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Lebanon: Hezbollah holds the balance of power

Lebanon seems to have been spared by the turmoil of the Arab Spring. Lebanese democracy, sketchy and approximate though it may be, is a far cry from the Arab regimes founded on brute force and held in contempt by the population.

The Lebanese political system relies on power-sharing between the country’s main religious communities: the Maronite Christians, the Sunni Muslims and the Shiite Muslims. But this fragile balance is now threatened by the growing importance of Hezbollah, an armed Shiite party supported by Syria and the Republic of Iran. « God’s party » has drawn considerable political advantage from its « victory » against Israel in 2006. It now occupies a hegemonic place in Lebanon and can make or break governments.

Yet the uprising that is shaking its big Syrian neighbour is putting Hezbollah is in an awkward position. It depends on logistics support from Damascus, and must therefore support Bachar el Assad’s regime if it is to retain its dominant place on the Lebanese stage.