Lebanon, officially the Lebanese Republic[nb 1] (Arabic: الجمهورية اللبنانية Al-Jumhūrīyah Al-Libnānīyah, Lebanese Arabic: [elˈʒʊmhuːɾɪjje l.ˈlɪbneːnɪjje]), is a country in the East Mediterranean. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south. Lebanon's location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean Basin and the Arabian hinterland has dictated its rich history and shaped a cultural identity of religious and ethnic diversity. (SONY PCG-5G2L battery)
The earliest evidence of civilization in Lebanon dates back more than seven thousand years, predating recorded history. Lebanon was the home of the Phoenicians, a maritime culture that flourished for over a thousand years (c.1550–539 BC). In 64 BC, the region came under the rule of the Roman Empire, and eventually became one of the Empire's leading centers of Christianity(SONY PCG-5G3L battery). In the Mount Lebanon range a monastic tradition known as the Maronite Church was established. As the Arab Muslims conquered the region, the Maronites held onto their religion and identity. However, a new religious group, the Druze, established themselves in Mount Lebanon as well, a religious divide that would last for centuries. During the Crusades the Maronites established strong ties with the Roman Catholic invaders, ties that influenced the region into the modern era(SONY PCG-F305 battery).
The region eventually came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, a situation that lasted for centuries. Following the collapse of the Empire after World War I, the five provinces that constitute modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronites and Druze, to include more Muslims(SONY PCG-5J1L battery). Lebanon gained independence in 1943, establishing a unique political system – "confessionalism" – that is a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities. Bechara El Khoury (independent Lebanon's first President) and Riad El-Solh (Lebanon's first Prime Minister) are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and are national heroes for having led the country's independence. French troops withdrew from Lebanon in 1946. (SONY PCG-5J2L battery)
Before the Lebanese Civil War (1975–1990), the country experienced a period of relative calm and prosperity, driven by tourism, agriculture, and banking. Because of its financial power and diversity, Lebanon was known in its heyday as the "Switzerland of the East". It attracted large numbers of tourists, such that the capital Beirut was referred to as "Paris of the Middle East." (SONY PCG-5K2L battery) At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.
The name Lebanon comes from the Semitic root LBN, meaning "white", likely a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.
Occurrences of the name have been found in different texts from the library of Ebla, which date to the third millennium BC, nearly 70 times in the Hebrew Bible, and three of the twelve tablets of the Epic of Gilgamesh (perhaps as early as 2100 BC).
The name is recorded in Ancient Egyptian as Rmnn, where R stood for Canaanite L(SONY PCG-5L1L battery).
Evidence of an early settlement in Lebanon was found in Byblos, which is considered to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, and date back to earlier than 5000 BC. Archaeologists discovered remnants of prehistoric huts with crushed limestone floors, primitive weapons, and burial jars left by the Neolithic and Chalcolithic fishing communities who lived on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea over 7,000 years ago. (SONY PCG-6S2L battery)
Lebanon was a part of northern Canaan, and consequently became the homeland of Canaanite descendants – the Phoenicians, a seafaring people that spread across the Mediterranean before the rise of Cyrus the Great. Their most famous colonies were Carthage in today’s Tunisia and Cadiz in today’s Spain. The Phoenicians are best known as the inventors of the alphabet, among many other things. After two centuries of Persian rule(SONY PCG-6S3L battery), Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great attacked and burned Tyre, the most prominent Phoenician city. Throughout the subsequent centuries leading up to recent times, the country became part of numerous succeeding empires, among them Egyptian Empire, Persian, Assyrian, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Arab, Seljuk, Mamluk, the Crusader's state of County of Tripoli founded by Raymond IV of Toulouse that encompassed most of present day Lebanon, and the Ottoman Empire(SONY PCG-6V1L battery).
Maronites, Druze, and the Crusades
The Fall of Tripoli to the Egyptian Mamluks and destruction of the Crusader state, the County of Tripoli, 1289
The region that is now Lebanon, as with the rest of Syria and much of Anatolia, became a major center of Christianity in the Roman Empire during the early spread of the religion. During the late 4th and early 5th century, a hermit named Maron established a monastic tradition, focused on the importance of monotheism and asceticism(SONY PCG-6W1L battery), near the Syrian mountain range known as Mount Lebanon. The monks who followed Maron spread his teachings among the Syrians in the region. These Christians came to be known as Maronites and moved into mountains to avoid religious persecution by Roman authorities.
During the 7th century the Muslim Arabs conquered Syria establishing a new regime to replace the Romans (or Byzantines as the Eastern Romans are sometimes called) (SONY PCG-7111L battery). Though Islam and the Arabic language were officially dominant under this new regime, the general populace still took time to convert from Christianity and the Syriac language. The Maronite community in particular clung stubbornly to its faith and managed to maintain a large degree of autonomy despite the succession of rulers over Syria(SONY PCG-71511M battery).
During the 11th century the Druze faith emerged from a branch of Shia Islam. The new faith gained followers in the southern portion of Mount Lebanon. The Maronites and the Druze divided Mount Lebanon until the modern era. The major cities on the coast, Acre, Beirut, and others, were directly administered by the Muslim Caliphs and the people became more fully absorbed by Arab culture(SONY PCG-6W3L battery).
Following the fall of Roman/Christian Anatolia to the Muslim Turks, the Romans put out a call to the Pope in Rome for assistance in the 11th century. The result was a series of wars known as the Crusades launched by the Franks in Western Europe to reclaim the former Roman territories in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially Syria and Palestine (the Levant) (SONY PCG-7113L battery). The First Crusade succeeded in temporarily establishing the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the County of Tripoli as Roman Catholic Christian states along the coast. These crusader states made a lasting impact on the region though their control was limited and the region returned to full Muslim control after two centuries following the conquest by the Mamluks.
One of the most lasting effects of the Crusades in this region was the contact between the Franks (i.e. the French) and the Maronites(SONY PCG-7133L battery). Unlike most other Christian communities in the eastern Mediterranean, who swore allegiance to Constantinople or other local patriarchs, the Maronites proclaimed allegiance to the Pope in Rome. As such the Franks saw them as Roman Catholic brethren. These initial contacts led to centuries of support for the Maronites from France and Italy, even after the fall of the Crusader states in the region(SONY PCG-7Z1L battery).
Ottoman Era and French mandate
See also: Sidon Eyalet and Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate
French expeditionary corps landing in Beirut, 16 August 1860
Maronite villagers building a church in Mount Lebanon, 1920s
In 1590, Fakhr-al-Din II became successor to Korkmaz. He was a skilled politician and described as a pupil of Machiavelli. Fakhr-al-Din II adjusted to the lifestyles of the Druze, Christianity and Islam, according to his needs. He paid tribute to the Sultanate of the Ottoman Empire and shared the spoils of war with his masters. Eventually, Fakhr-al-Din II was appointed Sultan of Mt. Lebanon(SONY PCG-7Z2L battery), with full authority. He was considered one of the greatest rulers of the region, also across the Middle of Lebanon. But, his enemies and governors angered the Ottoman Sultanate. Hence, a campaign, calling for the arrest of Fakhr-al-Din II, found the deposed leader in Istanbul, where he was executed by hanging. Shortly afterwards, the Emirate of Mt. Lebanon that lasted more than 500 years was replaced, instead of the emirate meteor. Approximately 10,000 Christians were killed by the Druzes in 1860. (SONY PCG-8Y1L battery)
Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire for over 400 years, until 1918 when the area became a part of the French influence, following World War I. By the end of the war, famine had killed an estimated 100,000 people in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, about 30% of the total population.
In the first half of 1920, Lebanese territory was claimed as part of the Arab Kingdom of Syria, but shortly the Franco-Syrian War resulted in Arab defeat and capitulation of the Hashemites(SONY PCG-8Y2L battery).
On 1 September 1920, France reestablished Greater Lebanon after the Moutasarrifiya rule removed several regions belonging to the Principality of Lebanon and gave them to Syria. Lebanon was a largely Christian country (mainly Maronite territory with some Greek Orthodox enclaves) but it also included areas containing many Muslims (including Druze). (SONY PCG-8Z2L battery)On 1 September 1926, France formed the Lebanese Republic. A constitution was adopted on 25 May 1926 establishing a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government.
Martyrs' Square in Beirut during celebrations marking the release by the French of Lebanon's government from Rashayya prison on November 22, 1943
Lebanon gained independence in 1943, while France was occupied by Germany. General Henri Dentz, the Vichy High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, played a major role in the independence of the nation(SONY PCG-8Z1L battery). The Vichy authorities in 1941 allowed Germany to move aircraft and supplies through Syria to Iraq where they were used against British forces. The United Kingdom, fearing that Nazi Germany would gain full control of Lebanon and Syria by pressure on the weak Vichy government, sent its army into Syria and Lebanon.
After the fighting ended in Lebanon, General Charles de Gaulle visited the area. Under political pressure from both inside and outside Lebanon(SONY PCG-7112L battery), de Gaulle recognized the independence of Lebanon. On 26 November 1941 General Georges Catroux announced that Lebanon would become independent under the authority of the Free French government. Elections were held in 1943 and on 8 November 1943 the new Lebanese government unilaterally abolished the mandate. The French reacted by throwing the new government into prison(SONY PCG-6W2L battery). In the face of international pressure, the French released the government officials on 22 November 1943 and recognized the independence of Lebanon.
The allies kept the region under control until the end of World War II. The last French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's unwritten National Pact of 1943 required that its president be Maronite Christian, its speaker of the parliament to be a Shiite Muslim, its prime minister be Sunni Muslim, and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament and the Deputy Prime Minister be Greek Orthodox. (SONY PCG-5K1L battery)
U.S. Marines moving into Beirut during the 1958 Lebanon crisis
Lebanon's history since independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.
In May 1948, Lebanon supported neighbouring Arab countries against Israel. While some irregular forces crossed the border and carried out minor skirmishes against Israel, it was without the support of the Lebanese government(SONY VGP-BPL8 battery), and Lebanese troops did not officially invade. Lebanon agreed to support the forces with covering artillery fire, armored cars, volunteers and logistical support. On 5–6 June 1948, the Lebanese army captured Al-Malkiyya. This was Lebanon's only success in the war.
During the war, some 100,000 Palestinians fled to Lebanon, while Israel did not permit their return at the end of hostilities. (SONY VGP-BPS9 battery) Palestinians, previously prevented from working at all due to denial of citizenship, are now forbidden to work in some 20 professions after liberalization laws. Today, more than 400,000 refugees remain in limbo, about half in camps.
In 1958, during the last months of President Camille Chamoun's term, an insurrection broke out, instigated by Lebanese Muslims who wanted to make Lebanon a member of the United Arab Republic(SONY VGP-BPS9/S battery). Chamoun requested assistance, and 5,000 United States Marines were briefly dispatched to Beirut on July 15. After the crisis, a new government was formed, led by the popular former general Fuad Chehab.
With the defeat of PLO in Jordan, many Palestinian militants relocated to Lebanon, increasing their Armed resistance against the occupation in Israel. The relocation of Palestinian bases also led to increasing sectarian tensions between Palestinians vs. the Maronites and other Lebanese factions(SONY VGP-BPS9A battery).
In 1975, following increasing sectarian tensions, a full-scale civil war broke out in Lebanon. The Lebanese Civil War pitted a coalition of Christian groups against the joint forces of the PLO, left-wing Druze and Muslim militias. In June 1976 Syria sent in its own troops, ostensibly to restore peace. In October 1976 the Arab League agreed to establish a predominantly Syrian Arab Deterrent Force, which was charged with restoring calm. (SONY VGP-BPS9A/B battery)
In 1982, the PLO presence in Lebanon led to an Israeli invasion. A multinational force of American, French and Italian contingents (joined in 1983 by a British contingent) were deployed in Beirut after the Israeli siege of the city, to supervise the evacuation of the PLO. It returned in September 1982 after the assassination of Bashir Gemayel and the subsequent Sabra and Shatila massacre carried out by the Christian Phalange militia against Palestinians(SONY VGP-BPS9/B battery). The multinational force was withdrawn in the spring of 1984.
In September 1988 the Parliament failed to elect a successor to President Gemayel as a result of differences between the Christians and the Muslims and Syrians. The Arab League Summit of May 1989 led to the formation of a Saudi- Moroccan-Algerian committee to solve the crisis. On 16 September 1989 the committee issued a peace plan which was accepted by all. A ceasefire was established, the ports and airports were re-opened and refugees began to return. (SONY VGP-BPS9A/S battery)
In the same month, the Lebanese Parliament agreed to the Taif Accord, which included an outline timetable for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and a formula for the de-confessionalisation of the Lebanese political system. The war ended at the end of 1990, after sixteen years. It resulting in massive loss of human life and property, and devastating the country's economy(SONY VGP-BPL9 battery). It is estimated that 150,000 people were killed and another 200,000 wounded. Some 900,000 people, representing one-fifth of the pre-war population, were displaced from their homes. Parts of Lebanon were left in ruins. The Taif Accord has still not been implemented in full and Lebanon’s political system continues to be divided along sectarian lines(SONY VGP-BPS10 battery).
The internal political situation in Lebanon significantly changed in early 2000s. After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the death of Hafez Al-Assad in 2000, the Syrian military presence faced criticism and resistance from the Lebanese population.
Part of Rue Minet al Hosn, where Rafik Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005(SONY VGP-BPL10 battery)
On 14 February 2005, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated in a car bomb explosion. Leaders of the March 14 Alliance accused Syria of the attack, while the March 8 Alliance and Syrian officials claimed that the Mossad was behind the assassination. The UNSC Resolution 1595 called for an investigation into the assassination. (SONY VGP-BPS11 battery) The UN International Independent Investigation Commission published its preliminary findings on 20 October 2005 in the Mehlis report, which cited indications that high-ranking members of the Syrian and Lebanese governments were involved in the assassination.
The assassination triggered the Cedar Revolution, a series of demonstrations which demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the establishment of an international commission to investigate the assassination. Under pressure from the West, Syria began withdrawing, (SONY VGP-BPL11 battery) and by 26 April 2005 all Syrian soldiers had returned to Syria. The Hariri assassination marked the beginning of a series of assassinations that resulted in the death of many prominent Lebanese figures.
Building in Ghaziyeh bombed by Israeli forces during the 2006 war
On 12 July 2006, Hezbollah launched a series of rocket attacks and raids into Israeli territory, where they killed three Israeli soldiers and captured a further two. Israel responded with airstrikes and artillery fire on targets in Lebanon, and a ground invasion of southern Lebanon, resulting in the 2006 Lebanon War(SONY VGP-BPL12 battery). The conflict was officially ended by the UNSC Resolution 1701 on 14 August 2006, which ordered a ceasefire. Some 1,191 Lebanese and 160 Israelis were killed in the conflict. Beirut's southern suburb was heavily damaged by Israeli airstrikes where Hezbollah military infrastructure was deeply embedded among the civilian population. (SONY VGP-BPS12 battery)
In 2007, the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp became the center of the 2007 Lebanon conflict between the Lebanese Army and Fatah al-Islam. At least 169 soldiers, 287 insurgents and 47 civilians were killed in the battle. Funds for the reconstruction of the area have been slow to materialize. (SONY VGP-BPS13 battery)
Between 2006 and 2008, a series of protests led by groups opposed to the pro-Western Prime Minister Fouad Siniora demanded the creation of a national unity government, over which the mostly Shia opposition groups would have veto power. When Émile Lahoud's presidential term ended in October 2007, the opposition refused to vote for a successor unless a power-sharing deal was reached, leaving Lebanon without a president(SONY VGP-BPS13Q battery).
On 9 May 2008, Hezbollah and Amal forces, sparked by a government declaration that Hezbollah's communications network was illegal, seized western Beirut, leading to the 2008 conflict in Lebanon. The Lebanese government denounced the violence as a coup attempt. At least 62 people died in the resulting clashes between pro-government and opposition militias. On 21 May 2008, the signing of the Doha Agreement ended the fighting(SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q battery). As part of the accord, which ended 18 months of political paralysis, Michel Suleiman became president and a national unity government was established, granting a veto to the opposition. The agreement was a victory for opposition forces, as the government caved in to all their main demands.
In early January 2011, the national unity government collapsed due to growing tensions stemming from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon(SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q battery), which was expected to indict Hezbollah members for the Hariri assassination. The parliament elected Najib Mikati, the candidate for the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance, Prime Minister of Lebanon, making him responsible for forming a new government. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah insists that Israel was responsible for the assassination of Hariri. A report leaked by the Al-Akhbar newspaper in November 2010 stated that Hezbollah has drafted plans for a takeover of the country in the case an indictment against its members is issued by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. (SONY VGP-BPS13/B battery)
The 2012 Syrian civil war threatens to spill over in Lebanon, causing more incidents of sectarian violence and armed clashes between Sunnis and Alawites in Tripoli.
Lebanon from space. Snow cover can be seen on the western and eastern mountain ranges
Lebanon is located in Western Asia between latitudes 33° and 35° N, and longitudes 35° and 37° E(SONY VGP-BPS13B/B battery).
The country's surface area is 10,452 square kilometres (4,036 sq mi) of which 10,230 square kilometres (3,950 sq mi) is land. Lebanon has a coastline and border of 225 kilometres (140 mi) on the Mediterranean sea to the west, a 375 kilometres (233 mi) border shared with Syria to the north and east and a 79 kilometres (49 mi) long border with Israel to the south. The border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is disputed by Lebanon in a small area called Shebaa Farms. (SONY VGP-BPS13A/S battery)
Lebanon is divided into four distinct physiographic regions: the coastal plain, the Lebanon mountain range, the Beqaa valley and the Anti-Lebanon mountains.
The narrow and discontinuous coastal plain stretches from the Syrian border in the north where it widens to form the Akkar plain to Ras al-Naqoura at the border with Israel in the south. The fertile coastal plain is formed of marine sediments and river deposited alluvium alternating with sandy bays and rocky beaches(SONY VGP-BPS21A/B battery). The Lebanon mountains rise steeply parallel to the Mediterranean coast and form a ridge of limestone and sandstone that runs for most of the country's length. The mountain range varies in width between 10 km and 56 km; it is carved by narrow and deep gorges. The Lebanon mountains peak at 3,088 metres (10,131 ft) above sea level in Qurnat as Sawda' in North Lebanon and gradually slope to the south before rising again to a height of 2,695 metres (8,842 ft) in Mount Sannine(SONY VGP-BPS21B battery). The Beqaa valley sits between the Lebanon mountains in the west and the Anti-Lebanon range in the east; it's a part of the Great Rift Valley system. The valley is 180 km long and 10 to 26 km wide, its fertile soil is formed by alluvial deposits. The Anti-Lebanon range runs parallel to the Lebanon mountains, its highest peak is in Mount Hermon at 2,814 metres (9,232 ft). (SONY VGP-BPS21 battery)
The mountains of Lebanon are drained by seasonal torrents and rivers foremost of which is the 145 kilometres (90 mi) long Leontes that rises in the Beqaa Valley to the west of Baalbek and empties into the Mediterranean Sea north of Tyre.
Nahr Ibrahim running through the lush Adonis gorge
Lebanon has a moderate Mediterranean climate. In coastal areas, winters are generally cool and rainy whilst summers are hot and humid. In more elevated areas, temperatures usually(SONY VGP-BPS21/S battery) drop below freezing during the winter with heavy snow cover that remains until early summer on the higher mountaintops. Although most of Lebanon receives a relatively large amount of rainfall, when measured annually in comparison to its arid surroundings, certain areas in north-eastern Lebanon receive little because of rain shadow created by the high peaks of the western mountain range. (SONY VGP-BPS13S battery)
Voice of America report about the replanting of the cedars as described.
In ancient times, Lebanon was covered by large forests of cedar trees, the national emblem of the country. As a result of longstanding exploitation, few old Cedar trees remain in pockets of forests in Lebanon, but there is an active program to conserve and regenerate the forests. The Lebanese approach has emphasized natural regeneration over planting by creating the right conditions for germination and growth(SONY VGP-BPS13B/S battery). The Lebanese state has created several nature reserves that contain cedars, including the Shouf Biosphere Reserve, the Jaj Cedar Reserve, the Tannourine Reserve, the Ammouaa and Karm Shbat Reserves in the Akkar district, and the Forest of the Cedars of God near Bsharri. In 2010, the Environment Ministry set a 10-year plan to increase the national forest coverage by 20% that is equivalent to the planting of two million new trees each year. (SONY VGP-BPS13B/G battery) The plan, which was funded the U.S. development agency, USAID, and overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, and the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative, was inaugurated in 2011 by planting of seedlings, such as cedar, pine, wild almond, juniper, fir and oak, in five regions around Lebanon. The forests cover 13.4% of the Lebanese land area; they are under constant threat from wildfires caused by the long dry summer season. (SONY VGP-BPS14 battery)
One of the many protests that occurred at Martyrs' Square
Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy, which implements a special system known as confessionalism. This system is intended to deter sectarian conflict and attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups in government. High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim(SONY VGP-BPL14 battery), the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Greek Orthodox.
Lebanon's national legislature is the unicameral Parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians(SONY VGP-BPS14/B battery); however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975–1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions. The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation.
The executive branch consists of the President, the head of state, and the Prime Minister, the head of government. The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term by a two-third majority(SONY VGP-BPS14/S battery). The president appoints the Prime Minister, following consultations with the parliament. The President and the Prime Minister form the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism.
The next nation-wide elections are scheduled for 2013.
The Lebanese legal system is based on the French system, and is a civil law country, with the exception for matters related to personal status (heritage, marriage, divorce, etc.), which are governed by a separate set of laws designed for each sectarian community. For instance, the Islamic personal status laws are inspired by the Sharia law. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery) For Muslims, these tribunals deal with questions of marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance and wills. For non-Muslims. personal status jurisdiction is split: the law of inheritance and wills falls under national civil jurisdiction, while Christian and Jewish religious courts are competent for marriage, divorce, and custody. Catholics can additionally appeal before the Vatican Rota court. (SONY VGP-BPS22 battery)
The most notable set of codified laws is the Code des Obligations et des Contrats promulgated in 1932 and equivalent to the French Civil Code. Capital punishment is still used to sanction certain crimes.
The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. The Constitutional Council rules on constitutionality of laws and electoral frauds(SONY VGP-BPS18 battery). There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage and inheritance.
Main article: Foreign relations of Lebanon
Lebanon concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union in late 2001, and both sides initialed the accord in January 2002. Lebanon also has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states and is working toward accession to the World Trade Organization(SONY VGP-BPS22/A battery).
Lebanon enjoys good relations with virtually all of the other Arab countries (despite historic tensions with Libya, the Palestinians, Syria and Iraq), and hosted an Arab League Summit in March 2002 for the first time in more than 35 years. Lebanon is a member of the Francophone countries and hosted the Francophone Summit in October 2002 as well as the Jeux de la Francophonie in 2009(SONY VGP-BPS22A battery).
Soldiers of the Lebanese army, 2009
The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) has 72,000 active personnel, including 1,100 in the air force, and 1,000 in the navy. The motto of the Lebanese Armed Forces is "Honor, Sacrifice, Loyalty" (Arabic: "شرف · تضحية · وفاء" – Sharaf.Tadhia.Wafa'). The Lebanese Armed Forces Emblem consists of a Lebanon Cedar tree surrounded by two laurel leaves, positioned above the symbols of the three branches(SONY Vaio VGN-CR11H/B battery): the ground forces represented by the two swords, the navy represented by an anchor, and the air force represented by two wings.
The Lebanese Armed Forces' primary missions include defending Lebanon and its citizens against external aggression, maintaining internal stability and security, confronting threats against the country's vital interests, engaging in social development activities, and undertaking relief operations in coordination with public and humanitarian institutions. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11S battery)
Lebanon is a major recipient of foreign military aid. With $400 million since 2005, it is the second largest per capita recipient of American military aid behind Israel.
Main articles: Governorates of Lebanon, Districts of Lebanon, and Municipalities of Lebanon
Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohaafazaat, Arabic: محافظات —;singular mohafazah, Arabic: محافظة) which are further subdivided into twenty-five districts (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15T battery) (aqdya—singular: qadaa). The districts themselves are also divided into several municipalities, each enclosing a group of cities or villages. The governorates and their respective districts are listed below:
Lebanon’s economy follows a laissez-faire model. Most of the economy is dollarized, and the country has no restrictions on the movement of capital across its borders. The Lebanese government’s intervention in foreign trade is minimal. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ15G battery)
The Lebanese economy grew 8.5% in 2008 and a revised 9% in 2009 despite a global recession. Real GDP growth is estimated to have slowed from 7.5% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2011, according to IMF preliminary estimates, with nominal GDP estimated at $41.5 billion in 2011. The Banque du Liban projects real GDP growth could reach 4% in 2012, with 6% inflation (versus 4% in 2011). (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11L battery) The political and security instability in the Arab world, especially in Syria, is expected to have a negative impact on the domestic business and economic environment.
Lebanon faces major financial challenges, notably a very high level of public debt and large external financing needs. The 2010 public debt exceeded 150.7% of GDP, ranking fourth highest in the world as a percentage of GDP, though down from 154.8% in 2009. Finance minister Mohamad Chatah stated that the debt reached $47 billion in 2008 and would increase to $49 billion if privatization of two telecoms companies did not occur. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11Z battery) The Daily Star wrote that exorbitant debt levels have "slowed down the economy and reduced the government's spending on essential development projects."
The urban population in Lebanon is noted for its commercial enterprise. Emigration has yielded Lebanese "commercial networks" throughout the world. Remittances from Lebanese abroad total $8.2 billion and account for one fifth of the country's economy. Lebanon has the largest proportion of skilled labor among Arab States. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ11M battery)
The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon was established with the aim of promoting investment in Lebanon. In 2001, Investment Law No.360 was enacted to reinforce the organisation's mission.
The 1975–1990 civil war heavily damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a West Asian entrepôt and banking hub. The subsequent period of relative peace enabled the central government to restore control in Beirut(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18M battery), begin collecting taxes, and regain access to key port and government facilities. Economic recovery has been helped by a financially sound banking system and resilient small- and medium-scale manufacturers, with family remittances, banking services, manufactured and farm exports, and international aid as the main sources of foreign exchange. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ18 battery)
Until July 2006, Lebanon enjoyed considerable stability, Beirut's reconstruction was almost complete, and increasing numbers of tourists poured into the nation's resorts. The economy witnessed growth, with bank assets reaching over 75 billion US dollars, Market capitalization was also at an all time high, estimated at $10.9 billion at the end of the second quarter of 2006. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31S battery) The month-long 2006 war severely damaged Lebanon's fragile economy, especially the tourism sector. According to a preliminary report published by the Lebanese Ministry of Finance on 30 August 2006, a major economic decline was expected as a result of the fighting.
Over the course of 2008 Lebanon rebuilt its infrastructure mainly in the real estate and tourism sectors, resulting in a comparatively robust post war economy. Major contributors to the reconstruction of Lebanon include Saudi Arabia (with US$ 1.5 billion pledged), (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31Z battery) the European Union (with about $1 billion) and a few other Persian Gulf countries with contributions of up to $800 million.
Although Lebanon is ideally suited for agricultural activities in terms of water availability and soil fertility, as it possesses the highest proportion of cultivable land in the Arabic speaking world, it does not have a large agricultural sector. Attracting only 12% of the total workforce, (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31E battery)agriculture is the least popular economic sector in Lebanon. It contributes approximately 11.7% of the country's GDP, also placing it in the lowest rank compared to other economic sectors. Major produce includes apples, peaches, oranges, and lemons.
Oil has recently been discovered inland and in the seabed between Lebanon, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt and talks are underway between Cyprus and Egypt to reach an agreement regarding the exploration of these resources.The seabed separating Lebanon and Cyprus is believed to hold significant quantities of crude oil and natural gas. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31J battery)
Industry in Lebanon is mainly limited to small businesses that reassemble and package imported parts. In 2004, industry ranked second in workforce, with 26% of the Lebanese working population, and second in GDP contribution, with 21% of Lebanon's GDP.
The majority of the Lebanese workforce (nearly 65%) attain employment in the services sector(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31M battery). The GDP contribution, accordingly, amounts to roughly 67.3% of the annual Lebanese GDP. However, dependence on the tourism and banking sectors leaves the economy vulnerable to political instability.
Lebanon's strict financial secrecy and capitalist economy have given it significant, though no longer dominant, economic status among Arab countries. Given the frequent turmoil it has faced, the Lebanese banking system has adopted a conservative approach(Sony VAIO VGN-FZ31B battery), with strict regulations imposed by the central bank to protect the economy from political instability. These regulations have generally left Lebanese banks unscathed by the Financial crisis of 2007–2010. Lebanese banks remain, under the current circumstances, high on liquidity and reputed for their security. Lebanon was one of the only seven countries in the world in which the value of the stock markets increased in 2008. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21 battery)
The tourism industry has been historically important to the local economy and remains a major source of revenue to this day. Between 2005 and 2007, a state of turmoil led to a sharp fall in tourism. Lebanon has seen a recovery in tourism since 2006. Lebanon managed to attract around 1,333,000 tourists in 2008, thus placing it as rank 79 out of 191 countries. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21S battery) In 2009, the New York Times ranked Beirut the No. 1 travel destination worldwide due to its Unique Nightlife and Hospitality. In January 2010, the Ministry of Tourism announced that 1,851,081 tourists had visited Lebanon in 2009, a 39% increase from 2008. In 2009, Lebanon hosted the largest number of tourists to date, eclipsing the previous record set before the Lebanese Civil War. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M battery)
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Japan are the three most popular origin countries of foreign tourists to Lebanon. The recent influx of Japanese tourists is probably the reason for the recent rise in popularity of Japanese Cuisine in Lebanon.
Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon.
The population of Lebanon was estimated to be 4,125,247 in July 2010, however no official census has been taken since 1932 due to the sensitive confessional political balance between Lebanon's various religious groups. (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M battery)Identifying all Lebanese as ethnically Arab is a widely employed example of panethnicity since in reality, the Lebanese “are descended from many different peoples who have occupied, invaded, or settled this corner of the world,” making Lebanon, “a mosaic of closely interrelated cultures”. While at first glance, this ethnic, linguistic, religious and denominational diversity might seem to cause civil and political unrest, “for much of Lebanon’s history this multitudinous diversity of religious communities has coexisted with little conflict”. (Sony VGN-NR11S/S Battery)
Millions of people of Lebanese descent are spread throughout the world, mostly Christians, especially in Latin America. Brazil has the largest expatriate population. (See Lebanese Brazilians). Large numbers of Lebanese migrated to West Africa, particularly to the Ivory Coast (home to over 100,000 Lebanese) and Senegal (roughly 30,000 Lebanese). Australia is home to over 270,000 Lebanese (1999 est.). (Sony VGN-NR11M/S Battery)
As of 2012, Lebanon was host to over 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers: 405,425 Palestinians, 50,000–60,000 from Iraq, over 80,000 from Syria, and 4,500 from Sudan. Their primary sources of income are UNRWA aid and menial labor sought in competition with about 300,000 Syrian guest workers. (Sony VGN-NR260E/S Battery)
In the last three decades, lengthy and destructive armed conflicts have ravaged the country. The majority of Lebanese have been affected by armed conflict; those with direct personal experience include 75% of the population, and most others report suffering a range of hardships. In total, almost the entire population (96%) has been affected in some way – either personally or because of the wider consequences of armed conflict. (Sony VGN-NR11Z/S Battery)
Lebanon is the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East.
Lebanon's population of the major religions are estimated to be 59% Muslim (30% Shia; 24% Sunni; 5% Druze), 41% Christian (21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Melkite Catholic, 7% other Christian groups such as Armenian Orthodox, Syriac Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syriac Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant). The rest of the population in Lebanon include those of other religions and non believers(Sony VGN-NR11Z/T Battery).
Over the past 60 years, there has been a steady decline in the ratio of Christians to Muslims, due to higher emigration rates of Christians, and a higher birth rate in the Muslim population. The most recent study conducted by Statistics Lebanon, a Beirut-based research firm, found that approximately 27% of the population was Sunni, 27% Shi'a, 21% Maronite, 8% Greek Orthodox, 5% Druze, (Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E battery) 5% Greek Catholic, and 7% other Christian sects such as Armenians who are 4% of the population and Syriac Orthodox. There are 18 state-recognized religious sects – 4 Muslim, 12 Christian, 1 Druze, and 1 Jewish.
The Shi'a community is estimated to be 27% of Lebanon's total population. Shi'a residents primarily live in South Beirut, the Beqaa Valley, and southern Lebanon.