aside PRIMER ON MIDDLE EAST, PART XII / LEBANON

Lebanese Prime Minister and temporary President, Tamam Salam (left) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri
Lebanese Prime Minister and temporary President, Tamam Salam (left) and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri

My limited knowledge about Lebanon  dates back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. This gulf area was compared in beauty and sophistication to the French or Italian Riviera. It was a cosmopolitan playground. This  became a memory in the 1970’s when Lebanon became embroiled in a civil war from 1975 – 1990 (due to demographic tensions over the Lebanese National Pact); and then as Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in 1978 and again in 1982. In 1982, Israel was able to push out the PLO from Lebanon. Syria intervened and kept a  military presence in the region for 29 years. Next, there was the July, 2006 Lebanon War involving Hezbollah and Israel. Currently, there is the instability in the region which is effecting this gorgeous country. I do not know if Lebanon can ever regain its old status as a tourist hot spot.

Modern Middle East map
Modern Middle East map

The following is some general recent information about Lebanon:

Tammam Saeb Salam (Sunni born 1945) is a politician who has been the Lebanese Prime Minister since February 2014 and the temporary Lebanese President since May 2014. He previously served  as Minister of Culture from 2008 to 2009.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman who stepped down in 2014
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman who stepped down in 2014

Michel Suleiman who was President is a maronite Christian. He decided not to extend his term which ended in 2014, after serving for six years. He stepped down from his post as President in 2014 after a political truce ended, and as a heated debate was sparked off once again between Hezbollah and President Michel Suleiman,  over the unresolved issue about the ongoing intervention of Hezbollah (pro-Assad) in the war raging in Syria.-

According to the 3/4/14 Al-Monitor’s Lebanon Pulse article, the author Sami Nader writes the following to explain these conflicts:

“Thus, the first half of the presidential term can be placed under the title of “reconciliation and the requirements of governance,” while the second half goes under the title of “sovereignty and the defense of the republic.”

Lebanese Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani
Lebanese Parliament Speaker, Nabih Berri and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

“Suleiman was no exception to this rule, which has become almost mandatory for all presidents who come to office. His rejection of the idea of having a second term  as he has declared on many occasions, is nothing but further proof of his unwillingness to compromise on these principles for the sake of any voter.”

“Moreover, there is no doubt that what encouraged him to take a more rigid stance on sovereignty matters is the fact that he is well-aware of the need to return the balance to the domestic equation, especially following the collapse of the March 14 camp (alliance) after the overthrow of the Hariri government in 2011.”

(Note: This alliance was formed in March 2005 as being against the Syrian regime and  President Assad. In February of 2005, Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri who was well regarded among international leaders and a close friend to French President Jacque Chirac, was assassinated along with 21 others in an explosion in Beirut. He had previously unsuccessfully challenged President Assad’s orders, even under threat of physical harm, to extend Farid Abboud’s Lebanese Ambassadorship to the U.S.  As it turns out, in 2006 Abboud was recalled to Beriut following his controversial comments in support of Hezbollah. Beirut leaders disavowed Abboud’s views as being counter to theirs, which was opposed to Hezbollah’s actions on Israel’s northern border.)  

“Those who are well-informed of the situation in Lebanon know very well that balance is a prerequisite for the country’s stability, which is based on peculiar balances between its historical and cultural components (peaceful coexistence of those of different faiths).”

BEIRUT, LEBANON
BEIRUT, LEBANON

“Undoubtedly, the main reason that prompted Suleiman to shift from his medial stance is that Hezbollah has been deeply involved in the war raging in Syria, which poses many security and economic challenges to the country. That Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Assad’s forces has posed a threat to the Lebanese diversity.”

“What’s more, Hezbollah has waged many campaigns against the Gulf states that are friendly to Lebanon, including Qatar or Saudi Arabia, because of their policy against the regime in Syria. To say the least, the party’s stance is in direct conflict with traditional Lebanese diplomacy, and harms the economic interests of Lebanon and those of its citizens residing in the Gulf. This is not to mention the perils at the domestic level, including the burden of the Syrian refugees and, most important, the infiltration of extreme jihadist groups into Lebanon. In the face of these threats to civil peace, Suleiman was left with no other choice but to distance Lebanon from the Syrian crisis. This is the essence of the Baabda Declaration that was approved by all parties, including Hezbollah (mostly silent), in June 2012.”

BEIRUT, LEBANON
BEIRUT, LEBANON

Nabhi Berri (Shia born 1938) is the Lebanese Parliament Speaker who was formerly, a lawyer at the Court of Appeals.

As per Wikipedia, “the Parliament Speaker, Berri is the number one assassination target for terrorist groups, due to his backing of the Lebanese army and support for dialogue among all religious sects. Speaker Nabih Berri was always and is still a major supporter of the dialogue between all Lebanese parties, religions and sects. During the last national dialogue session in May 2014, Speaker Nabih Berri stressed that “power-sharing between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon would not change under any circumstance,” adding that he spoke on behalf of Shiites, Sunnis and the Druze”( He has been Speaker of the parliament of Lebanon since October 1992.)

BEIRUT, LEBANON
BEIRUT, LEBANON

The following are excerpts from the 4/29/15 BBC News Overview-profile of Lebanon:

“With its high literacy rate and traditional mercantile culture, Lebanon has traditionally been an important commercial hub for the Middle East.”

It has also often been at the center of Middle Eastern conflicts, despite its small size, because of its borders with Syria and Israel and its uniquely complex communal make-up.”

BEIRUT, LEBANON
BEIRUT, LEBANON

“Shia Muslims, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze are the main population groups in a country that has been a refuge for the region’s minorities for centuries.”

“After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the League of Nations put Lebanon under a French mandate until it declared independence in the Second World War.”

Communal tensions

“A 1943 unwritten agreement divided parliamentary seats along communal lines as defined in the 1932 census, when the country had a Christian majority. This principle was later extended to other government institutions, so that the president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni and the speaker of parliament a Shia.”

BEIRUT, LEBANON
BEIRUT, LEBANON

“No census has been taken since 1932, and Muslim groups have demanded that representation should reflect their increased proportion in the population.”(For example, Palestine refugee descendants now make up about 10% of the population and have few legal rights.)

“This communal tension has been at the heart of most internal conflict in Lebanon, and neighboring states have used it as a pretext to intervene.”

DURBAN, LEBANON
DURBAN, LEBANON

Civil war, foreign intervention

“From 1975 until the early 1990s Lebanon endured a civil war in which regional players – in particular Israel, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization – used the country as a battleground for their own conflicts.”

“Syrian troops moved in shortly after the war started. Israeli troops invaded in 1978 and again in 1982, before pulling back to a self-declared “security zone” in the south from which they withdrew in May 2000.

“Syria continued to exert considerable political clout in Lebanon even after the withdrawal of its troops in 2005 ended a 29-year military presence.”

“The withdrawal followed the assassination in Beirut of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Lebanese opposition groups accused Syria over the killing, and huge pro- and anti-Syria rallies in Beirut triggered the fall of the government and the Syrian pullout.”

LEBANON
LEBANON

“The UN has demanded the dismantling of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Palestinian militias and the military wing of Hezbollah, which controls much of southern Lebanon.”

“When the Hezbollah militia seized two Israeli soldiers in a raid in July 2006, Israel responded with a 34-day military offensive and a blockade that wrecked post-civil-war stability.”

“A year after neighboring Syria began its descent into civil war in 2011, deadly clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in Tripoli and Beirut raised fears that the conflict was beginning to spill over the border and that Lebanon’s already fragile political truce could once more collapse into sectarian strife.”

_85447126_syrian_refugees_all graph great

“The massive influx of people fleeing the Syrian conflict – by April 2014, Syrian refugees were estimated to make up around a quarter of the population – has placed a severe strain on the country’s resources. In March 2014, the Lebanese foreign minister warned that the refugee crisis was threatening his country’s very existence.”

“Before the Syrian civil war erupted, there were signs that the revival of Lebanon’s tourism industry might lead the way to economic recovery. In 2010, shortly before the conflict began, tourism accounted for a fifth of Lebanon’s economic output. However, the fighting in Syria and the associated resurgence of sectarian tensions in Lebanon have severely jolted the country’s tourism industry.”

RELATED ARTICLE:

Lebanon – Paradise Lost: Memories of a Golden Age almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/000/070/aramco/paradise-lost.html 

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