Lebanon on a precipice between war and peace

BEIRUT — Squeezed between Israel and Iran, faced with rising emigration of its fractured Christian community, and wracked by a widening wealth gap between a corrupt elite and increasingly desperate poor, Lebanon is being ripped apart.

Whether those stresses break into a new era of civil conflict will depend largely on forces outside of Lebanon, as the US and France duel over how to deal with the country’s crisis amid fast-shifting geopolitical winds in the Middle East. 

The potential for such a conflagration was arguably accelerated by the cataclysmic August 4 port explosion in Beirut that killed some 200 people and devastated neighboring districts, a blast caused by a mammoth stock of explosive grade ammonium nitrate that had secretly been kept at the port for years.

The shattering event has prompted dueling diplomatic initiatives by Paris and Washington, the former which prioritizes stability via Islamist party and militant group Hezbollah’s continued hegemony, and the latter which seeks to ratchet pressure on Hezbollah and lasso Lebanon into a new regional alignment taking shape with recent US-brokered pacts signed between Israel and Arab states.

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