Foreign policy and defense
Prior to the civil war of 1975-1990, when the
Christian groups dominated politics, Lebanon tried to
remain neutral in the region's conflicts while close
relations with the West, especially France. During the
war, Syria gained a strong grip on the country and since
then both domestic and foreign policy have been
dominated by the question of how Lebanon should relate
Syria has had a hard time accepting that Lebanon had
broken out of the Syrian mandate in the 1920s, managed
by the United Nations' forerunner of the United Nations.
During the civil war, Syria gained a stronger position
in the country and became in practice an occupying
power. A 1991 cooperation agreement allowed Syria and
its friends in Lebanon to rule over the appointment of
both president and government. The situation changed
radically again in 2005, when the Syrian army was forced
to leave Lebanon (see Modern History).
Lebanon was now given more leeway.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Lebanon for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Which line since then characterized foreign policy
has depended on which political block dominated the
government. From 2005 to 2011, the government was led by
the west-friendly March 14 alliance, which is also
backed by Saudi Arabia and has a critical attitude
towards Syria and Syria's ally Iran (which is Saudi
Arabia's arch rival in the region). During this time,
however, there was a closer relationship between the
Lebanese government and Syria, which had its basis in a
temporary tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both
Iran and Saudi Arabia tend to act kingmakers in Lebanon.
The Saudi Arabian tendency to intervene was demonstrated
in a crisis in the fall of 2017, when Prime Minister
Saad al-Hariri (who is also a Saudi citizen) was
detained on Saudi soil for weeks, judging by his will.
In 2008, Syria recognized Lebanon's independence. It
was agreed to resume work on defining the border between
the countries, with the exception of the disputed Sheba
area, which is at the intersection of southeast Lebanon,
southwestern Syria and northern Israel. The
25-square-kilometer area was occupied by Israel during
the six-day war in 1967. Israel claims that the area
belongs to the Golan Heights while the UN believes its
maps show that Shebaa is Syrian territory, which Lebanon
in turn questions. The residents of the village of
Shebaa on the Lebanese side have for many years - until
1989 - used the agricultural land in the area, which is
now a closed military zone.
With Israel, Lebanon has been formally at war since
1948 when the state of Israel was proclaimed and
immediately attacked by surrounding Arab states. In
1949, a ceasefire was concluded, but no peace agreement
was ever reached. Instead, Lebanon has formed the basis
for both Hezbollah's and Palestinian guerrilla groups'
attacks on Israel. Retaliation attacks from Israel have
on several occasions caused havoc in Lebanon. The
countries are also involved in a dispute about where the
sea boundary between them should go (see Natural
Resources and Energy).
Lebanon's most important partner in the western world
is the former colonial power of France. Today, France
not only has contacts with the Christian minority but
with several groups; after 2005 mainly with the March 14
alliance. In the EU, France has countered that Hezbollah
would be designated a terrorist group (see
Political system). France has also been active
in providing financial assistance to Lebanon in times of
Relations with the rest of the EU are also good. The
EU and Lebanon have an association agreement and the EU
is also an important aid donor, not least in terms of
funding for dealing with the refugee situation (see
Population and languages). The EU and
Lebanon cooperate in a number of areas, including
reforming Lebanon's legal system, electoral system and
increasing transparency and efficiency in governance.
Strengthened human rights are also in focus.
The Lebanese also have extensive contacts with the
United States, which calls for Lebanon to remain a
cohesive and democratic state. Washington has
contributed large sums to the post-war reconstruction of
Israel in 2006, and to the Lebanese army that the United
States sees as vital to keeping Lebanon together. The
countries also have a trade agreement. However, the US
embassy in Beirut must be closely guarded because of US
support for Israel's policy and past terrorist acts
against US targets.
The army, which is a professional army, is dominated
by Sunni Muslims but has nevertheless been seen as a
national force in Lebanon where many political groups
have moved with their own militia. The army is deployed
if necessary to try to curb local violence and mediate
One problem is insufficient and outdated equipment
but this is changing. Following the Islamic Islamist
(IS) extreme expansion of the Islamic State (IS) in Iran
and Syria, primarily the United States and Saudi Arabia,
but also other countries, have provided billions of
dollars in grants to equip the Lebanese army.
The strongest military force in Lebanon is
Hezbollah's armed branch, which is estimated to have
about 20,000 men under arms, of which 5,000 are
considered elite soldiers. Hezbollah is dependent on
Iran for funding, training and weapons. Israel is
monitoring the relations between Hezbollah and Iran to
the best of its ability. One of the aims is to prevent
Hezbollah from accessing precision controlled robots if
There is some cooperation between Hezbollah and the
army. Army soldiers, among others, received training and
training from Hezbollah.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL),
established in 1978 to monitor Israel's retreat from
Lebanon, is still in the country and has the task, among
other things, of guarding the border between Lebanon and
Israel. The force comprises more than 10,000 men.
About our sources
FACTS - DEFENSE
56 600 men (2017)
The air Force
1 600 men (2017)
1 800 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
4.5 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
15.6 percent (2017)
Call for boycott by UN tribunal
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah calls on Lebanon to boycott the UN
tribunal, which is reported to be in mascot with Israel.
Iran's President Visits Lebanon
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making a controversial visit to
Lebanon, ending with a demonstration in Hezbollah's stronghold near the Israeli
Hezbollah suspected to be behind murder
Leaking media in the West argues that the UN tribunal investigating the
assassination of Hariri is leaning on Hezbollah who organized the assassination
that took the life of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri five years earlier
(see February 2005). Hezbollah launches a campaign to discredit
the tribunal and presents material to prove that Israel was behind the murder
Several dead in clash at the border
Three Lebanese - two soldiers and one journalist - as well as an Israeli
military are killed when the Israeli and Lebanese military collide at the
disputed border. The incident is the most serious since the 2006 war.
Storayatollan Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah dies (see Religion).