Lebanon was once a jewel of the Middle East, a key destination for travelers from the region and all over the world. But beginning in the mid-1970s, the country was torn apart by sectarian violence that pitted Muslims and Christians, and eventually, Lebanon was pulled into the Arab-Israeli conflict as, first, the PLO and then later Hezbollah used the country as a staging ground to carry out attacks against Israel, which borders Lebanon to the south. The use of Lebanon by terrorist groups resulted in several invasions by Israel’s military, including 1978, 1982 and 2006, which only added to the destruction and internal turmoil that Lebanese have had to endure. From the 1980s until very recently, the Syrian government inserted itself into Lebanon’s governmental affairs, culminating in the 2005 Cedar Revolution which resulted in Syria’s withdrawal, both militarily and to some extent, politically, from the country. Hezbollah, however, continues to play a significant role in Lebanese affairs and has gained considerable support from the local population in key areas, much to the consternation of Israel.
Lay of the Land: Located in southwest Asia, Lebanon is a strip of land along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Its principal topographic features are a narrow coastal plain behind which are the high Lebanese Mountains, the fertile Beqaa Valley, and the anti-Lebanon Mountains extending to the Syrian border.
: North Levantine Arabic 92.4%, Arabic (official), Armenian 5.5%, Northern Kurdish 1.8%, French (official) 0.4%, English 0.008%.
Lebanon was originally occupied by the Phoenicians, Semitic traders whose maritime culture flourished for more than 2,000 years from 2700-450 BC. In later centuries, Lebanon’s mountains were a refuge for Christians, and Crusaders established several strongholds in the region.
Before the 1975 Civil War, Lebanon enjoyed generally good official relations with the United States. In large measure, these ties were promoted by the sizable Lebanese-American community. One incident that weakened these relations was the United States role in the 1958 Civil War. At that time, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched a unit of US Marines to aid the government of President Shamun, whose regime was under pressure from Muslim factions to strengthen ties with Egypt and Syria. The Marines were never engaged in battle and were withdrawn soon after their arrival. Even so, many Lebanese and other Arab states viewed the United States action as interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs.
The US signed a trade pact with Lebanon in 2006, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which may serve as a stepping stone to a full free-trade agreement at some point in the future.
Was Car Bombing Targeted at US Ambassador?
(Voice of America News)
Lebanon’s struggles with human rights largely stems from militant groups and a weak government’s inability to deter or punish their actions. The government is also unable to provide satisfactory prison conditions or protection for basic civil rights. The rights of women and refugees are also a continuing problem.
Appointment: Oct 9, 1942
Presentation of Credentials: Nov 19, 1942
President Barack Obama nominated Maura Connelly to be U.S. ambassador to the volatile Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon on June 3, 2010, and her Senate confirmation hearing was held on July 20. Connelly was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. At her confirmation hearing, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez suggested that Connelly’s childhood experience in rough and tumble northern New Jersey would be an asset she can draw upon in Beirut: “Anyone who was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, could probably do very well in Lebanon,” Menendez quipped. Connelly was confirmed by the Senate on August 6.
A native of Virginia, Michele J. Sison is the first Filipino-American ambassador from the United States. Her mother is Veronica Sison and her father, Pablo B. Sison was originally from Pangasinan, a province in the Philippines. She was confirmed by the US Senate on August 1, 2008 as the United States Ambassador to Lebanon. She arrived in Beirut on February 5, 2008 as Chargé d’Affaires. She served as ambassador until August 7, 2010.