It will hand the region over to malevolent forces and send a message to the world that America is an unreliable ally that balks when the going gets tough.
President Joe Biden can prevent a foreign takeover in Lebanon, but only if he acts quickly. Given the high stakes, he and his team should do exactly what our friends are asking them to do: lead the way for an international summit that will push for Lebanon’s political reform, recognize its formal neutrality, and open peace talks with its neighbors.
A Crisis at Fever Pitch
Once upon a time, Lebanon’s robust economy and picturesque landscapes gave it a reputation as the “Switzerland of the East,” but these days rampant corruption and foreign occupation have pushed the country over the edge. Aided by a bevy of crooked oligarchs, Iran and its proxy Hezbollah maintain their stranglehold on the country under the pretext of resisting the Jewish state. Hezbollah’s chief Hassan Nasrallah recently announced that his stockpile of precision-guided missiles has doubled in just one year, inviting war with Israel even as Lebanese families struggle to make ends meet. That Nasrallah and his cronies hide their missiles in civilian areas only proves his disregard for their well-being.
Lebanon was already sliding toward the abyss before the August 4, 2020, blast in Beirut’s port, with protestors filling the streets in the midst of a global pandemic to denounce the government’s financial mismanagement, but the shocking explosion pushed the country into freefall. Sensing a political vacuum, Turkey moved to expand its influence at the expense of Iran, while Russia and China also began prowling for new opportunities, fueling Hezbollah’s black market and aggravating the economic crisis with no resistance from Lebanon’s puppet government. Left unopposed, the clash of outside interests will pull this tiny country into the same kind of war as the one taking place over the border in Syria.
Lebanon isn’t perfect, but it isn’t hopeless either. It is true that sectarian conflict and foreign intervention plunged the country into civil strife during the 1970s and 80s, and that the war’s long shadow still darkens the face of Lebanese society; but Lebanese Christians and Muslims should be commended for building the freest and most pluralistic Arab state in the region. The raw materials for a flourishing, multi-religious society that combines the best of East and West are still present. What is lacking is an architect with fresh eyes and a clear plan.