Beirut: A Political Graveyard

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"It is more difficult to organize a peace than to win a war; but the fruits of victory will be lost if the peace is not organized."

— Aristotle

Bombing is not a hit and run phenomenon as it leaves great concerns in terms of lost human lives, shattered geography, political turmoil and suspended economy as well as insecurity at an alarming rate. Spreading terrorism or rather playing havoc with life is an old activity of conveying political perception from the opposite direction. Hence it leaves deep scars over productive, progressive and performing sectors of life.

Explosions in Beirut were common during Lebanon’s 15-year civil war but have been rare since the conflict ended in 1990. History repeated itself once again in Beirut when on February 14, 2005 former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Hariri 60, died in a massive bomb explosion occurred in a seafront area of the Lebanese capital that uses 350 kgs of explosives that tore through his motorcade. At least 14 others are reportedly killed including several of Hariri’s bodyguard.

Lebanese bid a tearful farewell to the Ex-PM as thousands attended his funeral amid tight security as he like other leaders shared dual legacy in lagoon. Many in Lebanon blame Syria for carrying out or at least having a hand in the bombing that killed Hariri, the man who was this country’s prime minister for 10 of 14 years following the 1990 end of the 15-year civil war. On the contrary Syria denies the charge and has instead condemned the assassination.

The Ex-PM, Hariri has resigned last year amid opposition to a Syrian-backed constitutional amendment that enabled his rival, the pro-Damascus Emile Lahoud, to extend his term as Lebanon’s president. Syria deployed its forces to Lebanon during the 1975-90 civil war to stop the country from falling apart, but remained following the end of the conflict. Its continued presence is a source of frustration for many Lebanese, who oppose Syrian interference in their country’s affairs, and for the international community, particularly Washington.

Historically Beirut is considered as a political graveyard especially after April 18, 1983 when a heavy bomb rocked Beirut Carried out by a terrorist driving a van carried a 2,000-pound load of explosives, reportedly stolen from the Embassy in June 1982 tearing through the front portion of the seven story building and killing sixty-three people, including the CIA’s Middle East director, were killed, and 120 were injured in a 400-pound suicide truck-bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Later Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.

Lebanon possesses a very troublesome political history. Actually the western influence over Lebanon is so devastated since it’s origin that it seems Lebanon would never gain the absolute independent power for its own or will remain under foreign pressure to shape-up its political development in the region. In Beirut the Western Powers gain influence from 1840 onwards. Following the defeat of Turkey in the 1914-1918 war and the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the French occupy Lebanon and Syria and obtain a League of Nations mandate to govern them. ‘Greater Lebanon’ is created by attaching neighboring districts which had been part of the former Ottoman provinces of Beirut and Damascus.

In 1926 the Lebanese Republic is formed and a constitution drawn, it expressly forbids any of the new country’s territory from being relinquished. Co-existence between the different groups is built into the constitution. A small, mountainous country, Lebanon was under French mandate until independence in 1943. In 1943 Parliament reaffirms the independence of the country. France responds by imprisoning President al-Khoury, Prime Minister Riad Solh and three cabinet ministers. Under pressure from the British and American Governments, France backs down.

Civil wars are another dilemma of Lebanon politics. The first outbreak of war in Lebanon begins in 1958. The US intervenes for the first time, replacing Camille Chamoun by General Chehab as President. In 1975 the second civil war breaks out between the Christian-Maronite Lebanese Forces and the National Movement backed by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1976 Syria is requested to help resolve the crisis and responds by occupying all but the far south of the country. In 1978 the Israeli army invades southern Lebanon after PLO raids into Israel. UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, is sent in to keep the peace. Israel forms a proxy militia in the south of the country. The Syrian army shells Christians in East Beirut.

Later in June 6, 1982 the Israelis invade Lebanon, marching as far as Beirut in three days and putting the city under siege for three months. Lebanese Christian President-elect Bashir Gemayel is murdered. Many strategic foreign buildings are suicide-bombed, including the Israeli military headquarters in Tyre, the US Embassy and the French military headquarters in Beirut. Lebanese and Israeli Governments agree on the terms of Israeli withdrawal on condition that the Syrian army also leaves. Syria refuses to withdraw. US warships shell Muslim and Druze areas of Lebanon. In 1985 the Israelis withdraw from Sidon and begin their ‘iron fist’ policy of repression in southern Lebanon.

The failure of the Lebanese Parliament to elect a new President leads to the setting up of rival governments in West and East Beirut. Outgoing President Amin Gemayel appoints Army Chief of Staff General Michel Aoun as interim Prime Minister. Aoun declares war on the Syrian army in Lebanon. East Beirut comes under siege from Syria and its allies. In 1989 all parties agree to a peace negotiated at a meeting of leaders in Taif, Saudi Arabia. The Taif agreement reasserts the belief in a state where the different confessions will co-exist. The first President, Rene Mowad, is assassinated after only a short time in office and replaced by Elias Hrawi. Fighting continues, especially between Christian groups.

The Gulf War brings a rapprochement between Syria and the US. Syrians move in on Aoun and defeat him. Parliament convenes and with Syrian backing dismantles the structures of war, including the Green Line dividing East and West Beirut. By 1991 the rule of the large militias is over. On 6 May Prime Minister Karami resigns. A poor turnout at the general elections in 1992 is due mainly to a boycott by the opposition hence the main benefactors from this are the more radical Shi’a Muslim parties, including the Hizbollah, which gains seats in Parliament. Rafik Hariri, billionaire and patron of various causes, is appointed Prime Minister and promises new buildings, new jobs and a new Lebanon.

In short from 1975 until the early 1990s Lebanon suffered a bloody civil war in which regional powers – particularly Israel, Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization – used the country as a battlefield for their own conflicts. Israeli troops invaded in 1982 before pulling back to a self-declared "security zone" in 1985 from which they withdrew in May 2000.

Set to end in November 2004 the president of Lebanon Emile Lahoud’s term as president and elevated for a further three years in September 2004 when parliament dominated by the allies of Damascus approved a controversial constitutional amendment allowing him to remain in office.

However, UN Security Council resolution deliberately announces for free and fair presidential elections. In Resolution 1559 passed on September 2, 2004 adopted by Vote of 9 in favour, to none against, with six abstentions declares that “The Security Council fully support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence and, in that connection, called upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon.”

Lebanon is under constant foreign pressure for the withdrawal of foreign forces. The country is also facing the prospect of being caught up in U.S. sanctions against Damascus. Syria was openly warned in recent weeks by both the U.S. and France not to interfere in Lebanon’s elections or harm its politicians. The Bush administration renewed calls on Damascus to withdraw its soldiers based in Lebanon in the latest spike in U.S.Syrian tensions. Washington has long accused Syria of supporting anti-Israeli militants and insurgents attacking U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq. Syria has denied the charges.

It was the period of 1883 when US established a diplomatic presence in Beirut. The unsteady US-Beirut relations are somehow quite perplexed to examine. At first it is the deteriorated security concern that bothers US in 1976 Ambassador Meloy was assassinated following an April 1983 suicide bomb attack on the Embassy in Beirut, in which 49 Embassy staff were killed and 34 were injured, the Embassy relocated to Awkar, north of the capital. On October 23, 1983 suicide truck-bomb attacks were made on American and French compounds in Beirut, Lebanon. A 12,000-pound bomb destroyed the U.S. compound, killing 242 Americans, while 58 French troops were killed when a 400-pound device destroyed a French base. Later in September 1984 another bomb explode killing 11 and injured 58. In September 1989, the Embassy closed and all American staff was evacuated, due to security threats. The Embassy re-opened in November 1990.

The period of Rafik Hariri was the period of reconstruction & rehabilitation of Lebanon after years of civil war. Now after his death there is a great fear of economic depression. However like all the controversy that is a part of leadership, his financial services were considered the doubling of his own wealthy image though in reality he had employed all his own financial means along with some of his allies to develop Beirut and Lebanon economically, politically and socially cosmopolitan state of the region. Indeed the assassination of Rafik Hariri is a disaster for Lebanon, its future and the family of the former prime minister.

The early suspicion over Al-Qaeeda was removed when the sources of the organization denied that Islamic Militant was involved in killing ex-PM of Lebanon. Now the question is who else is involved in such heinous crime that had suspended the economic growth led by Rafik Hariri? Is there any outside force or intelligentsia working for the opposition lobby against Lebanon involved in killing? Albeit blame game is in the preliminary process yet the loss is greater than expectation specially when preparation for election were taking place the new era of emerging developing economy was about to generate. It is now unclear if May’s elections will take place. As in recent weeks the government has hinted elections could be cancelled if extraordinary security risks developed further developing the political temperature.

Now the pressure is mounted over Syria to immediate pull-out of its forces from Lebanon, as in political analysis there is greater tendency of Israeli involvement in penetrating Lebanon via its allied forces. However one must review the position of Syria in Lebanon who is protecting the spirit of independence yet quite desired by the Lebanese hence Syria would never ever take any action that could led his position over and out in Lebanon. On the contrary yes the recent murder of ex-PM do reflects the mistake of those who wants to enter in Beirut as all and all with less and absolutely zero share of Syria and even opposition parties of Lebanon as they are also under the sun in suspicion of killing Raifk Hariri in cold blooded murder.

One thing is certain behind this gory incident that regional instability is at its pinnacle after Hariri’s murder. US pressure now would be more on Syria as on Iran to bring an end of its nuclear capability. How Syria would remove this suspicion? How frequently and fluently US would act against the Syrian government presence in Lebanon and how beneficial this drama would be in favor of Israel besides how Lebanon would shape-up its internal political affairs with the absolute presence of foreign pressure are the million dollar questions?

Truly the murder of Rafiq Hariri had put Lebanon in one step forward and two step back climax, as the forward opposition of internal cum foreign influence is highly suspected besides the developing economy may not develop as expeditious as it was in the period of Ex-PM Rafiq Hariri. No matter how intensified the investigation could be to identify the real suspect behind this some-how clear cut criminal phenomenon of ex-Lebanon PM Hariri’s murder, it would be difficult for Lebanon to achieve the desired economic, political and socio-cultural modern agenda of developing Lebanon.

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