FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Politics of Lebanon

The Independent
Never before has it happened in Lebanon. Since the Syrian army entered the country in 1976–just a year after the start of the 15-year civil war, at the request of Lebanese Christian Maronites–there has been no public debate about the presence of thousands of Syrian troops here, nor the suffocating political grip which Damascus has maintained over the Beirut government.

But last year’s United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, demanding the withdrawal of foreign troops, and an aggressive US policy towards Syria, has suddenly released a tide of resentment and debate. Even Walid Jumblatt, the Druze leader and a hitherto reliable ally of Syria, now says that Lebanon is the last satellite country on earth.

The Lebanese are stunned. They know that the regional tour of the US neo-conservative deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, with his demands for a Syrian withdrawal and the disarmament of the anti-Israeli Hizbollah militia, is part of Israel’s agenda in Lavant. A weakened Syria, along with a pliant Lebanon without any anti-Israeli forces on its border, is almost as pleasant for Washington and its Israeli friends as an emasculated, American-dominated Iraq.

Syria’s supposed support for the Iraqi insurgency–another of Mr Armitage’s griefs–has a special irony. It was Lebanese rebel General Michel Aoun’s alliance with Saddam Hussein in 1990 that originally inspired the US to support Syria’s destruction of Aoun’s statelet.

But Syria’s control of Lebanon has become as tired and as blatant as the Soviet Union’s domination of the Warsaw Pact. The successful attempt by pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud to add three years to his presidency was too much. Lebanese newspapers, which had confined their criticism of Syria to news agency dispatches written in Europe or America, suddenly editorialised their suspicions of Damascus in a way that must have shocked Syria as much as their readers. “Damascus must review its policies on Lebanon–immediately,” demanded the Daily Star. On 13 December the so-called Democratic Forum including Christian and left-wing groups and Mr Jumblatt’s Druze party denounced the interference “of the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services which have transformed Lebanon into a police state”.

Almost immediately, offices of the Syrian Mukhabrat intelligence services were closed in Beirut and Syrian forces in the mountains above the city were redeployed.

Syria’s presence has never been as pernicious as Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon, which ended in 2000, but the Christian Maronite community–which failed to oppose Israel’s 1978 and 1982 invasions–has always claimed to lead Lebanon’s opposition to Syrian tutelage. Syria’s constant demand that Israel abide by UN resolutions, most notably 242 which demands an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, makes the current crisis all the more dangerous. Can Syria insist on Israel abiding by UN resolutions while ignoring 1559? There are those here who believe that the young President Bashar Assad has failed to grasp how serious is the Lebanese demand, and the UN resolution, for Syrian withdrawal.

Christian Maronites suspect that real Syrian power in Lebanon is exercised by the head of Syrian military intelligence, General Rustom Ghazali rather than the Syrian President. Syrian intelligence agents move easily among the one million Syrian “guest workers in Lebanon” but the Lebanese have long memories.

Walid Jumblatt’s father, Kamal, resisted Syria’s overtures at the start of the civil war and was assassinated. Mr Jumblatt’s close aide and friend, Marwan Hamade, was the target of a car bomb last November. He survived, but his bodyguard was killed.

Lebanese politics may appear Byzantine, even boring, but it can be deadly to the participants.

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s hot new book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

 

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

April 26, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
As Trump Berates Iran, His Options are Limited
Daniel Warner
From May 1968 to May 2018: Politics and Student Strikes
Simone Chun – Kevin Martin
Diplomacy in Korea and the Hope It Inspires
George Wuerthner
The Attack on Wilderness From Environmentalists
CJ Hopkins
The League of Assad-Loving Conspiracy Theorists
Richard Schuberth
“MeToo” and the Liberation of Sex
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Sacred Assemblies in Baghdad
Dean Baker
Exonerating Bad Economic Policy for Trump’s Win
Vern Loomis
The 17 Gun Salute
Gary Leupp
What It Means When the U.S. President Conspicuously and Publicly Removes a Speck of Dandruff from the French President’s Lapel
Robby Sherwin
The Hat
April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail