After gaining independence in 1943, Lebanon’s new political leaders created a system of governance that would allow for the proportional representation of the country’s three major religious groups: Maronite Christians (represented by the president), Shiite Muslims (represented by the speaker of parliament), and Sunni Muslims (represented by the prime minister). However, unresolved sectarian differences eventually devolved into a civil war that lasted from 1975 to 1990, in which both Israeli and Syrian forces intervened—and more than one hundred thousand people died. Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2005 following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, but a war between Israel and Hezbollah quickly followed in 2006. In the last decade, sectarian tensions between Hezbollah and Sunni groups have increased—as has political gridlock.

-CFR Council on Foreign Relations