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The Maronites and Syrian withdrawal: from "isolationists" to "traitors"?

Using as a starting point the Maronite patriarch's statement (September 20, 2000) calling for the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, this article traces Maronite-Syrian relations since the eruption of the civil war in Lebanon in 1975. It examines how Syria legally entrenched its presence in Lebanon, making the country a sort of quasi-colony. Upon analysis, it becomes clear that the Maronite community has emerged as the sole loser in the period following the Taif accord, the constitutional compromise upon which the warring factions agreed to end the civil war. At the same time, the Maronite community, led by the Phalange party, has experienced a long and debilitating power struggle and internal strife. This highlights a traditional and ill-founded Maronite belief that blames outside intervention for Lebanon's deep-seated problems, as well as the need to revise the Phalange party's mission.

The Maronite backlash came in the form of the patriarch's statement, meant to ultimately raise the sensitive issue of Christian political power. Suddenly a controversial debate erupted over the Syrian presence in Lebanon and polarized the country along confessional/sectarian lines. Charges questioning the Maronites' patriotism poignantly reemerged but were not limited to Christians, an indication that the charges had been politically motivated to discredit Syrian opposition. While this episode illustrated the scope and depth of Syrian involvement in the country, it exposed more than anything else Lebanon's weak national integration. For now, this is Lebanon's harsh and sad reality. Lebanon must accept Syria's presence mainly in the Bekaa Valley to prevent civil war, although to many Christians this presence is both alien and distasteful. Concomitantly, Syria is forced to walk a thin line in order to maintain its presence and at the same time prevent an insurrection against it.


Lebanon comprises a patchwork of religious communities. The Christian Maronites assumed political hegemony over the state at independence but had barely a plurality of the population. In 1943, the religious communities, led by the Maronites and the Sunni Muslims, worked out a National Pact that distributed power among themselves. The pact assigned a ratio of representation in the parliament favoring the Christians and stipulated that the president of the republic be a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni, and the parliamentary speaker a Shia Muslim. This is Lebanon's famous "confessional" system.

Most Maronites believed in a Lebanon that belonged neither to the Arab nor the Western world, though their ideological commitments were pro-Western. In their view, Lebanon always had been and always would be a crossroads between East and West. One predominant orientation within the Maronite community came to be represented by the Phalange party (Kataib), founded by Pierre Jumayil in 1936. Its program rested on safeguarding Maronite political autonomy and authority against Arab Muslim pretensions. The Phalange party defined Lebanon as a historical political community with Maronitism at its basis. Jumayil equated patriotism with Maronitism. (1)

While the need for political reform constituted one central cause for the eruption of the civil war in 1975, the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon served as a catalyst for that war. The Muslim camp, with its mainstay the National Movement (founded in 1973), headed at the time by Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, sought to alter the status quo and gain political advantage by enlisting the help of the PLO. The Christian camp sought to maintain the existing order and keep Lebanon out of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The Muslim camp, bolstered by Lebanese army mutineers and PLO fighters, eventually gained the military upper hand against the Christians, whose overall position seemed threatened by defeat. This dramatic turn of events drew the immediate attention of President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria, who feared that victory for the National Movement and the PLO would invite an Israeli intervention on behalf of the Christians. In February 1976, Asad managed to work out a compromise with the then-president of Lebanon, d Franjieh, known as the Constitutional Document, in which the Maronites gave up some of their constitutional privileges. This seemed only to whet the National Movement's appetite, as Jumblatt pressed ahead with his offensive against the Christians.

Asad held an urgent meeting with Jumblatt in March and called upon the Druze leader to observe an immediate cease-fire. Jumblatt recalled Asad's words in his posthumously published memoirs:
 Listen to me. It is an historic opportunity for me to orient the Maronites
 in the direction of Syria, to gain their confidence, and to convince them
 that their protector is neither France nor the West. We ought to assist
 them not to request aid from the Westerner. Hence, I cannot accept your
 victory over the Christian military camp in Lebanon. (2)

Asad followed through and stopped Jumblatt's onslaught by sending Syrian troops into Lebanon. Syria's intervention was engineered in a way that gave it a cover of legitimacy when the newly elected Maronite president, Elias Sarkis (1976-82), requested Syria's help. Sarkis's request was made with the tacit approval of the Christian leadership, namely Jumayil, head of the Phalange party, and Camille Chamoun, former president and head of the National Liberal party. (3) Since Christians had always been wary of Syrian ambitions in Lebanon, particularly regarding the notion of Greater Syria, their decision to let Syria into the country was one of stoic resignation. It was the result of the Christian fear of defeat and frustration with America's refusal to intervene in the country, as it had in 1958, despite persistent Christian requests. It was at this juncture that some Maronites began to entertain close cooperation with Israel as a hedge against the Syrian intervention.

During his term, President Sarkis made two requests to have Syrian forces removed from Lebanon. The first was in a government memorandum addressed to the Arab League in June 1981, which requested no renewal of the Syrian forces (deterrent forces). The second was also in a government memorandum, The Lebanese Working Paper. This memorandum, issued in August 1982, followed Israel's invasion of Lebanon. It not only requested support against Israel but also asked the Arab states for an official decision to end the mission of the Syrian forces in Lebanon. Although that memorandum was taken up at the Fez Summit in September 1982, the Arab leaders refrained from making a decision. (4)

Close Christian cooperation with Israel ensued with Bashir Jumayil's rise to prominence. Son of Pierre Jumayil and head of the Lebanese Forces, Bashir compared Lebanon to a farm that he wanted to change into a modern, strong and independent country reflecting Lebanon's 6,000 years of civilization. (5) In June 1982, Israel, headed by Menachem Begin's Likud government, invaded Lebanon with the twin objective of destroying the political and military infrastructure of the PLO and helping to install Bashir as president. Asad was furious with the Maronites. Bashir was assassinated in September 1982 by a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist party (SSNP), a party ideologically committed to the concept of Greater Syria and a staunch ally of Syria against Israel. Jumayil, his brother, presented himself as the presidential candidate of unity and was elected with broad national support on September 21, 1982.

Amin tried to secure the withdrawal of all foreign armed forces by depending on the Americans, who participated in the Multinational Force (MNF) that was sent to Beirut in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Syria took the position that the Syrian army, unlike the invading Israeli army, was legitimately invited into Lebanon to end the war and establish peace. In a speech on November 20, 1982, delivered before the Syrian Federation of Labor Unions, President Asad, remarking on the presence of Syrian forces in Lebanon, stated:
 We affirm today that when the invading Israeli forces withdraw from
 Lebanon, there will be no problem with respect to [the withdrawal of] our
 forces. But it should be understood that the Israeli withdrawal should
 impose no conditions on Lebanon limiting its sovereignty and freedom. We
 have been always with Lebanon and we shall always remain, for Syria and
 Lebanon are two brotherly countries. (6)

Relying on American mediation headed by Secretary of State George Shultz, Amin commenced negotiations with Begin's government. The negotiations culminated in the May 17 agreement (1983), which was the closest compromise to a peace treaty achievable under the circumstances. Asad quickly rejected the agreement and denounced the "isolationists" who had signed it. (7) Soon enough the candidate of national unity became a target of attack by a broad internal opposition, supported by Syria. The coup de grace to Amin's government came when Shia terrorists, aided by Iran and the probable connivance of Syria, attacked the headquarters of the MNF. On October 23, 1983, a Shia terrorist drove a truck filled with explosives into the U.S. Marine headquarters in West Beirut killing 240 of them. This act greatly weakened the American will to stay in Lebanon and soon turned the cautious American support of Amin into abandonment. Deserted by America and humbled by a powerful opposition, Amin finally succumbed to Asad's will in Lebanon and abrogated the May 17 Agreement.

It is noteworthy that during the unsettled times of Amin's government in the fall of 1983, a conference for "National Dialogue" was held in Geneva, bringing Lebanon's warring leaders together for the first time. The participants agreed on one issue: the Arab identity of Lebanon. Soon after the abrogation of the May 17 agreement, another conference was held in Lausanne. At the time, Prime Minister Rashid Karame's "Government of National Unity" failed to introduce political reforms. Asad took the initiative and invited to Damascus Elie Hobeika, Nabih Berri and Walid Jumblatt, leaders respectively of the three largest militias: the Lebanese Forces, Amal and the Progressive Socialist party. With Syrian mediation, the three leaders signed the Tripartite Agreement in December 1985, which actually recommended political reforms at the expense of Maronite privileges.

Taken aback by Hobeika's audacious move, made without consultation with or consent from the Christian leadership, and resentful toward some provisions in the agreement, President Amin and another powerful leader of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, assailed the agreement and killed all chances for its implementation. Amin, on the other hand, tried to mollify Syrian anger by sending political reform proposals to Damascus through Rafik Hariri, the representative of the king of Saudi Arabia.

The fortunes of the Christian camp suffered a serious blow in 1988, when Amin prepared to leave office. The president, torn by domestic, regional and international pressures, was unable to present to the Lebanese Parliament an agreed-upon list of presidential hopefuls, as mandated by the constitution. Thus he appointed General Michel Aoun to head an executive cabinet until a president was agreed upon and elected. (8) Immediately after his appointment, Aoun voiced his opposition to Syrian presence in Lebanon. In March 1989, General Aoun proclaimed a "liberation war" against Syria and requested help from the Muslims of West Beirut. His liberation war was to take the form of an "intifada" against Syria similar to that of the Palestinians in the West Bank. (9) In view of the escalating of hostilities, Lebanese deputies left for a meeting in the city of Taif in Saudi Arabia. There, these deputies, with the intercession of Arab delegates from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco, managed to introduce significant amendments to the Lebanese constitution. The new version became known interchangeably as the Document of National Understanding and the Taif accord. In addition, over Aoun's objections, the deputies elected as president Elias Hrawi, whom Aoun refused to recognize.

General Aoun opposed the Taif accord as a Syrian scheme to whittle away at Maronite power and called on the Lebanese Forces to stand by him in order to meet the Syrian challenge. Contemplating the surge of Maronite support for Aoun, the Lebanese Forces, in addition to considering Aoun's liberation war against Syria as political suicide, reckoned that under the pretext of meeting the Syrian challenge Aoun was paving the way for dismantling them. Deadly hostilities broke out between the Lebanese Forces, commanded by Samir Geagea, and Aoun's forces in Christian East Beirut. The fighting shattered whatever was left of Christian unity. It was against this backdrop that Saddam Hussein rocked the region by invading Kuwait in early August 1990. The United States now needed Syria's help in forming the international anti-Iraq coalition to extract Iraq from Kuwait. On October 13, the Syrian army, along with a Lebanese army unit under the command of Colonel Emile Lahoud, launched an all-out attack on Aoun's forces. The Syrian air force intervened for the first time in the history of the Lebanese conflict and raided Aoun's headquarters. Within hours, East Beirut, the last bastion of Lebanese opposition to Syria, fell. It was clear that the United States had yielded to Asad's demand for total hegemony over Lebanon as a price for bringing Syria into the anti-Iraq coalition. (10)

The collapse of East Beirut expedited the implementation of the Taif accord. In addition to making Christian and Muslim representation in the parliament equal, the accord reduced the prerogatives of the Maronite president and enhanced the positions of the Sunni prime minister and the Shia speaker of the Parliament. The accord also provided that the Syrian forces should assist the legitimate Lebanese forces in establishing the state's authority within a period not exceeding two years and that both governments should decide on the future redeployment of Syrian forces. The accord underscored Lebanon's special relationship with Syria. (11) Ultimately, the accord allowed Syria to stake for itself a central role in shaping the image of the new Lebanon.


The Asad regime looked at Lebanon both as a foreign and domestic policy matter since it combined geostrategic concerns with Internal power considerations for Syria. The regime perceived Lebanon as a means to serve Syrian interests, whether as a medium of political and military leverage against Israel, as a patronage system to reward the regime's loyalists, or as an outlet to relieve Internal politicoeconomic pressures. Wasting no time, the Asad regime pressed ahead to entrench its presence in Lebanon and to bring it irreversibly into its sphere of influence, if not as an integral part of Syria, then as a quasi-colony.

In much the same vein as the Taif accord, the two countries signed in May 1991 the Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation and Coordination, which has governed their relations since then by defining a framework that made possible the "colonization" of Lebanon by Syria. (12) The language of the treaty's preamble smacks of Baathi ideological expressions that emphasize the "distinctive brotherly ties" between the two sides. In its first article, the treaty calls for the highest levels of cooperation and coordination between the two states in political, economic, security, cultural, scientific and other areas. Article three emphasizes the interconnectedness of the security of the two countries, stating that this "requires that Lebanon never constitute a source of threat to Syria's security and vice versa under any circumstances whatsoever," and adds that "Lebanon shall not become a passageway of a base for any power, state or organization aiming to violate its security of that of Syria," and that "Syria, which desires the security, independence and unity of Lebanon and harmony among its people, shall not allow any action that threatens Lebanon's security, independence and sovereignty." (13)

Article three guarantees Syria the right to defend the sovereignty of Lebanon according to Syria's evaluation of the impending threat, as if Lebanon had delegated to its neighbor the power to do so. This is bolstered by the lack of any reciprocity: Lebanon undertakes not to become a source of threat to Syria's security while the latter undertakes no similar obligation toward Lebanon. Article five defines the basis upon which the two countries will pursue their foreign policies. "Each shall support the other in matters relating to its security and its national interests.... The governments of the two countries shall therefore strive to coordinate their Arab and international policies.... (14) Finally, article six creates a Higher Council, composed of the leaders of the two countries, which defines this general policy of coordination and cooperation and oversees its implementation. It also sets up a number of committees to deal with all aspects of this cooperation. Each designated committee (Foreign Affairs, Economic and Social Affairs, Defense and Security Affairs, etc.) has its specific tasks spelled out. It goes without saying that the conspicuous aim of the Higher Council and committees is to institutionalize these lopsided relations between the two countries. Since Damascus is the senior partner, this institutionalization allows Syria to dominate the Lebanese decision-making process.

This treaty served as a baseline for a slew of agreements that have put Lebanon in the shadow of the Syrian state. In August 1991, the two countries signed a Defense and Security Agreement that allows Syria to intervene in an unprecedented way in Lebanese Internal affairs, infringing on the country's sovereignty. The agreement "prohibits all organized activities in the military, security, political and media realms the purpose of which is to harm and damage the other country." (15) The agreement also "binds the two sides to offer no refuge, passageway or protection to persons or organizations working against the security of the other country ...," and that such persons shall "be arrested and handed over upon request." (16) With Syria as the hegemonic state, this agreement goes to the heart of Lebanon's civil society, for it not only allows Syria to extradite Lebanese of other oppositional figures it deems subversive, but also allows Syria to muzzle any criticism directed at the regime, particularly in the Lebanese media, curtailing free speech. (17)

Coinciding with the signing of the Oslo accords (September 1993), the Syrians unveiled four agreements with Lebanon: a Social and Economic Cooperation Agreement, an Agricultural Cooperation Agreement, a Health Agreement, and the Movement of Individuals and Goods Agreement. (18) In line with the others, these accords have worked to Syria's benefit. Interestingly enough, Lebanon was referred to as a qutr (province or region). Ghazi Tinaoui notes that in the minutes of the meeting held on September 1993 for the signature of the Social and Economic Cooperation Agreement, Lebanon is officially described for the first time as a Qutr. (19) The word has a symbolic meaning in Baathi ideology, as it denotes that all Arab states are no more than provinces in a potentially united Arab nation, with the added implication in this context that Lebanon is merely a province of Syria.

The barrage of agreements did not stop. Several were unveiled in 1994: The Orontes River Agreement, the Cultural Agreement, the Labor Agreement and the Tourism Agreement. These agreements reveal again the scope and extent of Syrian-Lebanese relations in the direction of deepening and reinforcing Syrian control of Lebanon, while enhancing the economic and political stability of Asad's regime. For example, in the past, Lebanon and Syria had not been able to agree on sharing the waters of the Orontes, which springs from Lebanon and runs through Syria. In the 1950s, Lebanon proposed using 250 million cubic meters, or almost 40 percent of the river's waters, a proposal rejected then by the Syrians. Under the new Orontes Agreement, Lebanon will be allowed to use only 80 million cubic meters to irrigate the arid Hermel region. (20)

The Cultural Agreement encourages all aspects of cultural cooperation and coordination between the two countries, including establishing joint cultural organizations, facilitating the entrance of printed matter to each other's country, and producing joint cultural and artistic ventures such as films and plays, with a view to serving "the common cultural, civilizational and national aspirations of the two neighbors." (21) This agreement seeks to blend the two cultures, blurring Lebanon's cultural distinctiveness. The Labor Agreement is the culmination of several attempts to remove travel barriers between the two countries, facilitating the entrance of Syrian labor into Lebanon. The Agreement also seeks to legalize the status of the large number of Syrian workers in Lebanon, many of whom are there illegally. (22)

Lebanon has become an oasis of opportunity for the unemployed in Syria, whose number, due to Syria's high population growth, is increasing at a fast rate. Estimates differ on the number of Syrian workers in Lebanon, ranging from 300,000 to 900,000. (23) The controversy over this figure has been further complicated by the fact that the Lebanese government had already naturalized a significant number of long-term residents, many of whom are Syrians. (24) It is noteworthy that this step will have important repercussions on the demographic structure of Lebanon in terms of disrupting the delicate confessional balance, considering that Lebanese Christians have a century-old legacy of emigration. The Labor Agreement facilitates and legalizes the status of Syrian illegal laborers in Lebanon and entitles them to the same treatment and rights as Lebanese workers. (25) This migrant workforce has siphoned hard currency out of Lebanon, negatively affecting the country's balance of payments, while positively affecting that of Syria. In addition, legally and administratively privileged in Lebanon, Syria offers its almost 40,000 troops (and an unknown number of Mukhabarat) there an unmatched opportunity to supplement their meager incomes significantly, whether from drug smuggling, rackets or other illegal or legal activities. Syrian interventions and intercessions (wasta) ate needed to secure and expedite such transactions.

The Tourism Agreement simplifies and rationalizes administrative procedures for traveling between the countries, apparently aiming at the creation of a single tourism zone for them. It also refers to Syria and Lebanon as the al-qutrayn al-taw amayn, twin provinces of regions. (26)

Other agreements emerged coinciding with the delicate Israeli-Syrian negotiations at the Wye Plantation in Maryland in January 1996. While shrouded in secrecy, these agreements focused on strengthening economic ties and sharing water resources. However, their character evoked a daring response from the Lebanese editor-in-chief of al-Nahar, Ghassan Tueni, who criticized the whole span of Syrian moves aimed at "unifying" the two countries. (27) Other agreements followed regarding the free exchange of products and the unifying of tariffs. (28) And in October 1999, in a show of respect to Asad, most of Lebanon's ministers traveled to Damascus to sign yet more accords on farm produce and tourism. This time it was the turn of Jibran Tueni, son of Ghassan and managing director of al-Nahar, to speak out against Syrian efforts to swallow up Lebanon. In an open letter addressed to Bashar al-Asad (at the time heir-apparent and in charge of Lebanese affairs) Jibran openly declared that many Lebanese were neither comfort able with Syrian policy nor with the Syrian presence in Lebanon and that Lebanon was not a Syrian province. (29) The recent talk by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in November 2000 about beginning work on the Beirut-Damascus highway (connecting Mudayrej, a juncture town in Mount Lebanon, to Masna, a Lebanese town on the border of Syria) symbolizes the institutional and structural depth Syria has achieved in Lebanon.

As my research concerning these agreements shows, Syria is indeed "colonizing" Lebanon, albeit in a subtle way. One could argue that this has been done with the objective of (a) drawing economic and political dividends in the interest of the stability of the Syrian regime and (b) offsetting any negative effects resulting from a future peace deal with Israel. But the bottom line is that heavy political, social and especially economic pressure has been imposed on the Lebanese, exacerbated by patron-client relations that rewarded loyalists at the expense of the majority. The Maronite community has come to the conclusion that it emerged as the sole loser in Lebanon, though the war supposedly ended with no winner. Little by little, the community has seen its one-time political and economic privileges stripped to the bone.

Using its famous cooptation and/or liquidation policy in Lebanon, Damascus has managed to gradually fragment the Maronite community. Many of its leaders have been exiled, jailed or deemed in Syrian parlance "not desirable," or coopted. After dismantling almost all militias and closing the file on past wartime actions as stipulated in the Taif accord, the only leader jailed was Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces. Aoun was exiled and Amin was considered unwelcome in his own country until recently. By contrast, these warlords' Muslim counterparts have risen to prominent positions in Lebanon's government. Equally significant, Damascus jailed many Maronites in Syrian prisons after the collapse of East Beirut and continues to take the liberty of rounding up any Lebanese fomenting dissent or engaging in democratic opposition against Syria's hegemony. In addition, Syria has apprehended and imprisoned several Phalangist militia officers whom it considered potential "security" threats. (30) Conversely, Damascus has coopted a significant number of Phalangist leaders such as Elie Hobeika and Jean Ghanem (both became deputies in 1992 and 1996), not to mention those Maronites who disapproved of Phalangist policies, such as former and current presidents Elias Hrawi and Emile Lahoud.

In addition, many Maronite leaders complain about the manipulation of Lebanon's elections by excluding some of the elite Christian leadership. They charge that Syria is exerting its influence through redistricting and drawing election lists that include only candidates favored by Damascus. On an economic level, notwithstanding the economic stagnation the country has been facing, many Maronites chafe over having to use Syrian (or their cronies') wasta to get things done, especially with regard to transactions dealing with government offices, let alone the huge number of roaming Syrian laborers. This has been aggravated by a Syrian patronage system that rewards Syrian loyalists including substituting them for many Maronite workers and clerks within Christian areas (the registry of motor vehicles in Dikwaneh and the county assessor's office in Baabda are cases in point). This sorry state of Maronite affairs, however, is not the sole doing of Syria.


Throughout its long history, the Maronite community has experienced internal strife and disunity but never on the current scale, which threatens its own political survival. Since the beginning of the civil war in 1975, the Maronite community, led by the Phalangists (and their military front, the Lebanese Forces), has seen its political, economic and military fortunes gradually sink to a disastrous new low in post-Taif Lebanon. The central causes leading to this situation have been (a) the leadership's inability to formulate a national political platform that could appeal either to the overall community or to the country at large, (b) the leadership's naive (or cynical) belief that the country's problems resulted from external factors and that once those were removed the political condition of the community would drastically improve, (c) the leadership's willingness to resort to deadly force to squelch internal communal dissent, and (d) the leadership's reluctance to examine and reassess the party's historical record and learn from past mistakes -- always blaming someone else for the ills of the community -- making it nearly impossible for the party to sustain itself as a grass-roots political movement.

Since its creation, the Phalange party has striven to buttress the Maronite presidency. Its overall political platform revolved around how to protect the Maronite community against Muslim Arab pretensions, creating a Maronite militia to help defend the independence and security of the state. The fact that the party and the militia were established at all and concentrated their power outside rather than inside the confines of the state in a sectarian country proved to be a bane to Maronite unity in particular and inter-communal unity in general. Not only did the party encourage the emergence of other sectarian parties with their own militias, but it also diminished Maronite power within the state. After all, the Maronites had assumed political hegemony. And in retrospect, this so-called defensive power has failed since independence to live up to its cherished goal. In fact, it was the Phalangists themselves who either supported or called for outside intervention to help safeguard the community's privileges and secure its political survival.

In 1958, the Maronite president Camille Chamoun had to call on the Americans to help end the civil war and restore peace. In 1975-76 Presidents Franjieh and Sarkis had to call on the Syrians to prevent the defeat of the Christians. In 1980-82 Bashir Jumayil tried relentlessly to enlist Israeli help in ridding Lebanon of both the PLO and the Syrians. Much like his brother, in 1983, Amin relied on the Americans to achieve the same goal but with Israel now superseding the PLO. Ironically, in all these instances, while the Maronite leadership called for outside intervention on its own behalf, it called at the same time for national dialogue. These actions not only wreaked havoc on the country but also contributed to a process of internal strife in the community, shaking it to the core.

Opposing Syrian intervention in Lebanon and Maronite complicity in inviting them into the country in 1976 the Maronite leader Raymond Eddeh (National Bloc) split from the Maronite leadership and left for France, where he remained until his recent death. In an attempt to extend his authority to the fiefdom of the Franjieh family in the north, Bashir sanctioned the assassination of Toni Franjieh, the son of former president Suleiman Franjieh, winning the family's sworn enmity. Next, Bashir focused on the National Liberal party's militia, the Tigers. Under the slogan of "uniting the Lebanese Forces' gun," Bashir ordered a brutal surprise attack on the Tigers' headquarters in the summer of 1980. During the years of Amin's presidency, the Lebanese Forces under the leadership of Samir Geagea revolted against the president's attempt to coopt them, weakening his mandate. Finally, capping the long list of internal strife, in 1990, General Aoun's militia fought the Lebanese Forces in an unprecedentedly brutal and ghoulish battle that left behind a community unraveling at the seams. If this were not enough, with the military phase over following the civil war, the Phalange leadership espoused ambivalent attitudes toward some national policies and priorities while it engaged in an internal power struggle leading first to the virtual collapse of the party and then to accusations questioning Maronite loyalty and nationalism.

It should be recalled that the Muslim and Christian communities had initially become polarized in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when the leadership of the former supported the PLO to enlist their help in changing the existing order, while the leadership of the latter opposed the very presence of the PLO on Lebanese soil. A central figure behind this polarization was none other than the outspoken leader of the National Movement, Kamal Jumblatt. He not only abhored Maronite privileges, he sought to overthrow Maronite hegemony over the Lebanese system. In the name of Arabism, Jumblatt recruited the PLO to fight his war against the Christians. He was probably the one who coined the term "isolationists" to describe the Maronites. He perceived them as central players in an American and Zionist conspiracy against Lebanon and the Arabs in general. According to him, the Maronites strove to cut Lebanon off from its Arab surroundings in the hope of creating a "Christian Zion" called Lebanon, serving to undermine Arab unity. Thus, according to him, the "battle of the National Movement was to save Lebanon and its Arabism and to reaffirm Lebanon's commitment to the Palestinian cause, foiling the Phalangist conspiracy." (31)

As the Lebanese civil war raged on, it did not take long for this "isolationist" label to become an endemic term in the Lebanese and Arab discourse and lexicon in general. Even the cool-headed and reticent President Asad of Syria denounced some Maronites as "isolationists" when Jumayil's government signed the May 17 agreement. However, the use of this term began to wane as the civil war ended in 1990, under the principles of the Taif accord, which was endorsed by the Phalange leadership. But Taif posed a formidable challenge to the Phalange party, whose position had already been negatively affected by internecine fighting and squabbling. Not only did the party fail to formulate a post-Taif political platform to sustain itself as a grass-roots movement, it also experienced a power struggle that left it leaderless and rudderless. The party committed a major political failing by espousing an ambivalent attitude concerning the struggle against Israel in south Lebanon, a struggle led by an Islamist resistance movement that drew support from across the Lebanese political spectrum including from the government itself. That put the Phalange on the defensive.

When the Phalange patriarch Pierre Jumayil died, a struggle for leadership ensued between Dr. Elie Karame, then vice-president, and George Saada, a prominent figure in the party's political bureau. President Jumayil supported Karame's candidacy for party president while the powerful leader of the Lebanese Forces Geagea supported Saada's. Saada won. This led to a schism as Karame and his followers severed their relations with the party. When, in 1992, Geagea ran against Saada, the latter won and yet another split occurred as Geagea and his core of supporters left the party and established the Phalangist Rescue Organization. The party's condition and morale were further weakened by Amin's "voluntary" exile and Geagea's imprisonment. In the meantime, notwithstanding Syrian hegemony in Lebanon, the Phalange party had a difficult time dealing with President Hrawi. In fact, in 1995, it forfeited its traditional role as a supporter of the office of the president when it became President Hrawi's strongest opponent. Hrawi is famously known to have said that no Phalangist would have a "doorman's job in the government," following the strong Phalangist opposition to an extension of his presidential term.

The sour Phalangist relationship with the head of state improved when the party supported the presidential candidacy of Emile Lahoud (1998) and when Munir al-Hajj replaced Saada as president of the party. Hajj tried to return the party to its traditional role and to position it as a central player within the context of post-Taif national reconciliation. But from the start of his leadership, Hajj did not enjoy unanimous support from the party's political bureau and was notable to rally around him a significant core of supporters. Several attempts to reconcile the party's leadership failed, and eventually the strong group opposing Hajj rallied around Amin Jumayil, who still maintained a significant following. Amin resented Hajj's efforts to mend fences with some former political enemies such as the SSNP. The Jumayil family regarded such a rapprochement as a betrayal to Bashir's legacy (he was assassinated by an SSNP member).

Plagued by internal dissent and inertia, the Phalange faced its biggest challenge in the form of what stand it should take regarding the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon and Israel's proxy militia the South Lebanese Army (SLA), whose main officers were Maronites. Initially, the party tried to evade the issue. However, resisting the occupation became a central theme in Lebanese politics thanks largely to Hizballah, the Party of God, which led the campaign against Israel and ingeniously exploited it to transform itself into a national political party with grass-roots support. (32) At this juncture the initial attitude of the party mutated into an ambivalent one. While the party implicitly agreed to the national consensus that Israel occupied south Lebanon, it refrained from explicitly affirming that Israel was an enemy and from publicly supporting the Islamist-nationalist struggle against Israel. Apparently, this attitude stemmed from its traditional opposition to all foreign forces present on Lebanese soil and its wishful thinking that tied Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon to that of Syria. In addition, the Phalangist contention that the Maronite community after Taif was the sole loser reinforced this attitude.

Most political parties in Lebanon wondered how the Phalangist leadership could sign the Taif accord, profess to join in the efforts of national reconciliation, and yet refuse to support the national consensus centered on resisting Israeli occupation. In fact, this concern was voiced by none other than Phalangist leaders, Rashad Salame, vice-president of the party, and Hajj. Salame and Hajj contended that the party should have conducted its political behavior in conformity with realities wrought by Taif, since it was a party to it. Salame, at one with Hajj, stated that "after the Taif and the inauguration of the phase of building peace, we should have been more flexible in dealing with political conditions, and as we entered this phase we should have been obliged to work according to the national platform that said Israel was an enemy and resisting it was a positive action demanding our support." (33)

This ambivalence not only further marginalized the party but also contributed to inviting charges questioning the nationality of the Maronites in general. Capitalizing on the success and popularity of its campaign against Israel, Hizballah heightened its verbal attacks on the Maronites, especially the Phalangists, implying they collaborated with the SLA and Israel. Soon enough, this trumpeted charge of collaboration, complementing that of isolationism, harshly transformed into one of treason. In late January 2000, Hizballah assassinated a high-ranking member of the SLA, the Maronite Colonel Akl Hashim. Answering to his community's call, Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir sent a representative to the Israeli-occupied zone to perform Hashim's funeral services. While the patriarch justified his action on religious grounds, Hizballah's leader, Hasan Nasrallah, made a general swipe at the Maronites questioning their loyalty to the country, thereby enraging the whole Maronite community. In an act of solidarity with the Maronites, Sunni leader Rafik Hariri affirmed the Maronite community's historical roots and nationalism.(34)

In no way, however, did Hizballah feel uncomfortable with or unjustified in its charge of treason against the Maronites. Following the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon and the patriarch's call for Syrian withdrawal (see below), Hizballah again questioned the loyalty of Maronite leaders. The attitude of Hizballah was summed up by the organization's political chief, Nawaf Mousawi: "I won't speak of a conspiracy, but there is a Lebanese side [Maronite] that has an agenda different from our working agenda.... At the time we were fighting the Israeli occupation, others didn't see it as an occupation." (35) This episode marked a sad day in Maronite history and a resentful imprint on the collective consciousness of the Maronite community, a community beleaguered by lack of leadership, economic hardship and political marginalization.


On September 20, 2000, from Bkirki, the seat of the Maronite patriarch, the Council of Maronite Bishops released a statement in the form of a "call to all whom it may concern in and outside Lebanon to participate in the rescue." (36) The call began by stating that the situation in Lebanon had reached such a crisis that it had become a matter of obligation to speak the truth without any reservation. It dealt with four subjects: parliamentary elections, economic conditions, political conditions and the question of Syrian withdrawal. Under the rubric of these subjects, Bkirki's statement emphasized the following main points:

* Israel has withdrawn from south Lebanon and the time has come for the Syrian army to re-deploy in Lebanon in preparation for its full withdrawal in accordance with the Taif accord;

* The talk over the possibility of civil strife is superficial unless someone intends to fuel it;

* The presence of the Syrian army next to the presidential palace, a symbol of national dignity, distresses the Lebanese;

* Lebanon is no longer sovereign in the shadow of a hegemony that includes all organizations, agencies and administrations whereby many Lebanese are in Israeli and Syrian prisons;

* Half of the population lives below the poverty level, and Lebanese production finds neither export markets nor government protection against external production, especially Syria's;

* Lebanese laborers compete with foreign laborers, especially Syrians who obtain special treatment;

* Election law is corrupt in a way so as to allow the election of parliamentary deputies who do not represent their constituency. (37)

Needless to say, Bkirki's statement not only broke the taboo against public criticism of Syria but also challenged Syrian rule in Lebanon. On the surface, by taking on the subject of Syrian rule, the Maronite patriarch made public what many in Lebanon had only dared to say in whispers. In other words, many Lebanese were fed up with Syrian hegemony and heavy-handedness, made all the more unbearable by deepening economic problems. His call could be interpreted as an attempt not only to take over the leadership of the Maronite community but also to try to rally around him a national opposition to Syria. Notwithstanding the dismal state of affairs facing the country, the patriarch might have been encouraged by several factors, chief among them (a) the tacit understanding among many Lebanese that Syria lacks admirers across the country's political spectrum and that it faces a vibrant civil society that rarely condones the authoritarian nature of Syrian rule, (b) the recent death of President Asad of Syria and the election of his son Bashar, putting Syria in a transitional period, and (c) the recent Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon without a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, presumably pulling the rug of legitimacy out from under Syrian feet in Lebanon.

On a deeper level, however, Bkirki's statement was a backlash against Syria's hegemony, meant to raise and address the sensitive issue of Christian political power. Many Christians, including the patriarch and several prominent personalities, had already contended that they gave up much of their power by signing the Taif accord in the interest of national reconciliation, only to find out that Syrian hegemony and manipulation reduced their political role in the country to insignificance. (38) Simon Karam, a former ambassador to Washington, best described the Maronite attitude: "The common belief in the Christian community is that whenever this added influence is removed, the internal situation will balance itself out naturally." (39) Not surprisingly, this belief holds with traditional past Maronite thought regarding outside influence. Simmering grievances in the Christian community not only reinforced this belief but also could no longer go unheeded.

Many Maronites, as the patriarch expressed, deplored the recent parliamentary elections in August-September 2000. Only a few Christian oppositional leaders were able to pierce the government list of candidates, namely Pierre Jumayil (son of former president Amin Jumayil) and Nassib Lahoud. (40) In the same month that the patriarch released his statement, a yearly commemoration in Ashrafieh of the memory of late president Bashir Jumayil turned for the first time into a huge anti-Syrian political rally. In fiery speeches, Bashir's wife, Solanje, and his son, Nadim, called on President Lahoud to release Geagea from prison and allow General Aoun to return from exile, as well as to make the country's political decisions independent of outside influence. Nadim, harking back to his father's words, asserted Lebanon's sovereignty on all its soil. Many followers of the dismantled Lebanese Forces shouted anti-Syrian slogans. Other rallies took place publicly calling for the release of Geagea and many Lebanese from Syrian prisons. (41) Aoun's followers in Lebanon, known as the "Aoun current," and members of the National Liberal party joined some of the rallies and supported the patriarch.

But inasmuch as Bkirki's statement exposed the grievances of the Maronite community, it ominously revealed the highly charged sectarian climate of Lebanon and its famous hallmark of weak national integration. It provoked a raucous debate reminiscent of those before and during the civil war. Lebanon suddenly became split into two camps charging at each other, one mainly Muslim, the other mainly Christian, opposing Syria's presence in the country.

Immediately following Bkirki's call, the mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Muhammad Rashid Qabani, along with Mufti Sheikh Abd al-Amir Qabalane issued a statement expressing surprise at the patriarch:
 ... We express our surprise about the contents of the [Bkirki] statement,
 and we hope to be able to work together to overcome any negative effect on
 the brotherly relations, which bond Lebanese from all various sects. We
 find that no talk, exciting to the feelings, at this time or at any other
 time, helps the higher national interest .... It is not possible for us to
 forget the costly sacrifices that Syria made on behalf of Lebanon in order
 to protect its unity, safety and stability. (42)

The pro-Syrian Lebanese president asserted that the Syrian presence in Lebanon was legitimate and temporary and only the Lebanese government should deal with it and in a way beneficial to the two countries. (43) Soon enough, a flurry of statements by Lebanese deputies, parties, and religious and secular organizations and movements flooded the arena of Lebanese politics, breaking down mainly along sectarian lines. Many Muslims and leftists assailed Bkirki's statement. In general, while they defended Syrian presence as the pillar of Lebanese sovereignty threatened still by Zionist aggression, they charged Bkirki with trying to fuel sectarian strife. The underlying position was that Bkirki, as a religious institution, should not have intervened in political and state matters and by implication help the interests of Israel. Many Christians rallied around the patriarch and defended his statement, agreeing to almost all its provisions. (44)

The debate raged on and took a sharp twist following the appointment of Rafik Hariri as prime minister (October 2000), when Walid Jumblatt, the former pro-Syrian Druze leader, called for reexamining Syria's security role in Lebanon. (45) Coming from a supposed Syrian protege, this was tantamount to calling into question the Syrian political role and thus its hegemony in Lebanon. Jumblatt's political shift toward Maronite views came in the wake of his political alliance with the Christians in the recent parliamentary elections. Initially, Syrian officials impassively responded to Bkirki's statement by saying that they would only listen to the Lebanese government. But they were furious with Jumblatt and swiftly assailed him. Asem Qanso, a Syrian Baathi leader, accused Jumblatt of treason, saying that "he wants to meet his ally Shimon Peres in an upcoming Israeli war." (46) Shortly thereafter, Damascus barred Jumblatt from entering Syria. (47)

On the heels of Jumblatt's statement, Hariri's office released a communique declaring that the Lebanese government was not ready to bear all its national duties. This added fuel to the ongoing debate concerning the Syrian presence in Lebanon, which now took place in Parliament. Following the previous pattern, deputies either supported or opposed Syrian presence along confessional lines while attacking each other. Voicing Maronite concerns, Pierre Jumayil took the lead in criticizing the government and calling for Syrian withdrawal. Nabih Berri, the Shia Parliament speaker, sternly replied by asking Jumayil, "Don't you want Shebaa Farms back?" (48) This prompted deputy Boutros Harb to exclaim: "It is not possible that every time one gives an opinion that others dislike he will be accused of being an Israeli agent." (49) Harb's exclamation fell on many deaf ears. In yet another assault on Christian leadership, 200 Muslim clerics issued a statement on December 10 accusing Patriarch "Sfeir of serving Israeli interests by raising questions about Syrian influence." (50)

This debate centering on Syria has been gaining strength and thus deepening the political and communal divide among many Lebanese. Commemorating Aoun's war of liberation against Syria in March 1989, Aoun's followers (mainly students from the Lebanese, Kaslik, Jesuit and Luwayzi universities) organized a political rally on March 14, 2001, to protest Syria's presence and march on Syrian headquarters in Beirut. The Lebanese government took emergency steps to prevent the "Aounis" from reaching any Syrian outpost. (51) A pro-Syrian and anti-Aoun rally was organized on March 20 in Beirut. While Hizballah and Amal joined the rally, the majority of the participants were members of the SSNP and students and persons affiliated with the schools run by the Society of Islamic Benevolent Projects (Al-Ahbash). Demonstrators held placards and shouted slogans equating Aoun with Milosevic of Yugoslavia and Sharon of Israel. (52)

Two months later, on May 1,2001, Christian dignitaries signed a document, known as the Document of Qornet Shahwan, which roughly rehashed the patriarch's statement. In addition to calling for Syrian redeployment in preparation for a complete withdrawal, the document called for completing national reconciliation and working toward fashioning an Arab comprehensive peace project that would protect Arab rights and establish a modern Arab regional order. (53) Coming on the heels of an Israeli air strike on a Syrian radar installation in Lebanon, in which three Syrian soldiers were killed, (54) the document provoked an angry Syrian reaction. The ruling Syrian Baath party criticized vehemently the document and those who prepared it, calling them a group known for "isolationist slogans" that cause nausea when reiterated. (55) Qanso, in an interview with the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Ra'y al-Am, stated that the goal of those who signed the document was to send the "Lebanese army to the south to protect Israel's borders and halt the resistance's operations." (56)

But the blunt and sarcastic comments came from a prominent Syrian figure: Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas. In an interview with the Lebanese newspaper al-Diyar, Tlas stated that Patriarch Sfeir in 1983 asked Pope John Paul II -- who recently visited Syria -- to intercede with Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin to protect the Christians. (57) When asked about Jumblatt's criticism of Syria, Tlas responded: "Let him criticize. We neither answer nor listen to him; we invented him." (58) With regard to Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, Tlas said: "We made sacrifices in Lebanon and gave many martyrs in order for Lebanon to achieve victory.... And we are still ready to give all support until the last Lebanese occupied hand-span is liberated. We have the right to demand support from Lebanon in order for us to liberate our occupied land in the Golan." (59)


Lebanon's internal politics can hardly be detached from regional politics in general and the Arab-Israeli conflict in particular. Lebanon still faces the specter of civil war. If this episode in Lebanese history illustrates anything, it is that Lebanon is still fertile ground for sectarian strife and that Lebanese leaders are far from achieving national reconciliation. They are still split over the fundamental nationalist base that underpins political coexistence as they entertain different interpretations of Lebanon. In order to protect and advance their own interests, many of these elites seem unconcerned with the task of transcending communal cleavages or with the need to forge a strong public national identity, let alone a national sense of sharing a historic destiny. This is what perpetuates Lebanon's infamous weak national integration and makes the country a magnet for centrifugal forces threatening to unravel the social fabric.

The debate over Syria not only raises the sensitive issue of Christian political power and by implication the whole power arrangement in the country but also breaks down along sectarian/confessional lines. Such is the extent of Lebanon's weak national integration that it polarizes the population; such is the extent of Syrian power in the country that it can stigmatize any community by charging it with treason or collaboration with Israel if it does not toe the Syrian political line. Syria has successfully managed to stake a claim to a central role in Lebanon's internal affairs. No significant political decision can be made without Syrian participation and consent. At the same time, had it not been for Lebanon's weak national integration, Syria would not have gained such a central role. This is complicated by the weak geopolitical position of a country sandwiched between two powerful regional neighbors and enemies, Syria and Israel.

It seems as if many Maronites are still attached to anachronistic and contradictory political ideas that are tearing the community apart. One constant has been the longstanding belief that, were outside influence to end, national reconciliation would easily take place and Maronite privileges would be safeguarded. At the same time, paradoxically, the Maronites have been eager to try to protect their privileges by asking for outside help. It is no coincidence that every critical decision the Maronites have made stems from political weakness, which they perceive as the result of broader regional developments and outside meddling. Their response has been to try to insulate Lebanon from its surroundings, in particular the Arab-Israeli conflict, confusing the causes with the effects of Lebanon's deep-seated problems. This confusion has led them first into the arms of Syria and then into the arms of Israel, then led them away from both after seeing that their political fortunes were only adversely affected.

Having agreed on Lebanon's Arab identity and signed the Taif accord, the Maronites need to play by the rules of the accord insofar as they want to implement it, including taking an unequivocal stand on national issues such as Israel's past occupation of south Lebanon (and currently Shebaa Farms). This, however, does not mean that the Christians should prove their patriotism by engaging in armed resistance. Their situation is ironically similar to that of the Christians in the West Bank. The Muslims there ask why there are no Christian martyrs in the recent (Aqsa) intifada. (60) The Maronites' biggest challenge is not to defend themselves against charges of collaboration, which proved to be politically motivated. Rather, their challenge is to make a genuine effort to heal the wounds of their community, to reach out to the others, to solidify the power of the state in all its branches, and to reinforce Lebanon's vibrant civil society. At the same time, the Maronites should let go of the idea that Maronitism is synonymous with Lebanonism, but insist that Maronitism has been central to Lebanon.

Since his recent return from "voluntary" exile, Amin Jumayil has been trying to mend fences among the various communities. He has reached out to Suleiman Franjieh and Walid Jumblatt. Lebanon was taken by surprise when Jumblatt allied himself with the Christians in recent elections and his electoral list won. (61) Then it was Syria's turn, when Jumblatt appeared to side with the Maronites in calling for a reexamination of Syria's security role in Lebanon. And most Maronites and other Christians have long rallied around the Maronite patriarch, a sign of the Christian community's need for leadership. (62) The enthusiasm of thousands of Lebanese welcoming home Patriarch Sfeir from his recent trip to North America, thronging the road to Bkirki and holding placards calling for Syrian withdrawal, sanctioned the transformation of the patriarch from a spiritual to a political leader, and signified general dissatisfaction with the Syrian presence. (63)

Equally significant, it seems that the debate triggered by the patriarch is being taken up by a large segment of Lebanon's silent majority, which fears that heightening tensions could lead to renewed violence. Movements cutting across confessional lines have begun to spring up to take a stand in the ongoing debate. Professing moderate attitudes, they have been calling for Syrian redeployment and non-intervention in internal Lebanese affairs, while at the same time attesting to Syria's paramount role in defending Lebanon against Israel's aggression. The establishment of the Assembly for National Rescue typifies such nonsectarian political movements. (64)

Perhaps this development of real efforts towards national reconciliation led Syria to mollify Maronite anger by releasing Lebanese prisoners, many of whom had been held for years in Syrian prisons, (65) and to commission some former Lebanese officials such as Fouad Boutros to look into Christian grievances. (66) But neither Amin nor any other Maronite leader has taken the courageous step toward calling for reexamining and reassessing Maronite history, politics and the community's future, let alone attempting to revise the role of the Phalange party. The Maronites' future appears uncertain if they persist in their traditional ways.

Syria, for its part, tacitly acknowledges that the Maronites will stay a thorn in its side. But it will likely maintain the political status of the Maronites in relation to that of other communities, if only to keep some national balance. Nor will it allow its hegemony to be whittled away by any one group or combination of groups. Syria will do its utmost to manipulate the political conditions in Lebanon in order to prevent the movement against it from becoming a viable threat to its presence in the country. The dangerous scenario lies in the possibility that the movement might become a rallying cry for many Lebanese. This could force the government to heed popular sentiment and take a stand that would undermine Syria's "legitimate" presence in Lebanon; it could also provoke violent attacks against Syrian troops.

Syria could make good on its professed brotherly feelings and responsibilities toward Lebanon (and live up to the Taif accord) by redeploying to the strategic Bekaa Valley and assuming a low profile, giving the country some breathing room. Syria has put Lebanon in a double bind: Lebanon cannot forge a strong national identity with Syria imposing its will on the country, yet Lebanon potentially faces the specter of civil war if Syria withdraws from the country. Until the Lebanese surmount this challenge and faithfully celebrate their national integration, Syria's presence is only appreciated so long as it is far from Beirut and its internal affairs. (67)

(1) See Pierre Jumayil, "Lebanese Nationalism and its Foundations: The Phalangist Viewpoint," in Political and Social Thought in the Contemporary Middle East, ed. Kemal H. Karpat (New York: Praeger, 1970).

(2) Kamal Jumblatt, Hadhihi Wasiyati [This is My Will] (Paris: Stok, 1978), p. 110.

(3) It shall be recalled that President Asad had already sent forces (Saiqa) into Lebanon with the tacit approval of former President Franjieh. In addition, President Asad agreed to the presidential nomination of Sarkis because of his advanced approval to let Syrian forces into Lebanon.

(4) See the memorandum and the Fez Summit's closing statement in Republic of Lebanon, Wathaiq Itifaq Jala al-Quwat al-Israiliya [Documents of the Agreement for the Evacuation of Israeli Forces] (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1983), pp. 137-38.

(5) Bashir frequently repeated these statements in Phalangist meetings on the local, regional and central level. With the exception of explicit statements about Christian power, his other pronouncements were broadcast and given special emphasis on Voice of Lebanon.

(6) Tishrin, November 11, 1982.

(7) See al-Baath, May 15 and 18, 1983.

(8) The United States, Israel, Syria and the Lebanese Christians and Muslims all preferred different candidates who were either rejected by lack of consensus or by Amin. Frustrated, Amin appointed General Aoun. The author sat in on a meeting with President Amin, Archbishop Elia Elia of the Catholic Orthodox Church and Chorbishop Joseph Lahoud of the Maronite church at the Sheraton Commander in Cambridge in September 1991, during which the question over Aoun's appointment was discussed.

(9) Karim Pakradouni, Lanat Watan: Min Harb Lubnan Ila Harb al-Khalij [Curse of a Fatherland: From the Lebanese War to the Gulf War] (Beirut: Trans-Orient Press, 1992), p. 205.

(10) Ibid., pp. 222-23.

(11) See text of Taif accord in Fida Nasrallah, Prospects for Lebanon: The Questions of South Lebanon (Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1992), pp. 71-74: and in Joseph Maila, The Document of National Understanding: A Commentary (Oxford: Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1992).

(12) See full text of treaty in al-Nahar, May 23, 1991.

(13) Ibid.

(14) Ibid.

(15) See text of agreement in al-Nahar, September 7, 1991.

(16) Ibid.

(17) See Habib C. Malik, Between Damascus and Jerusalem: Lebanon and Middle East Peace (Washington, DC: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 1997), pp. 64-65.

(18) For texts of agreements see al-Nahar, September 17, 1993. Also in March and May 1993 agreements on telecommunication and tourism were signed.

(19) Simone Ghazi Tinaoui, "An Analysis of the Syrian-Lebanese Economic Agreements," The Beirut Review, No. 8, Fall 1994, p. 102.

(20) See al-Nahar, September 19, 1994.

(21) See full text of agreement in al-Nahar, September 22, 1994.

(22) See full text of agreement in al-Nahar, October 19, 1994.

(23) See Economist Intelligence Unit, "Country Profile: Lebanon, 1998-1999," p. 15; see also Malik, Between Damascus and Jerusalem, pp. 40-42; see also Michel Murkos in al-Nahar, October 14, 24, 1994 and July 24, 1995.

(24) See Malik, Between Damascus and Jerusalem, pp. 42-43: see also al-Nahar, June 22, 1994.

(25) See al-Nahar, October 19, 1994.

(26) See Tinaoui, "An Analysis of the Syria-Lebanese Economic Cooperation Agreements," p. 109.

(27) See al-Nahar, January 29, 1996.

(28) See Tishrin, August 20, 1997.

(29) See al-Nahar, March 23, 2000.

(30) Among those arrested and imprisoned is Boutros Khawand, the former military chief of the Phalangist militia. Discussions with several Phalangist leaders in 1995, 1996, 1997 and most recently in September and October 2000.

(31) Kamal Jumblatt, Lubnan wa Harb al-Taswiya [Lebanon and the War for a Settlement] (No place of publication indicated, Center of Socialist Studies: The Progressive Socialist Party, 1977), pp. 19-21; see also Jumblatt, Hadhihi Wasiyati, pp. 12-16; See also Kamal Jumblatt, Fi Majra al-Siyasah al-Lubnaniya [In the Course of Lebanese Politics] (Beirut: Dar al-Talia, 1962), pp. 42-60.

(32) On Hizballah, see Augustus Richard Norton, "Hizballah and the Israeli Withdrawal from Southern Lebanon," Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 30, No. 1, Autumn 2000; and Hizballah of Lebanon: Extremist Ideals vs Mundane Politics (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1999).

(33) Fares Khashan, "Hizb al-Kataib ... Sira Sulta am Azmat wujud?" [Phalange Party ... Authority Struggle or Existential Crisis?] al-Safir, September 20, 2000.

(34) Following Nasralla's statement, Rafik Hariri immediately appeared on most Lebanese television channels including Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC).

(35) Susan Sachs, "Breaking Taboo, Lebanese Prelate Criticizes Syria," The New York Times, December 23, 2000.

(36) See the full Bishops' Council's statement in al-Safir, September 21, 2000.

(37) Ibid.

(38) See for example the patriarch's interview with al-Wasat, November 18, 1996; and parliamentary deputy Boutros Harb's interview with al-Hayat, September 13, 1998.

(39) Sachs, "Breaking Taboo."

(40) See election results in al-Hayat, August 29, 2000.

(41) See al-Hayat, September 15 and 18, 2000.

(42) See the muftis' statement in al-Hayat, September 21, 2000.

(43) See al-Safir, September 21, 2000.

(44) For a complete list of names and statements by those who supported and opposed Syrian presence see "Bayane al-Matarina al-Mawarina Yuthir Rudud Fil Mutabayina," [Statement by "the Maronite Bishops" Provokes Polarizing Reactions], al-Safir, September 22, 2000. It is noteworthy that the Maronite leader Suleiman Franjieh, grandson of former President Franjieh, supported President Lahoud's stand.

(45) See Jumblatt's statement in al-Hayat, November 4, 2000. It shall be recalled that the Brotherhood and Security treaties give Syria a decisive say over the question of its stay in Lebanon.

(46) See Qanso's statement in "Dimashq Ghadiba min Mawaqif Jumblatt wa Naib Baathi Yatahimahu Bilamala wa Yuhadidahu" [Damascus Angry with Jumblatt and a Baathi Deputy accuses him of Collaboration and Threatens Him], al-Hayat, November 7, 2000.

(47) See al-Hayat, November 9, 2000.

(48) While the United Nations (after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon) considers Shebaa Farms a land captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 War, the Lebanese government claims it is occupied Lebanese territory.

(49) See the proceedings of the whole debate in parliament in al-Hayat, November 5, 2000.

(50) Sachs, "Breaking Taboo."

(51) See al-Hayat, March 15, 2001.

(52) See al-Hayat, March 21, 2001. It is noteworthy that parties of the Left, mainly the Progressive Socialist party of Walid Jumblatt, did not join the rally.

(53) See text of document in al-Hayat, May 1,2001.

(54) Deborah Sontag, "Israeli Airstrike Deep Into Lebanon Unsettles Arabs," The New York Times, April 17, 2001.

(55) Al-Hayat, "Al-Baath Yantaqed Wathiqat Qornet Shahwan" [Baath Criticizes the Document of Qornet Shahwan], May 4, 2001.

(56) See Qanso's statements as reproduced by al-Nahar, May 3, 2001.

(57) Nada Abd al-Samad, "Tlas: Jumblatt Ikhtira Suri wa Sfeir Istanjada bi-Begin Am 83" [Tlas: Jumblatt is a Syrian invention and Sfeir called Begin for help in 1983], Al-Quds Al-Arabi, May 12-13, 2001. It is noteworthy that Tlas's statement created a stir in Lebanon. Christian deputies Fares Buwayz and Boutros Harb refuted Tlas's accusation by responding that Patriarch Sfeir never wagered on Israel and that in 1983 he was not a patriarch.

(58) Ibid. Jumblatt did not comment on Tlas's remark.

(59) Ibid.

(60) William A. Orme Jr. "Jerusalem Christians Now Back Palestinian Sovereignty," The New York Times, December 24, 2000.

(61) See al-Hayat, August 29, 2000.

(62) For example the Christian Greek Orthodox, Deputy Albert Mukhayber, not only called for Syrian withdrawal but also for a Syrian embassy in Lebanon. See al-Hayat, November 3, 2000.

(63) See al-Nahar, March 28, 2001.

(64) See al-Hayat, April 1 and April 2, 2001. The Assembly includes personalities from diverse backgrounds and with different political orientations. From its prominent founders are the former outspoken deputy Najah Wakim and the famous artist Ziyad al-Rahbani.

(65) See al-Hayat, December 12 and 13, 2000.

(66) See al-Hayat, April 1, 2001. It is noteworthy that Syria also tried to mend fences with Jumblatt. Jumblatt was invited to Damascus on May 22 where he had a meeting with President Asad. Although Jumblatt described the meeting as positive and candid, he maintained his initial attitude toward the Syrian presence in Lebanon. At the same time, he has advocated deepening the dialogue between Damascus and Beirut. See al-Hayat, May 3, 2001.

(67) On June 14, 2001, in a surprise move, Syrian troops suddenly began to redeploy from primarily Christian sections of the capital and surrounding areas. The redeployment included troops stationed at Yarze, where the Lebanese Defense Ministry is located, at Baabda, site of the presidential palace, and Mount Lebanon. The decision to withdraw was widely perceived as an attempt to defuse tension caused by the mounting opposition to the Syrian presence. Commenting on the redeployment, President Asad stated that "the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon is temporary." But then added that "the timing of withdrawal is linked to internal and regional circumstances." See al-Nahar, June 15, 2001; and al-Quds al-Arabi, June 23-24, 2001.

Dr. Rabil is a senior lecturer in the Department of History at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts, and project manager of the Iraq Research and Documentation Project (IRDP), Washington, DC.
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Date:Sep 1, 2001
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