The inextricable link between religion and Lebanese identity and society promoted a sectarian climate that culminated in the devastating Lebanese Civil War. The Civil War centered on a number of issues that dominated internal and regional politics.  The issues of the Palestine-Israel conflict, Arab nationalism, and political Islam collided with longstanding domestic disagreements over the sectarian division of power, Lebanon’s alliances, and Lebanon’s national identity.  The end of the war, however, did not put an end to sectarianism. If anything, it marked the revival of the confessional state where sectarianism flourishes.  The products of post-war Lebanon, such as the prominence of Hezbollah, the radicalization of the Sunnis and the effects of the Syrian Civil War have created an atmosphere where the possibility of the renewal of sectarian conflict is always imminent.

Broadly speaking, the warring parties can be divided into two groups: the Right and Left camps.  The Right camp, led by the Phalange Party and comprised of other conservative forces jointly called the Lebanese Front, advocated for the preservation of the Lebanese communal and political confessional system. The Left camp, which grouped several nationalists and leftist political organizations under the banner of the Lebanese National Movement (LNM) in 1976, set forth a thorough political reform plan that called for the total termination of the confessional system that had awarded the Maronites political primacy in the country. They also called for the implementation of extensive political, administrative, and electoral reforms.  The Left camp was closely allied with the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The Combatants

Lebanese Forces

A joint force of rightist, Christian militias formed in 1976.  Initially commanded by Phalangist leader Bashir Gemayel, they directly opposed the leftist alliance and the “state within a state” structure of the PLO. From 1976 to 1985, they secured their training and equipment from Israel.  Iraq later took up the role.[1] They benefited from the 1982 Israeli invasion.

The South Lebanon Army

Mainly a rightist, Christian and Shia force, the South Lebanon Army (SLA) was established and managed by Israel.[2]  Primarily based in the south along the Israeli border, the SLA opposed the PLO and fought to secure the border of Israel. The estimated number of SLA fighters was 2,000-3,000.[3]

The Lebanese Army

The Army worked to instill law and order in the country. However, the army proved ineffective, and it disintegrated in 1976.

The Amal Movement

Amal was founded in 1975 as the militia arm of Musa al-Sadr’s “Movement of the Deprived,” which provided a political, social, economic, and cultural outlet to the Shi’a community that had historically been positioned in the periphery of the Lebanese political system.  During the initial years of the war, Amal was a steadfast leftist, PLO ally.  However, repeated Israeli attacks against the Shiite strongholds of the south, coupled with its growing disillusion with the PLO organization, diminished its support.[4]  The estimated figure for its fighters was 3,500.[5]


A Shiite party and militia rival of Amal, Hezbollah’s period of growth occurred mainly in the last years of the war.  With over 4,000 fighters, Hezbollah leftist efforts mainly focused on countering Israeli occupation and as such, mainly operated in southern Lebanon. The group, closely backed by Iran, supported the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon.

The Progressive Socialist Party

A predominantly Druze party, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) was part of the left camp. The estimated figure for its fighters was over 5,000.[6] Led by Kamal Jumblāt, the PSP set forth its agenda in the “Five Demands.”  The demands called for “abolishing the confessional system; redefining the powers of the various branches of the executive; reforming the electoral system; reorganizing the army; and removing the restrictions that prevented some of Lebanon’s communities from enjoying citizenship in the country.”[7] It insisted that the list of demands be placed on the agenda as a condition for working with the government.[8]

Palestinian Liberation Organisation

Part of the left camp, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) was and remains committed to the issue of a Palestinian homeland.  From 1970 to 1982, Lebanon functioned as the base for its resistance movement against Israel.


[1] Martha Wenger, “Primer: Lebanon’s 15-Year War, 1975-1990 | Middle East Research and Information Project”, Merip.Org, accessed 15 February 2017, http://www.merip.org/mer/mer162/primer-lebanons-15-year-war-1975-1990.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] American University of Beirut, The Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990, Lecture and Working Paper Series: No. 3 (Beirut: American University of Beirut Institute of Financial Economics, 2003).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Charles Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society,1st ed. (Abigdon: Taylor and Francis, 2012), 189.

[8] Ibid.

1516-1918: The Emirate of Mount Lebanon, an autonomous region, is part of the Ottoman Empire. The Emirate marks the origins of Lebanon as a polity. The frontiers of Mount Lebanon will later be included in the territory of Lebanon as designed by the French.[1]

1920 September: After the Ottoman Empire’s collapse, the League of Nations grants the mandate for Lebanon and Syria to France. France divides Lebanon and Syria into separate colonial entities and constructs the State of Greater Lebanon out of the provinces of Mount Lebanon, north Lebanon, south Lebanon, and the Biqā.

The frontiers of Lebanon, as defined by the Franco-British colonial partition of the Middle East, had never existed before.  Its creation on 1 September 1920 did not denote a “return to any natural and historical boundaries nor was it an artificial entity.”[2]

1926: The Lebanese Representative Council, a group of French-appointed Lebanese that functioned as a cabinet, approves a constitution and the unified Lebanese Republic is declared. Although functioning as a separate entity from Syria, the Republic is still administered under the French Mandate for Syria.

1935:  Enflamed independence and nationalist sentiments sweep through Lebanon. France initiates independence negotiations, and Paris reiterates Lebanon’s borders in its 1 September 1920 form, so as to quell Christian fears.  Muslims dissent and take to the streets. They are subsequently fired upon by the gendarmerie.  This action by the gendarmerie allows Muslim negotiators to insist that the French fully commit to the defense of sectarian ‘minorities’ in an independent Lebanon that was sure to be dominated by the Maronites.

1935 November: France and Lebanon sign The Treaty of Friendship and Alliance on the 13th. The Chamber of Deputies, Lebanon’s parliament, approves it unanimously four days later. The stipulations are:

  • France recognises Lebanon as an independent state and promises to back its admission to the League of Nations.
  • France promises to provide military aid to Lebanon in case of a third-party attack.
  • Lebanon vows to remain an ally of the French in the event of war and safeguard French capital and interests.
  • Lebanon is to retain its own army, but France will maintain a military presence and provide military help and advice to the Lebanese armed forces.[3]

“Minority” rights are safeguarded in the annexes where the Republic is tasked with guaranteeing equal civil and political rights and ensuring equal representation of the different societal segments.

The treaty, however, fails to satisfy all of Lebanese society.  Discontent with the treaty leads to clashes, which are spearheaded by paramilitary youth organizations reflecting sectarian tensions.

1939:  World War II breaks out and it stalls the march towards independence. The French National Assembly does not ratify the treaty, the constitution is suspended and the Chamber of Deputies dissolves.

1940: Lebanon comes under the control of the Vichy French government.

1941: Unrest in Europe generates concerns that Germany will gain control of Syria and Lebanon. These fears lead Free France and Britain to deploy troops to occupy Lebanon.


1941: After the Free French Army and British troops liberate Lebanon from the Vichy administration, General Charles de Gaulle, leader of Free France, looks to revert back to the conditions of governance set up before the first attempt at independence. He claims to recognize the independence of Lebanon and calls for a new treaty. Advocates of independence call for a thorough handing over of power, the right to elect their own president and oppose de Gaulle’s recognition of illusory independence.[4] General de Gaulle refuses; however, Lebanon persists in its quest.

1941 November: Lebanon’s independence is declared in November after 20 years of French mandate. However, full independence comes gradually.

1942 June: Lebanon’s independence is negotiated in Cairo. A return to constitutional life, internal independence and the cessation of privileges for France after independence is agreed upon.[5]

1943 March: The foundational pillars of the state are set out in an informal verbal agreement between Maronite President Bishara al-Khuri and Riad al-Sulh, the Sunnite Prime Minister. The National Pact, based on the 1932 census, allocates parliamentary positions on a six-to-five ratio in favor of Christians. This stipulation is later extended to other public offices.

1943 November: The Chamber of Deputies, through a series of constitutional revisions, abolishes the French mandatory authority, institutes Arabic as the country’s only official language and rejects the French tricolor for a new flag design.[6] Al- Khuri immediately ratifies the revisions.  Free France labels  them void and arrests leading political figures like al-Khuri and Sulh.[7] The inhabitants and paramilitary organizations prepare for war.

1943 November:  Britain issues an ultimatum demanding the release of the arrested politicians.  The Free French comply, and the end of the mandate is proclaimed by the Free French.

1944: On January 1, France, after experiencing pronounced international pressure, agrees to transfer power to the Lebanese government.

1957: Lebanon falls into a political crisis caused by political and religious tensions.

1958:  Opposition against President Kamil Chamoun, the Christian leader of the National Liberal Party, based on his entanglements in Arab affairs, rampant corruption, his violation of the National Pact, and the exclusion of Muslim leaders through electoral reform lays the groundwork for crisis. Chamoun’s refusal to deny rumors about his quest for a new mandate and the assassination of a known critic of the Chamoun administration lead to an armed insurrection. Chamoun calls on the United States to intervene and help preserve Lebanon’s independence and restore the government’s authority.  The United States complies and “Operation Blue Bat” is launched on July 15.

Towards the Civil War (1967-1975)

Class, Sectarian and Regional Inequalities

1960s: Despite President Fuad Shihab’s ambitious reform projects of social welfare to include deprived areas and people into the Lebanese nation, great disparities persist between different sectors of the society.  The outward-looking nature of the economy, coupled with the lack of price controls to check merchants’ lust for profits and monopoly control, adversely affect the standard of living for most Lebanese.[8]

Whereas the center, like Beirut, profits from rapid urbanization, the periphery is defined by a poverty belt that stretches from Karenina in the east to Ram al-Ali and the Laylaki neighbourhoods in the west. The poverty belt, defined by destitution and a lack of infrastructure, is punctuated by the Palestinian refugee camps of Tal-al Zaatar in the east, and Mar Illiyas, Sabra, Shatilla and Burj-al Barajineh.[9]

Additionally, the economic structure of Lebanon reflects its sectarian distinctions, as the financial Christian class controls business.[10]

A Dissociated Governmental System

1970s: By the 1970s, the parliamentary and electoral systems continue to show a disconnect between the political system and the country’s new socio-economic realities.[11]

The Chamber of Deputies continues to be defined by political dynasties.  Thus, out of 425 deputies elected since 1920, 245 belong to families of parliamentarians.[12] In addition, parliament continues to rely on moneyed interests.

Social Movements

1970s: The disparities along class, social, and sectarian lines mobilize all segments of the Lebanese society to confront the established order, contest the policies of the commercial notables, and make demands for political, economic, and social change.  The protests include agrarian movements, teacher and student strikes, and religious movements.

The Palestinian Issue

1967 June:  The six-day Arab-Israeli war between Israel and the Arab nations of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan breaks out. Lebanon plays no active role in the war but is affected by its aftermath when Palestinian factions begin using Lebanon as a base for retaliatory strikes against Israel.

The 1967 war, which results in Arab defeat, increases Israeli control over more Palestinian land and the displacement of an additional 350,000-400,000 Palestinians. It makes it clear that the Arab states are incapable and unwilling to ‘liberate’ Palestine.[13] As such, the Arab defeat, as well as the international disregard of the Palestinian issue, engenders political independence amongst the Palestinian people.[14] This political independence of Palestinians, which is accompanied by military independence, gives the Arab-Israeli conflict-for the first time in 20 years an element of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation.[15]  However, as Palestinian attempts at instigating uprisings in the West Bank are frowned upon by Israel, the emerging national movement had no other choice but to work from Jordan.[16]

In Jordan, the Palestinians, through Fatah, the largest faction of the multi-party PLO, create a network of proto-state institutions.  The process of political development and operational independence, which are accompanied by Israeli retaliatory strikes due to Palestinian attacks from Jordan, increasingly set the PLO against the Jordanian government.

1969: The emergence of Palestinian militancy inside Lebanon after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war exacerbates tensions between the Palestinian fida’iyin (militiamen) and the Lebanese Army, which devolves into open conflict in April 1969, and places the issue of the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon at the center of Lebanese politics.

The debate about the Palestinian military activities in Lebanon produces divergent views that align with the communal persuasions of Lebanese society. Thus, whereas the left-wing parties support the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon, the right-wing parties oppose it.  The continued confrontation between the fida’iyin and the Lebanese Army, which frequently results in fida’iyin victory, leads to governmental transfer of security responsibilities in the camps to the Palestinian Armed Struggle Command.

1969 November: With time, the government is “obliged to legitimize the Palestinian military presence in Lebanon by signing the Cairo Agreement in Egypt in November 1969.” [17]

For the Lebanese, the agreement insists that the Palestinians subject their activities outside the refugee camps to Lebanese authority, and as such, Palestinian operations against Israel cannot be carried out without the permission of the Lebanese Army.[18]  For the Palestinians, the Lebanese government will stay out of the affairs of the Palestinian camps, giving them the authority to govern themselves.[19]

The Cairo Agreement, however, fails to assuage fears and restore order.  If anything, it further aggravates the precarious internal situation in Lebanon.  Christian Lebanese are uneasy with it and harbor resentment about the Palestinian presence. Fighting between the fida’iyin and the Lebanese Army continues, and soon clashes between Lebanese Christians and Palestinians emerge.  Additionally, the Agreement is met with intensified Israeli raids against the south and the Palestinian military presence, which had once been welcomed in the south, becomes associated with Israeli attacks.  By the 1970s, the Lebanese policy of containing Palestinian radicalism transforms from “overt containment into overt hostility.”[20]

1970: By 1970, the PLO forms a ‘state within a state’ in Jordan and becomes a clear challenger to King Hussein’s authority, as evidenced by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)’s, a resistance movement formed after the 1967 Israeli occupation of the West Bank, unsuccessful assassination attempts on his life.

1970 September- 1971 June: The pronounced tenuous relationship between the Palestinians and King Hussein leads to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan, leaving Lebanon as the only viable basis for free operations against Israel.

1973: Israel launches a raid on Beirut, which kills three important Palestinian leaders associated with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.  The Lebanese government resigns the next day.

The Civil War

The pace towards war is propelled forth by an interplay of events, none of which is by itself serious enough to ignite war.

1975 January: Israel conducts a major raid into the southern border region as a means of looking for Palestinian commandos.  The ineffective Lebanese Army tries to control the situation in the south.  However, it only manages to clash with Palestinian guerrillas, who in turn fire rockets into the military barracks in Tyre. PFLP’s culpability in the Tyre attacks results in criticisms of the PLO and Suleiman Franjieh’s government. Pierre Gemayel, leader of the Phalange Party, calls on the PLO to effectively combat the “anarchy” in the organization and Chamoun, seconding Gemayel’s criticism, emphasizes the loss of state control in the south.

In a bid to combat Lebanon’s political stagnation, the Phalangists submit a memorandum to President Franjieh, which calls for a national referendum on issues like the continued presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon.  The government fails to act on this initiative and the Phalangists rush to accrue ammunitions, an act which signifies a change in Phalangist policy towards the Palestinians. The Phalange had decided to challenge the Palestinians. [21]

Phase One

The first phase of the civil war is defined by three main features:

  • A socioeconomic conflict between local fishermen and wealthy entrepreneurs.
  • An intra-elite authority conflict between a local leader and the central government, within the central government itself, between the President, the Prime Minister, and the Military.
  • A sectarian conflict between Muslims and Maronites, which is closely related to a national identity conflict between pan-Arabists and Palestinians on one side and the Lebanese Maronite nationalists on the other.[22]

1975 February: The smoldering tensions are further stoked when a crisis, which had been festering for months, breaks out in Sidon over fishing rights.

The Proteine Company, headed by Kamil Chamoun, is licensed for commercial fishing along Lebanon’s southern coast. Used to their traditional fishing approaches, the local fishermen have concerns as to what the modernizing strategies of Proteine means for their livelihoods.  Although some protections against the loss of livelihood are promised, the issue is soon politicized into a confrontation between the mainly Muslim poor of Sidon and the mainly Christian rich who are to oversee the Proteine Company.[23]

Sidon rebel Ma‛rūf Sa‛ad leads protests, which soon devolve into riots, and soon the demonstrations spread to Beirut and Tripoli.

The government dispatches the Lebanese Army to address the situation in the south.  However, the actions of the army reinforce the divisions between Christians and Muslims and brings to the fore concerns about the character of the army, and the government’s use of it.  Seemingly subordinate to the Lebanese government and cabinet, army Chief of Staff General Iskandar Ghānim ignores Prime Minister Rashid al-Sulh’s instructions during the Sidon affair, and in close consultation with President Franjiheh,  personally directs some of the army’s destructive actions in Sidon.[24] Muslims see this  blatant disregard of Prime Minister al-Sulh as an insult to their group and as a sign that the army will no longer maintain neutrality in intercommunal conflicts.[25]

In lieu of this, the Leftists demand that General Ghānim be dismissed and make demands for the reorganization of the army to give Muslims equality with Christians in decision-making.  For the Muslim polity, demands for reorganization “was not just a demand for its neutrality but a reminder that an army acting exclusively on behalf of Christian interests would destroy the National Pact.”[26]

1975 April: A congregation of Phalange supporters partaking in the consecration of a new Maronite church are gunned down and wounded in Ayn al- Rummānah, a suburb southeast of Beirut. Phalangist militiamen carry out a retaliatory attack within hours by firing upon a bus heading for the Palestinian refugee camp of Tal al-Zaatar from a parade honouring a previous commando operation.[27] These clashes start the civil war.

1975 May:  The fighting spreads to the Palestinian camps and involves other groups besides the Phalangists and Palestinians.

Mid-1975: Kamal Jumblāt demands that the Katā‛ib Party (Phalangists), for its role in the Ayn al-Rummānah massacre, be isolated. He refuses to partake in any government that includes its members.  Jumblāt’s protestations, which places the blamed on the Phalangists for the outbreak of war, mobilizes more Christians to the Phalangist cause.

With rising tensions, President Franjieh works to find a new Prime Minister who will cooperate with General Ghānim and himself. The Muslims insist on an influential figure, but Franjieh rejects notables who can challenge his power.  He appoints a military cabinet headed by General Nur al-Din al-Rif ā‛i, a non-political Sunni.  The Muslim establishment vehemently opposes this action as they insist that the military, under the authority of General Ghānim, had ceased to be neutral.  The Muslim notables are able to oppose Franjieh’s attempt to bypass them by uniting behind Kamal Jumblāt and Sa’ib Salām.  The trio of Raymond Eddé, Rashid Karāmi, and Sa’ib Salām, high ranking statesmen, also openly oppose Franjieh’s actions.  Eddé’s inclusion in the triumvirate highlights that leaders from both the Christian and Muslim communities oppose it.[28] The staunch opposition triumphs in ousting the military cabinet.  However, the developments that accompany the short existence of the military cabinet illustrate that “the transformation from maneuvering [sic] politicians and militia commanders into intercommunal conflict had begun.”[29]

Rashid Karami’s cabinet replaces the military cabinet, but does not fare much better.  Although it lasts much longer than its predecessor, the Karami cabinet also fails to prevent the escalation of conflict.  Although the cabinet might have been a credible vehicle for restoring order in the country, it is weakened by the absence of two of the major players in the war and President Franjieh’s indifference to its work.  Kamal Jumblāt of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), allied with the leftists and the Palestinians, agrees to be left out of the cabinet so long as Pierre Gemayel of the Katā‛ib is also excluded. For the government to succeed, both needed to give their support to it.  However, only Jumblāt was prepared to do so.  The hope was that Franjieh would use his clout to persuade Gemayel to change his mind, but as he needed the Phalangists to further his ambitions, he refused to do so.

1975 Summer: Fighting is mostly sporadic.  A ceasefire holds throughout most of the summer but the political climate is still filled with tension. There are moments during the summer when it seems as though the Karami cabinet can restore peace and begin the process of reconciliation.  This is not to be the case however, due to the self-interested actions of various actors.

1976 January: President Franjieh declares that an “all-embracing political settlement”, the thirty-third ceasefire, will go into effect.[30] Although sporadic fighting continues, the ceasefire, in terms of major battles, holds for two months.

At this time, both Syria and Israel move to penetrate Lebanon. The former does so by sending Palestinian Liberation Army (PLA) troops under its control to Lebanon.  Israel initiates an open borders policy with “some of the small Maronite villages in the far south that wished to have contact with the few Maronites still living along the border in northern Israel.” [31] This policy is just the first step in the overall Israeli program of supporting “those dissidents in south Lebanon who would eventually cooperate with the Israelis in the creation of a buffer jurisdiction, i.e., the strip under the control of Major Sa‛ad Haddad’s South Lebanese Army.” [32]

The Maronite offensive against the Muslim slums of Herāt al-Ghawārīna, Dubayah, and al-Karantīna, which is combined with the start of a major seven-month siege against the large Palestinian camps of Tal al-Zaatar and Jisr al-Basha, brings the main Palestinian force units into the war.[33]  The addition of the Palestinian forces in the war strengthens the Muslim side, and the civil war begins to favor them.  At the same time, the military position of the Maronites begins to implode.

1976 February:  The Lebanese Army begins to disintegrate.  After months of discontent at being called upon for operations that helped the Christians against their Muslim co-religionists, lower ranking soldiers, mostly Muslim, begin deserting the army.  The disintegration of the army produces three main trends:

  • Some soldiers join their co-religionists through the Lebanese Arab Army (LAA), a splinter faction of the Lebanese Army, or the Lebanese Front.
  • Some units remain intact and continue their allegiance to the central command.
  • Others simply go home to sit out the war. [34]

1976 February: Lieutenant Ahmed al-Khātib, the son of a PSP deputy, declares that the program for his LAA requires amnesty for army deserters and “sectarian balance in the control and employment of Lebanon’s military forces.” [35] The increased firepower from army deserters, the addition of mainline Palestinian forces, and the new LNM offensive lead to the heaviest fighting of war.

1976 March: LNM forces take the tall building of the hotel district and push the Phalangists out of central Beirut. They also capture the city’s government district, bomb the B‛abdā Palace, and shell the “Maronite capital” of Junieh.[36]  With time, the Christian side of Beirut is pushed back into the eastern portion of the city and Ashrafīyah and is nearly isolated.

In the mountains, the LNM captures Aley and strides towards the Maronite suburban village of Kahhalah on the Damascus highway.  With the Christian side trapped in various parts of the country, and the LNM strategy of cutting East Beirut off from the Maronite heartland in the Matn and Kisrawān, the leftists are poised to win the war.[37]  This is not to be the case; however, as Syria does not want a leftist victory that will increase the power of the Palestinians. So, without formally intervening, Syria moves small segments of its own regular army into the country and begins a counteroffensive.

Phase Two

The second phase of the civil war is marked by some of the following characteristics:

  • Increased Syrian and Israeli presence and influence in Lebanon.
  • A split in the Palestinian movement between the PLO on the one hand and the Syrian-dominated Saiqah and elements of the PLA on the other.

1976 May: The full-scale Syrian invasion into Lebanon occurs on May 31st. Before this, Hafez al-Assad’s military contributions to the Lebanese crisis had been small enough to make him a competitor.  However, with the full-scale invasion of May, he was to become a controlling factor in the war.[38]

With the invasion, the Palestinians are placed in a less than ideal position, as the Syrian-led Saiqah troops and the Hittīn brigade of the PLA, under Syrian control, are used against those Palestinian forces that had joined the LNM.

The Christian forces support and welcome the Syrian intervention.  In response, the leftist camps create a joint command that formally brings all the Palestinian groups, with the exception of al-Saiqa, together.

Immediately, clashes erupt between the PLO and Saiqa and soon, Saiqa is pushed out from the camps to its stronghold in the airport.  At the same time, Israel supports the Christian camp by providing them with arms and ammunition.  Israel’s provision of arms to the Christian forces denotes a joint Syrian and Israeli effort to prevent the Leftist-Palestinian union from winning Lebanon.

1976 June: Thousands are killed in a siege of the Tal al-Zaatar camp by Syrian-allied Christian militias in Beirut.

1976 Summer: Several ceasefires are announced but they all fail to have lasting impacts.  If anything, they provide the strengthened Christians the time to consolidate their holdings.[39]

1976 October: On the 15th, at Saudi Arabia’s request, the PLO and Syria put a ceasefire in place, and on the 17th, Saudi, Egyptian, Syrian, Kuwaiti, Lebanese and PLO leaders met in Riyadh.  Here, the leaders sign a peace plan calling for a ceasefire and placing a 30,000-man Arab force in Lebanon to oversee the truce.[40]

Although the force is officially under President Elias Sarkis’ control, Syrians dominate the force.  So in essence, it amounts to “an Arab acquiescence to Syrian power in Lebanon.”[41] Although clashes continue between the groups in Beirut and the south, and among Palestinian groups in various locations, the ceasefire begins to take hold.

1976 December-1977 January: Lebanese and Palestinian units turn over their major weapons to the peacekeeping forces. The only major fighting taking place during this time occurs in the south, where a crucial realignment of alliances develops.[42]

Israeli-funded Christian militias work to push their Muslim-mostly Palestinian opponents from the towns along the strip between Tyre and Marjayoun. Syria refuses to support this Israeli effort and withdraws its forces from their posts in the southernmost part of the country.  Additionally, it begins supplying Palestinians in the Arqoub region between Sidon and the Litāni River.

The War in the South

By 1977, the large-scale civil war had ended and was turned into a smaller-scale war in the south.

1977 January: On the 25th, Syrian troops move into Christian East Beirut and Muslim Nabatīyah to seemingly carry out their peacekeeping role.  However, the troops withdraw after Israel protests the move.  Israel’s protests are mainly to distance Syria from its military moves.  Thus, Israel hopes to increase its military clout in Lebanon so it can compete with Syria for influence. Additionally, Israel hopes to improve its military position vis-a-vis the Palestinian guerrillas.[43]

1977 February: On the 19th, Christian forces, under the command of Major Haddad, claim the major Muslim town of al-Khiām, which had been controlled by Palestinian militiamen.  Palestinian militiamen respond with reinforcements and agree with the Syrians to withdraw from their forward bases in the south if Syria will end its offensive on their forces. At the same time, Israel presses on with its attacks against Palestinian-controlled Muslim towns.  They do so by supporting Major Haddad and by training and transporting Maronite militiamen from Junieh, so that they can support Haddad’s forces in the south.

1977 Fall: The war intensifies by the fall of 1977 when the artillery exchanges become sustained and constant. At this time, the Israelis are fully committed to having their own clients in the south and refuse to have Syrian forces in the region to gain control over the guerrillas.

Although the large-scale civil war had ended, 1977 proves to be a destructive and violent year for various parties in Lebanon, with about 70 major incidents of violence recorded.

The 1978 Israeli Invasion

Between 1977 and 1982, the war remained at a stalemate and outsiders and insiders made efforts to break it.[44]  The Lebanese authorities made weak attempts but neighboring countries and their proxies made most of the sustained ones.[45]

1978: Israel initiates a major invasion of southern Lebanon. Israel claims that the invasion is a measure to rid south Lebanon of terrorists and to create a buffer zone six miles deep into southern Lebanon. However, the Israelis extend their reach beyond the declared six miles and do not stop until they control most of the territory in Lebanon south of the Litāni River. The only area below the Litāni River that remains outside Israeli control is Tyre.

1978 February: The Maronites turn on the Syrians, who had been their protectors, for the Israelis.  This Maronite switch results in cycles of action and reactions between the Syrian forces and the Phalangists, which continue for the next three years.

1978 March: On the 19th, the United Nations Security Council votes to send in an interim force. The United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) initially finds it challenging to take up its post in south Lebanon due to the constant fighting between the Palestinians and Christians. Israel, having guaranteed a permanent military position for its Christian (SLA) allies-which is not fully uncontested-and having secured the UN peacekeeping force for the border area, announces that it had created a security zone between it and its Palestinian enemies.[46] As such, the Israeli government moves to withdraw.

1978 April:  The first stage of the Israeli phased withdrawal occurs on the 4th. The UN forces assume control of Israel’s most forward positions.

1978 June: On the 13th, Israel announces that it has completed its military withdrawal and hands the territory under its control to Haddad’s SLA. By the end of the invasion, 265,000 Lebanese and Palestinian villages had fled from their homes in the south to become refuges in the shantytowns of Beirut.[47] Although it has fully withdrawn, Israel continues to bomb Palestinian bases in Lebanon and assists the SLA militarily.

The 1982 Israeli Invasion

1982 June:  After the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to Britain by a Palestinian radical group, Israel launches its second major invasion on the 6th.  The Israelis state that the purpose of this invasion is to gain control of a zone that is twenty-five miles deep.[48] This is not the only reason however, since the Israelis also endeavor to contain the Syrians and leave Lebanon under Christian control.[49]  “Operation Peace for Galilee” targets the PLO.

By the second day of the invasion, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF), Israel’s military forces, proceeds beyond the proclaimed twenty-five mile limit and is on the move towards Beirut.  Syrian soldiers back up quickly and are out of the way by the end of June.[50]  The Syrian-Israeli ceasefire does not apply to the Palestinians, and so the advancing Israelis trap the main PLO troops in West Beirut.

Approximately 7,000 Palestinians flee Lebanon to other Arab nations.

1982 September:  Pro-Israeli president-elect Bashir Gemayel is assassinated at the headquarters of his Christian Phalangist Party. Israel occupies West Beirut where the Phalangist militia kills thousands of Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled area of Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. This prompts the return of a multinational U.S., French and Italian peacekeeping force.  Amin Gemayel, Bashir’s elder brother, is elected president.

1983: A buffer zone is established in south Lebanon.  An agreement on Israel’s withdrawal is signed between Israel and Lebanon. An April suicide attack on the U.S. Embassy kills 63, another in October at the peacekeeping headquarters kills 241 Americans and 58 French troops.  In 1984, U.S. troops withdraw.

1985: Most Israeli troops withdraw, but the SLA remains in the “security zone” in the south.

1986: Syria oversees a peacekeeping agreement in Beirut. The agreement is undermined by skirmishes between Shiite and Druze militias in West Beirut. Syrian troops organize to foster order by combating militia resistance.

The Rival Administrations

1988: When elections fail to produce a successor, Amin Gemayel, the outgoing president, appoints an interim military government under the helm of the Maronite Commander-in-Chief Michel Aoun in East Beirut. Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss set up a mainly Muslim-dominated rival administration in West Beirut.

1989: Sixty-two parliamentary members meet in Taif, Saudi Arabia, to endorse a Charter of National Reconciliation.  The Taif Accord establishes a more equitable political structure, giving Muslims a greater role in the political process and transferring much of the authority of the president to the cabinet.

End of the Civil War

1990 October: Michel Aoun flees after the Syrian Air Force attacks the Presidential Palace at B‛abdā.  This formally puts an end to the civil war.

1991: A treaty of friendship is signed between Syria and Lebanon, effectively giving Syria authority over Lebanon’s foreign relations.  The Lebanese government orders the dissolution of all militias, with the exception of Hezbollah.  The SLA refuses to dissolve.  The Lebanese Army defeats the PLO and regains control over the southern port of Sidon.

1992: Sheikh Abbas al-Musawri, the Hezbollah leader, is killed by an Israeli attack on his motorcade. Nabih Berri, Secretary General of the Amal organization becomes speaker of the National Assembly.  After the first elections since 1972, Rafiq Hariri, a wealthy businessman with Saudi Arabian citizenship, becomes prime minister, heading a cabinet of technocrats.

1993-1996: Israel launches “Operation Accountability” on Hezbollah.  Israel launches “Operation Grapes of Wrath” where she bombs Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon, southern Beirut and the Biqā valley. Israel attacks a United Nations base at Qana, resulting in the deaths of over 100 Lebanese displaced persons.  The United States brokers a truce between Hezbollah and Israel.  Hezbollah agrees not to attack civilians in north Israel and in return, Israel accepts Hezbollah’s right to resist Israeli occupation in the south. Lebanon and Syria refuse to sign the agreement.

1999: Israel bombs south Lebanon, the deadliest attack since 1996.

Israeli Withdrawal

2000: The Israeli cabinet votes to withdraw Israeli troops from south Lebanon.  Israel withdraws its troops from southern Lebanon after the collapse of the SLA and the Hezbollah advance.  The withdrawal marks the end of 18 consecutive years of occupation.

2001-2002: Syria withdraws almost all of its 25,000 forces from Lebanon, leaving 14,000 behind. Continued Israeli-Palestinian clashes result in the stationing of Hezbollah forces along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

2004: The UN Security Council resolution demands that Syria remove its troops, which had been posted in Lebanon for the past 28 years. Syria disregards the demands of the UN. At Syrian insistence, parliament extends the six-year term limit of pro-Syrian president Emile Lahoud by three years. Rafiq Hariri unexpectedly leaves after weeks of political stalemate.

Hariri Assassination

2005 February: Rafiq Hariri is assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut, and Syria is accused of involvement. The assassination ignites anti-Syrian riots in Beirut and the resignation of Prime Minister Omar Karami’s cabinet. Calls for a full Syrian withdrawal are the main demands of the rioters until its forces leave in April.  Assassinations of anti-Syrian leaders become commonplace.

2005 June: An anti-Syrian alliance, led by Rafiq Hariri’s son, Saad Hariri, wins control of parliament during elections.  Fouad Sinioara, a Hariri ally, is chosen as prime minister.

2005 September: Four pro-Syrian generals are charged over Rafiq Hariri’s assassination.

2006 July-August: Israel launches a 34-day military strike on Lebanon after Hezbollah fighters capture two Israeli soldiers.  The attack kills 1,200 Lebanese civilians, 160 Israeli soldiers and damages major Lebanese infrastructures. The UN deploys a peacekeeping force along the southern border.  Lebanese troops are also stationed along the border.

2006 November: Hezbollah and Amal Movement ministers resign before the cabinet endorses draft UN plans for a tribunal to try suspects in the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

2007 May-September: Clashes between Islamist militants and the military lead to a siege of the Palestinian refugee camp Nahr al-Bared. Over 300 deaths and the flight of 40,000 residents occur before the army gains control of the camp.

2007 May: The UN Security Council votes to form a tribunal to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Lebanese-Syrian Relations

2008 May: Michel Suleiman, the army chief, is elected president by parliament.  This act ends a six-month-long political deadlock. Fouad Siniora is re-appointed prime minister of the national unity government.

2008 October: Diplomatic relations with Syria are established for the first time since both countries gained independence in the 1940s.

2009 March-April: An international court to try Rafiq Hariri’s killers opens in The Hague.  Mohammed Zuhair al-Siddiq, a former Syrian intelligence officer, arrested in connection with the killing, and four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals arrested in 2005 are released after the lack of sufficient evidence.

Unity Government

2009 June: Saad Hariri forms a unity government after the pro-Western March 14 alliance wins parliamentary elections.

2010 October: Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, calls for a boycott of the UN-led Hariri tribunal.

2011 January: The government disintegrates after Hezbollah and its allied ministers resign.

2011 June: A Hezbollah-dominated cabinet is formed by Najib Mikati. Four arrest warrants over the Hariri assassination are issued by the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  Hezbollah states it will not allow the arrests as the accused are Hezbollah members.

2012: Lebanon endures the spillover of the Syrian conflict.  The spillover leads to clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in Tripoli and Beirut.

2012 October: Wissam al-Hassan, security chief, is murdered in a car bombing.  The opposition blames Syria.

2012 December: Deadly clashes ensue between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashir al-Assad in Tripoli.

2013 March: After Damascus warns Lebanon to put an end to militants crossing the border to fight Syrian governmental forces, Syria fires rockets into northern Lebanon.  Political tensions over upcoming elections lead to the resignation of Najib Mikati’s government.

2013 April: Tammam Salam, a Sunni Muslim politician, is given the task of forming a new government.

2013 May: Sectarian skirmishes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian Assad regime lead to the death of at least 10 persons. Hassan Nasrallah promises victory in Syria.  Due to security concerns over the Syrian conflict, Parliament votes to postpone elections in June until November 2014.

2013 June: Armed clashes between Hezbollah gunmen and Syrian rebels in Lebanon result in deaths.  Lebanese soldiers clash with Sunni militants in Sidon, resulting in the deaths of at least 17 soldiers.

2013 July: The militia wing of Hezbollah is classified as a terrorist organization by the European Union.  This measure makes it illegal for Hezbollah supporters and sympathizers to send money to the organization.

2013 August: Bomb attacks at two mosques in Tripoli kill dozens.  These bombings are connected to tensions and unease over the conflict in Syria.

2013 September: The United Nations announces that there are at least 700,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

2013 November: Twin suicide bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut kill at least 22 people.

2013 December: Hassan Nasrallah accuses Saudi intelligence services for the bombings outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut.  Hassan Lakkis, a high ranking officer in Hezbollah, is murdered near Beirut.  Hezbollah blames Israel. Israel denies involvement. Sunni opposition leader Mohammed Chatah, who is also a critic of Bashar al-Assad, is murdered in a car bomb in central Beirut.

2014 February: After ten months of talks, Tammam Salam finally organizes a new power-sharing cabinet.

2014 April: The United Nations states that the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon has passed one million.

2014 May: A power vacuum is left after President Suleiman ends his term in office.  Efforts are made in parliament in the months after his departure to choose a successor but they prove futile.

2014 August: Syrian rebels overrun border town of Arsal.  They withdraw after being challenged by the military but take 30 soldiers and policemen captive.

2014 September: Prime Minister Salam calls on the UN to help Lebanon address a “terrorist onslaught” and the influx of Syrian refugees.

2014 October: Spillover violence from the Syrian conflict leads to clashes in Tripoli between the army and Islamist gunmen.

2014 November: Citing Syria-related security concerns, Parliament extends its own term to 2017.

2015 January: Israel initiates air strikes on the Syrian side of the Golan.  The air strikes kill Hezbollah fighters and an Iranian general. Several clashes take place across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

2015 January: A policy outlining new restrictions on Syrians entering Lebanon goes into effect.

2015 June: Strained relations between Lebanese and the Syrian refugees situated in the country are further heightened by suicide bombings in Al-Qaa, allegedly carried out by Syrian nationals.

2016 October: After 29 months without a head of state, Michel Aoun, the former army chief, is elected president.


[1] Fawwāz Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon, 1st ed. (London: Pluto Press, 2007),42.

[2]Fawwāz Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon, 1st ed. (London: Pluto Press, 2007),75.

[3]Ibid 100-101.

[4] Ibid, 104-105.

[5] Ibid, 106.

[6] Ibid, 106-108.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Fawwāz Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon,1st ed. (London: Pluto Press, 2007), 160

[9] Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon, 161.

[10] Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon, 162.

[11] Ṭarābulsī, History of Modern Lebanon, 171.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Kirsten E. Schulze, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, 40.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Rami Siklawi, “The Dynamics of Palestinian Political Endurance in Lebanon”, The Middle East Journal 64, no. 4 (2010): 602.

[18]Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 157.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 158.

[21] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 173.

[22] Michael Hudson, “The Palestinian Factor in the Lebanese Civil War”, Middle East Journal 32, no. 3 (1978): 261-262.

[23] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 174.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26]Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 175.

[27] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 176.

[28] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 178.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 194.

[31] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 195.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 196.

[35] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 197.

[36] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 197.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 201.

[39] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 203.

[40] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 204.

[41] Ibid.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 211-212.

[44] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 212.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 213.

[47] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 214.

[48] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 223.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 224.

The First Reconciliation Conference

On October 31, 1983, Walīd Jumblāt, Nabīh Berri, Camille Chamoun, Suleiman Franjieh, and Pierre Gemayel and other Lebanese politicians met in Geneva to hear President Amin Gemayel’s plan for reconstructing Lebanon.[1] The leaders agreed on two main points: the characterization of Lebanon as a single Arab country and the freezing of the Lebanon-Israeli agreement until the latter had completely withdrawn its forces.[2] The agreement that came from this reconciliation conference failed because it was not comprehensive enough. Thus, it was neither comprehensive in its provisions nor was it comprehensive with the representatives included.  It failed to address the issues of governmental representation that were at the core of the conflict.  Additionally, it excluded the Palestinians, Syrians and Israelis, three of the major parties of the war.

The Second Reconciliation Conference

Led by Amin Gemayel, in Lausanne, Switzerland, the leaders agreed to a total ceasefire in 1984.[3]  However, this mediation attempt failed because the old zu‛āma, the landed families, who met here were not in actual control of their militia leaders.

The 1985 Tripartite Agreement

Facilitated by Rashid Karami, the agreement was signed on December 28, 1985 in Damascus by Walīd Jumblāt, Nabīh Berri, and Elie Hubayqa, the Lebanese Forces commander. It made provisions for privileged relations between Lebanon and Syria, the reorganization of the army, the reduction of presidential powers in favor of the prime minister, and cabinet and Christian/non-Christian equality in parliament.[4]  This agreement ultimately failed because the president of the Republic was not a signatory partner, and the dominant militias were excluded.[5] Additionally, it hinged on the ability of the Syrian-backed Habayqa and Berri to dominate their respective militias and communal groups; however, they could not, as Gemayel and the Christian Lebanese Forces rejected it, seeing the agreement as a Syrian measure to completely control the Lebanese polity.[6]

Post-War Sectarianism

After the war ended, Lebanon tried to foster peace and structure a truly representative state.  However, features of post-war Lebanon have created a climate where the threat of sectarian clashes is always possible.

At this time, the Lebanon-Israeli conflict, which continued until the Israeli withdrawal in 2000, helped transform Hezbollah into the main political party for the Shiite.  At the same time, Rafiq Hariri, a wealthy businessman, rose to the premiership and led a reconstruction project in the country.  Additionally, he established the Future Movement, the first major Sunni political party, which advanced his vision of a sovereign and economically open Lebanon.[7]

Key Groups

The assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005 resulted in the “Cedar Revolution” of 2005, which saw Lebanese protest both for and against Syrian occupation.[8]  The rivalry found at the heart of the “Cedar Revolution” led to the creation of the March 8 and March 14 alliances, which were pro- and anti-Syrian, respectively.

The March 14 Alliance consists of the Future Movement and the two Christian political parties of Katā‛ib and Lebanese Forces.[9]  The March 8 Alliance includes Hezbollah and the Amal Movements, as well as the Christian Free Patriotic Movement.[10]  The rise of these coalitions has placed the Sunni and Shia parties and people at loggerheads over the vision of the state, which has created episodes of gridlock.  Furthermore, these coalitions have allowed regional powers to use Lebanon as a basis for their geopolitical rivalry.

Hezbollah, which has still not disarmed, is Lebanon’s most well-armed actor. Its unmatched military prowess has led to a variety of crises like the 2008 clash with the March 14 government, and as such, has fostered resentment, especially among the Sunni.

Sunni Radicalisation

Hezbollah’s involvement in destabilizing crises, as well as its failed attempts to represent itself as a Lebanese group rather than a Shia group, have entrenched feelings of resentment among the Sunni.

Since Hariri’s assassination, the Sunnis have lacked a leader who could unite them under one vision. This, coupled with the weakness of Sunni religious institutions, has left a vacuum that has been exploited by non-state actors, typically Islamists.[11]

Sunni Islamist groups thrust themselves into the mainstream environment by using the Hariri assassination to incite Sunnis against Shia.  The radicals have stoked sectarian flames by clashing with Shia in the north and with the Lebanese Army.

Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, which has increased tensions and resentment, even with Sunnis who had previously supported them, has given Sunni radicals a platform for the continuation of sectarian clashes.[12] Capitalizing on ties with extremist groups in the region, Sunni radicals have advanced the operations of Syrian jihadi groups in Lebanon, who want revenge against Hezbollah by launching attacks in their strongholds.[13]


[1] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 235.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Winslow, Lebanon: War and Politics in a Fragmented Society, 238.

[4] William Harris, Lebanon: A History, 600-2011, 1st ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).

[5] Bernard Reich, Political Leaders of the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa: A Bibliographical Dictionary, 1st ed. (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1990), 303.

[6] Marius Deeb, Syria’s Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process, 1st ed. (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 124-125.

[7] Lina Khatib and Maxwell Gardiner, Lebanon: Situation Report (Carnegie Middle East Center-Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2015), http://carnegie-mec.org/2015/04/17/lebanon-situation-report-pub-59832

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

The Military

Conflict spillover from the Syrian conflict has made the army a target.  Deadly attacks on Lebanese soldiers have become commonplace during the last few years.  As the army was never trained for a military offensive, armed groups like Hezbollah continue to act as the national defense forces of Lebanon.


Due to its geographical position on the frontlines of Middle East conflict, Lebanon has always been a country affected by influxes of refugees.  In addition to the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, there has been a huge influx of Syrian refugees since the start of the Syrian conflict. The presence of the refugees, to some degree, has heightened tensions between the political groups in Lebanon. Additionally, this influx is transforming Lebanon’s demographics, adversely affecting the societal fabric of Lebanon. As a majority of the Syrian refugees are Sunnis, Christian and Shia Lebanese are apprehensive about possible permanent plans for settlement for them as they could undermine the balance of power between the sects.  There is widespread poverty and unemployment among Syrian refugees, inside and outside of government-run camps.[1] This widespread destitution leaves room for the possible recruitment of impoverished Syrian refugees into radicalized organizations. The continued battles at the northeastern border with Syria have resulted in a precarious security situation, and increased hostilities towards Syrian refugees. [2]


[1] Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, Analysis of the Current Situation in Lebanon: Situation, Pillars of Support and Possible Outcome (CANVAS, 2015), http://canvasopedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/lebanon-analysis.pdf.

[2] Ibid.

United States of America

By itself, Lebanon functions as a minor player in US foreign policy concerns.[1]  However, its geographical position on the frontlines of Middle East developments makes it important to the US.[2] The continued rise of Hezbollah, which the US defines as a terrorist group, and its continued association with Iran is a major concern for the US. Since Hezbollah is considered an enemy of Israel, the US, a longstanding Israeli ally, will most likely continue to equip the Lebanese Army and strengthen the Lebanese civil society so as to counteract the influence of Hezbollah.


As an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia is focused on countering the rebels involved in the Syrian conflict.  With Hezbollah as an ally in the conflict, Russia has a stake in preventing the Syrian rebels based in Lebanon from mounting formidable attacks and instituting a proto-state.  As such, Russia needs to strengthen Hezbollah so it can effectively combat the anti-Assad rebels in Lebanon.


Before 2005, Syria played a major role in shaping the foreign policy of Lebanon.  These relations were solidified in the Taif Agreement. The Syrian impact on the Lebanese political terrain diminished after Hariri’s assassination in 2005.[3]  Currently, Syria’s stake in Lebanon is primarily shaped by its ongoing conflict.  With President Michel Aoun as an ally, Syria needs to strengthen its ties with Lebanon so it can take on more refugees.  Also, Syria needs both Hezbollah and Aoun to effectively thwart the Syrian rebels who have infiltrated Lebanon.  Additionally, the stability of Lebanon is important to the safety of these Syrian refugees.


Israel has always had a complicated relationship with Lebanon. Currently, the Israeli-Lebanese relationship is mainly framed around the Hezbollah militia, which resulted in a brief war in 2006. As Lebanon continues to experience the spillover of the Syrian conflict, Israel needs a stable Lebanon so it can secure the Lebanese-Israeli borders.  Additionally, Israel needs its ally, the Sunni March 8 alliance, to maintain and increase its political power in Lebanon so that Israel can have influence over domestic developments.


Lebanese-Iranian relations are framed around the political alliances in Lebanon.[4]  Iran needs the predominantly Shia-led March 14 alliance to maintain and increase its political power so that Iran can increase its domestic influence.  Also, Iran needs Hezbollah so as to try to export its Islamic revolution, as well as successfully engage in its ongoing geopolitical conflict with Saudi Arabia.

The EU

The relationship between Lebanon and the European Union is marked by the EU’s European Neighborhood Policy, which focuses on fostering economic integration and tying Lebanon to the democratic ideals of the European Union.[5] As such, the EU needs Lebanon to move from its paralyzing episodes of political stalemate to political cooperation.


[1] Anne Marie Baylouny, “US Foreign Policy in Lebanon”, in Handbook of US-Middle East Relations, 1st ed. (London: Routledge, 2009), 311.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, Analysis of the Current Situation in Lebanon: Situation, Pillars of Support and Possible Outcome (CANVAS, 2015), http://canvasopedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/lebanon-analysis.pdf.

[4] Ibid.


Political System and Political Development

As a country that has primarily been defined by sectarianism, Lebanon and its political structure will most likely continue to be defined by it.  To prevent it from crippling the political structure and generating more episodes of deadlock and stalemate, steps need to be taken to lessen its influence on developments in the country.

Lebanon needs to foster the growth of credible cross-communal interactions in the political spectrum.  To do so, political parties that are not primarily based on religious terms should be created. These parties, which will most likely project actual political platforms, will advance the creation of authentic cross-cultural cleavages.  They will most likely reject the favoring of ethnic distinctions, which will ensure that groups are not locked in restrictive structures where identity is predetermined.

This trend of opinion-based associations should be extended to the education and media sectors.  The framing of these institutions around political opinion, instead of ethnic and religious backgrounds, will help prevent corruption and clientelism, which will most likely sow the seeds for political transparency in the country.

Defense Services

The Armed Forces of Lebanon will most likely continue to prove weak and ineffective while Hezbollah continues to function as the unofficial defensive arm of the country.  With the destructive developments of the Syrian conflict, Lebanon needs to undergo a comprehensive project of security sector reform, and before the military proves capable of effectively addressing the defense and security concerns of the country, it should coordinate with Hezbollah so that effective and organized security measures can be undertaken.

The Syrian Conflict

As a neighbor of Syria, Lebanon will most likely continue to suffer from the spillover effects of the Syrian Civil War.  As a country that already suffers from high debt ratios, the strain from the influx of refugees will most likely continue to increase levels of poverty and unemployment.

Furthermore, depending on the developments in Syria, Lebanon will most likely continue to endure the presence and infiltration of Syrian rebels.  To prevent the rebels from using Lebanon as a headquarters, where a network of proto-state institutions, political and structural development, and operational independence can be formed to counter the Assad regime, Lebanon needs to chart a comprehensive plan meant to contain the rebels.  If not, Lebanon risks reflecting the Jordan-PLO experience, where it will most likely be set on a collision course with the rebels and have its sovereignty undermined.

A New President

In October 2016, after a two-year deadlock surrounding the vacancy, Lebanon elected Michel Aoun, the former Lebanese army chief, as president.  Until this election, Lebanon had been without a head of state since Michel Suleiman stepped down as president at the end of his term in May 2014.[1]  Since 2015, 45 sessions to elect a new president had failed due to political infighting.[2] The political stalemate was broken when Saad Hariri, the former prime minister who controls the largest parliamentary bloc, said he would support Aoun for president.  It remains to be seen whether this act of political cooperation is to be a longstanding theme in the current political climate.


[1] “Michel Aoun Elected President of Lebanon,” Aljazeera.com, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/michel-aoun-elected-president-lebanon-161031105331767.html

[2] “Michel Aoun Elected President of Lebanon,” Aljazeera.com, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/michel-aoun-elected-president-lebanon-161031105331767.html

  1. Memory and Conflict in Lebanon: Remembering and Forgetting the Past by Craig Larkin

This book critically analyzes the legacy of the civil war and how the population, especially the youth, are engaging with their national past.  In discussing how the Lebanese people are navigating the complex terrain of their collective memory, Larkin addresses issues of post-war memory selectivity, the rise of new memory debates and the possible emergence of a new and unifying Lebanese nationalism.

  1. Peace Report: Bahout, Joseph. “Sectarianism in Lebanon and Syria: The Dynamics of Mutual Spill-Over.” United States Institute of Peace. November 15, 2013 http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/PB159.pdf.

In this report, Joseph Bahout examines the impact of the Syrian Civil War on the structure of sectarianism, particularly the Sunni-Shia cleavage, in Lebanon.  He argues that the Syrian conflict has reinforced Sunni-Shia tensions on two levels, symbolic and identity-based, and as such, has promoted an idea of defense not only on their share of resources of power but their very survival as well.

  1. The Paradox of Power-Sharing: Stability and Fragility in Postwar Lebanon by Amanda Rizkallah http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2017.1277031

This article participates in the debate about the viability of power-sharing settlements in promoting cross-cultural cleavages that effectively undermine the need for ethic distinction.  Amanda Rizkallah, critically discusses the effects of civil war and power-sharing agreements for the development of sectarian networks of mobilization.  She posits that although power-sharing functions as a viable vehicle for ending civil war, it also allows participatory militias-turned-parties access to state resources, thereby leaving their population networks and organizations intact.

  1. Middle East Report No. 175 “Hizbollah’s Syria Conundrum.” International Crisis Group. March 14 2017


This report critically assesses the contradictory effects that Hizbollah’s intervention in Syria have had on the party. By underlining both the positives and negatives of Hizbollah’s intervention, the report posits that without a realistic exit strategy, it risks being sucked into a quagmire as there seems no end in sight to the war.  The paper engages further on Hizbollah’s situation in Syria by providing recommendations on how it can extricate itself from the quagmire.

  1. Bahout, Joseph. “The Unraveling of Lebanon’s Taif Agreement: Limits of Sect-Based Power Sharing.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. May 2016 http://carnegieendowment.org/files/CP_271_Bahout_Taif_Final.pdf

As a response to renewed interest in sectarian power-sharing as a viable measure for rehabilitation in mixed states, which was brought on by the Middle East upheavals that began in 2010, Joseph Bahout argues that although the power-sharing structure of the Taif Agreement is imperfect in many ways, it has managed to keep the country at peace.  Additionally, Bahout in an attempt to engage with calls for transferring the post-war reconciliation and power distribution experience of Lebanon to Iraq and Syria, highlights the ways through which the Lebanese power-sharing structure of Taif may be applied and rejected elsewhere.

  1. Report 12-757: “Sectarianism and Counter-Sectarianism in Lebanon.” Population Studies Center. May 2012 http://www.psc.isr.umich.edu/pubs/pdf/rr12-757.pdf

This report partakes in the debate on sectarianism in Lebanon by attempting to highlight how the historic shift in the system of power relations towards political parity amongst the primary political groups has lessened the impact of the functionality of sectarianism in evolving power relations. Furthermore, the report explains that attitudes and orientations towards historically significant issues do not align strictly with religious fault-lines.  The report holds that the persistence of sectarianism can neither be attributed to the system of political relations nor cultural distinctions.  Instead, based on survey data, the paper presents two factors that weaken or aggravate sectarianism.  In the former category, the report cites that sectarianism is attenuated when the citizens support political equality and trust members of other confessions.  In the latter, the paper states that sectarianism is strengthened when the Lebanese people both endorse fundamentalist attitudes and show an openness for foreign interventions.


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