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23 Jun 2011

Syria and Lebanon

Diverging paths of state unsustainability

Silvia Colombo

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Any analysis of the prospects for stability and sustainability in the states of Syria and Lebanon reveals the strong ties between these two countries and the impact of external influences on their overall development. Their trajectories, while starkly divergent in terms of the challenges confronting them at present, ultimately converge on a path of long-term unsustainability.

Lebanon is in the midst of yet another transition phase, triggered by the collapse of Hariri’s government in January 2011. The current situation might be described as one of deteriorating status quo; the state is performing poorly in terms of its delivery of fundamental public services and its institutional legitimacy is tenuous in the face of emerging para-state structures and latent (occasionally active) violence.

In Syria, challenges to the sustainability of the state have evolved dramatically since the beginning of 2011, and are now nearing a tipping point. In view of the mounting unrest and violence in the country, the future prospects for its economic and political development are dim. More ominously, the risk of widespread conflict, with sectarian overtones, cannot be discounted.

Silvia Colombo is Junior Researcher and a specialist in Mediterranean and Middle East issues at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Roma.