The Consequences and Aftermath of the War

The results of the Lebanese war were surprising in that all of those Lebanese factions that took part in the fighting actually came out of it much more worse off than they were before it started. Those that claimed that they were deprived and were fighting for a better living are now living in slums where before they lived in nice villages. Those who were fighting for more political power have no more now than they did then. Those who fought to keep their power lost it, and those who sided with outsiders and fought their own people are now the servants of foreign powers. The cost of the war to Lebanon and the price that individual Lebanese had to pay was massive:

The consequences of the war did not only have a human aspect, Lebanon itself is dying. Besides causing tremendous human suffering the war heavily contributed to the massive environmental degradation of Lebanon. The breakdown of law and order resulted in excessive hunting, illegal quarrying operations, logging and sand removal from the beaches, as well as wild construction and waste dumping which had a serious impact on natural resources. Habitats were destroyed, water resources were contaminated, and archeological treasures were damaged and stolen. Furthermore, the war severely damaged the infrastructure of the country transportation services such as, water and electricity, sewage pipes, power plants, petroleum refineries, and irrigation systems. The long period of unrest also uprooted a large proportion of the rural population and led to overcrowding in the cities and the emigration of a large number of skilled professionals. The Environment Strategy Framework Paper, done by the World Bank in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment estimated the annual cost of environmental and natural resource degradation in Lebanon to be over US$ 300 million per year in the three sectors of human health, natural resources and economic loss. The costs will rise substantially in the future, unless the issues are addressed. According to the Ministry of Environment, 17% of all deaths, disabilities and infant mortality are related to environmental degradation.

The only winners to come out of the Lebanese war were outsiders and today Lebanon is an occupied country. In May 2000 the Israeli army left Lebanon after 22 years of occupying the south of the country. The Israeli occupation in Lebanon was by far the most publicized of two occupations. The Israelis occupied what was known as a 'Buffer Zone' in South Lebanon and was roughly equal to 10% of Lebanese territory. The Israeli presence in this zone was claimed to be a necessary act of self defence so as to prevent attacks into northern Israel by various groups. Israeli military aggression, both terrestrial and aerial, was frequent both inside and outside of the zone, and acts of human rights abuse inside the zone were common. Inside the area under Israeli influence houses were frequently demolished, people arrested and held without trial, trees cut down and taken to Israel along with water from diverted rivers. In a very well documented case, they even went so far as to remove and carry off top soil.

On numerous occasions the Israeli government had offered to withdraw its troops providing that the Lebanese assure them that Israel would not be attacked from southern Lebanon. The Lebanese government declined, stating that UN resolution 425 demands unconditional withdrawal or have stated that such a withdrawal would have to be linked to an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This is not altogether surprising as the Lebanese government are not masters of their own fate. Due to mounting pressure over the years and a climbing death toll, on 22nd May 2000 the Israeli army began to withdraw from Lebanon and by the 24th the occupation ended. As one occupier left the other, Syria, strengthened its grip.

The outbreak of the Lebanese war in April 1975 gave Syria a unique opportunity to become a major player in Lebanese affairs. The break down of central authority and the country's fractured social condition made it very easy for Damascus to find agents in Lebanon. Syria shifted support among the various factions in Lebanon in a effort to expand Syrian influence. In addition, the Syrian government controlled two Palestinian armed units in Lebanon, those of the Palestine Liberation Army and Al-Sa'iqa. When even these proved insufficient, Syrian military forces in June 1976 to intervened directly. "This move proved a watershed in the relations between the two countries: for the first time Syria realized its historic ambition and dispatched military forces into Lebanon."1 A second intervention soon followed in September 1976. The occupation began and very soon Syrian forces controlled some 60% of Lebanese territory.

So strong did the Syrian grip become that Lebanese leaders dared not defy Damascus. Walid Joumblat, the Druze and leftist leader, merely had to endure several weeks of house arrest for not doing as he was told; his father, Kamal Joumblat, was killed by the Syrian agents in March 1977. Bashir Gemayel, the Phalangist leader and president-elect of Lebanon, was blown up just before he could assume the office of president. Bashir's brother Amin Gemayel, the president of Lebanon, was almost dispatched in February 1988, when half a kilo of sophisticated explosives was found on his plane. After the discovery, Syrian intelligence officers at the Beirut airport immediately seized the explosive and refused to release it.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon were also victims. Muhammad 'Umran, one of Assad's rivals, fell to an assassin's bullet in March 1972. A critic of the regime, Zuhayr Shalaq, was kidnapped in Beirut and removed to Syria in a coffin; a similar fate befell Khalil Barayiz, who had written critically about Assad's performance in the June 1967 war. No one could escape Syria's reach. Journalists were frequent victims of Assad's intimidation. Salim al-Lawzi, an important Lebanese publisher, had acquired embarrassing information about internal conditions in Syria, so Syrian agents tortured and killed him. A few months later, Riyad Taha, president of the Lebanese Publishers Association, was killed by four gunmen in a car. These methods were used against foreigner reporters too. After filing stories about unrest in Syria, Reuters correspondent Berndt Debusmann was shot in the back by a gunman using a silencer-equipped pistol. BBC correspondent Tim Llewellyn was threatened by Syrian agents and fled Beirut before being harmed, as did CBS correspondent Larry Pintak. One of the Syrian regime's best informed and severest critics, the Frenchman Michel Seurat (pen name Gerard Michaud), was kidnapped in Lebanon and either executed or allowed to die by a terrorist group almost certainly working for Damascus.

Syrian efforts to control Lebanon had obvious effects from very early on. In 1976, Assad decided the presidency of Lebanon by backing Elias Sarkis in a variety of ways, the most effective of which was to hold the presidential election under the protection of his proxy troops, the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) and Saiqa. As one account described the parliamentary meeting, reluctant deputies "were herded politely at gunpoint to the makeshift parliament building by the Syrian backed Sa'iqa guerrilla organisation in order to cast their vote for Sarkis."2 When Beirut proved inhospitable for Sarkis's inauguration, the ceremony was moved to Shtura, where it took place under the Syrian army's firm control. Soon later when Sarkis tried to remove the Syrians diplomatically from Lebanon he ran into a brick wall at every turn. A telephone conversation that took place in October 1978 between Sarkis and Assad (at the time in East Berlin) conveys the reality of Syrian power:

Elias Sarkis: No government in the world can tolerate what is taking place, being buried alive. I would like a reply to my plan for the redeployment of the Arab Deterrent Force [the Syrian forces in Lebanon] and, to begin with, an immediate ceasefire.

Hafiz al-Assad: We are in the process of studying the redeployment plan. We would like to learn the opinions of the various parties to the Lebanese crisis.

Sarkis: But, after all, I am the head of state and the only spokesman for Lebanon' I do not accept that you deal with anyone other than myself.

Assad: Dear brother, these are not the sort of issues one discusses on the telephone. In two days I will be back in Damascus and you will be welcome to come and discuss the situation in all its aspects.3

Soon any important meeting of Lebanese politicians took place in Damascus or involved Syrian officials. The Syrian foreign minister sat in on the Geneva conference of Lebanese leaders in late 1983. Most importantly, Assad's opposition to the May 1983 accord between Lebanon and Israel led to abrogation of that accord within a year after a massive military assualt of Syrian and pro-Syrian forces against the government.

By the mid 1980s Assad had achieved the long-sought Syrian role as Lebanon's kingmaker, benefactor, and discipliner. All sides acknowledged Syrian power in Lebanon. An Israeli source observed that "nothing happens in the Bekaa Valley without Syrian approval."4 Similarly, "You don't light a cigarette here without Syrian permission" was said to be a common saying in that valley.5 A Lebanese politician told The Washington Post in 1984: "Make no mistake about it, the real government of Lebanon sits in Damascus these days, not in Beirut."6 General Lahd, commander of the South Lebanon Army, held that "all big and small decisions, whether crucial or mundane, are made in Damascus and then communicated to the Lebanese authorities."7 Yasir Arafat mused that no one "can move in western Beirut without the knowledge and permission of the Syrian authorities."8 According to 'Adnan Sa'd ad-Din, a leader of the Syrian Muslim Brethren, "there are no borders between Lebanon and Syria."9

So great was Syrian strength in Lebanon that Damascus induced, through threat or through bribery, Lebanese leaders to make public declarations on its behalf. After meeting with Hafiz al-Assad in late 1976, President-elect Sulayman Faranjiya and other Lebanese leaders reported how their country stood to gain from the establishment of Greater Syria: "After the West Bank is returned to its sons, its inclusion in a union will cause the Palestinian concentration in Lebanon to shrink."10 Walid Joumblat spoke of preferring "the merger of the areas under our control with Syria" over a return to "a unified Lebanon under the 1943 formula."11 'Asim Qansuh, leader of the pro-Syrian wing of the Baath Party in Lebanon,12 was the most explicit in favoring Syrian domination. He said that no Arab country had "the right to discuss the security and stability of Lebanon with the exception of fraternal Syria."13 Arguing that "the reattachment of Lebanon to Syria offers a panacea to all the problems suffered by Lebanon,"14 he expressed the belief that "a mistake was made when Syrian forces entered Lebanon and did not immediately announce Lebanese-Syrian unity."15 He declared in August 1986 that "Lebanon's troubles will only end when it is united with Syria, thus restoring the situation to its normal historical course." Qansuh described the border between the two countries as "artificial."16 The National Union Front, a grouping of Syrian-backed Lebanese groups put the matter more delicately in its program of August 1985: "The real expression of Lebanon's Arab identity is its distinctive relationship with and decisive and unchangeable link to Syria."17 A cable it sent the next day to Hafiz al-Assad amplified this link, calling for "a strong Pan-Arab relationship between Lebanon and Syria to coordinate the two countries' resources in foreign policy, defense, security, economy, education, and other fields."18 Nabih Birri, a key participant in the National Union Front, later gave more details: "There must be integration with Syria, by means of actual agreements in the economic, security, military, political, information, and educational fields."19

The Syrian government even forced Pan-Syrian ideology on some members of the stalwarts of Lebanese separatism, the Lebanese Forces. In September 1985, the Executive Committee of the Lebanese Forces under Elie Hubayqa, while on a trip to Damascus, stressed "the importance of bolstering the distinguished relations with Syria stemming from the unity of fate, interests, history, and geography between the two countries." After the trip, the committee issued a statement recognizing "Syria's distinctive role in Lebanon."20 These statements suggested a wide acknowledgment that the return of public order in Lebanon depended on the actions of the Syrian government, as it was the Syrians who were in firm control of the anti governement forces in Lebanon. This made it easier for some of Assad's enemies to accept his role in Lebanese affairs. But others continued to do their best to resist Assad. The Lebanese Forces, the coalition of Christian militias, accepted in late 1985 the need for a Syrian-imposed agreement in Lebanon but retained its long-held suspicions of Syrian motives. A spokesman demanded "that the agreement's prelude be amended to emphasize that Lebanon is a UN member and that it abides by the UN Charter and the armistice agreement in the south. In this way Lebanon . . . will not lose its identity or fall under Syrian tutelage."21 Implicit in this concern was the fear that Syria would absorb Lebanon.

Syrian efforts to totally control Lebanon culminated with a pact signed by three Lebanese militia leaders in December 1985. Familiar Syrian goals emerged from the strange language of this document:

'This solution requires a comprehensive national commitment and pan-Arab strength represented in implementing special relations with fraternal Syria, which did not and will never spare any effort, under President struggler Hafez El-Asad's leadership, to deliver Lebanon and protect its independence, unity, and Arab affiliation and to lead it toward a democratic solution for its various struggles.'22

In 1988, the Syrian government officially announced its opposition to the extension of President Amin Gemayel's term in office for another two years and when General Aoun became prime minister and formed a government, the Syrians set up their own rival government in west Beirut.

After removing Aoun from power putting their collaborators into power in Lebanon by military means in 1990, Syria has not only 'legitimized' its presence through various agreements but has almost total control over the government: 'Damascus used the bi-lateral agreements it imposed on Lebanon (The Treaty of Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination of May 1991, and The Defence and Security Agreement of August 1991) to cement its control over all aspects of Lebanese government and society. From politics and security to economics and culture, the heart of what was once an open and free democracy is now being threatened by Syrian occupation. These agreements were forced through the parliament of Lebanon, which has become nothing more than a rubber stamp sanctioning the whims of the men in Damascus. The motive behind these agreements is the total absorption of Lebanon by Syria. Of greatest concern, the Syrian-Lebanese security agreement asserts that "subversive" elements in one country are to be arrested and handed over to the authorities of the other upon request. This language legitimizes regular Syrian intervention in Lebanese internal affairs'.23

'Syrian dominion can also be seen at the highest level: every government decision of any significance, including all appointments and spending priorities, must first be cleared in Damascus shown by the fact that the Lebanese leaders frequently and openly travel to Damascus for "consultations" with their Syrian handlers. When Damascus wanted the Lebanese parliament to elect Elias Hrawi as president in 1989, Syrian military and mukhabarat officers herded the parliamentarians to the meeting in a town it dominated and had him duly elected. When the Syrians in 1995 decided to ignore the constitutional limit of a single presidential term, they simply told the parliament to support an amendment that would extend his time in office by three years. The cabinet included several ministers who were militia leaders and are suspected of having committed gross human rights violations. The ministers of natural resources and power (Eli Hubayka) and refugees (Walid Jumblat), are widely accused of having had direct roles in mass killings; the minister of labour (As'ad Hardin) is suspected of masterminding many assassinations and car bombings for his Syrian masters. Syrian management has led to many detrimental consequences for Lebanon'.24

Election rigging seems to have become a fashion in Lebanon with pro Syrian candidates winning impressive victories in staunchly anti Syrian districts. In some cases voters were bussed in form other districts and paid to vote for the pro Syrian candidates, in other cases people who have been dead for over 50 years managed to rise form either graves and cast a vote. In late 1998 a new President, General Emile Lahoud, was chosen by the Syrians and then elected by the parliament, and a new government, led by Prime Minister Dr. Salim al-Hoss, was installed. The new cabinet seemed to differ from the old one, although it is still pro Syrian, it did not contain the pro Syrian warlords of the previous government, however it is weak, as it does not seem able to stand up for itself in any way shape or form. The previous Prime Minister, Rafiq al-Hariri, a dynamic character with massive Saudi support, was able to some degree to be his own man and act at times without prior permission from Syria. As a result he was forced to step down.

Since 1998 the Lebanese economy has nose dived and a heavy recession is underway in Lebanon as a result of which young Lebanese talent is forced to leave the country to seek opportunities outside their borders. This, along with the general emmigration that started with the outbreak of the war in 1975, has decimated the Lebanese middle class. The brain drain in Lebanon is proving disasterous for the economy. On a more basic level, the hundreds of thousands of Syrian labourers that have flooded into Lebanon have forced many Lebanese out of their jobs in various fields ranging from industry to agriculture. Much of the crime in Lebanon can be attributed to the Syrian workers in the country.

One of the main reasons cited for the outbreak of hostilities in the first place was the massive presence of armed Palestinian guerillas on the Lebanese soil, at the peak of their power the Palestinians could muster some 35,000 combat troops in Lebanon. Although the Israeli invasion of 1982 went a long way to break the Palestinian military machine, there remains a large number of armed Palestinian troops on Lebanese soil. These Palestinians are a law unto themselves with their camps being no go areas for Lebanese authorities. The Palestinians still challenge the authority of the Lebanese government have been involved in a number of high profile incidents ranging from attacks on the Lebanese Army to the massacre of Lebanese judges in a court room in Sidon.

Lebanon used to be a country that prided itself for its respect of human rights but year after year Amnesty International reports blast Lebanon's record of abuse, their year 2000 report reads just like that of any other year with no improvements being visible:

'Scores of people, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested on political charges during the year. Among them were students who were detained for distributing leaflets on behalf of opposition groups; they were usually released after a few hours or days.
Dozens of people were arrested, accused of involvement in armed attacks against Lebanese or Syrian officials or of "collaborating" with Israel.

Journalists and artists continued to be charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

There were some reports of torture and ill-treatment, including instances of brutality or excessive use of force by the army and military police against demonstrators.

Dozens of political prisoners were tried by the Justice Council and the Military Court whose proceedings such as summary proceedings in the Military Court and the lack of judicial review for the verdicts of the Justice Council failed to meet international fair trial standards.
In June (1999) the Justice Council convicted 12 defendants of the killing of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. Among them was Samir Gea'gea', former leader of the banned Lebanese Forces the main Christian militia during the civil war who was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. Samir Gea'gea' was already serving two other life sentences imposed by the Justice Council in 1995 and 1997. He and about 15 others, mostly former members of the Lebanese Forces, continued to be detained in the Ministry of Defence in cruel, inhuman or degrading conditions; all were said to be held in solitary confinement in damp basement cells with almost no access to exercise or visits.'

Amnesty International has for years raised concerns that trials before military courts in Lebanon do not meet international standards for fair trials; in particular they are summary; the judgement does not provide any discussion of the reasons for the verdict, and there is no recourse to a higher court. The Lebanese legal system seems to have become a mere formality when it comes to the military court trails of anyone who is deemed to be an enemy of the state, this has become rather evident in the recent trial of members of the SLA who surrendered to the government. Amnesty International criticized the summary trials of more than 2,000 former South Lebanon Army militia members and those said to have "collaborated" with Israel as "travesties" of justice. "Such summary trials, with barely seven minutes spent on each individual, neither allow the innocent to be acquitted nor ensure that those who may be guilty of war crimes will be discovered." Amnesty International said, adding that "These trials also fail to provide the examination and understanding of the past and the human rights violations committed which would indeed pave the way for a reconciliation throughout society. After the occupation of south Lebanon and the gross violations committed by Israel and the South Lebanon Army, the message should be one of justice. Justice cannot be brought by such trials."

Those who surrendered or were arrested were detained incommunicado for up to 10 days in centres under the Lebanese military intelligence, in centres such as Qasr Noura, Shweifat, Kfar Shima, the Ministry of Defence and 'Abla, a military camp in the Bekaa valley. Members of their families were not informed where they were; relatives went from prison to prison looking for them without success. Although most detainees did not appear to have been badly treated, apart from suffering solitary confinement for days, some of those detained reported that they were tortured by being beaten or suspended in the "farruj" (chicken) position (when the victim is trussed on a pole like a chicken on a spit). Once detainees were taken to Roumieh Prison they were held in overcrowded conditions with more than 110 detainees to a room. Trials started on 5 June 2000 and, barring holidays and the mourning period for President Assad of Syria, have been taking place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays every week. On the first day, 73 people were tried and sentenced; between 23 and 43 individuals have been tried each day after that. Most have been sentenced to between one month and five years, with fines and restriction orders. The highest sentence has been 15 years' imprisonment.

A military court even went so far as to sentence a Lebanese man, Salah Noureddine, to one year in prison in June 2000 for saying that Syrian President Hafez Assad's death was cause for celebration. In addition to the prison term handed down he was fined $600. He was arrested shortly after Assad's June 10 death for comments he made to friends and relatives. It seems that these days nobody is safe in Lebanon, a man even has to watch what he says in front of his own friends in case one of them is a collaborator. Also in June 2000 Lebanese authorities banned nine British, French and U.S. newspapers and magazines for publishing reports about Assad's death that were considered insulting to the Syrian leader.

The vast majority of Lebanese firmly believe that things will get better when all foreign troops leave Lebanese soil so as to enable the Lebanese government to act more freely. In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, many prominent Lebanese have recently called for the withdrawal of Syrian forces form Lebanon, but their voices have gone unheard and even statements form the United States in support of Lebanon's sovereignty seen to have no effect.

< Top >< Home >< Site Map >< Site Search >< Discussion Board >< Guestbook >

1. Reuven Avi-Ran, "The Syrian Military-Strategic Interest in Lebanon," The Jerusalem Quarterly 46 (Spring 1988): 141.
2. The Economist Intelligence Unit, Quarterly Economic Review of Syria, Lebanon, Cyprus (3d quarter 1976): 11.
3. Quoted in Karim Pakradouni, La Paix, manquee: Le Mandat d'Elias Sarkis (1976-1982) (Beirut: Editions Fiches du Monde Arabe, 1983), p. 170.
4. The New York Times, 30 December 1983.
5. The Christian Science Monitor, 18 March 1983.
6. The Washington Post, 23 July 1984.
7. Voice of Hope, 9 September 1985.
8. Middle East News Agency, 28 May 1988.
9. Al-Watan al-'Arabi, 3 June 1988.
10. As-Sayyad [Beirut], 9 September 1976.
11. Voice of the Mountain, 2 December 1988.
12. This wing came into existence shortly after the Syrian coup d'etat of Feb 1966. Asad used his influence to get the leader of the Lebanese Ba'th Party put in Jail for criticizing a foreign state, then proceeded to set up a new Ba'th organization.
13. Quoted in Antun Khuwayri, Hawadith Lubnan 197'5 (Juniya: Al-Bulusiya, 1976), p. 304.
14. Agence France Presse, 14 November 1975.
15. Associated Press, 23 June 1977.
16. Voice of Lebanon, 2 August 1986.
17. Radio Beirut, 6 August 1985.
18. Radio Damascus, 7 August 1985.
19. Voice of the Mountain, 31 August 1985.
20. Damascus Television, 9 September 1985; Voice of Lebanon, 10 September 1985. Samir Ja'ja' called Hubayqa a "parrot" who "repeats what the Syrians say." Radio Free Lebanon, 30 January 1988.
21. Voice of the Mountain, 5 November 1985.
22. Tripartite Accord, 28 December 1985.
23.The Washington Institute for Near East Policy: Special Policy Forum Report "LEBANON, THE PEACE PROCESS, AND U.S. POLICY" Aug 25 1997.
24."Lebanon: A Wholly Owned Subsidiary" by Muhammad Mugraby Middle East Quarterly Spring 1998