Syrian occupation of Lebanon

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The Syrian occupation of Lebanon began in 1976 as a result of the civil war and ended in April 2005 in response to domestic and international pressure after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri.

In January 1976, a Syrian proposal to restore the limits to the Palestinian guerrilla presence in Lebanon, which had been in place prior to the outbreak of the civil war, was welcomed by Maronites and conservative Muslims, but rejected by the Palestinian guerrillas and their Lebanese Druze-led and leftist allies. In June 1976, to deal with the opposition posed by this latter group (which was normally allied with Syria), Syria dispatched Palestinian units under its control into Lebanon, and soon after sent in its own troops as well. Syrian claims these interventions came in response to appeals from Christian villagers under attack by Leftists in Lebanon.

By October 1976, Syria had caused significant damage to the strength of the Leftists and their Palestinian allies, but at a meeting of the Arab League, it was forced to accept a ceasefire. The League ministers decided to expand an existing small Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon, but it grew to be a large Arab Deterrent Force consisting almost entirely of Syrian troops. The Syrian military intervention was thus legitimized and received subsidies from the Arab League for its activities.1

Analyzing whether and when the Syrian presence was a military occupation under international law, Gerhard von Glahn claimed that the mandate of the Force was renewed several times before it officially expired on July 27, 1982. The Lebanese government refused to request that the mandate be renewed by the Arab League and instead, in September 1986, Lebanon actually requested an end to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Hence, according to von Glahn, it appeared that lacking legal authority from both Lebanon and the Arab League, Syria's military forces had to be regarded henceforth as illegal occupants of Lebanon."2

In 1989, at the final accords of the civil war, two rival administrations were formed in Lebanon: a military one under Aoun in East Beirut and a civilian one under Selim el-Hoss based in West Beirut; the latter gained the support of the Syrians. Aoun opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon, citing the 1982 UN Security Council Resolution 520.3 In the resulting "War of Liberation", which erupted in March 1989, Aoun's forces were defeated and he himself exiled from Lebanon. In 1991, a Treaty of "Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination", signed between Lebanon and Syria, legitimized the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. It stipulated that Lebanon would not be made a threat to Syria's security and that Syria was responsible for protecting Lebanon from external threats. In September that same year a Defense and Security Pact was enacted between the two countries.4

Following the assassination of the Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri in 2005, and an alleged involvement of Syria in his death, a public uprising nicknamed Cedar Revolution had swept the country. With the consequent adoption of UN resolution 1559, Syria was forced to announce its full withdrawal from Lebanon on April 30, 2005.5

Background

The Lebanese civil war that began on April 13, 1975 was the backdrop against which the Syrian military presence in Lebanon was established.

In January 1976, its proposal to restore the limits to the Palestinian guerrilla presence in Lebanon, that had been in place prior to the outbreak of the civil war, was welcomed by Maronites and conservative Muslims, but rejected by the Palestinian guerrillas and their Lebanese Druze-led and leftist allies. Syria's interventions came in response to appeals from Maronite leaders, who feared attack by leftists and Palestinians.1 In a 1976 diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, a US diplomat stated "if I got nothing else from my meeting with Frangie, Chamoun and Gemayel, it is their clear, unequivocal and unmistakable belief that their principle hope for saving Christian necks is Syria. They sound like Assad is the latest incarnation of the Crusaders."6

Occupation period

By October 1976, Syria had caused significant damage to the strength of the leftists and their Palestinian allies, but at a meeting of the Arab League, it was forced to accept a ceasefire. The League ministers decided to expand an existing small Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon. It grew to be a large deterrent force consisting almost entirely of Syrian troops. The Syrian military intervention was thus legitimized and received subsidies from the Arab League for its activities.1

In the late 1980s, General Michel Aoun was appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President Amine Gemayel, a controversial move since Aoun was a Maronite Christian and the post was by unwritten convention reserved for a Sunni Muslim. Muslim ministers refused to serve in Aoun's government, which was not recognized by Syria. Two rival administrations were formed: a military one under Aoun in East Beirut and a civilian one under Selim el-Hoss based in West Beirut; the latter gained the support of the Syrians. Aoun opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon, citing the 1982 UN Security Council Resolution 520.7

The Syrian military remained in Lebanon; after a successful campaign against the Lebanese Forces militia who had controlled Beirut port, Aoun, now with massive popular support in his East Beirut enclave, declared a "War of Liberation" against the Syrian forces.

Fighting began on 14 March 1989. Casualties among civilians on both sides from indiscriminate artillery bombardments across the front line were numerous. Aoun initially received a greater degree of international support than el-Hoss, but this ended abruptly with the American build-up for war with Iraq over Kuwait. Aoun had received considerable support from the Iraqi government, anxious to weaken the rival Baathist government in Damascus;citation needed in October 1990 Syrian forces took the presidential palace at Baabda. Aoun took refuge in the French embassy and was later exiled from Lebanon to France. Circumstances surrounding his exile are controversial; his apprehension and exile are variously attributed to Syrian forces, Israeli Defense Forces, Shiite militias, and the Lebanese Forces militia of Samir Geagea.

Since then, Syrian forces remained in Lebanon, exercising considerable influence. In 1991, a Treaty of "Brotherhood, Cooperation, and Coordination", signed between Lebanon and Syria, legitimized the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. It stipulated that Lebanon would not be made a threat to Syria's security and that Syria was responsible for protecting Lebanon from external threats. In September that same year a Defense and Security Pact was enacted between the two countries.4

After the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and the death of Hafez Al-Assad in 2000, the Syrian military presence faced criticism and resistance from the Lebanese population.8

Following the assassination of the Lebanese ex-premier Rafik Hariri, and an alleged involvement of Syria in his death a public uprising nicknamed Cedar Revolution had swept the country. With the consequent adoption of UN resolution 1559, Syria was forced to announce its full withdrawal from Lebanon on April 30, 2005.9

Units involved

Between 1976 and 2005, Syria had on average between 20,000 and 40,000 troops in Lebanon. The major formations deployed in Lebanon were the 47th Armoured Brigade, 62nd Armoured Brigade, most of the 10th Mechanized Division ( 2 Armoured Brigades - the 76th and the 91st, 1 Mechanized Infantry Brigade, 1 Artillery Brigade), plus 5 Special Forces regiments deployed in strategic and tactical locations, and at least 1 Air Defense Brigade. Before 1984, a brigade of the Defense Companies was also deployed in Beirut, Sidon and Tripoli to fight Sunni militias and train pro-Syrian militias. Officers of the Military Intelligence, General Security Directorate and Air Force intelligence were tasked with Syria's administration in Lebanon. Ghazi Kanaan and Rustum Ghazaleh were the two intelligence officers who controlled Lebanon throughout this period.

Diplomatic exchange

In October 2008, both Syria and Lebanon decided to have diplomatic relationships by establishing embassies for the first time in history since both countries gained their national independence during the 1940s. Two months later, the Syrian Embassy was opened in Beirut. In March 2009, Lebanon followed and opened its embassy in Damascus.

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was formed in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on 14 February 2005. Following which the Syrian military presence ended on 26 April 2005 after the Cedar Revolution that took place as a reaction to the assassination.citation needed

In 2010, as rumours abounded of an indictment to members of Hezbollah and rising tensions, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad visited Lebanon for the first time since the Hariri's assassination along with Saudi King Abdullah.10

Political status

Analyzing whether and when the Syrian presence was a military occupation under international law, Gerhard von Glahn writes that "The mandate of the Force was renewed several times before it officially expired on July 27, 1982, at the time of the Israeli siege of Beirut. The Lebanese government refused to request that the mandate be renewed by the Arab League. Instead, in September 1986, Lebanon requested an end to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. It would appear that, lacking legal authority from both Lebanon and the Arab League, Syria's military forces had to be regarded henceforth as illegal occupants of Lebanon."11

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Weisburd, 1997, pp. 156-157.
  2. ^ Von Glahn, Gerhard (1992). Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co. pp. 687–688. ISBN 0-02-423175-4. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b Ginat et al., 2002, p. 196.
  5. ^ (French) "Retrait syrien total fin avril au plus tard". 
  6. ^ https://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/1976BEIRUT02937_b.html
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ (French) "Retrait syrien total fin avril au plus tar". 
  10. ^ http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/07/201072962514334582.html
  11. ^ Von Glahn, Gerhard (1992). Law Among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law. New York: Macmillan Pub. Co. pp. 687–688. ISBN 0-02-423175-4. 

Bibliography

  • Ginat, J.; Perkins, Edward Joseph; Corr, Edwin G. (2002). The Middle East peace process: vision versus reality (Illustrated ed.). University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806135229. 
  • Weisburd, Arthur Mark (1997). Use of force: the practice of states since World War II. Penn State Press. ISBN 9780271016801. 

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