‘Revolution, civil war unlikely in Lebanon’

People carry Lebanese national flags and chant slogans as they take part in an anti-government protest at Martyrs' Square in downtown Beirut, Lebanon August 29, 2015. © Mohamed Azakir
Civil war is unlikely in Lebanon as it’s different from the ‘Arab Spring’ countries, says Joshua Landis, from the University of Oklahoma. The government is dysfunctional, but power is divided between three religions understanding they can’t rule alone, he said.

Thousands of Lebanese protesters have gathered in Beirut pushing for regime change following a garbage crisis. Yesterday, Lebanese riot police were seen forcing out demonstrators from the precincts of the country's Environment Ministry which had been stormed by protesters.

READ MORE: Lebanese protesters storm Environment Ministry building, call on minister to resign

RT: How have the protests affected stability in the country?

Joshua Landis: It is hard to see this would evolve into a real revolution or a civil war. There are many differences between Lebanon and Syria and Iraq - the Arab Spring countries. Primarily it’s because Lebanon has gone through a civil war, a very bloody civil war [1975 -1990] – 150,000 dead out of three million, many people displaced. Lebanon is a country of a third/third/third:  a third Shias, a third Sunnis and a third Christians. All of the leaderships of each of these parties understand they cannot rule alone - that they have to solve these problems together. This is very much unlike the situation in Iraq or Syria where one group believes that they can conquer the others and set up governments for themselves. So I don’t see a revolutionary situation. On the other hand, the government is completely dysfunctional. It provides very few services, it can’t make decisions, and the people have a right to be very upset. But I can’t see this turning into violence and civil war or revolution.

RT: Lebanon has around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. How big is this problem and will it become Europe's problem?

JL: It is a very big problem, and most of these refugees are Sunnis. We’re talking about this third/third/third in Lebanon. This is a country of 4.5 million people. In time those millions plus Syrian refugees are going to change the religious balance of Lebanon away from this third/third/third which is underpinning the parliament in a status quo. I think many of them will try to go to Europe, because there are no jobs in Lebanon; they are treated terribly in Lebanon; the Lebanese have gotten tired of welcoming them with open arms. After four and a half years the country is exhausted. Many will try to go to Europe, especially if Europe moves forward with an accommodating policy.

Palestinian residents of Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp wait outside the camp, during clashes between Palestinian Fatah gunmen and militants of Islamist group Jund al-Sham in the area, near the port-city of Sidon, southern Lebanon August 23, 2015. © Ali Hashisho

RT: Lebanon's been praised as one of the most religiously diverse countries in the Middle East. What should be the repercussions if that sectarian balance is lost?

JL: The balance is already teetering, because 50 per cent of parliamentarians are Christian and 50 per cent are Muslim. Even though Christians are only a third of a population, there hasn’t been a census in Lebanon since 1932, precisely because people don’t want to count the realities. The President is still a Christian; the head of the military should be a Christian. So the Christians still have a fair amount of power. Although, they feel like the civil war gutted them from power, the Muslim representation - that means both Shia and Sunni - is only 50 per cent; in a country where probably 70-72/73 per cent of the people are Muslim. And with all these new Sunni refugees – now they are just new – but as they settle in like the Palestinians did before them, they will begin to demand rights, they will begin to get arms, and they will begin to change the balance in Lebanon.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.