Lebanon precariously walks the tight-rope of the Arab Spring. Shattered by a three-decade civil war and multiple occupations concluding only in 2005, Lebanon's fall from grace began with the collapse of the ancient Phoenician civilisation: the commercial character of Carthage's ancestors remains with Lebanese enterprise. Despite a remarkably developed economic system, the struggles of Lebanese sovereignty are manifest in its relationship with its traditional big brother, Syria. The Civil War's conclusion in the Saudi-brokered 1989 Taif Agreement effectively restored peace under a Syrian mandate, ending with the 2005 Cedar Revolution that ousted Syrian rule and fully restored a confessionalist republic.
With 18 recognised religious denominations, Lebanese politics is defined by confessionalism: a complex system enshrining religious equality. Although successfully brokering inter-faith tolerance, its complicated regulations breed inefficient, dysfunctional governance prone to instability and corruption. Two main coalitions dominate Lebanese politics, divided on their stance toward Syria: the pro-Western, anti-Syrian March 14 coalition, led by the Future Movement of the Saudi-tied billionaire Hariri family, governed until its toppling by Hezbollah and its instatement of a pro-Syrian government under the March 8 coalition.
The Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis has defined independent Lebanon: without its neighbour and Persian patron, Hezbollah is logistically annihilated. Hezbollah's new preoccupation with the Assad regime's continuity has been a opportunity for northern Sunni unrest, sparked by the Army checkpoint murder of a Sunni cleric. Sunni rebels seek a northern buffer zone to contain Hezbollah's stern control of Southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah has concentrated its vast missile deterrent against Israel.
Hezbollah's political power is based on its short-term legislative majority in the Assembly of Representatives, putting any government at its mercy. With 2013 spring elections approaching, this majority could easily slip with the machinations of Lebanese politics and the centrist, Maronite Christian Aounist movement's desire for power - although, as the 2011 coup proved, Hezbollah will reinforce its legislative power with brute force.
Between the 2011 coup, its avowed support for Assad in the Arab Spring and the Iranian nuclear project, Hezbollah has lost all legitimacy with the Arab world: no longer the resistance against Israel, and no longer the protector of popular sovereignty with its rejection of revolution, the 'Party of God' is threatened by the democratic wave sweeping the Middle-East. A poor showing in elections and the Assad regime's fall would leave it open to a opportunist's knock-out blow from an increasingly reactionary Jerusalem. However, renewed conflict with Israel could savage the movement's regional support and recover the Resistance.
Political stability falls with each pronouncement of the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a construction billionaire closely tied to the Saudi royal family. Hariri's son and inheritor of his fortune, Saad, continues his father's work leading the opposition March 14 coalition and as PM before the 2011 coup. Grouped awkwardly in the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition is the Maronite Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of ex-general Michel Aoun, growing more desperate with age for the presidency. A fierce rivalry with Nabih Berri and his Shi'ite Amal movement, heightened by a dispute over state electricity and the Syrian crisis, threatens a split from March 8 by Aoun that would end the coalition's legislative supremacy.
With divisions rife socially and politically, a civil infrastructure shattered by civil war and the civilisational uproar of revolution, Lebanon's fate is once more uncertainty tied to Damascus.