Lebanon on the Brink

Lebanon is always on the verge of civil war, but this status does not always mean that civil war is necessarily around the corner.

It may happen tomorrow, or Lebanese may find a way to postpone its eruption, but civil war is inevitable. Something is in the air in Lebanon and it reminds people of my generation of the atmosphere that preceded the civil war of 1975. But there are some differences.

The Phalanges Party and the various pro-Israeli militias have been defeated. The Palestinian armed presence is not a powerful factor in Lebanese politics. There is no major party in Lebanon which is eager to instigate a civil war as the Phalanges were at the behest of Israel and the CIA back in 1975. Finally, there is no military balance of forces in the country (Hezbollah can easily prevail in any internal conflict).

But there are also similarities. There is a multiplicity of external powers intervening in Lebanon today. Socio-economic injustices are very acute. Regional developments are weighing heavily over Lebanon. The split in the ruling class is very pronounced. And sectarian tensions are worse than they were in 1975.

A waterpipe is essential during fighting. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID

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