A 9-month political deadlock over the formation of Lebanon's new government has ended, resulting in a Cabinet in which Iran-backed Hezbollah has greater influence. The announced power-sharing agreement is unsurprising given Hezbollah’s strong electoral performance last May, when the predominantly Shiite organization and its allies seized the parliamentary majority from a loose coalition favored by the U.S. and led by returning Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
The big picture: While U.S. allies in Lebanon were able to impede Hezbollah’s ascendency through protracted negotiations, Hezbollah and its allies now control two-thirds of all key government ministries, with the militant group making further inroads into non-Shiite communities. Hezbollah is firmly entrenched in the Lebanese body politic and has grown into a regionwide fighting force on behalf of Iran, undercutting U.S. efforts to roll back Iranian influence.
Background: The Trump administration hopes its economic strategy of squeezing Iran and its allies, which kicked into high gear last November, will allow it to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal and limit that country’s regional sphere of influence. In Lebanon, however, this remains unlikely owing to Hezbollah’s increasing ability to hide behind legitimate state institutions and benefit from their resources.