Monday, August 07, 2006

A brief history of Syria's involvement in Lebanon

I thought that it would be a good idea to understand the extent of Syria's involvement in Lebanese affairs. That, in turn, may help shed some light over the existing conflict and its possible resolution.

Let's start with some facts:

1-Syria has more often that not included Lebanon within its territories, as part of Greater Syria (Bilad al-Sham). In the Syrian nationalist ideology developed by the founder of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Antun Saada, Greater Syria is seen as the geographic environment in which the Syrian nation state evolved.

2-During its 15-year involvement in the Lebanese civil war, Syria fought both for control over Lebanon, and as an attempt to undermine Israel in southern Lebanon, through extensive use of Lebanese allies as proxy fighters. At the beginning, Syria's mission was to protect the Maronite Christians; two years later, in 1978, Syria changed its position and sided with the PLO.

3-In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, resulting in the withdrawal of most PLO forces from Lebanon. Israel and Lebanon, assisted by the US, reached an accord in May 1983 that set the stage to withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon. In March 1984, under pressure from Syria, Lebanon canceled the agreement. The invasion is popularly held to be the major catalyst for the creation of the Iranian and Syrian supported Hezbollah, which replaced the vanquished PLO in Southern Lebanon.

4-Through the Taif agreement, signed in 1989, Syria has taken power away from the Maronite Christian community, which had been given a privileged status in Lebanon under French colonial rule. Prior to Taif, the Sunni Prime Minister was appointed by and responsible to the Maronite President. After Taif the Prime Minister was responsible to the legislature, as in a traditional parliamentary system.

5-In May 1991, Lebanon and Syria signed the treaty of brotherhood, cooperation, and coordination called for in the Taif Accord, which is intended to provide the basis for many aspects of Syrian-Lebanese relations. The treaty provides the most explicit recognition to date by the Syrian Government of Lebanon's independence and sovereignty.

6-With Lebanon under its rule, about a million Syrian workers were imported into the country mainly as cheap labor construction workers. They were often hired over local labor since their wages were considerably lower. The presence of such a large number of Syrian workers interlocked the economies of both countries and made Lebanon excessively dependent on Syria. Over 200,000 of them were eventually (and controversially) granted Lebanese citizenship in 1994. This shifted the religious balance in Lebanon in favor of Sunni Muslims, and had important effects on the sectarian makeup of Lebanese politics

7-Syria granted a wide variety of terrorist groups-including HAMAS, the PFLP-GC,and the PIJ-basing privileges or refuge in areas of Lebanon's Bekaa Valley under Syrian control

8-After the war, the pace of Christian emigration accelerated, as many Christians felt discriminated against in a Lebanon under increasingly oppressive Syrian tutelage. No accurate numbers are available, so estimates on the total size of the diaspora vary wildly, from conservative estimates of 4-5 million to a maximum, and probably inflated, figure of 15 million. While under Syrian influence, Beirut passed legislation which prevented second-generation Lebanese of the diaspora, 80% of which are Christians, from automatically obtaining Lebanese citizenship

9-Syrian forces remained in Lebanon from 1990 to 2005 (period reffered to as pax syriana), exercising considerable influence over its government. They established a strong intelligence apparatus which, along with the army, persecuted the Lebanese opposition by killing and imprisoning its members in the Mazzeh jail, or torturing them at Syria's main intelligence center at Beirut's Beau Rivage hotel or at Villa Jabre near Dhour el-Choueir. The Syrian High Commissioners Ghazi Kanaan and Rustom Ghazaly had absolute power on all political issues. They have been accused of contributing to the widespread corruption in Lebanon

10-After Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon faced fierce criticism and resistance from the Lebanese population. The Syrian occupation ended on April 26, 2005 after the Cedar Revolution that took place as a reaction to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. Syria was widely blamed for undertaking then covering up this assassination

And all these magnificent accomplishements lead to the current events.

This goes to show you what Syria thinks "true fraternal relations" ought to be!


  1. PS: the Alawite regime never sided with the PLO not before 1978 nor after

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