Middle Eastern country, one of the smallest in the region, on the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Syria and Israel. Its capital is Beirut. It was caught up in some degree of civil war from 1975 to 1991, with several militias controlling different parts of the country. Much of this is religious conflict between Christians and Muslims (and between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims). Both Syria and Israel have sent in troops in the past; Israel withdrew in 2000, but Syria's remain, and the Encyclopedia of the Orient describes Lebanon's current government as a "parliamentarian republic that is under direct control of Syria." Things are set up so that the country's "president is always a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, while the speaker of the National Assembly a Shi'i Muslim," which leaves the Christians with power disproportionate to their numbers and the Shi'ites the least powerful. The 128 seats in the National Assembly are also distributed in advance between the religious groups. This kind of division between groups has prevailed since the country became independent after World War II.

Geographically, the country has the Mediterranean coast, the Lebanon Mountains, a green valley, and then another line of mountains (the Anti-Lebanon Mountains) over the border with Syria. Most of the people live on the coast, with a minority in the Bekaa Valley where most of the country's agriculture is located; the rest of the country is arid. Much of the country was once covered with cedar forests but these have largely been cut down over the centuries.