Lebanon Stands on the Edge of Spiraling Violence

Jan 17, 2020 | 11:00 GMT

Lebanese police walk by a bank vandalized during protests in Beirut on Jan. 16, 2020.

Lebanese riot police walk past the branch of a vandalized bank in Beirut after anti-government protesters took to the streets on Jan. 16. As the violence grows, so will the odds that armed sectarian factions will confront the demonstrators.

(ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images)


  • Protesters have adopted more aggressive tactics to pressure Lebanon’s fractured government and to express anger at the country’s economic situation.
  • But Lebanon still has no functioning government, and the ongoing political paralysis appears likely to only worsen the economic crisis.
  • Lebanon’s political factions will increasingly consider escalating their own tactics, deploying their armed supporters to counter the protest movements. A corresponding uptick of violence could erode the country's security.

As anger over an underperforming economy grows in Lebanon, the tactics used by its pan-sectarian protest movement are becoming more violent and disruptive. The development, in turn, is increasing pressure on the country's political factions to find a counter. With Lebanon under a caretaker government until Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab can form his own, there is little chance the country's recession, a major driver of protest anger, will ease -- nor will corruption be addressed. That could trap Lebanon in a spiral in which acts of vandalism and violence may increasingly become the outlet for the frustrations of ordinary Lebanese of all sects, leaving its sectarian politicians who don’t want to give up their power and privileges to increasingly entertain employing force to counter the protests....

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