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Lebanon was the ancient homeland of Phoenicians, part of the Persian empire from 539 BC and then of the Roman Empire from 54 BC. In the 7th century Muslims took control although the Maronite Christians, founded around 400 AD, remained autonomous. When the Druze emerged from Shia Islam, they and the Maronites held the mountains while coastal cities were run by Caliphs.
From 1516 the Ottomans ruled until the empire collapsed in World War 1. France then established Greater Lebanon in 1920 and the Lebanese Republic in 1926. In 1943 the country gained independence with a government split on religious lines.
Lebanon supported Arab countries in the 1948 war against Israel and an influx of Palestinian refugees fuelled sectarian tensions that eventually led to the 1975 Lebanese Civil War. The country had become prosperous through tourism and commerce but this 15-year war between Christian groups (supported by Syria), and the PLO, along with Druze and Muslim militias, left it in ruins.
In 1989 a ceasefire was negotiated and in 2005 Syria withdrew but the country remains tense whilst the Syrian civil war (since 2012) worsened Lebanon’s economic situation. In August 2020 a huge explosion of ammonium nitrate stored at the port drew the world’s attention to the country’s failing administration and corrupt politics.
Lebanon lies on the northwest edge of the Arabian tectonic plate and the eastern edge of the Levant basin. It contains 4 north-south trending physiographic regions.
A narrow coastal plain widens to the Akkar plain in the south. East of this the Lebanon mountains form a steep ridge of limestones and sandstones that run for most of the country's length. The Beqaa valley, which is part of the Red Sea rift valley system, lies between these mountains and the Anti-Lebanon range of mountains in the east.
Lebanon has no identified indigenous oil or gas resources, either onshore or offshore. However, the country may have potential for gas and even oil discoveries in deep waters near the border with Israel and Cyprus in the Levant Basin.
No drilling has yet been carried out and political risks are high. No resources are currently ascribed to Lebanon by Globalshift.
Since 2013 Lebanon has had plans to release offshore blocks for exploration. Some parts of its maritime borders are disputed. The country has submitted to the UN a map that proposes a line concordant with an armistice accord drawn up in 1949. This agreement is not contested by Israel but the map has yet to be accepted.
Map and National Flag
Land area (sq kms)
Oil prod (000s b/d)
Gas prod (bcm/yr)
Oil cons (000s b/d)
Gas cons (bcm/yr)
Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy which implements a system known as confessionalism to deter sectarian conflict, representing the demographic distribution of 18 recognized religious groups.
The President has to be a Maronite, the Prime Minister, a Sunni, the Speaker, a Shi’a, and the Deputy Prime Minister and Speaker, Eastern Orthodox.
The legislature is unicameral with 128 seats divided equally between Christians and Muslims.
The government department responsible for oil and gas resources is the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) reporting to the Ministry of Energy and Water.
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