It has been almost thirty years since the adoption, in October 1989, by the Lebanese Parliament of the Taif Accord.  The agreement put an end to a civil war that engulfed Lebanon for more than 15 years.  Between 1989 and 2005, the Taif Accord remained largely unimplemented because of internal disputes between Christian and Muslim Lebanese and foremost because of Syria’s heavy-handed manipulation of politics in the country.

In May 2008, clashes erupted between the Iranian and Syrian-supported militia-cum-political party Hezbollah and its allies, and the pro-Western forces rallied around the March 14 movement. As a result of these clashes the small Persian Gulf State of Qatar launched efforts to bring Lebanon back from the brink of civil war. The mediation by Qatar led to the Doha Agreement currently being implemented in Lebanon.

The Lebanese polity is faced today with two clashing visions. The first is a neo-liberal vision based on respect for basic freedoms and an economy modeled on free market principles; what some have characterized as “Switzerland on the shores of the Mediterranean.” The other vision is that of a religiously-inspired Sparta whereby a totalitarian religious ideology, in this case that of Hezbollah, predominates, supported by Iran. Hezbollah would like to create an Islamic-inspired state   that   would give the Shia community in Lebanon its overdue role in power sharing. The outcome of this clash will determine the future of the country.

The purpose of this paper is to assess and analyze the internal political and the external geopolitical dimensions of the Taif Accord and whether this Accord has succeeded or failed in giving Lebanon a stable model of governance.  This paper will also assess the impact of the current civil war in Syria on the Lebanese body politic.

This paper is divided into three parts. In the first part, I will present a brief background to the Lebanese War[1] that began in 1975 and look into the various actors and issues that played a role in this war. I will then look into the various settlement attempts before the Taif Accord. In the second part, I will present and assess the provisions of the Taif Accord related to internal governance issues and Lebanon’s regional and global relations. In the third part, I will look at the situation in Lebanon following the summer 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and the aftermath of the May 2008 clashes that led to the Doha Agreement. Last but not least I will look at the impact of the Syrian civil war and regional sectarianization on Lebanon. In my conclusion, I will look at the prospects for de-sectarianization in Lebanon and the possibility of creating a modern nation-state.

The Lebanese War (1975-1989)

Because of its multi-community constitution, Lebanon has long been considered an example of the coexistence of multiethnic and multi religious groups. Nevertheless, there is an inherent corollary to this pluralism that has led some scholars to characterize Lebanon as “precarious,” “improbable,” and “fragmented.”[2]

Throughout its history, Lebanon has been a microcosm of changes – socio-political and religious – in the Arab world. As a land of refuge, enjoying a high degree of freedom and tolerance, the Lebanese polity became the testing ground of internecine struggles, and opposing Arab regimes and ideologies.

The war in Lebanon itself became a theatre of confrontation for the Arabs and the Israelis. By the end of the 1960s, the increasing militancy of Palestinian nationalism trapped Lebanon in the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian struggle: first, passively, Lebanon gave asylum to waves of Palestinian refugees (1948, 1967, 1970, 1971); then, actively, following the Jordanian subjugation in 1970 of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Moreover, with the involvement of regional powers (Syria, Israel, Iran, etc.), the Lebanese War escalated to the point where Lebanon became by proxy the center of confrontation between East and West.

The Lebanese War,  which erupted in 1975 and officially ended  by the  Taif Accord  in 1989,  was a very complex  conflict  involving  several  actors   and issues. The strife –  which was  not  of a religious nature  –  pitted against each  other  the  Maronite-dominated Phalangist Party  and  its allies, and a Muslim-Leftist coalition, actively backed  by Palestinian guerrilla organizations: Fatah, al-Saiqa, and  those  that  rejected any  peaceful settlement with Israel.[3]

Domestically, some of the major developments that led to the Lebanese War included (1) a disruption of the demographic balance in favor of the Muslims who called for a reallocation of government posts; (2) social difficulties caused by soaring prices, housing problems and student unrest; and (3) an internal crisis in the Maronite Church where the monastic orders contested the authority of the patriarch.

At the regional level, the defeat by Israel of the Arab armies in 1967 led to marked disenchantment with the policies followed by the champion of pan-Arabism, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Beginning in the early 1960s, the major issue in the Middle East became the question of Palestine and settlement of its status to the satisfaction of the Arabs. In the mid-1970s, following the fourth Arab-Israeli War (1973) and the United States-sponsored peace process in the Middle East, Lebanon became the battlefield for those in favor of or against negotiations with the Jewish state. To complicate the situation further, Palestinian commando groups were transformed into a symbol of righteous revenge.[4]

At the global level, the process of détente that characterized superpower relations starting in the late 1960s did not fully include the Middle East. A case in point was the shelving of the 1977 joint United States-Soviet statement for peace between Arabs and Israelis based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338, and the exclusion of the former USSR from the Middle East peace process initiated by the United States. Finally, the oil crisis had an important effect on the policies of both producers and consumers, leading to a major but ineffective involvement of Western Europe and Japan in Middle Eastern affairs.

The major events that led to the Lebanese War began with the signing of the Cairo Agreements (1969) between the Lebanese government and the PLO. Palestinian fighters used the Lebanese south as a launching pad for guerrilla attacks against Israeli settlements in Galilee. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) retaliated after each PLO action,  which in turn  heightened  tensions,  first with the  Palestinians, and  then, after 1975,  with the Christian militias.[5] The turmoil in Lebanon   also  provoked greater Syrian and Israeli involvement in Lebanese politics and resulted in their direct presence on the ground. Moreover, the Camp David Accords (1978) and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty (1979) destroyed what was left of Arab unity. This situation was reflected dramatically in the Lebanese arena. The Palestinians were left out of bilateral peace negotiations and had to obtain the backing of those Arab regimes that were willing to champion their cause.

In Lebanon, the Egyptian-Israeli entente led to polarization of the conflicting parties and increasing fear of the possibility of a permanent settlement of Palestinians in Lebanon and the partition of  the country. The major events in Lebanon at this time included the emergence of Bashir Gemayel as a powerful Maronite leader; the Israeli invasion in 1982; and the massacres of Palestinian civilians in the camps of Sabra and Shatila.

The Road to Taif

Between 1985 and 1989 factional conflict worsened in Lebanon as various efforts at national reconciliation failed. Heavy fighting took place in the “War of the Camps” in 1985 and 1986 as the Shia Muslim Amal militiamen sought to defeat PLO groups from major strongholds in Beirut and other Lebanese cities. In 1987, fighting broke out again in Beirut between opposing PLO, leftist and Druze militiamen allied against Amal’s presence in the city. This led to further Syrian military intervention. In 1988, violent clashes occurred in Beirut opposing the two main Shia groups, Amal and Hezbollah.

On the political front, Prime Minister Rashid Karame, who was heading a government of national unity following failed peace efforts in 1984, was assassinated in June 1987. Amin Gemayel, whose term as President of the Republic ended in September 1988, appointed Maronite General Michel Awn as acting prime minister. Gemayel’s decision contravened the 1943 unwritten National Pact whereby the prime minister was always to be a Sunni Muslim. Lebanese Muslims totally rejected this move and placed their support heavily behind Salim al-Hoss, a Sunni leader who had succeeded Karame. At this stage, Lebanese politics became polarized between two governments: one headed by a Christian prime minister living in East Beirut and the other headed by a Sunni Muslim in West Beirut.

The Lebanese War ended when regional and international actors (both Arab and Western) opted for a resolution of the crisis. The war also ended due to sheer exhaustion as most Lebanese civilians and various warlords had enough of almost fifteen years of devastation. Moreover, there was an international consensus that to control external interference in the country, the Lebanese needed help to settle their disputes.[6]

In the course of the Lebanese War several attempts were made to resolve the conflict. The Lebanese parties alone put forward more than seventy reform proposals.  Regional and international mediators also tried to put an end to the conflict. Among them we find regional mediators from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At the global level the US, France, Germany and the Holy See played an important role in stopping the bloodshed.[7]

As was stated earlier, the Lebanese War encompassed both internal and external dimensions.  The internal dimension dealt mostly with power sharing, and constitutional, political and socioeconomic reforms. The external dimension centered on Lebanon’s role and relations with its neighbors and the country’s role in the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  The various settlement plans, both internal and external, which were devised before Taif tried to find a solution in one or both of these dimensions.

The settlement plans that were devised before the Taif Accord were as follows:[8]

The National Dialogue Committee (September – November 1975).  The committee, which included veteran Christian and Muslim Lebanese politicians, failed to agree on the basic issues affecting Lebanon (identity, sovereignty, power-sharing, political reform and security).

The Constitutional Document of President Suleiman Franjieh (February 1976).  This proposal dealt mostly with internal issues such as enhancing the power of the prime minister and advocated parity between Christian and Muslim representatives in the Lebanese Parliament, and decentralization of the public administration. The document did not tackle the regional dimension of the Lebanese War.

The Riyadh and Cairo Summit (November 1976). The meeting saw the development of a consensus between three regional players, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt, that led to the end of the first phase of the Lebanese War. The Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) was created for peacekeeping purposes. Syrians made up the largest contingent in the ADF. The summit also dealt with the issue of disarming the militias and collection of heavy weapons.

The Lebanese Parliamentary Document (April 24, 1978).  This document reflected a consensus reached by various members of the Lebanese Parliament around the issues of Lebanese unity, sovereignty, reconciliation and reforms.

The Fourteen Points of Consensus for a National Accord (March 1980). The understanding was drafted jointly by President Elias Sarkis and Prime Minister Salim al-Hoss. It included general principles dealing with national sovereignty and political reforms but did not specify the instruments to achieve these goals.

The May 17, 1983 agreement between Lebanon and Israel. Brokered by US Secretary of State, George Shultz, this came in the aftermath of the Israeli invasion  of  Lebanon. It tried to remove Lebanon from the Syrian sphere of influence and foster open diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Israel. This agreement elicited the vehement opposition of Syria and its allies in Lebanon. The agreement was abrogated in March 1984.[9]

The Geneva and Lausanne National Reconciliation Conferences (1983).  These conferences were held under Syrian sponsorship, with Saudi Arabia acting as an observer. They were an attempt to find a common denominator between the pre-war political leadership and the warlords who emerged during the conflict. Another result of the conferences was the abrogation of the May 17 agreement between Lebanon and Israel.  Participants at these conferences drew up a plan that dealt with internal and regional issues affecting Lebanon.

Ministerial Declaration of the National Unity Government (May 23, 1984).  Participants in the Lausanne and Geneva conferences constituted the core of the National Unity Government headed by Prime Minister Rashid Karame. The declaration included reforms advocated in the Constitutional Document of 1976.

The Damascus Tripartite Agreement (December 18, 1985). Under Syrian sponsorship representatives of the three major militias in Lebanon (Lebanese Forces, Amal, and the Progressive Socialist Party/PSP) were invited to Damascus to seal a cooperation agreement between Lebanon and Syria that provided for closer political, military, security and   economic   relations between the two states. This agreement failed following heavy opposition by the Christian establishment and some sectors of the Muslim community.

The Murphy-Glaspie Missions (fall 1987 to summer 1988).   These were two US missions led separately by Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State, and US Special Envoy, April Glaspie. The purpose of these missions was to help the Lebanese formulate a platform for political reform and prepare for the 1988 presidential elections.  Both Murphy and Glaspie shuttled between Damascus and Beirut in order to find a solution that would satisfy all parties to the conflict. Their quest was unsuccessful as the Lebanese were quarrelling over a potential candidate for the presidency and the nature of political reforms to be enacted.

The major problem affecting all these attempts at settlement before the Taif Accord was that they addressed one or the other dimension of the Lebanese conflict: internal and external. At that time the basic issues of internal reforms got mired in the debate over presidential powers in Lebanon. The Christians, despite their numerical inferiority, wanted to maintain the prerogatives of the presidency. The Muslims, aware of demographic changes in their favor wanted to give more power to the position of prime minister.

Political sectarianism was another controversial issue, with fundamental differences between Christians and Muslims. These differences continue to constitute an important obstacle to the creation of a Lebanese national identity. Moreover, there was a lack of consensus on Lebanon’s Arab identity and its relations with Syria. Another important issue was the question of the Palestinian presence in Lebanon. This is still a thorny issue in Lebanese politics, even if there is a general consensus among the Lebanese against settling the Palestinian refugees in the country.

The National Accord Document for Lebanon (Taif Accord)

This document was the result of major horse-trading between the US and Syria with Saudi Arabia playing the role of broker. The Taif Accord (adopted by the Lebanese Parliament on October 23, 1989) consolidated Syrian hegemony over Lebanon with US and Saudi blessing.[10] The Taif Accord was stillborn as its provisions were never implemented because of heavy Syrian interference in Lebanese politics and the short-sightedness of Lebanese politicians. The Accord reflected the regional and global balance of power in the region. At that time the US wanted to put an end to the festering Lebanese war in order to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 2000, the US intervened militarily in what came to be known as the first Gulf War. The Syrian regime decided to participate in this war along with the US and Lebanon was offered as a prize.  By 2000, Pax Syriana was the order of the day in Lebanon.[11]

In Michael Kerr’s words, the Taif Accord “brought an end  to a civil war; it defined Lebanon  as  an Arab state; it imposed and Arabized the regulation of the Agreement; it legalized Syrian political and military ascendancy in the country; and it was a written document.”[12]

The Taif Accord was an attempt to achieve the following aims: (1) restoration of Lebanese national political and administrative institutions; (2) structural and institutional reform of the Lebanese political system; (3) reinstating Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity by calling for the withdrawal of all non-Lebanese forces from the country; and (4) consolidating the special relationship between Lebanon and Syria.

In its preamble, the Taif Accord, as incorporated into the constitutional amendments approved in September 1990, stated that Lebanon was “the final homeland for all its citizens.” This was in answer to Christian concerns that one day Lebanon could become part of Greater Syria, an old dream of the Syrian leadership.   The preamble also stated that Lebanon “is Arab in belonging and identity.” This was another answer to some, especially in the Christian community, who had always denied the Arab identity of Lebanon. The preamble also stated that the Lebanese economy was based “on a free system that guarantees individual initiatives and private ownership.”

The issue of Lebanon’s economic orientation has become starker in recent years in light of Hezbollah’s prominent role in Lebanese political and military life. The choice today is between a Spartan state-controlled and ideologically-orientated model akin to Hanoi (Vietnam) or the neo-liberal relatively free globalized model offered by Hong Kong.

At the institutional level, the major change brought by the Taif Accord was the balance of power between the president, prime minister, the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. Though not mentioned in the Taif Accord, the assignment of these positions is still based on the unwritten National Pact (1943) whereby the president is always a Maronite, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of the Parliament a Shia Muslim.

The Taif Accord answered one of the major grievances of Lebanese Sunni Muslims by reducing the powers of the president of the republic and giving greater prerogatives to the prime minister.

The power of the Parliament was also enhanced as a major concession to the Shia community. The speaker of the Parliament was to be elected for the entire four-year term of the assembly. This gave the speaker major freedom to maneuver and stay above the political push and pull of Lebanese politics. The power of the office was recently demonstrated when the current Speaker, Nabih Berri, shut down the Parliament for almost a year. Another important change introduced by Taif was creating parity between Christian and Muslim representatives based on 50:50 proportionalities. Before Taif, seats in the Parliament were 54 for Christians and 45 for Muslims.

The Taif Accord called for the creation of a special committee headed by the president of the republic to “achieve the elimination of confessional politics.” Following the election of a parliament on a national non-sectarian basis, a Senate was to be created to represent most of Lebanon’s major sects. The Taif Accord  in its  attempt  to  reinforce  the  system  of checks  and balances called for the creation of a constitutional  council  and  a  council  for economic and social development to ensure the national participation of various sectors of society in the review of national planning policies.[13]

The Taif Accord dealt with the issue of putting an end to internal strife and called for the disbanding of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. It affirmed the need to reassert state sovereignty by giving the Lebanese Armed Forces a major role. It also asserted the right of every displaced Lebanese to return to his or her home or region. The question of state sovereignty and the disbanding of militias is still haunting Lebanon twenty years after the adoption of the Taif Accord.

The Taif Accord consolidated Lebanon’s ties to Syria and acknowledged the need for Syrian forces “to assist the forces of the legitimate Lebanese government to spread the authority of the State of Lebanon.”  It legitimized and redefined the role of Syrian armed forces in Lebanon and  set  a  time frame  of  two  years for  Syrian  troops to  leave the country (September 21,  1992).  Syrian troops were forced out of Lebanon only in early 2005, which was another major breach of the Accord.

Lebanon’s relations with Israel were to be governed by the truce agreement concluded on 23 March 1949. The Taif Accord called for “making efforts to reinforce the UN Forces in Southern Lebanon to insure the Israeli withdrawal and to provide the opportunity for the return of security and stability to the border area.” It indirectly rejected a separate peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel. The Taif Accord did not deal with the Palestinian presence in Lebanon, the Achilles’ heel in post-war peacebuilding efforts.

As stated earlier, the Taif Accord was not implemented due to Syrian heavy-handed interference in Lebanese affairs. The Syrian regime adopted the policy of divide and rule in order to maintain its hegemony over Lebanon’s political and economic affairs.

The non-implementation of the Taif Accord led to several important developments dramatized by the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, and the forced withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Thanks to his worldwide business network, Hariri played a key role in the reconstruction of Lebanon. He enjoyed close ties with the Saudi royal family, being himself holder of a Saudi passport. Hariri also had close ties to the Syrian regime. Before his assassination he began to reassert Lebanon’s sovereign rights and to call for Syrian respect for Lebanon’s political integrity. Meanwhile, Syria, together with its regional ally Iran, succeeded in consolidating the power of Hezbollah, the Shia political-cum-military party.[14]

The Summer 2006 War between Hezbollah and Israel

There are several factors to explain the events that led to the summer 2006 war  between the  Israel Defense  Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah:

1)  the  internal  situation  in Lebanon  following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri;  2)  the  emergence of Iran as a major player in the Middle East following the US war in Iraq; 3) the role of Syria, which has never accepted its forced ousting  from Lebanon  in 2005; 4) Israel’s concern with the Palestinian reality; 5) the US administration’s inability to implement a successful global war on terror; and 6) continuing instability in Iraq and Afghanistan.[15]

Since the end of the war in Lebanon the country has gone through a period of amazing reconstruction, shepherded by late Prime Minister al-Hariri. Thanks to his contacts and global friendships, Hariri brought back to Lebanon a respect it had lost and a role it used to have.  The major drawback, however, was Hariri’s focus on the rebuilding of physical infrastructure, which unfortunately came at the expense of reconciliation between the Lebanese factions.

In fact, reconciliation between Lebanon’s various communities did not really take place. The Christians especially came out feeling defeated and betrayed while the Sunnis and the Shias came out with more control of power levers in Lebanon. Unlike South Africa and some Latin American countries, there was never a truth and reconciliation commission created to “police the past” in Lebanon.[16]

The other major fault line in Lebanon has been Hezbollah’s ever growing role and influence. Created following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah became a major linchpin of the resistance against the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. The party’s leadership succeeded, thanks to Syria and Iran’s help, in creating a large network of institutions to answer the various social and humanitarian needs of the population of southern Lebanon.

Dominated by Lebanese Shia, Hezbollah became the paramount military and social power in southern Lebanon. Calls to send Lebanese troops to the border with Israel were always faced with resistance. Lebanon’s President Emile Lahoud (Syria’s major ally in Lebanon) consistently argued that sending Lebanese troops to the border would be tantamount to acting as defenders of Israeli security. The summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah demonstrates how wrong this reasoning was. This is why, after almost one month after the beginning of the Israeli campaign, Lebanon’s government offered to send 15,000 Lebanese army troops to the border.

Following the assassination of al-Hariri, UN Security Council resolution 1559 was adopted calling for the exit of all foreign troops from Lebanon (read Syria) and the dismantling of Hezbollah as a militia. The rationale being that Israel had ended its occupation of Southern Lebanon and the Hezbollah resistance movement had become unnecessary. This was not Hezbollah’s interpretation. For the Shia-dominated militia, Israel was still in occupation of the Shebaa Farms (an area of around 20-25 kilometers in Southern Lebanon) which justified maintaining its weapons.[17]

Because of the weakness of the central government in Lebanon the country continues to be fertile soil for armed groups to create a state within a state. This was the case with the PLO for at least 25 years. Then Hezbollah became a Lebanese brand supported by Iran and Syria.

Iran and Syria: Regional Spoilers?

Since the advent of the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, regional politics in the Middle East have changed dramatically. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini wanted to export his brand of fundamentalist Islam throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. Lebanon with its large Shia community became a favorite target of Teheran’s entreaties. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the Iranian regime took advantage of the mistakes committed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to consolidate its influence in the country.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 helped solidify Iran’s role as a major player in the region. The Shiite arc of influence now extended all the way from Teheran to Basrah to Beirut. The Iranian regime took advantage of the fragmentation of Iraq to extend its influence and presence in Southern Iraq.

Another major player has been Syria. The Syrian regime has never formally acknowledged Lebanon as a sovereign entity. The continued absence of respective embassies in each country underscores this fact.  In 1976, with US and Israeli support, President Hafez al Assad of Syria sent his troops to Lebanon to maintain a state of controlled tension. The Syrians played willing Lebanese factions against one another to maintain supremacy. With Washington’s tacit support Syrian suzerainty over Lebanon lasted for thirty years.

Syria’s preeminent role in Lebanon was challenged by al Hariri. Hariri, who had never had a viable relationship with Emile Lahoud, Syria’s appointed president of Lebanon, was incensed by Syria’s decision to renew Lahoud’s presidential mandate — clearly an unconstitutional move. To reverse this trend, Hariri lobbied hard with his European and American friends to have the UN adopt a resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the disarming of Hezbollah.

In the spring of 2005, following al Hariri’s assassination, Syria was forced to pull out its troops from Lebanon. Moreover, the Syrian regime faced the prospect of an international tribunal that was charged with investigating all the assassinations that have taken place in Lebanon since Hariri’s death, including, of course, his killing.

Israel and Lebanon

Since the ascension of Ariel Sharon to power in Israel and throughout his period in office the Palestinian issue became a foremost concern, especially the demographic dimension of the conflict. Sharon decided to build a wall (or “separation fence,” in official Israeli pronouncements) around most of the West Bank, creating a new fact on the ground. He also decided to undercut Hamas’s regional connections. Since the beginning of the second uprising Intifadah (2001), pro-Syrian and pro-Iranian groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah had forged a close political and military alliance. The victory of Hamas early in 2006 in the Palestinian legislative elections forced the Israelis to try to rid Palestine of Hamas and undermine its legitimacy as a democratically elected government.

Israel’s military decision to beat Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank and Hezbollah in Lebanon fell within the objectives stated by the Bush administration in its global war on terrorism. This war was weakened by the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the danger of the break-up of Iraq because of a rampant civil war going on in Baghdad and the southern part of the country.

The summer 2006 war between Hezbollah and the Israel Defense Forces was a harbinger of the new realities emerging in the Middle East.  The war in Lebanon was the longest confrontation between the Israeli army and an irregular militia. Until then wars between regular Arab and Israeli armies lasted between one and two weeks.  As a result of the summer 2006 war, Hezbollah emerged as a major player in future Lebanese and regional politics.

From Taif to Doha: Pulling Lebanon Together

In early May 2008 a major labor strike was declared in Lebanon and Hezbollah’s followers went on a rampage burning tires and shooting at rival political forces and the Lebanese army. These developments took place amidst open accusations by the Lebanese government that the Shiite nationalist religious militia had created its own telephone network in areas under its control. This was in total contravention of Lebanese laws. The government headed by Fuad Siniora ordered Hezbollah to dismantle this network. Hezbollah replied that the communication network was part   of its struggle against Israel.

Clashes in Lebanon extended to several areas in the country including Beirut, the Shouf Mountains and Tripoli, the major city in Northern Lebanon. The clashes led to the death of more than 80 Lebanese and extensive economic damage.

Recent violence in Lebanon has brought to the fore once again a fundamental lesson: no faction in Lebanon, however strong militarily, can impose its vision on the rest of the country. This is a lesson Hezbollah has now learned. Fundamentally, Hezbollah’s Iranian masters have advised the Shiite militia to show restraint and refrain from upsetting the status quo.  Moreover, Hezbollah’s credibility has been affected because its weapons, which are usually used to fight Israel, have been turned against fellow Lebanese.

Its limited success in forcing the government to rescind some decisions notwithstanding, Hezbollah faces bitter armed opposition by the Druze community in Mount Lebanon and the Sunni Salafi militias in Northern Lebanon. Sunnis and the Druze have come out from this latest battle as more unified, especially in the Druze case, and more radicalized in the case of the Sunnis in Tripoli and Beirut.

Lebanon was brought back from the brink of civil war thanks to the efforts of Qatar. The Qatari leadership was very active on several fronts: reconciling Syria and Saudi Arabia; consolidating relations with Israel; mediating the current conflict in Yemen; and hosting a peace parley on Lebanon. The Emir of Qatar convened the major Lebanese factions to meet in his country and once again hammer out a solution to the basic issues facing the Lebanese polity. On May 21 2008, representatives of the pro-Western majority coalition, also known as March 14, reached an agreement with the pro-Syrian opposition coalition also known as March 8.

The Doha Agreement regarding Lebanon was a short-term victory of sorts for the Lebanese people.[18] The Qatari leadership deftly used their regional and global connections to help bring about this agreement. Certainly, Qatar has filled a void left by the absence of the US, which limited itself to issuing various statements calling for calm in Lebanon.  As for the EU, especially France, Italy and Spain, the decision was evidently to stay on the sidelines, partially due to concerns about the fate of their peacekeeping troops operating within UNIFIL.

The major points of the Doha Declaration were as follows:

The Lebanese Parliament was to convene to elect Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman as President of Lebanon. He was elected on May 25, 2008.

A national unity government of 30 members would be formed including the ruling coalition and the opposition. Here Hezbollah and its allies have scored a major point as they obtained veto power (“blocking third”) over major government decisions.

Elimination of the current electoral law and the adoption of a previous law adopted in 1960 that divides Lebanon into small electoral districts.

The parties in Doha agreed that they would not resort to weapons to achieve political aims. This was a victory for the majority as the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons will need to be discussed.

The Syrian Civil War: Impact on Lebanon (2011-2015)

Having played a role similar to the Taif Accord, the Doha Agreement only served to put a damper on the opposing political factions. The sectarian and regional allegiances that were manifest in Lebanon’s political class and institutions perpetuated the country’s political fragmentation and social unrest. In January 2011, shortly following the Doha Agreement, the Lebanese government headed by PM Saad Hariri collapsed due to factional disagreements over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) leading to the resignation of ten March 8 coalition ministers. The eruption of the Syrian revolution in March 2011 further exacerbated the divide between the March 8 and March 14 coalitions. The peaceful uprising turned into a bloody civil war following the brutal response of the Assad regime to the protesters’ demands for basic rights. Consequently, Syria became the battleground for foreign proxy intervention.

The impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanon is a classic example of how regional and international factors affect Lebanon’s fragile balance. The outset of the Syrian conflict marked the beginning of a full-fledged regional proxy war between the two rival powers, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Lebanon’s divided political class, underscored by the fault lines between the March 8 coalition and March 14 coalition, was a channel through which both Iran and Saudi Arabia supported Assad’s regime and the Syrian opposition respectively.  Both the Future Movement and Hezbollah sought policies regarding the Syrian conflict that represented their strategic interests as well as those of their regional allies. Hezbollah’s interests were aligned with Iran’s. The survival of the Syrian regime was central to their political interests, more specifically the continuation of the “Axis of Resistance” that included Iran, the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.

The collapse of the Axis of Resistance would undermine Iran’s hegemony in the region in the face of Saudi Arabia, and would pose an existential threat to Hezbollah due to the fact that it would lose access to its main communication lines from Tehran and Damascus.[19] A weaker Hezbollah would transform the political landscape in Lebanon in favor of the March 14 coalition.  On the other hand, Saudi Arabian hegemony over the region would increase, unopposed, if Syrian opposition groups managed to bring down the Assad regime. Likewise, political power distribution in Lebanon would tip in favor of the March 14 coalition if the Syrian rebels emerged as victors, marking a permanent end to the Syrian regime’s influential role in Lebanon.

The Syrian conflict started out with peaceful demonstrations by Syrian citizens demanding basic rights. The evolution of the uprising into a bloody civil and proxy war started in mid-2011. By 2012, it became clear that the war in Syria was not going to end soon nor peacefully, and that the complexity of the situation would continue to increase with the involvement of external powers (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, the US and other Western powers).  When the conflict began, Hezbollah’s support of the Syrian regime was rhetorical because Assad was still in a relatively strong position. In July 2012, Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah charged the U.S. with having “turned Syria into a war zone because the objective was to destroy and fragment Syria, similar to what the US Government did in Iraq”.[20]

The role of the U.S. in the Syrian conflict has been and continues to be ill-defined. Still, Hezbollah accused the Syrian opposition of conspiring with foreign powers (USA and Israel) to bring down the Assad regime. Hezbollah’s pretext for intervention in Syria was undoubtedly related to its role as a resistance movement, equating Assad’s fall with Israel’s empowerment. By October 2012, it became clear that Hezbollah was more than just rhetorically supporting Assad’s government.[21] The death of a Hezbollah fighter on a “jihadist” duty in Syria was made public by the party, claiming that the fighter had willingly gone rather than being forced to deploy by the organization.[22]

Hezbollah was not the only party involved in the Syrian quagmire. In November 2012, statements made by Future Movement MP Okab Sakr were leaked to the press.[23] Sakr allegedly was responsible for the channeling of arms to the Syrian rebels, with the consent of Saad al-Hariri. Sakr also maintained good relations with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, countries accused of being involved in the funding and funneling of weapons to the Syrian factions as well. The Syrian regime had constantly accused the Future Movement of channeling arms to the Syrian opposition. The involvement of the two rival Lebanese political factions in the Syrian conflict intensified political and social polarization in Lebanon.  Politics in the country became increasingly shaped by the Syrian conflict.

In May 2013, when it became apparent that, in order to survive, the Syrian regime was going to need more direct material support, Nasrallah stated in a speech that Hezbollah would support Assad’s regime in whichever way possible, openly violating the Baabda Declaration, which was agreed upon by all the political factions that came out against military involvement in Syria. Hezbollah asserted that inaction would lead to the possible spillover of Islamist extremism on the Lebanese border, thereby providing a locally-viable justification for intervention. Some weeks later, Hezbollah deployed its forces in the city of Qusayr in Syria along with thousands of other fighters from Iran and Iraq to support Assad’s plan of retrieving the city from Syrian rebel control.

According to a report by the Institute for the Study of War, Hezbollah had allegedly been involved in Qusayr before March 2013, and increased the number of its fighters in late May following Nasrallah’s speech.[24] In February 2014, Hezbollah intervened yet again by deploying troops to Yabroud in the Qalamoun mountains north of Damascus. Yabroud was eventually captured by Syrian and Hezbollah forces. Hezbollah claimed that Yabroud was the transit hub for car bombs smuggled to Lebanon used for the wave of bomb attacks across Tripoli, Sidon, and the Bekaa Valley.[25] However, Hezbollah’s victory in Qalamoun was rather pyrrhic.[26] It lost hundreds of fighters, and the movement’s resources were drained. Other cities in Syria such as Deraa, Aleppo and Damascus also witnessed Hezbollah attacks on Syrian rebels.

On the opposite side of the Lebanese political spectrum, the Future Movement’s involvement in the Syrian conflict was less direct and on a smaller scale. The party and its allies played a key role in the transport of arms from the Gulf, mostly Saudi Arabia, to the Syrian rebels through Lebanon and Turkey. Former PM Saad Hariri played a major role as middleman between his main regional ally and his Syrian allies. A number of Lebanese lieutenants aligned with the Future Movement were also sent to Turkey to facilitate the channeling of arms to the rebels. Unlike Hezbollah, the Future Movement did not have an armed militia, thus was unable to directly intervene in the Syrian conflict. Financial resources, however, are abundant in the Future Movement. Saad al-Hariri’s fortune, coupled with that of his oil-rich Gulf allies, serve as a source of important financing for the Syrian rebels.

The conflict in Syria continues to have a direct impact on Lebanon. As was mentioned earlier, the Syrian regime intervened in the Lebanese civil war in 1976 and kept its troops there until 2005, when they were forced out.  The inception of the war in Syria has had a number of negative impacts on Lebanon; two are particularly worrisome.

Political deadlock and increasing dysfunction of state institutions

In January 2011, disagreements between opposing members of the Lebanese cabinet led to the collapse of the government. A new government was formed on 13 June under PM Najib Mikati. As the Syrian conflict escalated, PM Najib Mikati resigned, in March 2013, bringing down his cabinet. Mikati’s resignation was caused by disputes with Hezbollah that could not be solved. Mikati and his allies in the March 14 Movement could not accept Hezbollah’s open military involvement in support of the Syrian regime.

Mikatis’s resignation was accepted by then President Michel Suleiman, and a caretaker government was formed. Tammam Salam was appointed as the new PM.  However, for ten months, Salam was unable to form a cabinet due to yet again paralyzing disputes between Hezbollah and the March 14 coalition.[27] In May 2014 President Suleiman’s six-year presidential mandate ended.  An ongoing political deadlock caused by the disputes between political factions led to the ongoing vacancy in the president’s post.

The Christian political leadership was unable to agree on a president due to the rivalry between the Lebanese Forces (LF) led by Dr.  Samir Ja’ja’ and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by former Lebanese Army General Michel Aoun.[28]  The political deadlock in Lebanon resulted in intensified political polarization caused by the Syrian conflict, and it is unlikely to be solved anytime soon. A prolonged political deadlock has had a negative impact on all state institutions. With the political parties’ attention directed at the Syrian conflict and the regional jockeying for power between Saudi Arabia and Iran, more pressing local issues in Lebanon remain unsolved, and continue to fester.  A case in point is the garbage crisis, which erupted in August 2015 and because of corruption and political polarization has yet to be resolved[29]

Intensification of Sunni-Shiite strife and rise of Islamic extremism

The political deadlock resulting from each coalition’s involvement in the Syrian conflict has contributed to the rise of Islamic extremism, and the proliferation of attacks by Sunni jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIL.[30] This phenomenon most prominently started after Nasrallah’s public announcement of Hezbollah’s military intervention in May 2013. Since then attacks have targeted Hezbollah convoys, predominantly Shiite neighborhoods, and most frequently, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). For example, in June 2013, bombings targeted Hezbollah convoys in the Bekaa Valley in retaliation for Hezollah’s involvement in Qusayr.  And in July 2013, explosions occurred in Beirut’s predominantly Shiite southern suburbs.

These attacks are usually attributed to Sunni jihadist groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, or to independent extremists. Rather than being characterized as “sectarian,” the prevalence of these attacks after Hezbollah’s official military intervention in Syria indicates that they are primarily driven by political motivations. Even if these attacks are politically driven they have, nonetheless, a negative effect on relations between and among different groups in Lebanon, resulting in further sectarianization of Lebanese politics compounded by a paralyzed government and a vacancy in the presidency. Simply put, the Lebanese political landscape, shaped by the Syrian conflict, has definitely contributed to a more deeply sectarianized society.

A related consequence of the rift between Sunnis and Shias in Lebanon is the attempt to manipulate one of the last viable institutions in Lebanon: The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Hezbollah’s rhetoric has since attempted to color all Islamists with the same brush, calling for the eradication of Islamist extremism in both Lebanon and Syria. Similarly, the LAF has cracked down on many Islamists for alleged affiliations with jihadist groups, and has even arrested Syrian activists and Islamists who have fled to Lebanon for refuge and handed them over to the Syrian regime. The LAF’s record of human rights violations further places it in a questionable position. The perceived impunity with which LAF treats Islamists from the Sunni communities contrasted with its tacit acceptance of Hezbollah’s armed militia in clear violation of the Taif accord and the Baabda Declaration contribute to the erosion of its status.

The LAF has turned a blind eye to Hezbollah’s weapons, military activities, troops and street fighters yet cracked down only on Islamists from the Sunni community. Moreover, Lebanese border villages such as Ersal in the Bekaa Valley have been targeted numerous times by the Syrian regime for housing Syrian activists and refugees, with little or no proper response from the Lebanese government.[31] All of the aforementioned factors have served to alienate a significant segment in the Sunni community and caused it to drift away from the state. Add to that the fragmentation within the Sunni community due to the forced and voluntary exile of former PM Saad Hariri and the internecine conflicts between different Sunni leaders.[32]

In June 2013, clashes between followers of a Salafi sheikh and LAF soldiers erupted in Sidon. Only a year prior to that, the cleric, Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, had organized marches in support of the Syrian rebels in Beirut, instigating action against Hezbollah’s support of the Syrian regime and consequent military activities in Syria. Other than frequent clashes, several attacks by Sunni extremists have also targeted the LAF.

The war in Syria with its local regional and global implications has had an impact on the Lebanese polity. Fundamentally, Lebanon has had to absorb more than 1 million Syria refugees, who are spread across the country. Syrian refugees have had an impact on Lebanon’s social, economic, and sectarian equilibrium. Cheap Syrian labor has replaced an already high number of unemployed Lebanese. The presence of a large number of refugees (Lebanon is the largest recipient) has led to social tensions exemplified by petty crimes and attacks by some Lebanese who view Syrian refugees as unwelcome interlopers. The relationship between Syrians and Lebanese has led to a polarization in Lebanese public opinion between those who are ready to extend the welcome mat and those who would like to push out the refugees or substantially limit their presence. Deepening sectarian divisios is dramatized by the clash of visions between the Sunnis  ahl al sunna (Orthodox Muslims),  the Shias ahl al bayt (People of the Prophet’s family) and the Christians ahl al kitab (People of the book , non-Muslims).

This recalls in disturbing ways the situation in Lebanon during the 1975-1990 civil war. At that time the Sunnis of Lebanon used the PLO to enhance their power and effectively overtake the state, an eventuality that was formalized in the Taef Accords. Today, Lebanon’s Sunnis perceive the large number of Syrian refugees as a boon and a weapon to neutralize Hezbollah’s power in Lebanese politics

The Christians of Lebanon continue to pay the price of reckless choices by their leaders, whether it be to initiate civil war or seek external allies in Syria and Israel. All such moves backfired, further disenfranchising the community politically.


Seventy-two years after it obtained independence, in 1943, Lebanon is still searching for its role in a globalized world. Created by the French, mostly to protect Lebanese Christians, Lebanon is still a turbulent mosaic wracked by internal and external manipulation. From the beginning of the Lebanese War (1975) till today the issues preventing the creation of a modern state remain essentially unchanged. These issues include questions of identity, sovereignty, power sharing, political reform and relations with the region and the world.

In 1949, Georges Naccache, a famous Lebanese journalist and founder of L’Orient-Le Jour, Lebanon’s only French language daily, wrote an editorial entitled “Deux Négations ne Font pas une Nation!” (Two Negations will not make a Nation). In his commentary Naccache underscored the schizophrenic nature of Lebanon as a state. Following independence, the Christians of Lebanon, especially the Maronite Catholics, agreed to relinquish their alliance with France, Lebanon’s former mandatory power, and Sunni Muslims agreed to forego the dream of joining Syria as part of an Arab nation.  In his editorial, for which he ended up in jail, Naccache was dramatizing the essentially negative foundations upon which modern Lebanon was established.

As was said at the outset of this paper, Lebanon is again facing a choice between two “negations”: a pro-Western neo-liberal vision and an Iran-inspired entity led by Hezbollah. What, then, are the prospects for de-sectarianization and the possibility of creating a modern nation-state in Lebanon? I venture to say the prospects are not at all encouraging. The reasons are as follows.

  1. Lebanon is part of a region of the world where the state is crumbling. The borders artificially designed by the Sykes-Picot agreement are now being challenged. Iraq and Syria, two of the bulwarks of Arab nationalism have crumbled. There are many reasons for this situation, and responsibility could be placed at several doorsteps: USA, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the authoritarian nature of the Arab regimes.
  1. The absence of a commonly accepted body of law in the Arab region. There are today three types of law that dominate the legal system in most Arab countries: Sharia law inspired by Islamic precepts based on the Quran; Western type laws inspired by French and British legal systems; and tribal laws. The absence of one type of law that guarantees equality between citizens is a major obstacle to the creation of a modern nation state. Further aggravating matters is the issue of non-Muslim minorities. Their status is still regulated by the millet system created by the Ottomans. Under the system non-Muslim communities (Christians and Jews) were autonomous in the conduct of their spiritual and civil affairs, such as marriage, inheritance, property, and education. A multiplicity of contending legal approaches render the creation of a modern, secular nation-state highly problematic.
  1. A related challenge grows out of the inability in Lebanon and the region to separate religion from politics. Of the 23 member states of the Arab League, only Lebanon has a head of state that is not Muslim, albeit the post of President is vacant at the moment.
  1. Regional and global influences on Lebanon’s stability and survival. Since its creation, Lebanon has been a convenient theater for regional and global politics. In 1958, a small civil war erupted in Lebanon that pitted Camille Chamoun, the Western supported president of Lebanon against the Sunni leadership supported by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser. At that time, the Arab world was buffeted about by Cold War politics. In 1975, and as an outgrowth of the US-sponsored peace process in the Middle East, Lebanon became again the battlefield for those regional powers that were either for or against an Egyptian-Israeli Agreement. The civil war in Lebanon involved many external actors, but two of Lebanon’s neighbors played a paramount role: Syria and Israel. Since the inception of the Syrian civil war six years ago, Lebanon is again in the crosshairs of a regional power struggle between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. It should be added that notwithstanding the turmoil in neighboring countries, including Syria, Iraq and Turkey, Lebanon has survived even if looking more like a federation of tribes than a unified state.
  1. The absence of national leadership. Since the end of the Lebanese civil war and the signing of the Taif Accord, Lebanon has been ruled by former warlords who wrested power from the traditional zaims (leaders). Each has used ministerial positions to loot the public treasury for personal enrichment and political patronage. This is a principal reason for the deadlock we witness in today’s government. No event better illustrates this phenomenon than the still unresolved garbage crisis. There are, of course, many other examples of the tragic absence of a national leadership in Lebanon.

 Selected Bibliography

Ajami, Fouad. The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981. Print.

Amel, Mahdi. Al-Qadiyya Al-Filastiniyya Fi Idiolojiat Al-Burjuaziyya Al-Lubnaniyya. Beirut: Research Center, Palestine Liberation Organization, 1980. Print.

Amel, Mahdi. Bahs Fi Asbab Al- Harb Al-Ahliya Fi Lubnan. Vol. 1. Beirut: Dar Al-Farabi, 1979. Print.

Benassar. Anatomie D’une Guerre Et D’une Occupation: Événements Du Liban De 1975 À 1978. Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1978. Print.

Benassar. Paix D’Israël Au Liban. Beirut: Editions L’Orient-Le Jour, 1983. Print.

Bourgi, Albert, and Pierre Weiss. Les Complots Libanais. Paris: Berger-Levreault, 1978. Print.

Bourgi, Albert, and Pierre Weiss. Liban: La Cinquième Guerre Du Proche-Orient. Paris: Editon Publisud, 1983. Print.

Chamoun, Camille. Crise Au Liban. Beirut: n.p., 1977. Print.

Charara, Walid, and Frédéric Domont. Le Hezbollah: Un Movement Islamo-nationaliste. Paris: Fayard, 2004. Print.

Ghantous, Marie. Le Statut Juridique Des Hameaux De Chebaa Dans Le Cadre Du Droit International Public Applicable Aux Etats Nouveaux. Beirut: Mokhtarat, 2005. Print.

Gordon, David C. The Republic of Lebanon: Nation in Jeopardy. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1983. Print.

Hamzeh, Ahmad Nizar. In the Path of Hizbullah. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse UP, 2004. Print.

Irani, George Emile. The Papacy and the Middle East: The Role of the Holy See in the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1962-1984. Notre Dame: U of Notre Dame Press, 1983. Print.

Junblāṭ, Kamāl. Pour Le Liban. Paris: Stock, 1978. Print.

Kerr, Michael. Imposing Power-sharing: Conflict and Coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon. Dublin: Irish Academic, 2005. Print.

Khuwayri, Antoine. Mausu’at Al-Harb Fi Lubnan. Vol. 12. Beirut: Dar Al-Abgadiyya Lil Sahafa Wal Tiba’a Wal Nashr, 1981. Print.

Lebanese Israeli Negotiations: Chronology, Bibliography, Documents, Maps. Antelias, Lebanon: CEDRE, The Lebanese Center for Documentation and Research, 1984. Print.

Messarra, Anṭoine Nasri. Genèse De L’Accord D’entente Nationale De Taëf (22.10.1989 E11/1989) Ett 5/ De La Révision Constitutionnelle (21/9/1990): Documentation Fondamentale Sélectionnée Sur Le Changement Constitutionnel Au Liban (1975-1990). Beirut: Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace Distributed by Librairie Orientale, 2006. Print.

Nasr, J. A. Miḥnat Lubnan Fi Thawrat Al-Yasar. Beirut: Dar Al-Amal, 1977. Print.

Naṣr, Nicolas. Ḥarb Luban Wa-Madaha. N.p.: Dar Al-Amal, 1977. Print.

Picard, Elizabeth. Liban, état De Discorde, Des Fondations à La Guerre. Paris: Flammarion, 1988. Print.

Qasim, Naim. HIZBULLAH: The Story from Within. London: Saqi, 2005. Print.

Rabbath, Edmond. La Constitution Libanaise: Origines, Textes Et Commentaires. Beirut: L’Université Libanaise, 1982. Print.

Rabbath, Edmond. La Formation Historique Du Liban Politique Et Constitutionnel, Essai De Synthèse. Beirut: L’Université Libanaise, 1973. Print.

Salibi, Kamal. Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon, 1959-1976. New York: Caravan, 1976. Print.

Salibi, Kamal. Modern History of Lebanon. New York: Praeger, 1964. Print.

Salibi, Kamal S. A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered. Berkeley: U of California, 1988. Print.

Ṭraboulsi, Fawwaz. A History of Modern Lebanon. London: Pluto, 2007. Print.

Working Paper: Conference on Lebanon, Washington, D.C., June 27-30, 1991. Washington, D.C.: American Task Force for Lebanon, 1991. P


[1] In this paper I will define the 1975-1989 conflict in Lebanon War as it not only had an internal dimension but equally regional and global dimensions.

[2] This point is raised by David C. Gordon in his The Republic of Lebanon: Nation in Jeopardy (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1983). For a learned, detailed and well-researched account on the formation of modern Lebanon and its Constitution, see Edmond Rabbath, La formation historique du Liban politique et constitutionnel: Essai de synthese (Beirut: Publications de l’Universite Libanaise, 1973); see also his La constitution libanaise: Origines, textes et commentaires (Beirut: Publications de l’Universite Libanaise, 1982). See also the recently published first comprehensive history of Lebanon in the modern period by Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon (London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Books, 2007). Another important and scholarly source on the history and contemporary politics of Lebanon are the books of Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi. See his Modern History of Lebanon (New York: Praeger, 1964); see also Crossroads to Civil War: Lebanon 1959-1976 (New York: Caravan Books, 1976); and his A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).

[3] There is an extensive literature available on the Lebanese War. I have selected a few titles in Arabic, French and English. An important and documented chronology of the war, published in Arabic, is the work by Antoine Khuwayri, Mausu’at al-Harb fi Lubnan, 1975-1981, 12 vols., published by the author’s own Dar al-Abjadiyya lil Sahafa wal Tiba’a wal Nashr, Sarba, Lebanon. An objective French assessment of the first two years of the war (1975-1977) can be found in Albert Bourgi and Pierre Weiss, Les complots libanais (Paris: Berger-Levreault, 1978)  and their other book which cov- ers the war from 1978 to the Israeli invasion, summer 1982,  Liban: La cinquième guerre du Proche-Orient (Paris: Editions Publisud, 1983). See also Elizabeth Picard, Liban, état de discorde, des fondations à la guerre civile (Paris: Flammarion, 1988). Primary sources written by two major protagonists of the Lebanese War include Kamal Joumblatt, Pour le Liban (Paris: Editions Stock, 1978) and Camille Chamoun, Crise au Liban (Beirut: n.p., 1977).  Among selected books  written on the  war by Lebanese, see  among  other  titles: Benassar, Anatomie d’une guerre  et  d’une occupation : Evénements du Liban de 1975 à 1978 (Paris: Éditions Galilée, 1978)  and his Paix d’Israel au Liban (Beirut: Les Editions l’Orient-Le Jour, May 1983). A Phalangist perspective of the first two years of the war can be found in Nicolas Nasr, Harb Lubnan  wa Madaha  (Beirut: Dar al-Amal, 1977),  and J.A. Nasr, Mihnat  Lubnan  fi Thawrat al-Yasar  (Beirut: Dar al-Amal, 1977).  A Lebanese Marxist perspective can be found in Mahdi Amel, Al-Qadiyya al-Filastiniyya fi Idiolojiat al-Burjuaziyya al-Lubnaniyya (Beirut, Research Center, Palestine Liberation Organization, 1980) and his Bahs fi Asbab al- Harb al-Ahliya fi Lubnan, vol.1 (Beirut: Dar al-Farabi, 1979).

[4] For an interesting and in-depth analysis of Arab politics after 1967, see Fouad Ajami, The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice since 1967 (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1981).

[5] For a detailed assessment of the situation in Southern Lebanon, see George Emile Irani, “Spain, Lebanon and UNIFIL”, Working Paper 21/2008, Real Instituto Elcano, 20 May 2008.

[6] For further details, see Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon, chapter 13.

[7] For further details on Vatican diplomacy during the Lebanese War, see George Emile Irani , The Papacy and the Middle East: The Role of the Holy See in the Arab-Israel Conflict, 1962-1984 (Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame, 1989), chapter 3.

[8] For further details on the pre-Taif Accord settlement attempts, see Working Paper: Conference on Lebanon, American Task Force for Lebanon, Washington, DC, June 27-30, 1991. See also the excellent reader by Antoine Nasri Messarra, Genèse de l’accord d’entente nationale de Taef (22.1.1989 et 5/11/1989: Documentation fondamentale sélectionnée sur le changement constitutionnel au Liban (1975-1990) (Beirut, Lebanon: Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace distributed by Librairie Orientale, 2nd revised edition, 2006).

[9] For an extensive chronology, bibliography, documents and maps related to the 17 May 1983 agreement between Lebanon and Israel, see Lebanese Israeli Negotiations: Chronology, Bibliography, Documents, Maps (Antelias, Lebanon: CEDRE, The Lebanese Center for Documentation and Research, 1984).

[10] For the full text of the Taif Accord, see

[11] For an interesting analysis of the Taif Accord, see Michael Kerr, Imposing Power-Sharing: Conflict and Coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon (Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press, 2005). Taif is a mountain resort in Saudi Arabia.

[12] Kerr, p. 160.

[13] American Task Force for Lebanon, p. 92.

[14] For an excellent account  of Hezbollah, its origins and current role in Lebanon, see Walid Charara and Frédéric Domont, Le Hezbollah: Un movement islamo- nationaliste (Paris: Fayard, 2004); see also Ahmad Nizar Hamzeh, In the Path of Hizbullah (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2004). To understand Hezbollah’s ideology, its internal structure and international policies, see Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General, HIZBULLAH: The Story from Within (London: SAQI books, 2005); see also George Emile Irani, “Spain, Lebanon and UNIFIL”, Working Paper  21/2008, Real Instituto Elcano, Madrid, 20 May 2008.

[15] For a recent and thorough analysis of Lebanon, see Fawwaz Traboulsi, A History of Modern Lebanon (London and Ann Arbor, MI: Pluto Press, 2007).

[16] For further details on reconciliation in Lebanon, see George E. Irani, “Acknowledgement, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution,” in Chronos, 5 (2002), pp. 195-220.

[17] For an excellent legal interpretation of the Shebaa Farms status, see Marie Ghantous, Le Statut Juridique des Hameaux de Chebaa: Dans le Cadre du Droit International Public Applicable aux Etats Nouveaux (Beirut, Lebanon: Moukhtarat, 2005).

[18] For the full text of the Doha Agreement, see

[19] For further details on Hezbollah’s communication lines see Haythem Basson, “In the fog of Syria’s War: Hezbollah in transition”, Future Foreign Policy, July 25 2015.  Retrieved from:

[20] For Nasrallah’s speech see “Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah Speech on Resistance and Liberation Day 25/5/2013,” Electronic Resistance, Youtube. Retrieved from:

[21] For a detailed sketch of Hezbollah’s geographical expansion in Syria, see Alex Rowell, “Mapping Hezbollah’s Syria war since 2011,” NOW News, August 13 2015.

[22] For a detailed report on Hezbollah’s combat losses in Syria, see Ali Alfoneh, “Hezbollah Fatalities in the Syria War,” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, February 22 2016.

[23] For further details on Okab Sakr’s statements see Radwan Mortada, “Exclusive: Inside Future Movement’s Syria Arms Trade,” Al Akhbar, November 29 2012.

[24] The report addresses Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria since 2011, dedicating a special section to the war in Qusayr, Syria. See Marisa Sullivan, “Hezbollah in Syria. Middle East Security Report 19,” Institute for the Study of War, April 2014, pp. 14-18.

[25] For further details on attacks in Tripoli, see Patrick Strickland, “Tripoli: a microcosm of Syria’s war in Lebanon,” Deutsche Welle, April 10 2015. Retrieved from:

[26] See David Schenker and Oula Alrifai, “Hezbollah’s Victory in Qalamoun: Winning the Battle, Losing the War,” Policy Watch 2427, The Washington Institute, May 20 2015.

[27] For further analysis of Lebanese politics during Mikati and Salam’s terms in relation to the Syrian war, see Julien Barnes-Dacey, “Syria: the view from Lebanon,” European Council on Foreign Relations, June 2013.

[28] See Ramez Dagher, “Aoun’s Jockeying,” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 28 2015.

[29] For further details on the garbage crisis see Rola El-Husseini, “What a garbage crisis tells us about Lebanese politics,” The Washington Post, August 4 2015.

[30] See “Jabhat al-Nusra claims deadly Lebanon bombing,” Al Jazeera, 2 February 2014.

[31] For details of Lebanese border village attacks, see Mariam Karouny, “Fears of Syria war persist in Lebanese border village,” Reuters, July 5 2015. Also see “Arsal in the Crosshairs: The Predicament of a Small Lebanese Border Town,” International Crisis Group. February 23 2016.

[32] For a detailed analysis of intra-sect politics within the Sunni community, see Melani Cammett, “The Syrian Conflict’s Impact on Lebanese Politics,” United States Institute of Peace, November 18 2013. Retrieved from: