Expert Voices

Lebanon's economy on the brink as protests unite sectarian camps

a packed public square of protestors at night
Demonstrators in Beirut's Martyr's Square on Nov. 22. Photo: Patrick Baz/AFP via Getty Images

As Lebanon continues to be rocked by widespread protests — seemingly sparked in mid-October by uncontrolled wildfires and a proposed WhatsApp tax — the country faces increasing risk of economic collapse.

The big picture: The current crisis has been brewing for some time, and a descent into conflict is not out of the question. Lebanon has been an ally to the U.S. and Europe in its troubled neighborhood, but is struggling under threats from Iran-controlled Hezbollah, interference by Russia and China, and the world's highest proportion of refugees.

Israel asked U.S. to condition Lebanon aid on Hezbollah missile factory shutdown

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Israel asked the U.S. and other Western countries to condition aid to Lebanon on its government's action against Hezbollah's precision missiles project, Israeli officials told me.

Why it matters: The U.S. has had a close relationship with the Lebanese government for many years, prompting a debate inside the Trump administration on whether aid should be frozen.