Middle East Notes and Comment: Why the U.S. and its Allies Should Keep Lebanon from Blowing Apart

New Analysis

The port explosion that devastated a large swath of Beirut is just one of a series of crises to hit Lebanon this year. Since shortly after the novice prime minister, Hassan Diab, took office in January, the economy has been in free fall, a banking crisis has erupted, and international aid dried up; a largely middle-class population is being driven into poverty. Lebanon’s politics have long been about protecting sectarian fiefdoms, but parochial avarice has completely overwhelmed any sense of the common good in the country.

In a normal environment, the United States and like-minded allies and partners would come together to show Lebanon a way out of the abyss, simultaneously striking a blow against Iranian influence and helping Lebanon avoid becoming a failed state. 

Read Jon Alterman's full piece on the Hill.

Babel: Translating the Middle East

In the most recent episode of Babel, Kim Ghattas joins Jon to discuss her new book, Black Wave. Kim and Jon trace 40 years of competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, starting with 1979 and ending with today. "The Saudis need the Iranians to be America's enemies so that Saudi Arabia can remain America's friend forever," says Kim.

After Jon's interview with Kim, Natasha Hall joined Jon and McKinley for a discussion on the U.S. role in Saudi-Iranian competition. 

In the News

“The protests that broke out last October were aimed at the whole political class, those inside and outside the government," said Will Todman for a HuffPost article on resilience and change in Lebanon. (08/05/20).

China thinks of Iran as a low-cost, "depressed asset," Jon told Time for an article on China's ambitions in the region and on China's new deal with Iran. Jon added: "China does not need Iran, but Iran is useful to China." (07/29/20).