• Winter Storm in Arsal, Lebanon Devastates Vulnerable Syrian Refugee Communities

    Up one of the steep hillsides that line Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley, Soheir al-Kanoun hasn’t left the house in days.

    A Palestinian refugee originally from Syria’s Yarmouk camp, who now lives in a hillside town overlooking the valley below, al-Kanoun’s family have been living off bread and tahini since Storm Norma began—groceries bought hastily last week in preparation for rain, wind and snow.

    And while the elevation has protected al-Kanoun and her elderly mother from flooding, hillside snow and ice has hemmed them inside since the weekend.  

    “I can’t go out in this weather,” she said. “We live up in the hills. People rarely go outside.”

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  • Hezbollah’s Evolving Role in Syria and Lebanon

    Hezbollah has been instrumental to Iran’s power play in the Middle East, and its behavior is often evocative of Iran’s priorities in Syria and Lebanon. As the United States ramps up sanctions against Tehran and the war winds down in Syria, Hezbollah has adapted by scaling back and shifting its role in regime areas while escalating its political rhetoric and activity in Lebanon. 

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  • Support Marines’ Families, Not Iran’s Terror-Sponsors

    Thirty-five years ago, Iran-sponsored terrorists drove a truck laden with explosives into the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. service members — 220 Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers — and injuring many others, some severely. It was the single deadliest day for the Marines since World War II. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut had been victimized six months earlier by a terrorist bombing that left 63 people dead, including 17 Americans, among them several U.S. soldiers and a U.S. Marine.  

    At the time of the October 1983 attack, I served as the Marine Corps Senate liaison in the Russell Senate Office Building. The tragedy began several weeks of intense work to try to...

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  • A Case in Context: From the Lebanese Civil War to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

    The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has just heard the closing arguments inAyyash et. al, on September 21, 2018; a case in which prosecutors charged four members or associates of Hezbollah with the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. Thirteen years after the assassination, judges are in the process of making their judgement. In a series of pieces to be published from now until the judges reach a verdict, Atlantic Council resident senior fellow Faysal Itani and non-resident fellow Anthony Elghossain will consider Hariri’s killing, the context around the case, the evolution in the effort to bring the killers to justice, and the politics of the Levant since 2005.

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  • Syrian Refugees in Lebanon: Potential Forced Return?

    This June brought significant news about Lebanon’s policy towards the Syrian refugee crisis. For the first time, Lebanese government officials confronted the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) over its policy on the repatriation of Syrian refugees. On June 8, the Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff, accusing the UN agency of discouraging Syrian refugees in Lebanon from returning to Syria. In an official statement, the Lebanese Foreign Minister threatened to take “further measures” against UNHCR. Bassil explained that the Lebanese government does not have the patience for the crisis to be...
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  • Syrian Refugees and Indigenous Canadians Foster Growing Communities

    Canada has a reputation as a welcoming haven for refugees. But for some Indigenous Canadians, public support and funding for displaced people stands in stark contrast to their own communities, which remain impoverished and overlooked.

    Last year the nation welcomed 300,000 newcomers, including about 43,500 refugees and asylum seekers. Faced with President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies, thousands of migrants have left the United States to seek asylum in Canada.

    Many arrived in Manitoba, whose capital Winnipeg has the largest Indigenous population of any Canadian city. The city also faces problems with violence, drugs ...

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  • Lebanon’s Elections: Hezbollah in the Driver’s Seat?

    Hezbollah’s emergence as the strongest political faction during the Lebanese May elections confirms Iran’s sway over Lebanon, with the party now capable of securing an unchallenged veto at the parliamentary level and an absolute majority if it secures the right alliances. The recent electoral results also underline Hezbollah’s continued grip over its community despite ongoing governance challenges, and could herald instability for the Land of the Cedar amid escalating regional tensions.

    The May 6 Lebanese elections granted Hezbollah a comfortable majority. “Hezbollah’s block is unwavering since 2009, with thirteen seats for the organization. The main difference is that now, with allies such as the Syrian Nationalist Progressive Party, Amal, the Baathist movement, and the Marada’s advances in parliament (included in the hard March 8 core), the coalition...

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  • The Regional Consequences of Trump’s Decision to Ditch the Iran Nuclear Deal

    Though Iran has thus far remained in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could be the first domino to fall, setting off a chain of escalatory events throughout the region. 

    “This change is US policy is happening at a time when the region is really combustible,” said Zalmay Khalilzad, president of Gryphon Partners and an Atlantic Council board director. Ultimately, the regional impact of US President Donald J. Trump’s May 8 decision to withdraw from the JCPOA will depend on Tehran, and what it decides to do next: play nice on the world stage, or retaliate in its own backyard.  

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  • Alami in the Arab Weekly: Lebanon: New government, same choices

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  • Lebanese Elections: This is Not a Political Earthquake

    In 1989, back in the day when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia mediated regional conflicts, the fifteen-year Lebanese civil war ended with the Taif Accord, a reference to the Saudi town where the accord was signed. That agreement changed the Christian/Muslim representation in parliament from a 6:5 ratio in favor of Christians to an equal split.  The powers of the presidency, always allotted to the Maronite Christians according to the 1943 Lebanese National Pact (NP), were watered down—the president, for example, was no longer the commander in-chief.  The leadership of the armed forces went instead to a supreme military council.

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