Lebanese Civil War Assignment

Lebanese Civil War Assignment Words: 2300

It was the fact that gunmen killed four Phalangists that caused the war to ignite in Beirut on April 13, 1975; the attack was originally aimed on Pierre Jumayyil. The assassins were believed to be Palestinian and therefore later on during that same day, the Phalangists retaliated with an attack on a bus that was travelling through a Christian neighborhood. The bus was filled with Palestinian passengers and twenty-six occupants were killed.

Fighting erupted the next day between Phalangists and Palestinian fighters. The fact that Beirut’s areas were relatively divided into various sectors based upon religion and other factors as such, random killing developed. Civilians remained in their homes during the beginning stages of the battle and some of these civilians could not help but think that these were signs of war. The government was largely ineffective, especially in the early stages of the conflict.

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This is partly due to the fact that Kamal Jumblatt(the Druze figurehead and leader of the Progressive Socialist Party at the time) and his leftist supporters tried to rally support against the Phalangists. This attempt failed, however, as the other Christian factions teamed up with Jumayyil and the Phalange. This widened the gap between the Christians(who had become a minority by this time but still refused to share economic and political power with the Muslim majority) and the rest of the Lebanese sects.

As a result of this division, then Prime Minister Rashid el-Solh and his cabinet resigned, being replaced by Rashid Karami and his cabinet. Despite many calls for his resignation, President Sleiman Frangieh stubbornly refused to let go of his position. As the various sects grouped themselves into two larger warring factions, residents of areas with a mixed sectarian population were forced to seek refuge in areas where their sect was dominant. Although the conflict has often been classified as Christian versus Muslim, in reality the conflict was far more multifaceted.

The faction in favor of maintaining the status quo consisted of various Christian militias (namely Jumayyil’s Phalange, Kamil Shamun’s Ahrar, and Frangieh’s Marada) and came to be known as the Lebanese Front. The opposition was primarily led by Kamal Jumblatt and consisted of his Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and a number of other leftist groups such as the Lebanese Communist Party, and other groups such as Palestinian militias. This faction was known as the Lebanese National Movement(LNM), and was considerably less united and organized than the Lebanese Front(LF).

To the surprise of many, by the end of 1975 neither faction had an advantage, despite the fact that the LF was far more organized and an overwhelming favorite to win the war. At this point the government had still not managed to make any substantial progress in solving the conflict, with the exception of a few short-lived and ineffective cease-fires. The obvious impotence of the political system sparked discussions of a political restructuring, but these talks soon fizzled out.

Frangieh, aware of the government’s obvious shortcomings, asked for Syrian assistance, but the Syrians proved to be just as ill-equipped to resolve the conflict. In some cases, it is believed that the Syrians actually aggravated the situation further by provoking both sides. It wasn’t until the Lebanese Army(who had for the most part stayed out of the conflict) started to split up, however, that it became apparent that any immediate resolution of the conflict was out of reach. In 1976, Syrian involvement increased heavily.

After many failed diplomatic attempts to resolve the conflict and a number of heavy confrontations between the Lebanese Front and the Palestinian militias (most notably, the LF’s siege on the Palestinian refugee camp of Tal el-Zaatar, the LF’s virtual obliteration of the Muslim area of Karantina, and the subsequent Palestinian Liberation Army(PLA) and LNM takeover of Damour, a Christian stronghold south of Beirut. By March of 1976, the Lebanese Army had disintegrated and the Lebanese Arab Army(LAA) rose from its remains.

They joined forces with the LNM and dealt significant blows to the LF and even launched an offensive on the presidential palace, forcing Frangieh to retreat to Mount Lebanon. When Frangieh’s presidential term came to an end in September of 1976, Syrian-backed Ilyas Sarkis replaced him as president. This did not sit well with Kamal Jumblatt, however, as he was a staunch opponent of Syrian president Hafez el-Assad and of Syrian influence in Lebanon. Subsequently, the LNM intensified its attacks against Mount Lebanon and other Christian areas.

The outcome of the dispute was starting look like it could go one of two ways: either the Christians would form their own independent state in Mount Lebanon, or the LNM would take over. Both of these scenarios were unacceptable to then Syrian president Hafez el-Assad. In an effort to prevent these possibilities from becoming a reality, Syria intervened militarily against the Lebanese National Movement, and to their surprise they met heavy resistance and suffered many casualties.

To add to el-Assad’s problems, other Arab countries were strongly opposed to the fact that Syria intervened on the Christian side of the conflict. In July of that year, Syria intensified their offensive against the LNM, and just as it seemed that they were going to eliminate the resistance, they took part in the Arab peace conference in Riyadh in October of 1976. What came to be known as the Riyadh Conference(and the follow-up meeting of the Arab League in Cairo) formally ended the Lebanese Civil War on October 16, 1976.

Although this was a noble achievement, it was futile from its inceptions, as the agreements reached did nothing to solve or alleviate any of the problems that resulted in the war to begin with. Nonetheless, the full-scale war came to a temporary halt after more than one and a half years of nonstop battle. As a result of the Riyadh Conference the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) came into existence, a force with the purpose of maintaining the peace in Lebanon and preventing warfare in other Arab countries.

This legitimated Syria’s presence in Lebanon, as twenty-seven thousand of the original thirty thousand troops of the ADF were Syrian. Despite the fact that the war had more or less come to an end (at least temporarily), it seemed that it was too little too late. The once glorious city of Beirut had been reduced in large part to ruins, and the city was divided between Christians and Muslims by the Green Line. In December of 1976, President Sarkis made Salim el-Hoss an interim Prime Minister.

Hoss and his cabinet were assigned the task of reorganizing the Lebanese Army, which had been severely weakened by the Civil War, as many of its members had deserted to join other factions. Instead of stationing Lebanese military units at the Lebanon’s southern border as the Cairo Agreement mandated, however, the ADF only took control up to the Litani River, leaving the area between the river and the Israeli border in the control of the Palestinians. The Syrian influence in Lebanon and the resence of Palestinian militias in the south proved to be a problem that would plague Lebanon for years to come, especially in the years leading up to 1982. By 1977, Syria (in the form of the ADF) realized that it could not exercise full control in Lebanon without successfully disarming both the Lebanese Christian militias and the Palestinian militias (in the form of the Palestine Liberation Organization[PLO]). As the Syrians struggled with this situation, they maintained a large military presence in Lebanon in order to ensure that their interests were in no way threatened.

This put a heavy strain on Lebanese-Syrian relations, seeing as a great deal of Lebanese people were opposed to the large-scale Syrian presence, perceiving it as a form of occupation. In February of 1978, this disdain to the perceived Syrian occupation was manifested in battles between the ADF and Lebanese Army, leading to heavy ADF bombing of Christian areas of Beirut a few months later. After this, President Sarkis resigned in protest against the Syrian bombardment of Christian areas, but he was eventually persuaded by the Syrians to withdraw his resignation and stay in office.

The Syrian bombardment of the predominantly Christian East Beirut region continued until October of 1978, ending with a United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution. This resolution was a major turning point in the conflict in that it indirectly labeled Syria as a participant in the Lebanese Civil War. By this time, Lebanon was crippled as a nation and as a government, and was totally incapable of functioning without some sort of political, economic, and military aid. Sarkis realized that Syrian presence in Lebanon was necessary in order to maintain order, and the Syrians immediately caught on to this and exploited it.

After several threats (not so serious threats, in retrospect) to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, Syria finally agreed with Sarkis that the ADF (which at this point had become an entirely Syrian force) would “remain in Lebanon as long as the Arab interests so require”. Although Syria was not as involved as it could have been in Lebanese affairs between 1980 and 1981, there were some notable interventions against the Phalange Party militia (then headed by Bashir Jumayyil [Pierre Jumayyil’s son]) in the Christian city of Zahle. By this point the Phalange party had allied itself with Israel, and Israel subsequently intervened on their ehalf against the Syrians, shooting down two Syrian helicopters over Zahle. Both Syria and Israel fought a “cold war by proxy”, so to speak, in that they both devoted more of their military capacity towards Lebanon, but eventually nothing came of it (at least not for a while longer). This relative peace (relative to what could have happened had the Syrians and Israeli’s launched the full-scale war that they seemed intent to wage on Lebanese soil) was achieved by the mediation of other Arab countries and the United States of America.

During the first phase of the Civil war (1975-1976), many Palestinian and Lebanese refugees fled to the then peaceful South. When Palestinian militias left the area for battle, Christian militias, led by Lebanese Army officers and backed by Israel, took control of a large portion of the southern region of Lebanon. This was part of Israel’s plan to ensure that there was no Palestinian presence on their northern border, and the Christian militias naturally agreed to this plan, seeing as how they were sworn enemies of the Palestinians.

At this point, it seemed that everyone had conflicting interests in the south of Lebanon. Sarkis saw an opportunity to regain control of the area for the Christians. The Palestinians, growing increasingly frustrated with Syrian attempts to rid them of their heavy weaponry and control their activities, felt that they would be able to operated relatively unbothered in the South. The Syrians, on the other hand, wanted to eliminate the Israeli influence in the south of Lebanon, and the Israelis wanted to keep both the Syrians and the Palestinians out of the area.

Fighting in the South between Christian militias and Palestinian militias started as early as 1977, and eventually the conflict there led to the migration of nearly two-hundred thousand people. The Cairo Agreement of 1976 had mandated that Palestinians were to take their activities 15 kilometers from the Israeli border, with the region in between to be occupied by the Lebanese Army and the coast to be protected by the totally Syrian ADF. These goals were never achieved, however, even to this day.

It seemed that no one wanted to make the first move, so no one did. On March 11, 1978, Palestinian guerillas attacked an Israeli bus near Tel Aviv, killing several people. In keeping with Israeli tradition, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) launched an incredibly disproportionate retaliation against Palestinians in the south of Lebanon. It was a full-scale attack, with over 25,000 Israeli troops pushing as far north as the Litani River, occupying the region until June, when the United Nations called on Israel to withdraw and be replaced by a UN interim force.

When Israel completed its first withdrawal from southern Lebanon, Christian militiaman Major Saad Haddad and his South Lebanon Army (SLA) took over the majority of the areas that the Israelis had controlled. Throughout the Sarkis administration, there were a lot of changes in their politics. Prime Minister Huss, a Sunni Muslim, was unable to unify the government, as requested by Sarkis in 1978, but remained in office for two more years. In October 1980, Shafiq al Wazzan, another Sunni and chairman of the Supreme Islamic Council, became prime minister.

His government experienced even greater complexity in holding office, with more than half of the Chamber of Deputies refusing to endorse his cabinet. The inability of the Lebanese Army to maintain any effective control over the country was a major factor contributing to the weakness of these Lebanese governments. Lebanon’s security deteriorated significantly in late 1981 and the first half of 1982. There were continuous clashes in West Beirut, Tripoli, and southern Lebanon during this period. In September car bombs occurred in West Beirut, Sidon, and Tripoli, along with the terrorizing of diplomats.

These violent incidents were followed by terrorist attacks against Muslim and Christian religious leaders in April 1982. The result of these large-scale breaches of the peace was a growing problem on the part of Lebanese Muslims with the ability of the Lebanese National Movement, the PLO, or Syria to control matters in areas where they were nominally in charge. As a consequence, more moderate and conservative Sunni and Shia figures gained leadership opportunities; a number of them favored the Lebanese government’s reestablishing its authority over the country.

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