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Lebanon - GOVERNMENT
AS THE LEBANESE state fragmented, so too did the national economy. Many observers have argued that because of this fragmentation, there was not one economy in the late 1980s, but several. Areas held by some militia groups, most notably the Maronite Christian heartland controlled by the Lebanese Forces, appeared well on their way to becoming de facto ministates. These militias were successfully usurping basic functions of government such as taxation and defense.
Despite the fragmentation, there were still some shreds of the official economy. In late 1987 the main port of Beirut and Beirut International Airport were subject to intermittent government regulation. The Central Bank (also cited as Bank of Lebanon or Banque du Liban) maintained sizable financial reserves, although these declined sharply in the mid-1980s. There were spiraling budget deficits as the government attempted to reestablish the credibility of its security forces and maintain at least some social services.
Measuring the government's impact, however, was another matter. Although the government's financial role in the economy was growing, its role in the daily economic affairs of the Lebanese people was declining. The importance of the official economy in the late 1980s depended on where one lived and how one felt politically. But the economic collapse could not be separated from the human tragedy. For example, two of the most salient facts of life in Beirut in February 1987 were the collapse of the Lebanese pound to less than one-hundredth of a United States dollar and the request by Palestinian religious authorities for a ruling on whether or not it would be permissible for the besieged refugees in the camps at Burj al Barajinah and Shatila to eat their dead. In a country where violence had become endemic, where some 130,000 people had been killed and a further 1 million--a third of the population--had been injured, calculating the impact of the central government on the economy would be impossible.
In the years that followed the outbreak of the 1975 Civil War, political developments dominated economic affairs. Improved security conditions--such as from late 1976 to early 1978, or from September 1982 to January 1984--yielded considerable economic benefits, as relative peace enabled the recovery of commerce. Peacekeeping forces--Syrian, Israeli, United Nations, United States, and West European--brought with them favorable economic conditions in the communities where they were stationed. But the positive effects were frequently shortlived. For example, when Syrian troops entered Beirut in February 1987 (the first time a recognized power had attempted to enforce its authority in the capital since the February 1984 collapse of the Lebanese Army), there was a brief flurry of guarded economic optimism. The upswing of the Lebanese pound lasted only three weeks. But overall instability was the norm from 1975 to mid-1987, and it became clear that nothing short of a total change in the country's political and security structure--in effect, the end of sectarian partitions and militia rule--would lead to any sustained revival of what had once been one of the world's most vibrant economies.
By 1987 Lebanon had entered an era where reliable statistics on the state of the economy were usually absent. Lebanese economists were sometimes able to compile a few indicators, but the numbers were often based on incomplete data. But even without complete statistics, the downward trend of the national economy was obvious.
Bearing testimony to this trend, the Lebanese National Social Security Fund reported in May 1986 that 40 percent of the 500,000- strong private sector work force was unemployed. Industry was running at barely 40 percent of capacity, and per capita income was down to around US$250 a year in 1986, five times lower than eleven years earlier.
In 1985 estimates of the gross domestic product (GDP) varied from Lú30 billion to as high as Lú48.3 billion. In either case, GDP was no more than half of what it was in real terms in 1974.
Although the collapse of GDP began with the start of the Civil War, the fall of the Lebanese currency began much later. On the eve of the war, it required only Lú2.3 to buy a United States dollar. Currency values declined over the next several years, but it was not enough to destroy the basic Lebanese confidence in the pound, which was backed by substantial holdings of gold and foreign exchange. Whereas in 1981 the exchange rate had averaged Lú4.31 to the dollar, by the end of 1982, with the new government of President Amin Jumayyil (also spelled Gemayal) in office, the exchange rate was back to Lú3.81 to the dollar.
The pound, however, began depreciating rapidly in the aftermath of further Beirut clashes in early 1984 and the withdrawal of the Multinational Force (MNF) of peacekeeping troops from the capital. Although there was widespread currency speculation, the Central Bank could do little to investigate this problem became of Lebanon's tough banking secrecy laws.
Between January and December 1984, the pound lost just under half its value against the dollar, while in 1985 the trend gained speed, resulting in a further 60-percent erosion in value. The Central Bank was widely criticized, especially by the commercial banks, for failing to act decisively to halt the pound's slide. But even greater criticism was directed against commercial bankers and leading politicians, who were constantly accused of speculating against the national currency.
By 1986 the country was on the verge of hyperinflation as the pound lost almost 85 percent of its already shrunken value during the course of the year. On February 11, 1987, the currency crashed through the psychologically important barrier of Lú100 to the dollar and continued its fall. By August the pound was trading at more than Lú250 to the dollar. Compounding the problem was that these events occurred after a year in which the dollar had fallen sharply against most major international currencies.
The fundamental principle of the Lebanese banking system had been a freely convertible pound. Citizens were free to hold foreign currency accounts in their banks, and remittances received from friends and family living abroad could be processed with relative ease through banking channels. As the pound began its decline, the importance of foreign currencies (particularly the United States dollar) grew, and a "twin currency" economy emerged. Complex systems were soon set up to circumvent the banking system, not for fear of governmental interference but to prevent the loss of deposits or of letters of credit through bank robberies. In the twin currency economy, foreign cash and drafts on bank accounts held outside the country became increasingly common. It became impossible, however, to calculate how much foreign cash was entering the country once transfers began to bypass the banking system. But it was clear that most people were not receiving enough to retain their pre-1975 living standards.
By 1987 ordinary Lebanese were living in a very strange economy. Public services functioned according to the ability of the government to pay staff, the ability of different groups to tap into utilities (with or without official permission) and the ability of local groups (with or without official help) to keep services operational. The costs of basics, such as gasoline, home fuel oil, and cooking gas were all subject to government price restraints, yet prices could double or triple in times of shortages, as roads between refineries, gasoline pumps, and fuel depots were cut. People found the government price controls ineffective, and the struggle to secure vital goods and commodities reflected not so much a free market as a free-for-all. By 1987 a dozen years of conflict had shown them that economic control, as well as political power, came from the barrel of a gun.
By the late 1980s, years of conflict had distorted the economy. Total GDP was down, but the proportion of GDP contributed by the government was up. The national currency collapsed, and the country began sustaining balance of payments deficits. One commentator noted that 1986 marked the first time since the Civil War started in 1975 that Lebanon had suffered economic hardship to such an extent that it had affected the middle classes as well as the traditional urban poor. Another observer argued that Lebanon, once the model of modernity in the Middle East, was being threatened with "de-development."
IN LATE 1987, after more than a dozen years of civil strife during which as many as 130,000 people may have died, Lebanese politics had become synonymous with bloodshed, and political power had come to be equated with firepower. Within this context, it was sometimes difficult to recall that Lebanon was once considered by some to be a model of pluralistic democracy in the Arab world.
Despite the widespread erosion of law and order and the reduced effectiveness of the central authorities, in 1987 some vestiges of the traditional political system persisted. The president, as provided for in the Constitution, had been elected by the legislature, or Chamber of Deputies. He presided over a carefully selected cabinet, commanded the Lebanese Armed Forces, and supervised the civil service. But at this point, much of the resemblance between this framework and the pre-1975 Civil War national-level political structure ceased. In 1987 the president controlled only a small portion of the country. The members of the Chamber of Deputies had been elected in 1972--as of 1987 the latest election--and some of the deputies no longer even lived in Lebanon. Many of the traditional zuama (sing., zaim) of the various sects who had formerly participated in Lebanon's many cabinets were dead. The confessionally split Lebanese Armed Forces were only the sixth or seventh most powerful military organization in the nation. And the civil service, which still collected taxes and provided services to some parts of the country, did so at greatly diminished levels.
Lebanon's political traditions--including its internal contradictions--can be traced back several centuries. Under Ottoman rule (1516-1916) Lebanon's multisectarian character was already in evidence as powerful Druze, Muslim, and Maronite feudal lords extended their control over certain tracts of land in Mount Lebanon. They enjoyed a high degree of autonomy as long as taxes were paid to the Ottoman authorities. Likewise, under the short period of Egyptian control (1832-40), rule was relatively tolerant, both within the region and toward outside powers. It was during this era that European penetration helped Maronite Christians make gains against Druze landlords, and after the British and the Ottoman Turks drove out the Egyptians, Druze-Maronite antipathy turned violent. At the urging of the European powers, in 1842 the Ottoman Empire divided Mount Lebanon administratively, creating a christian district in the north and an area under Druze control in the south. But this system, called the Double Qaimaqamate, did not change the fact that portions of the various populations were still integrated. For example, Maronite peasants worked for Druze overlords. In 1860, in response to peasant revolts, Maronite-Druze animosities again boiled over. Although both sides suffered, about 10,000 Maronites were massacred at the hands of the Druzes. As a result, at the instigation of the European powers, the Ottomans reunited the two sections of Mount Lebanon, this time under a single, non-Lebanese, Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman Sultar, assisted by a multisectarian council.
After World War I and the defeat of the Ottomans by the Allied Powers, the League of Nations granted France mandate authority over Greater Syria, an area that included present-day Lebanon. As a result of Lebanon's years under the French Mandate (1920-43), the Constitution enacted in 1926 is fashioned after that of the French Third Republic. Article 95, however, is unique in that it provides for "balanced" confessional representation in government. In 1943 the provisions of this article were spelled out more clearly by unwritten agreements between Maronite and Sunni leaders. These agreements came to be known as the National Pact. The balancing advocated in the National Pact was meant to be provisional and was to be discarded as the nation moved away from confessionalism.
This movement, however, never occurred; in fact, in the years between the National Pact and the start of the 1975 Civil War, sectarianism became even more entrenched, and the principle of balancing, which created multiple power centers, frequently inhibited the political process. Basic philosophical differences on political outlook often separated the various parties. Bickering among elites was common, not only between Christians and Muslims but also among sects within each religious group. Also during this period, the political system of zuama clientelism, whereby powerful heads of families (similar to the feudal warlords of the Ottoman era) who wielded considerable political influence and dispensed patronage, became institutionalized. As a consequence, loyalty to subnational entities, such as family or sect, took precedence over allegiance to the state.
Other problems impeded the smooth operation of government. Chief among them was that the National Pact was based on the 1932 census, which enumerated Christians (including even those who had emigrated) to Muslims in a six-to-five ratio. Because this census was never updated officially, the growing number of Muslims, especially Shias, was not taken into account, thus giving Christians disproportionate political power. Many observers believe that it was the inability of Lebanon's leaders to agree on a new power-sharing formula in line with demographic realities that led to the 1975 Civil War.
Although it no longer monopolized the means of coercion, the government survived this conflict. The destruction and brutality wrought by both sides were catastrophic, but, except for a few small extremist groups, none of the armed militias demanded the abolition of the state or the abrogation of the Constitution; instead, many of them called for meaningful reform.
To some extent, the state and governmental institutions were able to survive through the direct intervention of external powers. In 1976 Ilyas Sarkis was elected president while much of the country was subject to Syrian presence. Then, in 1982 Bashir Jumayyil (also cited as Gemayel) was elected president largely under pressure from Israel, whose forces occupied most of southern Lebanon and Beirut. Because of the presence of a variety of armed militias throughout the country and the resulting "cantonization" of the state, in 1987 the term government had relevance only within the context of sectarian politics.
<>THE BASIS OF
The Constitution and National Pact together form the framework of Lebanon's parliamentary democracy. The Constitution provides for three branches of government: an executive, a legislature, and an independent judiciary. The president of the republic, who appoints the prime minister, is elected by the Chamber of Deputies, the legislative body. Although this system resembles that of a Western democracy, because of the National Pact and its legitimization in the Constitution, the president, ministers, and deputies act as members of their respective confessional communities and not as atlarge representatives.
<>The National Pact
<>The Prime Minister and the Cabinet
In the early 1920s, the League of Nations requested that the French Mandate authorities devise a law for Lebanon in cooperation with the native leaders and in harmony with the wishes and interests of the diverse religious sects. Accordingly, in July 1925 the French government appointed a commission, which by May 15, 1926, had prepared a draft constitution. The Representative Council, an elected body of Lebanese leaders sitting as a constituent assembly, adopted the draft constitution on May 23.
Although many Lebanese historians and politicians have claimed that the Constitution was designed primarily by local leaders to reflect purely Lebanese interests, the minutes of the constituent assembly reveal the major role of the French representative. He had the power to veto any modification to the draft, and he also controlled the agenda. In reaction to France's dominance, Muslim representatives made it clear during the meetings that they were against the very idea of expanding the limits of mostly Christian Mount Lebanon to create Greater Lebanon incorporating Muslim areas and insisted that the record show their reservations.
When completed, the Constitution was divided into six parts, one of which contained four articles relating to the French Mandate and the League of Nations. By these articles, France retained full political control over the country. In theory, France's high commissioner was charged with advisory and supervisory functions in normal times; in practice, he exercised supreme power. Army troops under French control were stationed throughout the country. Although their ostensible role was to keep the high commissioner informed of the local political situation, in fact they exerted a great deal of influence on the local administration. Thus, between 1926, when the Constitution was adopted, and 1946, when the French finally handed over all functions of state, France, not local officials, exercised control over implementation of the Constitution. The high commissioner, in fact, suspended the Constitution several times during the 1932-37 period and again at the beginning of World War II.
The Constitution stresses freedom and equality, although with some limitations. All Lebanese are guaranteed the freedoms of speech, assembly, and association "within the limits established by law." There are also provisions for freedom of conscience and the free exercise of all forms of worship, as long as the dignity of the several religions and the public order are not affected.
Clearly, there are inherent contradictions within the Constitution. Even though articles 7 and 12 provide for equality of civil and political rights and equal access to public posts based on merit, Article 95 affirms the state's commitment to confessionalism, but without setting forth how it is to be applied. Article 95, in effect, legitimizes the National Pact.
Amendments to the Constitution may be initiated by the president of the republic or by a resolution of at least ten members of the Chamber of Deputies. The Chamber of Deputies, by a two-thirds majority, can recommend an amendment. However, the president and his cabinet, who together constitute the Council of Ministers, have veto powers, which can be overridden only by a complex procedure of the Chamber of Deputies. The most significant amendments were promulgated in 1943, when all references to the French Mandate were expunged and Arabic was designated the nation's official language.
Attempts to amend the Constitution have met with both favor and controversy. In 1949 the Constitution was amended to allow President Bishara al Khuri (also cited as Khoury) to succeed himself. Nine years later, however, when unpopular president Camille Shamun (also cited as Chamoun) sought an amendment that would allow him to succeed himself, vigorous opposition throughout the country prevented him from doing so.
The National Pact (al Mithaq al Watani), an unwritten agreement, came into being in the summer of 1943 as the result of numerous meetings between Khuri (a Maronite), Lebanon's first president, and the first prime minister, Riyad as Sulh (also cited as Solh), a Sunni. At the heart of the negotiations was the Christians' fear of being overwhelmed by the Muslim communities in Lebanon and the surrounding Arab countries, and the Muslims' fear of Western hegemony. In return for the Christian promise not to seek foreign, i.e., French, protection and to accept Lebanon's "Arab face," the Muslim side agreed to recognize the independence and legitimacy of the Lebanese state in its 1920 boundaries and to renounce aspirations for union with Syria. The pact also reinforced the sectarian system of government begun under the French Mandate by formalizing the confessional distribution of high-level posts in the government based on the 1932 census' six-to-five ratio favoring Christians over Muslims. Although some historians dispute the point, the terms of the National Pact were believed to have been enunciated by the first cabinet in a statement to the legislature in October 1943.
As noted, the confessional system outlined in the National Pact was a matter of expediency, an interim measure to overcome philosophical divisions between Christian and Muslim leaders at independence. It was hoped that once the business of governance got under way, and as national spirit grew, the importance of confessionalism in the political structure would diminish. Over the years, the frequent political disputes--the most notable of which were manifested in the 1958 Civil War, the Palestinian controversy of the 1960s and 1970s, and the 1975 Civil War--bear stark testimony to the failure of the National Pact as a means toward societal integration.
Moreover, some observers claim that the National Pact merely perpetuated the power of the privileged. The pact, combined with the system of zuama clientelism, guaranteed the maintenance of the status quo and the continuation of privilege for the sectarian elites.
In pluralistic societies, patronage is often a common feature of the political process; the promotion of the interests of a particular sect is frequently widespread. Although patronage is prevalent in developed and lesser developed countries alike, clientelism may be more entrenched in Lebanon than in most other nations. The pervasiveness of this system in Lebanon is easily traced to feudal times, wherein the overlord allowed peasants and their families the use of land in exchange for unquestioned loyalty. In more recent times, this social system has been translated into a political system; the overlord has become a political leader, or zaim, the peasants have become his constituents, and, instead of land, favors are exchanged for electoral loyalty. And although clientelism has its roots in the rural areas, it now pervades towns and large citites down to the neighborhood level.
A zaim is a political leader, and rather than being exclusively an officeholder, he may be a power broker with the ability to manipulate elections and the officials he helps elect. Accordingly, wastah-- the ability to attain access to a power broker--is widely sought, but only achieved at some price.
There are those who believe that at the local level zuama clientelism may have reduced sectarian strife. Often, political competition was intrasectarian, rather than with members of different groups. And because only some of Lebanon's electoral districts were confessionally homogeneous (although most had a certain sectarian preponderance), a candidate often could not be elected unless he were supported by other confessional groups within his district. Once elected, however, the opportunity to augment his power was great. To ensure that constituents continued their support, zuama have been known to employ qabadayat, or enforcers, whose job it was to see that their chiefs were warmly supported at the polls or to discourage opponents from voting. In fact, in the post-World War II years, many zuama developed their own militias to safeguard their interests, often against rivals within their own sect. The development of these militias led to tragedy during the 1975 Civil War when these private armies were turned loose on members of opposing sects.
Another component of the Lebanese patronage system is the important role of family. The position of zaim is frequently hereditary, and politics is often treated like a family business. For example, almost one-fourth of the members of the 1960 Chamber of Deputies were the descendants of men who had been appointed to the legislative assemblies under the French Mandate. Furthermore, it was not uncommon for more than one member of the same family to hold office in the same government; for example, four different members of the Sulh family have held the position of prime minister. In the 1970s and 1980s, Amin Jumayyil (the Phalange Party), Dani Shamun (the National Liberal Party), and Walid Jumblatt (the Progressive Socialist Party) inherited their fathers' political mantles. Occasionally, the family of a zaim would control an entire sect, as the Asad clan did over the Shias of southern Lebanon in the first half of the twentieth century.
Thus, in 1987 Lebanon's constitutionally based political system had to be viewed through the overlay of clientelism, a system that had persisted in one form or another for over a hundred years. Even so, this system, although unlikely to disappear in the near term, perhaps was being challenged by a post-1975 Civil War development: the rise of the militias. Although some militias were still controlled by descendants of traditional zuama, others, like Amal, Hizballah (Party of God), and the Lebanese Forces, were led by figures who had arrived relatively late on the political scene. These militias were not just military organizations; through military force they often gained control of revenues that formerly went to government coffers. In this way, by controlling armed might and the purse, the militias were appropriating the basic stock-in-trade of the traditional zaim system. The patronclient relationship, therefore, rather than dying out may merely have taken one more turn along an evolutionary track.
As might be expected because of the significance of the family with its strong father figure and the influential role of the zaim, Lebanese have come to accept a powerful national leader. Indeed, the Constitution consigns to the president vast authority. He is commander in chief of the army and security forces; he can appoint and dismiss his prime minister and cabinet; he promulgates laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies and may also propose laws, enact "urgent" legislation by decree, and veto bills; he can dissolve the Chamber of Deputies; and he exercises considerable influence throughout the bureaucracy.
His constitutional powers notwithstanding, the president is constrained by the necessity of obtaining cooperation from at least a majority of the zuama of the various confessional communities. In addition, he must accommodate an array of other competing interests, including those of religious, business, and labor leaders. Moreover, the president, who by custom is a Maronite, must try to work in harmony with the prime minister, who by custom is a Sunni Muslim. Together, they are the most eminent members of the executive and wield a direct and personal influence over the deputies and other political leaders.
The president is elected, by the Chamber of Deputies, not by the general public. He is selected for a six-year term and may not succeed himself; he may serve any number of nonsuccessive terms, however. A sitting president steps down on September 23 of his sixth year in office. Thirty to sixty days before this, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies calls for a special session to elect a new president. A quorum of two-thirds of the deputies is required to hold a special session. A two-thirds majority of deputies attending is needed to be elected on the first ballot; failing that, a simple majority is required on subsequent ballots.
In theory, anyone who meets the eligibility requirements for election to the Chamber of Deputies can be elected president; in reality, before the 1975 Civil War powerful Maronite zuama usually were elected. Exceptions were Fuad Shihab (also seen as Chehab) and Charles Hilu (also spelled Helou), leaders who unsuccessfully sought to diminish the power of the zuama. At times, political maneuvering and interconfessional wrangling have been intense; nonetheless, the reality has usually been that no one could be elected president without the support of a wide spectrum of confessional blocs.
Although the Constitution grants the president wide latitude in conducting the affairs of state, it is questionable whether the Lebanese leaders who negotiated the National Pact envisioned the growth in power that occupants of the office assumed in later years. For many Lebanese, especially Muslims, the presidency came to symbolize political tyranny and sectarian hegemony. In domestic matters involving regional interests, the powers of the local zuama always held sway. But on broader, national-level issues, the Maronite presidents tended to safeguard Maronite interests. This was certainly true with regard to the pan-Arab question and the events that led to the 1958 Civil War, with respect to the Palestinian controversy, and in response to any call for fundamental political reform, especially musharaka, i.e., a more equitable distribution of power between the president and prime minister.
Some presidents have viewed the office as a means for aggrandizement. Sulayman Franjiyah (also cited as Franjieh), for instance, a zaim from Zgharta who was elected through the efforts of traditional zuama by the margin of a single vote, is commonly regarded as having used his office to reward his family and constituency. Many observers believe that nepotism and corruption--routine features of Lebanese politics--reached an intolerable level under Franjiyah's tenure.
The 1975 Civil War has left an indelible mark on the institution of the presidency. In the 1980s, the office no longer was viewed as a product of intersectarian consensus. The rise in sectarian consciousness has forced each president (and prime minister, for that matter) to be more accountable to the demands of his narrow community. At the same time, as external actors such as Syria and Israel have influenced elections, and as the power of the militias has increased, the status of the presidency has declined at home and abroad. In 1987 the authority of the president did not extend much farther than the confines of the Presidential Palace at Babda.
As noted, the president is constitutionally empowered to appoint the prime minister and the cabinet. Although a prime minister need not be a member of the Chamber of Deputies, this has usually been the case, particularly because the president must consult with the deputies before naming a prime minister. The president and the prime minister deliberate over the composition of the cabinet and present the nominees to the Chamber of Deputies to solicit a vote of confidence.
As the highest Muslim political official, the prime minster can bring a significant amount of authority to his position, and indeed this may have been the intent of Lebanon's "founding fathers." In practice, however, the power of the prime minister has varied according to his personality, his base of support, and the preferences of the president he served. A distinguished prime minister can enhance the prestige of the president, and the office has been held by some fairly capable politicians, including Riyad as Sulh, Saib Salam, and Rashid Karami.
Clearly, a prime minister's constitutionally mandated power is small, and over the years his most effective methods of action have been informal. His resignation could embarrass a president, influence popular opinion, and increase Muslim opposition. He could induce the Chamber of Deputies to voice a vote of no confidence and force the president to reappoint a new list of ministers, thereby stalling for a time governmental operations. In the end, however, these informal weapons were virtually inconsequential in comparison with the arsenal at the president's disposal. If a prime minister's actions caused a president dismay, the minister could be dismissed and replaced with a more pliable individual. For example, in 1973 when Salam resigned as prime minister to protest the government's refusal to oppose with force Israeli attacks, President Franjiyah nominated a political unknown to the post. Although the nomination was defeated, the eventual replacement was decidedly less resistant than Salam. Since the 1975 Civil War, the president has been forced to treat his prime minister with greater deference, but in the late 1980s the balance of political power in what remained of the official government was essentially unchanged from the prewar status.
In theory, the cabinet is the vehicle through which the country is administered. It is supposed to set policy, prepare legislative bills, and appoint or dismiss top members of the bureaucracy. Historically, however, ministers have often used their positions to increase their patronage within their constituencies and to add to their personal wealth. Unlike some other nations, in which the president appoints a group of like-minded officials to the cabinet, in Lebanon cabinets are often intricately formed bodies, designed to accommodate diverse sectarian interests. Consequently, they sometimes have degenerated into arenas for political sniping and backroom machinations, with ever-changing coalitions and factions being formed. It has not been uncommon for intracabinet antipathies to paralyze the business of government. In the late 1980s, some members of the cabinet were not even on speaking terms, and the Muslim members boycotted the president for more than a year.
Any Lebanese can be appointed as a minister, but most often influential zuama have held these positions. Less frequently, for example during the 1975 Civil War, technocrats have been called upon to serve as ministers. And, for a few days in 1975, military officers held ministerial slots. In general, certain ministries have been reserved for the various sects; as a consequence, cabinets have not been noted for their efficiency. One example of the anomalies that can develop because of these circumstances is the 1955 cabinet in which a Sunni ex-diplomat headed the Ministry of Public Works, while a Maronite engineer became the foreign minister.
There is no set number of ministries, but historically it has fluctuated between four and twenty-two, expanding and contracting according to political exigencies. Sometimes a minister has held more than one portfolio; as of early 1987, there were ten ministers holding among them sixteen portfolios. And, as with much of Lebanese politics, members of the same privileged families have tended to hold cabinet positions. As an indication of postwar reform, however, and in recognition of the growing Shia population, in 1984 the Ministry of State for the South and Reconstruction was created.
Typically, because of constant political pressures, cabinets have been ephemeral. Between 1926 and 1964, the average life of each cabinet was less than eight months. Even though cabinets were in an almost constant state of dissolution and reformation, the same men tended to be reappointed to the same or other posts. For example, 333 ministerial posts were occupied by only 134 individuals from 1926 to 1963.
The Chamber of Deputies (sometimes called the parliament) has many responsibilities, but electing the president is its most important. Despite its legislative role, traditionally the Chamber of Deputies seldom has been involved in law making or policy formulation. The Constitution details the duties and procedures of the Chamber of Deputies and grants it considerable authority in such matters as budgetary oversight and amending the Constitution. But because of the strength of the presidency and the power of the zuama, the Chamber of Deputies generally has been a fragmented, inefficient body, playing an insignificant part in Lebanese politics. In effect, it has merely been an extension of the executive, rather than a separate, co-equal branch of government.
Deputies are elected every four years by popular vote, but only within the strictures of the confessional system. Each slot is assigned to one sect or another according to its size in any district. It should be noted, however, that party politics have played almost no part in Lebanon and candidates campaign as part of a "list" sponsored by a local zaim. In other words, competition within districts is intrasectarian, in which, for example, a Greek Catholic from one list would campaign against Greek Catholics from other lists. Even though it is possible to vote across lists, typically lists have been elected in toto. To ensure the success of his list, a zaim often enters into complex alliances with zuama supporting other lists in other districts. As a result, one zaim may support another zaim in a neighboring district but oppose him in another district.
Because of the 1975 Civil War and the subsequent political disintegration, as of late 1987 there had been no election since 1972. Elections have been somewhat chaotic, often characterized by the strong-arm tactics of qabadayat, vote buying, and general disruptions. Elections have been conducted in stages, as much to allow voters to return to their home towns to cast ballots as to permit the redeployment of security forces to limit disturbances.
Money, of course, has been at the core of this system. Regardless of confessional association, candidates have tended to be men of wealth, often landlords, lawyers, or businessmen with family connections to the local zaim. Not surprisingly, candidates have frequently spent large sums to win elections. Once in office, although he was still beholden to the zaim, a deputy could further his accumulation of wealth. In addition, this system has perpetuated the promotion of parochial interests over the national welfare.
Despite its obvious unrepresentativeness, little reform to this system has occurred. One important factor maintaining the system has been the government's voting regulations, which encourage an individual to vote in his home town or village, regardless of how long he may have lived elsewhere. This policy reinforced the political hold of the zaim and, at the same time, discouraged the emergence of modern political parties.
Several other features characterized the Chamber of Deputies in 1987. By custom, its speaker (also referred to as its president), who was selected by the deputies, was a Shia Muslim. He presided over a body of fairly well-educated men, many of whom were related to one another. To be eligible for election, an individual had to be at least twenty-five years of age; still, most members of the Chamber of Deputies were over fifty years old. Only one woman, Mirna Bustani, had ever served in the Chamber of Deputies, and this was under unusual circumstances. Her father, Emile Bustani, a deputy, died in office, and, being an only child, Mirna was appointed to complete Emile's term in the 1960 Chamber od Deputies.
To accommodate the six-to-five formula for representation of Christians to Muslims, the number of deputies has always been a multiple of eleven, although the number has varied over time. In 1951 the Chamber of Deputies was increased from fifty-five to seventy-seven members, in 1957 it was reduced to sixty-six, and in 1960 it was raised to ninety-nine. In the latter year, the Chamber of Deputies was made up of thirty Maronites, twenty Sunnis, nineteen Shias, eleven Greek Orthodox, six Druzes, six Greek Catholics, four Armenian Orthodox, and three members of groups minority.
Rather than trying to hold elections amid the chaos of the 1970s and 1980s, the Chamber of Deputies chose to renew its members' terms every two years until "appropriate conditions" would allow a free election. Moreover, it had not even been possible to hold by-elections to fill seats of deceased members. In the mid1980s , government officials discussed appointing new deputies to these seats. In addition, during this time a national consensus developed to modify the formula of representation so that seats would be evenly distributed. Furthermore, some officials proposed that the size of the Chamber of Deputies be increased to 120. Nonetheless, by 1987 none of these ideas had been implemented, and, as a consequence, of the ninety-nine deputies elected in 1972, only seventy-seven remained.
As with other branches of government, the judiciary suffered as a result of the 1975 Civil War and the ensuing disruptions. Prior to the war, the Lebanese justice system mirrored many features common to West European systems especially that of France. The Ministry of Justice had official authority over the judicial system, but the Supreme Council of Justice, a body consisting of eleven judges appointed by the president in consultation with leaders of the sects, exercised actual jurisdiction over the various courts. It appointed judges to the several courts and could transfer or remove them. There were fifty-six courts of first instance, with seventeen in Beirut alone, and each was presided over by a single magistrate. Cases from these courts could be appealed to one of eleven courts of appeal, each of which had a three-judge panel. Above these were four courts of cassation, on which sat three judges each. Three of these courts adjudicated civil cases, and one heard criminal complaints.
Several other courts existed outside this general framework. The six-member Council of State functioned as an appeals court for administrative matters, and the Judicial Council, which included the most senior judge of the courts of cassation and four other judges appointed by the government, ruled on cases of public security. In addition, there were a few other special courts that heard questions relating to the military, the press, and business affairs.
Matters of personal status, dealing with such issues as marriage and inheritance, were in the domain of the various sects. These cases sometimes involved complex layers of appeal. Maronites and Greek Catholics, for example, could appeal to the Vatican, whereas Greek Orthodox could look to the Patriarchal Court in Damascus for relief. Shias and Sunnis, in contrast, often dealt with appeals locally and based decisions on sharia.
As might be expected in a society based on patronage, political interference in judicial affairs was not uncommon, and pressures from zuama on judges often influenced rulings. Observers noted that confessionalism also marred the judicial system, not only in the selection of judges, some of whom were mediocre jurists, but also in the determination of criminal penalties.
As of 1987, the Ministry of Justice was an active portfolio, but there was little evidence that the judiciary resembled its prewar status; only a few government-run courts seemed to be in operation. These apparently handled only minor civil and criminal cases and ultimately were circumscribed by the desires of the local militias.
In 1987 there were skeletal remains of the prewar bureaucracy. For example, although there were still many interruptions, telephone and postal service continued to function in many areas, and electric power and piped water still flowed to many users. But with the central authorities in a shambles, the bureaucracy was often more heavily influenced by the local militias than by the cabinet ministries.
Before the 1975 Civil War the bureaucracy, bloated by patronage, was noted for its slowness, inefficiency, and corruption. Favored clients of zuama often held important positions and, regardless of their competence, could not be fired. Given the low pay of many positions, it was not surprising that government employment did not attract the most capable people. Moreover, to make ends meet, many civil servants were prone to accepting bribes and spending only a few hours at the office so they could work at a second job.
Sectarianism has perhaps been stronger in the bureaucracy than in any other Lebanese political institution. President Shihab, one of the few national-level politicians to introduce reforms to the system, in 1959 enacted the Personnel Law. This statute technically abolished the practice of appointing officers on the basis of the six-to-five formula; instead, Christians and Muslims were to be appointed on an equal basis. Shihab also created the Civil Service Council to examine, train, and certify new appointees, and he established a school to provide such training.
But as with other reform measures that threatened the hold of the zuama, these efforts were largely ignored. An estimate of sectarian representation in 1955 among higher ranking civil servants put Maronites at 40 percent, while 27 percent were Sunnis, and a mere 3.6 percent were Shias. Furthermore, by the start of the Civil War in 1975, these ratios remained relatively unchanged.
In the aftermath of the violence of the late 1970s and early 1980s, observers were uncertain of the exact functioning of local administration. As noted earlier, it was believed that, like much of Lebanese politics, local affairs had become the domain of the militias. In 1987 the country was divided into five provinces (muhafazat): Bayrut, Al Biqa, Jabal Lubnan, Al Janub and Ash Shamal. A sixth province, Jabal Amil, was created in the 1980s. It was to be carved out of Al Janub Province, with its capital at An Nabatiyah at Tahta. In 1987, however, its exact boundaries could not be determined. All provinces except Bayrut were subdivided into districts. Prior to 1975, local administration was highly centralized, with the Ministry of Interior having oversight and fiscal responsibilities. The governor, who was appointed by the president with cabinet approval, was the highestranking official in each province. He headed the Provincial Council, which included a representative of the Ministry of Finance, and the deputy governors (qaim maqams), who were appointed in the same manner as the governor. Despite the elaborate infrastructure of the local administration, by virtue of its control over the purse strings, the Ministry of Interior exercised considerable authority.
Historically, political parties in Lebanon have lacked traits common to parties in most Western democracies. Lebanese parties often have had no ideology, have devised no programs, and have made little effort at transcending sectarian support. In fact, despite their claims, most parties have been thinly disguised political machines for a particular confession or, more often, a specific zaim. Although nondescript, broad titles have been applied, such as National Bloc Party or Progressive Socialist Party. With the exception of a handful of left-wing movements, most parties have been the organizational personification of a few powerful politicians. Even Kamal Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt), the most ideologically oriented of the zuama, derived his constituents' support principally because he was a Druze leader, not because of his political beliefs. For this reason, any one party could count on only a few votes in the Chamber of Deputies. This situation brought about a continuous stream of coalitions, each often created to represent a point of view on a particular issue. In this system, leaders could not even rely on the support of their coreligionists; in fact, some of the most severe acrimony has been intrasectarian. Nonetheless, in the face of challenges to fundamental issues--such as the six-to-five formula or the pan-Arab question--the various confessionally based parties generally closed ranks.
Before and during the 1975 Civil War, other political groupings were formed. Although ideology played some role in their formation, for the most part these alliances--the Lebanese National Movement and the Lebanese Front--tended to be temporary associations of politically motivated militias under the leadership of powerful zuama, and divisions generally followed sectarian lines. So ephemeral were these associations, however, that after the heaviest fighting of the mid- and late 1970s ceased, several of the groups in these coalitions turned their guns on each other.
Nonetheless, ideology, rather than the power and charisma of a zaim, has been the basis for the formation of a small number of political parties. These multisectarian groups have espoused causes ranging from Marxism to pan-Arabism. To a limited extent, several of these essentially leftist parties also participated in the fighting of the 1970s.
By 1987 political parties, in the sense of constitutionally legitimate groups seeking office, had almost become an anachronism. By virtue of armed strength, the various militias, surrogate armies, and foreign defense forces that controlled the nation had divided Lebanon into several semi autonomous "cantons," each having its own political, social, and economic structure.
<>National Liberal Party
<>Union of Muslim Ulama
<>Independent Nasserite Movement
<>Progressive Socialist Party
<>Lebanese Communist Party
<>Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party
<>Organization of Communist Action
Formed in 1936 as a Maronite paramilitary youth organization by Pierre Jumayyil (who modeled it on the fascist organizations he had observed while in Berlin as an Olympic athlete), the Phalange, or Phalanxes (Kataib in Arabic), was authoritarian and very centralized, and its leader was all powerful. It quickly grew into a major political force in Mount Lebanon. After at first allying itself with the French Mandate authorities, the Phalange sided with those calling for independence; as a result, the party was dissolved in 1942 by the French high commissioner (it was restored after The French left Lebanon). Despite this early dispute, over the years the Phalange has been closely associated with France in particular and the West in general. In fact, for many years the party newspaper, Al Amal, was printed in Arabic and French.
Consistent with its authoritarian beginnings, Phalangist ideology has been on the right of the political spectrum. Although it has embraced the need to "modernize," it has always favored the preservation of the sectarian status quo. The Phalange Party motto is "God, the Fatherland, and the Family," and its doctrine emphasizes a free economy and private initiative. Phalangist ideology focuses on the primacy of preserving the Lebanese nation, but with a "Phoenician" identity, distinct from its Arab, Muslim neighbors. Party policies have been uniformly anticommunist and anti-Palestinian and have allowed no place for pan-Arab ideals.
Unlike many zuama who achieved their status by virtue of inheriting wealth, Jumayyil ascended because of his ability to instill discipline in his organization and, by the mid-1950s, through the accumulation of military might. By the outbreak of the 1958 Civil War, the Phalange Party was able to further its growing power by means of its militia. In that year, when President Shamun was unable to convince the army commander, Fuad Shihab, to use the armed forces against Muslim demonstrators, the Phalange militia came to his aid. Encouraged by its efforts during this conflict, later that year, principally through violence and the success of general strikes in Beirut, the Phalange achieved what journalists dubbed the "counterrevolution." By their actions the Phalangists brought down the government of Prime Minister Karami and secured for their leader, Jumayyil, a position in the four-man cabinet that was subsequently formed.
The 1958 Civil War was a turning point for the Phalange Party. Whereas in 1936, the year of its formation, it had a following of around 300, by 1958 its membership had swelled to almost 40,000. Meanwhile, the French newspaper L'Orient estimated that the Phalange Party's nearest rival, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party, had a membership of only 25,000. In addition, although until 1958 it had been able to elect only 31 percent of its candidates to the Chamber of Deputies, from 1959 through 1968 the Phalange placed 61 percent of its candidates in office. Moreover, by the start of the disturbances in 1975, the party's rolls may have included as many as 65,000 members, including a militia approaching 10,000 men.
Throughout the 1975 Civil War, the Phalange Party was the most formidable force within the Christian camp, and its militia shouldered the brunt of the fighting. As part of the Lebanese Front, the mostly Christian, rightist coalition, the power of the Jumayyil family increased considerably. Ironically, as Pierre Jumayyil's son, Bashir, ascended as a national figure, the role of the Phalange Party diminished. This was true primarily because the relevance of political entities declined as the importance of armed power grew. Through a series of violent intrasectarian battles, Bashir seized control of the Lebanese Forces (not to be confused with the Lebanese Front), a conglomeration of the Phalange Party's military wing and some other Christian militias.
During the 1980s, the Phalange lost much of its credibility and political stature. In 1982, under pressure from Israel, which occupied a good deal of Lebanon, Bashir was elected president. Later that year, before talking office, Bashir was assassinated. Subsequently, his brother Amin was elected president, again not so much for his Phalange Party connection as because of his support from Israel. With the death of Pierre Jumayyil in 1984, the role of the party declined further. When the deputy leader of the party, Elie Karamah, a Greek Catholic, was named as its new head, many Maronite members became disaffected. Maronite George Saadah succeeded Karamah in 1987 and strove to resuscitate the flagging Phalange by holding party meetings and by improving ties to the Lebanese Forces. The party, however, was factionalized, and many prominent members had left.
Established in 1958 by Camille Shamun after he left the presidency, the National Liberal Party (NLP) was a predominantly Maronite organization, although it had some non-Maronites and nonChristians in its leadership. More or less a political vehicle for Shamun, perhaps the most charismatic of all Christian leaders, the NLP lacked a coherent ideology or program. Although the NLP never matched the organizational efficiency of the Phalange Party, they shared many views, including favoring a free-market economy, anticommunism, close association with the West, and, most important, the continuation of Christian political advantage. In the early 1970s, the NLP claimed 60,000 to 70,000 members and controlled as many as 11 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, and Shamun had occupied several ministerial posts after his term as president.
During the 1975 Civil War, the NLP and its militia, the Tigers (Namur in Arabic), participated in the Lebanese Front, and Shamun, who was driven from his home district in the Shuf Mountains, was an active leader in the alliance. When, in July 1980, Bashir Jumayyil launched a surprise attack, defeating the Tigers, the political and military significance of the NLP declined. The party again suffered a severe setback in August 1987 when Shamun died. His son Dani assumed the chairmanship of the party, which still harbored hopes for the presidential election scheduled for 1988.
The Lebanese Forces (LF) emerged as a political power in 1976 under the leadership of Bashir Jumayyil. At that time various Christian militias joined forces to bring about the destruction of the Palestinian refugee camp at Tall Zatar. In August of that year, a joint command council was established to integrate formally the several militias, but also to achieve a higher degree of independence from the traditional political leaders, whom many of the LF rank and file regarded as too moderate. Jumayyil first took control of the military wing of his father's Phalange Party and then proceeded to incorporate other Christian militias. Those who resisted were forcibly integrated. In 1978 Jumayyil subjugated the Marada Brigade, the militia of former president Sulayman Franjiyah, killing Franjiyah's son, Tony, in the process. In 1980 the same fate befell Camille Shamun's Tigers militia.
Thus, by the early 1980s the LF controlled East Beirut and Mount Lebanon, and Jumayyil was its de facto president. But Jumayyil did not confine the LF to the military realm only; he created committees within the LF structure that had responsibility for health, information, foreign affairs, education, and other matters of public concern. Jumayyil established links with Israeli authorities, and he consistently battled with Syrian forces. Important feature of the LF's operations were its legal (official) and illegal (unofficial) ports and the revenues generated by the transit trade. In this way, the LF took over the traditional role of the state as a provider of public services.
Following the 1982 assassination of Bashir Jumayyil, the LF suffered serious organizational cleavages. After numerous succession struggles, Elie Hubayka (also seen as Hobeika)-- notorious for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacres of 1982-- assumed the leadership of the LF. But when Hubayka signed the Syrian-sponsored Tripartite Accord in December 1985 against the wishes of President Amin Jumayyil, LF chief of staff Samir Jaja (also seen as Geagea) launched an attack on Hubayka and his loyalists and defeated them. Interestingly, Hubayka, who was once noted for his close ties to Israel, in late 1987 was headquartered in Zahlah, where he headed a separate pro-Syrian "Lebanese Forces".
In 1987 the LF was one of the most important political and military actors on the Lebanese scene. As leader of the LF, Jaja wielded power rivaling that of President Jumayyil. Jaja embraced a hardline, anti-Syrian position and revived ties with Israel. The LF operated television and radio stations and published a weekly magazine.
The Amal movement was established in 1975 by Imam Musa as Sadr, an Iranian-born Shia cleric of Lebanon Ancestry who had founded the Higher Shia Islamic Council in 1969. Amal, which means hope in Arabic, is the acronym for Afwaj al Muqawamah al Lubnaniyyah (Lebanese Resistance Detachments), and was initially the name given to the military arm of the Movement of the Disinherited. This latter organization was created in 1974 by Sadr as a vehicle to promote the Shia cause in Lebanon.
Sadr, who at first established his own militia, later resisted a military solution to Lebanon's problems, refusing to engage Amal in the fighting during the 1975 Civil War. This reluctance discredited the movement in the eyes of many Shias, who chose instead to support the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) or other leftist parties. Amal was also unpopular for endorsing Syria's intervention in 1976.
Nonetheless, several factors caused the movement to undergo a dramatic resurgence in the late 1970s. First, Shias became disillusioned with the conduct and policies of the PLO and its Lebanese allies. Second, the mysterious disappearance of Sadr while on a visit to Libya in 1978 rendered the missing imam a religious symbol, not unlike the occultational absence of the twelfth Shia Imam. Third, the Iranian Revolution revived hope among Lebanese Shias and instilled in them a greater communal spirit. In addition, when the growing strength of Amal appeared to threaten the position of the PLO in southern Lebanon, the PLO tried to crack down on Amal by sheer military force. This strategy backfired and rallied even greater numbers of Shias around Amal.
By the early 1980s, Amal was the most powerful organization within the Shia community and perhaps was the largest organization in the country. Its organizational strength lay in its extension to all regions of the country inhabited by Shias.
Amal's ideology had evolved somewhat since Sadr's disappearance, when Husayn Husayni (also spelled Husseini) assumed leadership from April 1979 to April 1980 and was then followed by Nabih Birri (also cited as Berri). Although its charter considers the Palestinian cause a central issue for all Arabs. In the mid1980s , the Amal militia laid siege to Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut, in retribution for years of abuses at the hands of Palestinian liberation groups that operated in southern Lebanon. Amal stressed resistance to Israel, and Amal's leadership was perceived by many as being pro-Syrian. The Amal platform called for national unity and equality among all citizens and rejected confederation schemes. Amal was linked less closely to Iran than some other Shia organizations, and it did not propose the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.
Its broad geographical base notwithstanding, neither Amal's rank and file nor its leadership was especially cohesive. Amal's various geographic branches did not embrace a single position but were subject to particularist tendencies. Moreover, its two leading bodies--the Politburo, headed by Birri, and the Executive Committee, led by Daud Daud--appeared to effect a balance between two competing socioeconomic groups. The members of the first group, personified by Birri, were educated, upper middle class, and secularly oriented (in relative terms). The second, exemplified by Daud, was composed of members who had been in the movement since its inception, who generally were of peasant origins, and who were religiously oriented. In late 1987 the first group was in control of most of the movement, its radio and television stations, and its weekly magazine.
Established in 1982 at the initiative of a group of Shia clerics who were adherents of Shaykh Muhammad Husayn Fadlallah, by 1987 Hizballah (Party of God) was the second most important Shia organization. Fadlallah, who was born in southern Lebanon but educated in An Najaf, Iraq, moved to East Beirut, where he wrote books on Islamic jurisprudence. Having been evicted by Christian forces during the fighting in 1976, he relocated in Beirut's southern suburbs. Fadlallah continued his work and developed a following, which later evolved into Hizballah.
In 1987 Hizballah followed strictly the theological line of Iran's Ayatollah Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini and called for the establishment in Lebanon of Islamic rule modeled on that of Iran. In pursuit of this goal, the party had developed close ties with Iranian representatives in Lebanon and Syria. In terms of secular policies, Hizballah rejected any compromise with Lebanese Christians, Israel, and the United States. This hardline approach appealed to many Shias, who abandoned the mainstream Amal movement to join Hizballah. These members tended to be young, radical, and poor.
The party's internal structure revolved around the Consultative Council (Majlis ash Shura), a twelve-member body, most of whom were clerics. The council divided among its members responsibilities that covered, among other matters, financial, military, judicial, social, and political affairs. The party's operations were geographically organized, with branches in Al Biqa and Al Janub provinces and in West Beirut and its southern outskirts. Among prominent Hizballah leaders in late 1987 were Shaykh Ibrahim al Amin, Shaykh Subhi at Tufayli, Shaykh Hasan Nasrallah, Shaykh Abbas al Musawi, and Husayn al Musawi; Fadlallah insisted that he had no formal organizational role but was merely Hizballah's inspirational leader.
Hizballah gained international attention in 1983 when press reports linked it to attacks against United States and French facilities in Lebanon, to the abduction of foreigners, and to the hijacking of aircraft. Nonetheless, Fadlallah (who was himself a target of a terrorist assassination attempt) and Hizballah spokesmen continued to deny any involvement in anti-American attacks.
Based in Baalbek in the Biqa Valley, Islamic Amal was led by Husayn al Musawi, who was also a leading figure in Hizballah. The movement got its start in June 1982 when Nabih Birri, the head of Amal, agreed to participate in the Salvation Committee, a body set up by President Ilyas Sarkis following the Israeli invasion. The committee included Bashir Jumayyil, the much-despised Maronite commander of the LF. Musawi considered Birri's actions "treasonous" and Amal's orientation too secular. In response, Musawi broke from Amal and set up his own faction, which observers believed was organized primarily along family lines.
Islamic Amal was backed by officials in the Iranian government, and it coordinated with units of Iran's (Pasdaran) Revolutionary Guards stationed around Baalbek. Even so, in 1986 when Iranian officials pressured Musawi to dissolve his organization, he refused. He agreed, however, to remain part of Hizballah, and he reportedly served as a member of its Consultative Council. Press reports linked Islamic Amal, like Hizballah, to anti-Western violence in Lebanon. Although Musawi's rhetoric was vehemently anti-Western, as of late 1987 he had not claimed any violence in the name of Islamic Amal.
Founded during the 1975 Civil War by Lebanon's Sunni mufti, Shaykh Hasan Khalid, the Islamic Grouping (At Tajammu al Islami) was a loose confederation of Sunni political and religious notables. At one time it included most former or current Sunni prime ministers, ministers, deputies, and lesser politicians. It met weekly under the chairmanship of the mufti, it issued statements on current issues, and it was responsible for nominating Sunni representatives to fill official government posts. In 1987, with politics almost moribund and in the absence of a significant militia, the Islamic Grouping by default was the most important organization of the Sunni community.
The Union of Muslim Ulama emerged in 1982, when West Beirut was under siege by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). It included Sunni and Shia clerics who shared the view that the application of sharia would solve Lebanon's problems and would end the IDF's occupation of Arab land. The union's fundamentalist line reflected its identification with the policies and objectives of Iran.
The Union of Muslim Ulana, which was unique because of its combined Sunni-Shia membership, strove to eliminate tensions between the two communities. For that reason, it organized mass rallies to propagate its views to the broadest audience possible. In 1987 the union was led by Shaykh Mahir Hammud (a Sunni) and Shaykh Zuhayr Kanj (a Shia).
The Independent Nasserite Movement (INM) was the oldest of several organizations in Lebanon that embraced the ideas of the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdul Nasser. Despite its claims of nonsectarianism, the membership of the INM has been overwhelmingly Muslim; 1987 reports estimated it to be about 45-percent Sunni, 45- percent Shia, and 10- percent Druze. Its ideology was reflected by its motto: "Liberty, Socialism, and Unity."
The INM came to prominence in the 1958 Civil War and remained a strong force throughout the 1970s. At the height of the 1958 conflict, its militia, the Murabitun (Sentinels), clashed with the forces of pro-Western president Shamun. Consistent with its panArab ideals, the INM was a firm supporter of the Palestinian movement in Lebanon in the late 1960s. During this time, it reenforced the Murabitun. When the 1975 Civil War began, it was well positioned to play an active part. The Murabitun engaged Phalangist fighters in the most severe combat during the early stages of the war, and absorbed many casualties.
In the 1980s, the INM weathered difficult times. It fought with the Palestinians against the Israelis during the invasion of 1982 and with the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) against the Lebanese Army in the Shuf Mountains in 1983. Its alliance with the PSP was short lived, however. In 1985 a joint PSP-Amal campaign virtually eliminated the Murabitun as an important actor in Lebanon and forced INM leader, Ibrahim Kulaylat, into exile.
Founded in 1949 by members of various sects who were proponents of social reform and progressive change, the Progressive Socialist Parlty (PSP) has been represented in the Chamber of Deputies since 1951. The party flourished under the leadership of Kamal Jumblatt, a charismatic--albeit somewhat enigmatic--character. Jumblatt appealed to Druzes because of his position as zaim, to other Muslims who were disenchanted with the traditional political system, and to members of some other sects who were attracted by his secular and progressive rhetoric. By 1953 the PSP claimed some 18,000 adherents, and in the 1964 Chamber of Deputies it could count on as many as 10 deputies.
Despite its nonsectarian beginnings and secular title, by the early 1950s the party began taking on a confessional cast. By the 1970s, this tendency was unmistakably Druze; this point was demonstrated in 1977 when, after Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated (perhaps by pro-Syrian Agents), his son, Walid, assumed the party leadership, continuing Druze control of the party.
Over the years the PSP has alternately cooperated with and opposed many of the same parties. For example, in 1952 it helped Camille Shamun unseat Bishara al Khuri as president; then, six years later, it was in the forefront of groups calling for Shamun's ouster. Moreover, from 1960 to 1964, when Jumblatt and Pierre Jumayyil served in the same cabinet, they spent much of their time vilifying each other in their respective party newspapers; then in 1968 Jumblatt allied with Jumayyil and Raymond Iddi (also seen as Edde) in the so-called Triple Alliance.
A reformer willing to work within the system, Kamal Jumblatt played an active role in politics, serving in the Chamber of Deputies and in several cabinets. Although philosophically opposed to violence, Jumblatt was not reluctant to pursue a military course when such action seemed necessary. The stalwart PSP militia was involved against the government during the 1958 Civil War, took a modest part in the Lebanese National Movement throughout the 1975 Civil War, and fought against Phalangist troops and the Lebanese Army in the 1983 battles in the Shuf Mountains.
The Jumblatt family shared leadership of the Druze community with the Yazbak clan, led by Majid Arslan. Although divisions between these two branches have sometimes been wide, the coordinated Druze defense of the Shuf Mountains in 1983 and 1984 helped close the rift. In addition, the Yazbaks suffered several setbacks that drew them closer to the Jumblatt confederation. First, Arslan's son, Faysal, became discredited when he allied with Bashir Jumayyil and the LF before and during the 1982 Israeli invasion. Then, they lost their traditional leader, Arslan, who died in 1983. Consequently, by 1987 most Druze were united behind Walid Jumblatt as leader of the PSP and its formidable militia.
In general, Armenian groups have supported whatever government was in power. They have tended to focus on issues of interest to the larger Armenian world community and not strictly domestic politics. The three most important Armenian parties have been the Tashnak Party, the Hunchak Party, and the Ramgavar Party. Of these the Tashnak Party has had the greatest political impact.
Founded in 1890 in Russian Armenia, the Tashnak Party sought to coordinate all Armenian revolutionary groups seeking to improve their conditions under Ottoman rule. Although the international Tashnak Party movement advocates socialism, the Lebanese branch of the party prefers capitalism. Since 1943 most of the Armenian deputies in the Chamber of Deputies (four in the election of 1972) have been members or supporters of the Tashnak Party. Prior to the 1975 Civil War, the mostly Christian Tashnak Party was an ally of the Phalange Party.
On the international level, the party has tended to be proWestern , and during the 1950s and 1960s it took an anti-Nasser stance. As has been typical of Lebanon's Armenian community, the Tashnak Party has avoided sensitive and controversial domestic issues and has attempted to play a moderating role in politics. Like other Armenian groups, the Tashnak Party refrained from military activity during the 1975 Civil War. Because the party refused to come to the Christians' side, many Armenian quarters in Lebanese towns were subsequently attacked by Bashir Jumayyil's LF.
The Hunchak Party was organized in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1887. The Hunchak Party has promoted the dual objective of liberating Turkish Armenia and establishing a socialist regime in a unified Armenian homeland. The Hunchak Party in Lebanon has advocated a planned economy and a just distribution of national income. In 1972, for the first time in its history, the Hunchak Party ran jointly for election to the Chamber of Deputies with the Tashnak Party.
Founded in 1921, the Ramgavar Party's ultimate goal was the liberation of Armenia. It has oriented its activities toward preserving Armenian culture among Armenian communities throughout the world. After a period of dormancy, the party was revived in the 1950s in the wake of increasing conflicts between the Tashnak Party and Hunchak Party. The Ramgavar Party presented itself as an alternative that avoided issues divisive to the Armenian community. The Ramgavar Party, sometimes considered the party of Armenian intellectuals, also opposed what it considered the right-wing policies of The Tashnak Party.
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) was not a political party but rather a highly secret organization that used violence to harm its political enemies, principally the government of Turkey. Established in 1975, ASALA used the Lebanese Civil War as an opportunity to put into practice without government interference its belief in armed struggle. Adhering to MarxismLeninism , ASALA aligned with radical Lebanese and Palestinian groups against rightist forces during the fighting in the late 1970s.
Kurdish parties have exerted little influence on Lebanese politics. In general, Kurds have been more concerned with international Kurdish matters than with internal Lebanese issues. In addition, Kurdish groups in Lebanon have been characterized by a high degree of factionalism.
Jamil Mihhu established the Kurdish Democratic Party in 1960, but it was not licensed until 1970. Mihhu, however, supported the Iraqi government against Kurdish rebels fighting in that country, and he was captured and imprisoned by the Kurdish resistance in Iraq. Consequently, the leadership of the party passed to Jamil's son, Riyad. Another son, Muhammad, disagreed with his family's position on several issues and therefore in 1977 started his own movement, the Kurdish Democratic Party--Temporary Leadership.
Riz Kari was another Kurdish group dissatisfied with the leadership of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Established in 1975 by Faysal Fakhu, Riz Kari supported the Kurdish forces fighting against the Iraqi regime. For a brief period during the 1975 Civil War, however, Riz Kari joined forces with the Kurdish Democratic Party to form the Progressive Kurdish Front in an effort to eliminate differences in the ranks of Lebanese Kurds. Riz Kari was weakened in the mid-1970s by the defection of part of its organization, which called itself the Leftist Riz Kari, or Riz Kari II. This organization, led by Abdi Ibrahim, a staunch ally of Syria, rejected the formation of the Progressive Kurdish Front because it included the "right-wing" leadership of Mihhu.
One of the oldest multisectarian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Communist Party (LCP) was formed in 1924 by a group of intellectuals. Over the years, the LCP has had very little impact on Lebanese politics and has been unwavering in its support for Moscow. The party was declared illegal by the French Mandate authorities in 1939, but the ban was relaxed in 1943. For about twenty years, this single organization controlled communist political activity in both Lebanon and Syria, but in 1944 separate parties were established in each country.
During the first two decades of independence, the LCP enjoyed little success. In 1943 the party participated in the legislative elections but failed to win any seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The LCP again ran for election in 1947, but all of its candidates were defeated; in 1948 it was outlawed. During the 1950s, the party's inconsistent policies on pan-Arabism and the Nasserite movement cost it support and eventually isolated it. Surviving underground, the LCP in 1965 decided to end its isolation and became a member of the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces, which later became the Lebanese National Movement under Kamal Jumblatt.
The 1970s witnessed something of a resurgence of the LCP. In 1970 Minister of Interior Kamal Jumblatt legalized the party. This allowed many LCP leaders, including Secretary General Niqula Shawi, to run for election in 1972. Although they polled several thousand votes, none of them suceeded in claiming a seat. But the LCP's importance grew with the arrival of the civil disturbances of the mid-1970s. The LCP, which had established a well-trained militia, participated actively in the fighting of 1975 and 1976.
Throughout the 1980s, the LCP has generally declined in power. In 1983 the Sunni fundamentalist movement in Tripoli, Tawhid (Islamic Unification Movement), reportedly executed fifty Communists. In 1987, in union with the PSP, the LCP fought a weeklong battle with Amal militants in West Beirut, a conflict that was finally stopped by Syrian troops. Also in 1987, the LCP held its Fifth Party Congress and was about to oust George Hawi, its Greek Orthodox leader, and elect Karim Murrawwah, a Shia, as secretary general when Syrian pressure kept Hawi in his position. Hawi, who had been a close ally of Syria, was reportedly unpopular for his lavish life-style and for spending more time in Syria than in Lebanon. Murrawwah was probably the most powerful member of the LCP and was on good terms with Shia groups in West Beirut. Nevertheless, between 1984 and 1987 many party leaders and members were assassinated, reportedly by Islamic fundamentalists.
The Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP) has been one of the most influential multisectarian parties in Lebanon. Its main objective has been the reestablishment of historic Greater Syria, an area that approximately encompasses Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel. Over the years the SSNP has often resorted to violence to achieve its goals.
The SSNP was founded in 1932 by Antun Saadah, a Greek Orthodox, as a secret organization. His party, very much influenced by fascist ideology and organization, grew considerably in the years after independence. In fact, in a survey taken in 1958 by the French newspaper L'Orient, the SSNP was said to have 25,000 members--at the time, second only to the Phalange Party. Concerned by its strength, the government cracked down on the SSNP in 1948, arresting many of its leaders and members. In response, SSNP military officers attempted a coup d'Útat in 1949, following which the party was outlawed and Saadah was executed. In retaliation, the SSNP assassinated Prime Minister Riyad as Sulh in 1951.
In the 1950s, although still banned, the SSNP renewed its activities fairly openly. During the 1958 disturbances, the SSNP militia supported President Shamun, who rewarded it by authorizing it to operate legally. But in December 1961, when another attempted coup by SSNP members failed, it was again outlawed and almost 3,000 of its members imprisoned. In prison, the party underwent serious ideological reform when certain Marxist and pan-Arab concepts were introduced into the party's formerly right-wing doctrine.
Since the 1960s, the party has become more leftist. Most of its members joined the Lebanese National Movement and fought alongside the PLO throughout the 1975 Civil War. But during this period the party suffered internal divisions and defections, and since then party unity has been elusive. In 1987 there were at least four separate factions claiming to be the authentic inheritors of Saadah's ideology. The two most important were led by Issam Mahayri, a Sunni, and Jubran Jurayj, a Christian. Each faction was trying to settle disputes by means of violence.
In 1970 two minor extreme left-wing groups, the Organization of Socialist Lebanon and the Movement of Lebanese Socialists, merged to form the Organization of Communist Action (OCA). The organization, led since its inception by Muhsin Ibrahim, incorporated former cells of the Arab Nationalist Movement, which ceased to exist in the late 1960s. The OCA represented itself as an independent, revolutionary communist party and, in the early 1970s, strongly criticized the LCP, accusing its leaders of "reformist" tendencies. Differences between the LCP and OCA, however, shrank somewhat by the mid-1970s, but, although there was talk of unity between the LCP and the OCA, such a union never materialized. Ibrahim played an important role in the 1975 Civil War by virtue of his position as the executive secretary of the Lebanese National Movement and because his organization participated in the fighting. In 1987, however, the OCA was operating underground because Ibrahim refused to go along with the Syrian policy of opposition to PLO head Yasir Arafat. The OCA was also known to have a special relationship with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
For Lebanon's first three decades or so of independence, the outstanding feature of its foreign policy was its amicable relations with numerous countries. In the early 1970s, about eighty diplomatic representatives were accredited to Beirut. Not surprisingly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was one of the largest and most important ministries in the Council of Minister.
Before the 1975 Civil War, foreign relations were based to a large extent on the National Pact. Under this covenant, Lebanon had to walk a thin line between the desires of the Christian communities to associate more closely with the West and the wishes of the Muslim communities to underscore Lebanon's Arab identity. Indeed, when major crises struck, as they did in 1958 and in the late 1960s, they were primarily generated by these sensitive foreign policy issues. Try though Lebanon did to walk this line, its geographic location near the center of the Arab-Israeli dispute has prevented it from striking what, for a pluralistic society, was a very difficult balance.
During the 1975 Civil War and afterward, the central government was only one of many domestic actors involved in the making of foreign policy. It shared this role with the various alliances and militias that were formed. In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, as central authority deterioriated, external actors, including Syria, Israel, Iran, and the Palestinians, also seized foreign-policy-making roles, although the first two were by far the most influential.
Historically under a variety of rulers, Syria and Lebanon (as well as some other countries) were considered one territory-- Greater Syria. It was only in 1920, while under the French mandate, that Greater Lebanon, which approximates the modern state, was separated from the larger entity. As a consequence, Lebanon and Syria traditionally have had strong bonds. Following World War II, after both had become independent, they shared a common currency and customs union and discussed economic union. In fact, the two had always been active trading partners, and when political disputes arose, each country often used economic means to pressure the other.
On a political level, the more powerful Syrian state has sometimes been viewed with suspicion in Lebanon. But because of intrasectarian feuds, no generalizations can be made in this regard; at one time or another, Syria has developed or dissolved friendships with a number of factions, Christian as well as Muslim.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Syria was wrestling with its own internal problems and was unable to focus on Lebanon's domestic ills. Even so, some sources have ascribed to Syria a prominent role in aggravating the 1958 disturbances, claiming that it worked to unseat the Shamun regime. Then, in the late 1960s the rise of Palestinian guerrilla activity in southern Lebanon contributed to tense relations with Syria. Although the Syrian government was reluctant to permit guerrilla attacks to originate from Syrian soil (for fear of Israeli reprisals), it was much less reticent to see such activity occur in southern Lebanon. Thus, in 1973, when the Lebanese Army finally engaged in fighting against Palestinian guerrillas, Syria closed its borders in protest.
Since the start of the 1975 Civil War, Syrian involvement in Lebanon has been substantial, if inconsistent. On the one hand, the regime of President Hafiz al Assad has opposed the permanent fragmentation of Lebanon, fearing that the creation of a Maronite ministate would amount to the establishment of "another Israel." On the other hand, Syria has resisted the notion of the formation of a radical, left-wing state on its western border. Furthermore, after having to deal with its own Muslim fundamentalist rebellion in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Syria was concerned that a radical Islamic state in Lebanon would have negative domestic implications.
In the early stages of the Civil War, Syria acted as mediator, arranging several cease-fires. In February 1976 Syria helped formulate a political reform package, known as the Constitutional Document, that granted more power to Muslims; this compromise, however, was never implemented. When diplomacy failed, Syria intervened militarily. In March 1976, as the battle was going badly for the largely Christian Lebanese Front, Syria moved to prevent its total collapse, using Palestinian units under its control. In May Syria was instrumental in having Ilyas Sarkis, a pro-Syrian technocrat, elected president. By January 1977 about 27,000 Syrian troops were in Lebanon, technically as the largest part of the Arab Deterrent Force, set up by the League of Arab States (Arab League) in October 1976.
As the conflict wore on, the situation changed dramatically for Syria. In 1978 Bashir Jumayyil began his drive to incorporate all Christian militias under his LF. He provoked Syria's animosity by decimating in June 1978 The Marada Baigade, the pro-Syrian Franjiyah militia, and by his increasingly close ties to Israel. In response, Syria began to attack vigorously its erstwhile allies, the Christian forces, in effect making a complete about-face.
In the 1980s, Syria was the dominant external actor in Lebanon. It physically controlled much of the country, over which it imposed its will. At times, Syrian inaction, such as allowing one faction to war on another, had just as much impact as its active measures. Nonetheless, Syrian influence has had its limits. Its ability to impose stability--if, indeed, that was Assad's intention--has been frustrated by the multiplicity of factions, each with a different agenda. These limitations were visible during the 1982 invasion when Syria--alone among the Arab nations--opposed the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Lebanese soil. Although it acquitted itself well, the Syrian Army was unable to halt the IDF advance or to prevent its own ejection from Beirut. Later, the insertion of the Multinational Force (MNF) also reduced Syrian influence for a time. In 1983, when Israel pressured the government of Amin Jumayyil to sign an accord, called the May 17 Agreement, that normalized relations between the two countries, Syria vehemently objected. It sponsored the formation of the National Salvation Front, a coalition of pro-Syrian groups, both Christian and Muslim, to oppose the agreement. The Syrian effort eventually succeeded, and on March 6, 1985, Jumayyil abrogated the May 17 Agreement and Israel finally withdrew some of its forces from parts of Lebanon.
There were additional examples of the strengths and limitations of Syrian influence in Lebanon. Syria brokered the Tripartite Accord, signed in late 1985 by the leaders of the main armed factions--Nabih Birri of Amal, Walid Jumblatt of the PSP, and Elie Hubayka of the LF. The accord's aim was to impose peace and to restructure the Lebanese Army. But when Jumayyil and anti-Syrian elements in the LF rebelled, the accord collapsed.
As of late 1987, Syrian troops were back in Beirut trying to keep peace, and Syrian influence was again significant. Even so, a true Syrian-imposed stabilty had not been achieved.
Although Lebanon joined with other Arab nations in the armed resistance against the creation of Israel in 1948, because of the small size of its armed forces Lebanon's action had little effect. Nonetheless, because of Lebanon's participation, in 1987 its southern border remained the line agreed to in the 1949 armistice.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Lebanese politicians for the most part sought to insulate Lebanon from the Arab-Israeli dispute. With its booming economy and high standard of living, the Lebanese elite had much to lose. Lebanon, therefore, abstained from the conflicts of 1956, 1967, and 1973.
Because Lebanon never presented a serious military threat, Israel has been more concerned about Palestinian guerrilla attacks launched from Lebanon, and, secondarily, about the presence of Syrian troops there. Since the 1960s, there has been a cyclical pattern of Palestinian guerrilla attacks on Israel and IDF attacks on Palestinian targets. In the aftermath of the 1975 Civil War, Lebanese-generated security concerns grew for Israel. At the same time, the breakdown of Lebanon's central government provided opportunities for Israel to act. Around 1975, Israel sponsored the creation of a surrogate force, led by Lebanese Christian Major Saad Haddad, based in a corridor along Lebanon's southern border. This force, which called itself the Free Lebanon Army (but was later renamed the South Lebanon Army [SLA] under leader Antoine Lahad), was intended to prevent infiltration into Israel of Palestinian guerrillas. In 1978 Israel invaded Lebanon, clearing out Palestinian strongholds as far north as the Litani River. Another consequence of the Israeli invasion was the establishment in southern Lebanon of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose mission was to separate the various combatants.
As serious as the 1978 incursion was, it paled in comparison with the 1982 Israeli invasion, which affected all of the southern half of Lebanon as far north as Beirut. This action had several direct consequences. First, it resulted in the deaths of several hundred Palestinian fighters and the expulsion of several thousand more, not to mention several thousand Lebanese and Palestinian casualties and massive destruction. For a time, the invasion and occupation diminished Syrian influence, as the Syrian Army was forced north and east. The Israeli occupation promoted the creation of the MNF, made up of military units from Britain, France, Italy, and the United States, which supervised the Palestinian evacuation and later stayed to keep the peace. The IDF occupation also created an expedient climate for Bashir Jumayyil (and, subsequently, for his brother Amin) to win the presidency.
In addition, there were several less direct consequences. The occupation of Muslim West Beirut allowed Christian forces on September 27-28, 1982, to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, where they massacred several hundred civilians. Lebanese Shias, who were severely affected by the invasion and occupation, turned their enmity on the Israelis. As a show of support for their coreligionists, the government of Iran, with Syrian approval, dispatched a contingent of the Pasdaran to the Biqa Valley. Anti-Israeli Shia opposition burgeoned during the occupation, and there were several suicide-bombing incidents perpetrated against IDF positions.
In 1987 Israel's relations with Lebanon continued to revolve around the issue of security. Israel retained its support of the SLA's activities in southern Lebanon, maintained its ties to the LF, and perpetuated its policy of attacking Palestinian and Lebanese targets that Israel labeled "terrorist" bases.
Palestinians have been an integral part of the Lebanese polity since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. At that time, many fled to Lebanon. This refugee population increased after the June 1967 War and the 1970 eviction of the PLO from Jordan. By 1987 there were about 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon.
As Palestinian guerrilla activity launched from Lebanon against Israel increased in the late 1960s, it gave rise to serious security and political problems for the Lebanese government. The PLO forces in southern Lebanon created what amounted to a distinct Palestinian entity, outside the control of the central authorities. PLO transgressions (tajawuzat) against the Lebanese populace and Israeli military attacks made the situation critical. Political battles between Christians and Muslims centered on the role in Lebanon of Palestinian guerrillas, who were effectively conducting foreign policy that had deep repercussions for the Lebanese government. The 1969 Cairo Agreement, brokered by other Arab states, was an attempt to reduce tensions by limiting the scope of Palestinian actions in Lebanon; this arrangement, however, was never successful.
During the 1975 Civil War, the Palestinian population in the Beirut area suffered extraordinarily, as urban refugee camps were besieged by Christian militias. In contrast, some Palestinian liberation groups were in the middle of the fiercest fighting and inflicted considerable damage on the Lebanese Front. Furthermore, the PLO increased its dominance because its forces controlled areas out of the reach of the Lebanese Front.
Throughout the 1980s, Palestinian fortunes in Lebanon dwindled. The Israeli invasion was a serious setback, followed closely by the Sabra and Shatila massacres. In 1983 intra-Palestinian hostility was particularly pronounced, as factions battled near Tripoli; in the process, pro-Arafat forces were evicted by Syrian-backed elements. Moreover, the war of human attrition between Palestinians in the refugee camps of Beirut and the Amal militia that began in 1985 had not ceased by late 1987. This tragic situation illustrated the complexity of Lebanese political events, showing that hostility to the PLO was not confined to Christian groups. Nonetheless, by late 1987 the PLO still enjoyed control of much of the Sidon region and retained a strategic foothold in Lebanon.
The importance of Iran to Lebanon's foreign relations increased in the 1980s. Following the success of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the regime of Ayatollah Khomeini was anxious to spread its message to other Shias. This message found an audience in Lebanon's chronically downtrodden Shia community. Iran provided financial and inspirational support to several Lebanese Shia organizations in the early 1980s. Then, in 1982, as a show of solidarity against the Israeli invasion, a contingent of the Pasdaran arrived and established a base near Baalbek in the Biqa Valley. These units not only operated as a defense force but also set up medical facilities to serve the local populace.
In the late 1980s, Iranian-sponsored groups stepped up efforts to gain support among Lebanese Shias by providing sorely needed economic relief and social services. These groups (in particular Hizballah, which was reported to be receiving substantial financial aid from Iran) were able to use Iranian resources to run hospitals, pay families' school fees, remove refuse, and participate in housing reconstruction. These actions frequently drew supporters away from Amal, which for the most part was allied to Syria; Amal simply was unable to distribute the same level of aid as was Hizballah.
For Western nations, the most significant aspect of Iran's influence in Lebanon has been the acceptance of the Islamic Republic's "antiforeign" rhetoric. In accordance with this principle, some extremist Shias, many acting under the name of the Islamic Jihad Organization, have carried out violent acts against the foreign community.
Before the 1975 Civil War, Lebanon enjoyed generally good official relations with the United States. In large measure, these ties were promoted by the sizable Lebanese-American community. One incident that weakened these relations was the United States role in the 1958 Civil War. At that time, the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower dispatched a unit of United States Marines to aid the government of President Shamun. Shamun's regime was under pressure from a part of the Muslim community to strengthen ties to Egypt and Syria, which had just formed the United Arab Republic and were considered by some to be in the "radical Arab" camp. The Marines were never engaged in battle and were withdrawn soon after their arrival. Even so, many Lebanese and other Arab states viewed the United States action as interference in Lebanon's internal affairs.
In the early 1980s, following the worst fighting of the 1975 Civil War, the United States became involved in Lebanon in several ways. On the political level, it sought to bolster the presidency of Amin Jumayyil and to broker a treaty between Lebanon and Israel. On the military level, the United States hoped to keep peace as part of the MNF. On the economic level, the United States planned to assist in Lebanon's reconstruction. These tasks were never completed, however. The United States support for the pro-Jumayyil, Christian brigades of the Lebanese Army during the 1983-84 Mountain War turned into a fiasco. Not only did the United States lose two aircraft to ground fire, but the shelling of Druze and Shia population centers by the U.S.S. New Jersey convinced most Lebanese Muslims that the United States had taken the Christian side. Likewise, by 1984, in the face of renewed fighting, the business of reconstruction became a faint hope. The attacks on the United States embassy and annex, and on the MNF contingent, and the kidnapping of United States citizens eventually forced the administration of President Ronald Reagan to minimize United States involvement in the increasingly ungovernable Lebanese state.
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