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Lebanon is experiencing major economic and diplomatic crises that continue to worsen because of regional competition. The most recent twist in this saga cuts deep for Beirut. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait recently severed diplomatic relations after the airing of statements critical of the Saudi-led war in Yemen by the Lebanese information minister. While George Kordahi voiced the criticism prior to taking office on Sept. 10—and even as he ultimately stepped down on Dec. 3—the situation has not shifted. As a result of these dynamics, Lebanon seems to be more open to Iranian influence.
However, the crisis-hit country might have a new patron to compete with Iran: Turkey. Indeed, Ankara appears prepared to fill the potential economic and political gaps left by Gulf states. Important to this potential outcome is Turkey’s recent rapprochement with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which seems to ease Ankara-Beirut ties. As such, Turkish advancement in Lebanon could in fact even end up being supported by the Gulf as a counter to Iranian influence. In this context, Turkey has a chance to stand out as a country that can also support the Sunnis in Lebanon, which have traditionally been led by Gulf-backed politicians.
Ankara will certainly face limitations and challenges in the country, as Iran and its Lebanese allies have successfully thwarted efforts to expand Turkish influence in the past. Yet, Ankara could avoid such an outcome if it plays the right diplomatic cards...
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