Occupation: 1992 To February 2005
Since the end of the war, the Lebanese have conducted several elections, most of the militias have been weakened or disbanded, and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have extended central government authority over about two-thirds of the country. Only Hezbollah retained its weapons, and was supported by Lebanon's parliament in doing so, because it officially for defending Lebanon against the Israeli occupation. Syria on the other hand kept its military presence in most of Lebanon, also holding various government institutions in the country, strengthening its occupation. The Israeli forces finally withdrew from south of Lebanon in May 2000, though the Syrian occupation of most Lebanon still continued.
By early November 1992, a new parliament had been elected, and Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri had formed a cabinet, retaining for himself the finance portfolio. The formation of a government headed by a successful billionaire businessman was widely seen as a sign that Lebanon would make a priority of rebuilding the country and reviving the economy. Solidere, a private real estate company set up to rebuild downtown Beirut, was a symbol of Hariri's strategy to link economic recovery to private sector investment. After the election of then-commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces Émile Lahoud as President in 1998 following Hrawi's extended term as President, Salim al-Hoss again served as Prime Minister. Hariri returned to office as Prime Minister in November 2000. Although problems with basic infrastructure and government services persist, and Lebanon is now highly indebted, much of the civil war damage has been repaired throughout the country, and many foreign investors and tourists have returned.
Postwar social and political instability, fueled by economic uncertainty and the collapse of the Lebanese currency, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami, also in May 1992, after less than 2 years in office. He was replaced by former Prime Minister Rashid al Sulh, who was widely viewed as a caretaker to oversee Lebanon's first parliamentary elections in 20 years.
If Lebanon has in part recovered over the past decade from the catastrophic damage to infrastructure of its long civil war, the social and political divisions that gave rise to and sustained that conflict remain largely unresolved. Parliamentary and more recently municipal elections have been held with fewer irregularities and more popular participation than in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, and Lebanese civil society generally enjoys significantly more freedoms than elsewhere in the Arab world. However, there are continuing sectarian tensions and unease about Syrian and other external influences.
In the late 1990s, the government took action against Sunni Muslim extremists in the north who had attacked its soldiers, and it continues to move against groups such as Asbat al-Ansar, which has been accused of being partnered with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. On January 24, 2002, Elie Hobeika, another former Lebanese Forces figure associated with the Sabra and Shatilla massacres who later served in three cabinets and the parliament, was assassinated in a car bombing in Beirut.
During Lebanon's civil war, Syria's troop deployment in Lebanon was legitimized by the Lebanese Parliament in the Taif Agreement, supported by the Arab League, and is given a major share of the credit for finally bringing the civil war to an end in October 1990. In the ensuing fifteen years, Damascus and Beirut justified Syria's continued military presence in Lebanon by citing the continued weakness of a Lebanese armed forces faced with both internal and external security threats, and the agreement with the Lebanese Government to implement all of the constitutional reforms in the Taif Agreement. Under Taif, the Hezbollah militia was eventually to be dismantled, and the LAF allowed to deploy along the border with Israel. Lebanon was called on to deploy along its southern border by UN Security Council Resolution 1391, urged to do so by UN Resolution UN Security Council Resolution 1496, and deployment was demanded by UN Security Council Resolution 1559. The Syrian military and intelligence presence in Lebanon was criticised by some on Lebanon's right-wing inside and outside of the country, others believed it helped to prevent renewed civil war and discourage Israeli aggression, and others believed its presence and influence was helpful for Lebanese stability and peace but should be scaled back. Major powers United States and France rejected Syrian reasoning that they were in Lebanon by the consent of the Lebanese government. They insist that the latter had been co-opted and that in fact Lebanon's Government was a Syrian puppet.
Up to 2005, 14-15,000 Syrian troops (down from 35,000) remained in position in many areas of Lebanon, although the Taif called for an agreement between the Syrian and Lebanese Governments by September 1992 on their redeployment to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. Syria's refusal to exit Lebanon following Israel's 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon first raised criticism among the Lebanese Maronite Christians and Druze, who were later joined by many of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims.) Lebanon's Shiites, on the other hand, have long supported the Syrian presence, as has the Hezbollah militia group and political party. The U.S. began applying pressure on Syria to end its occupation and cease interfering with internal Lebanese matters. In 2004, many believe Syria pressured Lebanese MPs to back a constitutional amendment to revise term limitations and allow Lebanon's two term pro-Syrian president Émile Lahoud to run for a third time. France, Germany and the United Kingdom, along with many Lebanese politicians joined the U.S. in denouncing alleged Syria's interference. On September 2, 2004, the UN Security Council adopted UN Security Council Resolution 1559, authored by France and the U.S. in an uncommon show of cooperation. The resolution called "upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon" and "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias".
On May 25, 2000, Israel completed its withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425. A 50 square kilometer piece of mountain terrain, commonly referred to as the Shebaa Farms, remains under the control of Israel. The UN has certified Israel's pullout, and regards the Shebaa Farms as occupied Syrian territory, while Lebanon and Syria have stated they regard the area as Lebanese territory. The January 20, 2005, UN Secretary-General's report on Lebanon stated: "The continually asserted position of the Government of Lebanon that the Blue Line is not valid in the Shab'a farms area is not compatible with Security Council resolutions. The Council has recognized the Blue Line as valid for purposes of confirming Israel's withdrawal pursuant to resolution 425 (1978). The Government of Lebanon should heed the Council's repeated calls for the parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety."
In Resolution 425, the UN had set a goal of assisting the Lebanese government in a "return of its effective authority in the area", which would require an official Lebanese army presence there. Further, UN Security Council Resolution 1559 requires the dismantling of the Hezbollah militia. Yet, Hezbollah remains deployed along the Blue Line. Both Hezbollah and Israel have violated the Blue Line more than once, according to the UN. The most common pattern of violence have been border incursions by the Hezbollah into the Shebaa Farms area, and then Israeli air strikes into southern Lebanon. The UN Secretary-General has urged "all governments that have influence on Hezbollah to deter it from any further actions which could increase the tension in the area". Staffan de Misura, Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon stated that he was "deeply concerned that air violations by Israel across the Blue Line during altercations with Hezbollah are continuing to take place", calling "upon the Israeli authorities to cease such violations and to fully respect the Blue Line". In 2001 de Misura similarly expressed his concern to Lebanon's prime minister for allowing Hezbollah to violate the Blue Line, saying it was a "clear infringement" of UN Resolution 425, under which the UN certified Israel's withdrawal from south Lebanon as complete. On January 28, 2005, UN Security Council Resolution 1583 called upon the Government of Lebanon to fully extend and exercise its sole and effective authority throughout the south, including through the deployment of sufficient numbers of Lebanese armed and security forces, to ensure a calm environment throughout the area, including along the Blue Line, and to exert control over the use of force on its territory and from it. On January 23, 2006 The UN Security Council called on the Government of Lebanon to make more progress in controlling its territory and disbanding militias, while also calling on Syria to cooperate with those efforts. In a statement read out by its January President, Augustine Mahiga of Tanzania, the Council also called on Syria to take measures to stop movements of arms and personnel into Lebanon.
On September 3, 2004, the National Assembly voted 96–29 to amend the constitution to allow the pro-Syrian president, Émile Lahoud, three more years in office by extending a statute of limitations to nine years. Many regarded this as a second time Syria had pressured Lebanon's Parliament to amend the constitution in a way that favored Lahoud (the first allowing for his election in 1998 immediately after he had resigned as commander-in-chief of the LAF.) Three cabinet ministers were absent from the vote and later resigned. The USA charged that Syria exercised pressure against the National Assembly to amend the constitution, and many of the Lebanese rejected it, saying that it was considered as contradictive to the constitution and its principles. Including these is the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir – the most eminent religious figure for Maronites – and the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.
To the surprise of many, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who had vehemently opposed this amendment, appeared to have finally accepted it, and so did most of his party. However, he ended up resigning in protest against the amendment. He was assassinated soon afterwards (see below), triggering the Cedar Revolution. This amendment comes in discordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for a new presidential election in Lebanon.
On October 1, 2004, one of the main dissenting voices to Émile Lahoud's term extension, the newly resigned Druze ex-minister Marwan Hamadeh was the target of a car bomb attack as his vehicle slowed to enter his Beirut home. Mr. Hamadeh and his bodyguard were wounded and his driver killed in the attack. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt appealed for calm, but said the car bomb was a clear message for the opposition. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his serious concern over the attack.
On October 7, 2004, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council that Syria had failed to withdraw its forces from Lebanon. Mr. Annan concluded his report saying that "It is time, 14 years after the end of hostilities and four years after the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, for all parties concerned to set aside the remaining vestiges of the past. The withdrawal of foreign forces and the disbandment and disarmament of militias would, with finality, end that sad chapter of Lebanese history.". On October 19, 2004, following the UN Secretary General's report, the UN Security Council voted unanimously (meaning that it received the backing of Algeria, the only Arab member of the Security Council) to put out a statement calling on Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon, in accordance with Resolution 1559.
On October 20, 2004, Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri resigned; the next day former Prime Minister and loyal supporter of Syria Omar Karami was appointed Prime Minister. On February 14, 2005, former Prime Minister Hariri was assassinated in a car-bomb attack which killed 21 and wounded 100. On February 21, 2005, tens of thousand Lebanese protestors held a rally at the site of the assassination calling for the withdrawal of Syria's peacekeeping forces and blaming Syria and the pro-Syrian president Lahoud for the murder.
Hariri's murder triggered increased international pressure on Syria. In a joint statement U.S. President Bush and French president Chirac condemned the killing and called for full implementation of UNSCR 1559. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that he was sending a team led by Ireland's deputy police commissioner, Peter FitzGerald, to investigate the assassination. And while Arab League head Amr Moussa declared that Syrian president Assad promised him a phased withdrawal over a two-year period, the Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhlallah said Mr Moussa had misunderstood the Syrian leader. Mr Dakhlallah said that Syria will merely move its troops to eastern Lebanon. Russia, Germany, and Saudi Arabia all called for Syrian troops to leave.
Local Lebanese pressure mounted as well. As daily protests against the Syrian occupation grew to 25,000, a series of dramatic events occurred. Massive protests such as these had been quite uncommon in the Arab world, and while in the 90s most anti-Syrian demonstrators were predominantly Christian, the new demonstrations were Christian and Sunni. On February 28 the government of pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned, calling for a new election to take place. Mr Karami said in his announcement: "I am keen the government will not be a hurdle in front of those who want the good for this country." The tens of thousands gathered at Beirut's Martyrs' Square cheered the announcement, then chanted "Karami has fallen, your turn will come, Lahoud, and yours, Bashar". Opposition MPs were also not satisfied with Karami's resignation, and kept pressing for full Syrian withdrawal. Former minister and MP Marwan Hamadeh, who survived a similar car bomb attack on October 1, 2004, said "I accuse this government of incitement, negligence and shortcomings at the least, and of covering up its planning at the most... if not executing". Two days later Syrian leader Bashar Assad announced that his troops will leave Lebanon completely "in the next few months". Responding to the announcement, opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said that he wanted to hear more specifics from Damascus about any withdrawal: "It's a nice gesture but 'next few months' is quite vague – we need a clear-cut timetable".
On March 5 Syrian leader Assad declared in a televised speech that Syria would withdraw its forces to the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon, and then to the border between Syria and Lebanon. Assad did not provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon – 14,000 soldiers and intelligence agents. Meanwhile, Hezbollah leader Nasrallah called for a "massive popular gathering" on Tuesday against UN Resolution 1559 saying "The resistance will not give up its arms ... because Lebanon needs the resistance to defend it", and added "all the articles of UN resolution give free services to the Israeli enemy who should have been made accountable for his crimes and now finds that he is being rewarded for his crimes and achieves all its demands". In opposition to Nasrallah's call, Monday, March 7 saw at least 70,000 people – with some estimates putting the number at twice as high – gathered at central Martyrs' Square to demand that Syria leave completely.
The following day a pro-Syrian demonstration set a new record when Hezbollah amassed 400–500 thousand protestors at Riad Solh square in Beirut, most of them bussed in from the heavily Shi'ite south Lebanon and eastern Beka'a valley. The show of power demonstrated Hezbollah's influence, wealth and organization as the sole Lebanese party allowed to hold a militia by Syria. In his speech Nasrallah blasted UN Security-Council Resolution 1559, which calls for Hezbollah's militia to be disbanded, as foreign intervention. Nasrallah also reiterated his earlier calls for the destruction of Israel saying "To this enemy we say again: There is no place for you here and there is no life for you among us. Death to Israel!". Though Hezbollah organized a very successful rally, opposition leaders were quick to point out that Hezbollah had active support from Lebanon's government and Syria. While the pro-democracy rallies had to deal with road blocks forcing protestors to either turn back or march long distances to Martyr's Square, Hezbollah was able to bus people directly to Riad Solh square. Dory Chamoun, an opposition leader, pointed out that "the difference is that in our demonstrations, people arrive voluntarily and on foot, not in buses". Another opposition member said the pro-Syrian government pressured people to turn out and some reports said Syria had bused in people from across the border. But on a mountain road leading to Beirut, only one bus with a Syrian license plate was spotted in a convoy of pro-Syrian supporters heading to the capital and Hezbollah officials denied the charges. Opposition MP Akram Chehayeb said "That is where the difference between us and them lies: They asked these people to come and they brought them here, whereas the opposition's supporters come here on their own. Our protests are spontaneous. We have a cause. What is theirs?".
One month after Hariri's murder, an enormous anti-Syrian rally gathered at Martyr's Square in Beirut. Multiple news agencies estimated the crowd at between 800,000 and 1 million – a show of force for the Sunni, Christian and Druze communities. The rally was double the size of the mostly Shi'ite pro-Syrian one organized by Hezbollah the previous week. When Hariri's sister took a pro-Syrian line saying that Lebanon should "stand by Syria until its land is liberated and it regains its sovereignty on the occupied Golan Heights" the crowd jeered her. This sentiment was prevalent among the rally participants who opposed Hezbollah's refusal to disarm based on the claim that Lebanese and Syrian interests are linked.
Read more about this topic: History Of Lebanon
Famous quotes containing the word february:
“In my experience, if you have to keep the lavatory door shut by extending your left leg, its modern architecture.”
—Nancy Banks-Smith, British columnist. Guardian (London, February 20, 1979)