Lebanon History

Lebanon History

According to Localcollegeexplorer, the institutional structure of the Lebanese state, founded on the rigid system of quotas attributed to the various religious faiths present in Parliament, constituted an obstacle to the pushes towards democratization and the secularization of the country which had just emerged from the civil war (1975-1990). Strongly conditioned by the strong interference of Syria, which kept a large military contingent in Lebanon, and by the presence of the Israeli army in the south, in the so-called security zone, between the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. the country saw the political and military value of the pro-Iranian party Ḥ ezboll ā h grow (the Party of God). Born under the auspices of Damascus at the beginning of the 1980s with the aim of ousting Israel from the territory of the Lebanon, the largest Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist organization was determined to become a protagonist in defense of the Palestinian cause in order to collect ever greater consensus among the population. During 1999, numerous episodes of violence followed one another in the security zone: the Israelis responded to the terrorist actions of Ḥ ezboll ā h with numerous air raids in the south of the country and occupying new villages. The first months of 2000 still registered an escalation of violence, even after the Israeli announcement of the unilateral withdrawal of its troops from the security zone: formalized in April, the withdrawal plan ended on May 24, after an occupation that lasted over twenty years.

Also in 2000, during the months of August-September, important legislative elections were held which recorded the sharp defeat of the government candidates and the landslide victory in Beirut of the former Prime Minister R. al-Ḥarīrī, bitter enemy of the President of the Republic, General E. Lahad, supported by the Syrians. In the North, the allies of al-Ḥarīrī, first of all the Druze leader W. Jumblatt, won the victory. In the south and in the al-Biqa valley, Ḥ ezboll ā h and the Shiite Amal movement won the victory . In the aftermath of the elections, and after the nomination of al-Ḥarīrī as head of the government, some exponents of the winning coalition expressed their desire to rebalance relations with Syria, thus trying to mitigate the influence of Damascus, which at the time was maintaining about 30,000 soldiers in Lebanese territory.

A first redeployment of Syrian troops was carried out in June 2001 and around 6,000 soldiers crossed the Lebanese borders. But the Syrian hegemony in the country, beyond the strategic-political function of the military and, above all, of the security services, was based on the protection of Damascus’s economic and financial interests in the region, largely illicit trafficking linked to mobile and international telephony., the oil and gas racket and import taxes for goods arriving in Lebanon.

In the South, meanwhile, Ḥ ezboll ā h had taken control of the territory on the ground, representing an increasingly threatening presence for Israel, fomented by the Iranian regime and the worsening of the Palestinian crisis (outbreak of the second intif ā ḍ a, September 2000, and repeated and massive interventions by the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank between 2001 and 2002). A first escalation in the conflict occurred between 2001 and 2002. During 2004 the frequent use of Iranian-made armaments demonstrated the successful strengthening of Ḥ ezboll ā h’s military strength and at the same time his political plan: to hope for political and popular legitimacy thanks to his role as the sole defender of Lebanese territorial integrity against the Israelis and, even more ambitiously, to reduce the power of the various religious communities in the country to ‘Islamise’ national customs and political life.

On the domestic front, the immense costs of reconstruction were becoming evident, condemning Lebanon to a very strong debt and to the increasingly widespread spread of corruption and patronage that saw many sectors of the Lebanese and Syrian nomenclature as complicit. The local elections of 2004 still saw the success of H ezboll ā h in the South, in the valley of al-Biqa and Shiite villages on the southern border where he was voting for the first time after the Israeli withdrawal, as he recorded the dry defeat in the region of Beirut of the coalition of Prime Minister al-Ḥarīrī. But the fate of the country seemed more marked by the fallout of resolution 1599 of the UN Security Council, approved under pressure from France and the United States in September, which established the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, the holding of just and ‘free’ presidential elections – on which Syria, on the other hand, he wanted to impose his choices – and ultimately the disarmament and dissolution of the militias of Ḥ ezboll ā h. The Syrian order to extend the mandate of President Lahad by three years until 2007, already approved by the Council of Ministers at the end of August, provoked a dangerous institutional crisis that culminated in the resignation of al-Ḥarīrī, who sided with the opposition in denouncing too many Syrian interference. As the protest against Damascus grew, on February 14th 2005 the same al-Ḥarīrī died the victim of an attack. In the following days the opposition forces demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Syrian troops and services and the squares of Beirut were the scene of great mass demonstrations (the so-called cedar revolution), promptly supported by the international community. The choice of Ḥ ezboll ā h is of opposite sign, protagonist in Beirut of an impressive demonstration in favor of Syria, which, however, forced by Lebanese and international pressure, started his retreat in March. In April, as the last Syrian soldiers left the country, the international commission appointed to investigate the assassination of al-Ḥarīrī took office, the first report of which, released after a few months, denounced the lack of cooperation with Damascus and the involvement in the attack by some senior Syrian officers.

While the country was shaken by numerous attacks, the first round of legislative elections took place on 29 May; discounted the success of Ḥ ezboll ā h in southern Lebanon, more unexpected the good result obtained by the former commander of the Lebanese army M. Aoun, who returned home after a very long exile and the architect of a turn in favor of Syria. The majority of the seats in Parliament were however attributed to the coalition of anti-Syrian forces (Tayar al-Mustaqbal) led by the son of the killed former prime minister, ally of the Druze of Jumblatt (72 seats). In the executive formed by the new prime minister, the Sunni F. Siniora (of the anti-Syrian camp), also joined for the first time Ḥezboll ā h ; the government appeared, however, divided since its inception between the forces close to Damascus, responsible for the major departments (defense, justice, foreign affairs) and the forces promoting full Lebanese independence.

In the summer of 2006, the war on the border with Israel was reignited. The provocations of Ḥ ezboll ā h, which culminated in the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers (12 July) and the repeated launch of missiles, triggered the Israeli air offensive in the South of Lebanon and Beirut. The war, which lasted just over a month, highlighted the resilience of Ḥ ezboll ā h, its undisputed leader H. Nasrallah and the strength of its missile arsenal. The Lebanese population was the main victim of Israeli bombing (between 600 and 1100 dead); considerable damage to infrastructures and inhabited centers. A few days before the joint ceasefire (August 14), the UN Security Council, with resolution 1701, sanctioned the dispatch of a peace contingent in Lebanon, to strengthen the mission already present in the country since 1978, UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon). Italy, which had promoted the Rome summit on the Lebanon (end of July) to impose an immediate ceasefire on the belligerents, participated in the mission with a large military contingent (about 2500 men).

In November 2006, the internal situation appeared unstable again: the country was in the throes of turmoil after the new attack that cost the life of the Minister of Industry P. Yumayyil, Christian-Maronite leader of the anti-Syrian front.

Lebanon History