Lebanon - Security Policy

Like most of the Middle East, Lebanon has a long history of conflict and conquest. Unlike other Middle Eastern nations, however, Lebanon also has a long history of inviting, or at the least acquiescing in, foreign military intervention. Lebanese leaders have traditionally traded sovereignty for security. Foreign forces have been drawn into the Lebanese vortex by this vacuum of power, further complicating Lebanon's internal balance of power.

The foreign policy of Lebanon reflects its geographic location, the composition of its population, and its reliance on commerce and trade. Lebanon's foreign policy has been heavily influenced by neighboring Syria, which has also long influenced Lebanon's internal policies as well. Reflecting lingering feelings in Syria that Lebanon was unjustly separated from Syria by European powers, Syria and Lebanon have never formally agreed on their mutual boundaries.

Each community's domestic policy is also linked to the foreign policy of its foreign patrons -- whether it be the Saudis for the Sunnis or the Iranians and the Syrians for the Shia -- and regional tensions are thus reflected domestically.

By 2010 Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) were top-heavy, resource-poor, and subject to intense political pressures. Although the LAF had made "impressive" progress since the end of Syrian domination in 2005, it still lacked training and equipment. A strong army would strengthen the central government and undermine non-state actors.

As of 2009 the poorly equipped and poorly trained LAF was in no position to actively challenge Hizballah, which is a social and military phenomenon. Of the 15,000 LAF troops promised for the south, only about 5,000 were present -- compared to UNIFIL's 12,000 -- and they were too poorly equipped to respond quickly to incidents.

The LAF, deliberately neglected during the 1990-2005 Syrian occupation, plays an essential role in ensuring stability in Lebanon, primarily through its anti-terrorism efforts. The value of the LAF was clearly demonstrated during its 2007 battle with terrorists from Fatah al-Islam inside the Nahr al-Barid refugee camp, and the army has continued its vigorous anti-terrorism efforts.

By 2010 the organization struggled in the face of its local competition: Hizballah, armed rejectionist Palestinian groups, and groups inspired by global jihadists. The LAF is also regularly called upon to provide internal security services that should fall to the ISF, particularly when sectarian tensions flare up. For these reasons and more, the overstretched and conflict-averse LAF has failed to exert exclusive control over the Hizballah-dominated south and the Bekaa Valley, as well as the Palestinian refugee camps and military bases. All recent Lebanon-related UN Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs), including 1559, 1680, and 1701, call for extending the state's control over all its territory.

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