"Since having its boundaries drawn by France after the First World War, Lebanon has struggled to define its national identity. Unlike other countries in the region, its population included Christian, Sunni Muslim, and Shia Muslim communities of roughly comparable size, and with competing visions for the country. Seeking to avoid sectarian conflict, Lebanese leaders created a confessional system that allocated power among the country's religious sects according to their percentage of the population. The system was based on Lebanon's last official census, which was conducted in 1932. As Lebanon's demographics shifted over the years, Muslim communities pushed for the political status quo, favoring Maronite Christians, to be revisited, while the latter worked to maintain their privileges. This tension at times manifested itself in violence, such as during the country's 15-year civil war, but also in ongoing political disputes such as disagreements over revisions to Lebanon's electoral law. To date, domestic political conflicts continue to be shaped in part by the influence of external actors, including Syria and Iran."
CRS Report for Congress, R44759
Federation of American Scientists: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/index.html