Lebanon is a small country with a population of only about 4.1 million, gaining independence from France in 1943. Lebanon borders on Israel in the south and Syria in the east and north. Due to Lebanon's varied ethnic composition, its history is rife with schisms, conflicts and civil wars based on sectarian allegiances. Since its independence Lebanon has had a unique political system of ethnic distribution with a parliamentary democracy based on ethnic-sectarian-religious representation. The most important offices are divided among the various religious groups, in accordance with the national charter of 1943.
Lebanon's social complexity, the weakness of its central government and the social and economic gaps between the various ethnic groups led to the rise of many armed sectarian-political militias, some of which turned to terrorism. The most prominent Shi'ite terrorist organization in Lebanon is Hezbollah, which was founded in the summer of 1982 during the First Lebanon War. It is not only a terrorist organization which owes its allegiance to the Iranian regime, it has also been incorporated into the Lebanese political system.
Lebanon has traditionally served as an arena for foreign forces, both Middle Eastern and international. Today the intervention of Syria and Iran are most conspicuous; they provide Hezbollah in Lebanon with weapons, ammunition, financing and military training, and direct its activities. Since the Second Lebanon War (2006) the border between Israel and Lebanon has been relatively quiet, a situation exploited by Hezbollah to advance its military buildup in direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions.