The late s and early s saw a slow drift toward civil war, as the United States provided support for the Lebanese Armed Forces LAF "to improve the army's capability to control the Fedayeen. Location of Palestinian Refugee Camps in Lebanon. Lebanon's civil war erupted in over unresolved sectarian differences and the pressure of external forces, including the Palestinians, Israel, and Syria.
Hundreds of thousands were killed and displaced over 14 years of brutal war among a bewildering array of forces with shifting allegiances. Syria sent military forces into Lebanon in and they remained until Israel sent military forces into Lebanon in and again in ; they remained in southern Lebanon until The United States deployed forces to Lebanon in the early s as part of a multinational peacekeeping force.
Among the goals enshrined in the Taif Agreement were the withdrawal of foreign military forces from Lebanon, the disarming of non-state groups, and the development of strong national security institutions and non-confessional democracy. Administrations have embraced the Taif principles, while acting to limit opportunities for U.
Syria's security presence in Lebanon was acknowledged at Taif, but security negotiations called for in the agreement did not occur until Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in Hariri's assassination and the mass national demonstrations that followed marked a defining political moment and led to the emergence of the pro-Asad "March 8" coalition and the anti-Asad "March 14" coalition that now dominate the political scene Figure 3.
The intervening years have been marked by conflict, political gridlock, and further assassinations of anti-Syria figures. Each coalition has held power, although attempts at unity government have proven fruitless, with both sides periodically resorting to resignations, mass protests, and boycotts to hamper their rivals. The war in neighboring Syria, the influx of Syrian refugees, Hezbollah's intervention on behalf of President Asad, Lebanese Sunni support for Syrian opposition forces and a wave of sectarian violence and terrorist attacks by Sunni extremist groups have heightened tensions and complexities surrounding all of these issues.
As of April , U. Lebanese leaders were unable to agree on the formation of a new cabinet from March through mid-February , when parties accepted an inclusive cabinet arrangement proposed by Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam. The prior cabinet, led by Najib Miqati, resigned amid disputes over terms for a parliamentary election law and security issues.
That law and several security issues remain unresolved as the Salam cabinet begins its work. In the new cabinet Table 1 , two-thirds of the 24 cabinet positions are distributed equally among the March 8 and March 14 coalitions Figure 3 , with one-third of the seats reserved for nominally non-affiliated centrists.
Refworld | Lebanon: Background and U.S. Policy
Some centrists are considered to be loyal to one of the two coalitions and may support efforts to force the cabinet's resignation. Parliament endorsed the cabinet's ministerial policy statement on March Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri reportedly has formed consultative committees to determine whether a required parliamentary quorum can be assembled to elect a new president.
Political negotiations related to the presidential contest have begun, with a series of prominent Christian candidates from across the political spectrum considered possible candidates. Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has announced his candidacy, and Kataeb party leader Amine Gemayel is considered another possible pro-March 14 candidate.
Gemayel and Geagea have been outspoken in their recent criticism of Hezbollah's military intervention in Syria. The key issue in the presidential election is the continuation of the relatively centrist orientation of the presidency under Michel Sleiman, which U.
U.S. Relations With Lebanon
As the conflict in Syria has destabilized Lebanon and as Hezbollah's blatant defiance of the government's policy of dissociation from the Syria conflict has grown, Sleiman has made increasingly critical statements about Hezbollah's activities and has advocated for more direct assertions of state authority in security affairs. Hezbollah has taken issue with President Sleiman's recent statements, and Sleiman rejected Hezbollah's boycott of a recently held National Dialogue session by saying,. This will enhance [the military's] capacity in uprooting terrorism No red lines can be drawn for the Army.
Lebanon's constitution requires that a cabinet resign following the election of a new president, and statements by Prime Minister Salam and cabinet members acknowledge that the current cabinet may have a very limited tenure. However, if presidential elections are delayed, the cabinet could become more involved in preparations for parliamentary elections planned for November In any event, the recently endorsed ministerial policy statement includes a pledge to seek a new parliamentary election law.
Any cabinet would similarly have to resign following parliamentary elections, meaning that even if elections occur, a series of potentially contentious cabinet formation negotiations may lie ahead. The month cabinet dispute was one symptom of the deeper current of mistrust and animosity prevailing among some Lebanese political leaders and citizens and producing systemic paralysis in the country's key political institutions.
The ongoing war in neighboring Syria is severely exacerbating these tensions, particularly given the direct support of armed Lebanese militia groups for opposing sides in that war and the war-related influx of more than 1 million predominantly Sunni refugees. A series of high-profile bombings and armed clashes see Table 2 have shaken Lebanon in the past year, increasing sectarian tensions and straining already fragile security conditions. Hezbollah's participation in the Syrian conflict on the side of the Asad government antagonizes its critics, who allege that Hezbollah has caused the spread of the conflict into Lebanon.
In December , Jabhat al Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al Jawlani described Hezbollah's overt intervention in Syria as having "opened the door wide open for us to enter Lebanon and rescue the Sunni people in Lebanon. Its leaders argue that extremists will target Lebanon even if Hezbollah withdraws, and its supporters are critical of Lebanese Sunni support for extremism at home and in Syria.
Hassan is reported to have uncovered a plot by a pro-Syrian former cabinet minister to smuggle explosives into Lebanon and target anti-Asad figures. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah delivers speech acknowledging Hezbollah's direct participation in Syrian conflict, states purpose is to defend Lebanon from Sunni extremists.
Sectarian clashes kill and wound Lebanese Sunnis and Alawites fighting in Tripoli. Unknown forces launch two rockets into southern Beirut. Hezbollah forces assist the Syrian army in recapturing the city of Qusayr. A rocket attack causes power outages in southern Beirut. A bomb wounds more than 50 people in the Beirut neighborhood of Bir al Abed.
Jabhat al Nusra leader Abu Mohammad al Jawlani Golani declares a "new era for the Sunnis in the region" and warns that "the practices of Iran's party in Syria and Lebanon [Hezbollah] nowadays will not go unpunished. I say that your rejection and denial of Iran's party will rescue you from unnecessary afflictions. Two rockets fall near the Presidential Palace east of Beirut. A car bomb kills 30 and wounds more than people in the Hezbollah stronghold of Ruwais, a southern suburb of Beirut. Hezbollah mobilizes forces to secure its bases of support in Lebanon. Car bombs kill 45 and wound more than people leaving prayers at two Sunni mosques in Tripoli.
Hundreds of military and security officers deploy to Dahieh in southern Beirut to replace Hezbollah personnel that had asserted control over the area in the wake of attacks. Two suicide attackers strike Iranian Embassy in Beirut, killing 23 and wounding at least people. Jabhat al Nusra in Lebanon releases its first statement, claims responsibility along with a group named for 20 th century Syrian Sunni militant leader Marwan Hadid for a rocket attack on Hezbollah positions in Hermel in eastern Lebanon.
Sunni attackers strike Lebanese Armed Forces officers in Sidon. Hezbollah claims to have ambushed and killed more than 30 people near Nahle entering Syria to support armed opposition groups. Two suicide attacks strike the southern Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik and a third strikes Hermel. LAF captures second Azzam Brigade figure, kills another. Jabhat al Nusra claims responsibility for a suicide bombing attack in Hermel. Suicide attack strikes minibus bound for south Beirut neighborhood of Choueifat. Security forces arrest Azzam Brigade figures, seize explosives, suicide belts, and vehicles.
Several Israel Defense Forces soldiers are injured in a bomb attack on their vehicle near the Golan Heights, sparking a series of incidents in which IDF forces fire on suspected Hezbollah personnel, allegedly bomb a Hezbollah facility inside Syria.
U.S. Department of State
Hezbollah allegedly fires two rockets into Israeli-held portions of the Golan Heights. LAF personnel continue to pursue terrorism suspects, killing one suspect in a shootout. Military prosecutors recommend indictments against more than 20 individuals in relation to the August bombings in Tripoli. A car bomb kills three LAF soldiers and wounds four near the town of Arsal. A group calling itself the Free Sunnis of the Bekaa claims responsibility. Even before the recent escalation in sectarian violence and terrorist attacks, non-state actors such as Hezbollah and predominantly Palestinian extremist groups like Jund al Sham and Fatah al Islam posed a constant challenge to state security.
Moreover, the Abdullah Azzam Brigade, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization, was operating in the country, posing a risk to Lebanese officials, international targets, and rival groups. Joint claims of attacks and pledges of affiliation among Sunni extremist groups in Lebanon suggest that members of these groups are collaborating with both Jabhat al Nusra and ISIL in their efforts to attack Shia civilians, Hezbollah, and Lebanese security forces. The Obama Administration also has become more vocal and active in its attempts to highlight and counteract the activities of Al Qaeda-influenced terrorists in Lebanon.
In December , the State Department named Usamah Amin al Shihabi as a specially designated terrorist for his role in the extremist group Fatah al Islam and as the appointed head of Jabhat al Nusra's Palestinian organization in Lebanon. As violence has escalated since mid, the Lebanese Armed Forces LAF increasingly has been drawn into confrontations with Sunni extremist groups seeking to attack Shia communities and Hezbollah strongholds in retaliation for Hezbollah's overt pro-Asad intervention in Syria. The LAF's operations have been endorsed by a broad spectrum of political leaders in Lebanon, including prominent Sunnis.
Nevertheless, the all-but-unavoidable appearance of the LAF frequently targeting Sunni militants and protecting targeted Shia communities may be giving rise to increased perceptions among some Lebanese Sunnis that the LAF is biased toward Hezbollah. National figures such as President Michel Sleiman, Sunni political leader Saad Hariri, and a number of Christian and Shia leaders continue to stress the neutrality of state security forces and the importance of the preservation of the armed forces as a national and nonsectarian institution. At the same time, President Sleiman and some Christian leaders, including Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, have been assertive in recent weeks about the primacy of state security entities in national security matters.
These trends lead many non-government observers to express concern for Lebanon's stability and warn of the risk of broader conflict. Echoing these concerns, the U. Hezbollah emerged during the early s, when Lebanon's Shia leaders split in their responses to the Israeli invasion and occupation of southern Lebanon in Leaders favoring a more militant response and supporting the long-term creation of an Iranian-style Islamic republic in Lebanon broke away from the then-leading Amal 8 movement and formed the Al Amal al Islamiya Islamic Amal organization.
The Amal movement continued as a political, social, and militia organization and disarmed following the civil war. By leveraging direct support from Iran's Revolutionary Guards and recruiting from other revolutionary Shiite groups, Islamic Amal became the vanguard of the religiously inspired groups that would later emerge under the rubric of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah remained loosely organized and largely clandestine until , when it released a manifesto outlining a militant, religiously conservative, and anti-imperialist platform. The document served as one of the movement's defining ideological statements until November , when Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah issued a new political manifesto highlighting the group's continued hostility to Israel and the United States.
Hezbollah leaders remain adamant that Hezbollah's military capabilities serve to defend Lebanon and should be preserved rather than dismantled. Hezbollah has traditionally defined itself and justified its paramilitary actions as legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory and as a necessary response to the relative weakness of Lebanese state security institutions. Hezbollah increasingly has pointed to disputed territory in the Shib'a Farms area of the Lebanon-Syria-Israel tri-border region, Israeli overflights of Lebanese territory, and, more recently, to Sunni extremist groups operating in Syria and Lebanon as justifications for its posture Figure 5.
Hezbollah's Lebanese critics share its objections to Israeli military incursions in Lebanon and have long emphasized the need to assert control over remaining disputed areas with Israel, such as the Shib'a Farms, the Kfar Shouba Hills, and the northern part of the village of Ghajar Figure 5. However, current Hezbollah policy statements suggest that, even if disputed areas were secured, the group would seek to maintain a role for "the resistance" in providing for Lebanon's national defense and would resist any Lebanese or international efforts to disarm it as called for in the Taif Accord that ended the civil war and more recently in U.
Security Council Resolutions and Hezbollah enjoys considerable but not uniform appeal among members of the Lebanese Shia constituency, which is widely assumed to have become a larger percentage of the Lebanese population than it was when the current proportional arrangements were established. With political endorsement from Iran, Hezbollah has participated in elections since and it has achieved a modest, variable, yet generally steady degree of electoral success. Hezbollah won 10 parliament seats in and now holds two cabinet posts: In recent years, Hezbollah candidates have fared well in municipal elections, winning seats in conjunction with allied Amal party representatives in many areas of southern and eastern Lebanon.
Names and boundaries are not necessarily authoritative; locations are approximate. Boundary lines do not imply endorsement and may be subject to negotiation. For details, see http: Hezbollah, like other Lebanese confessional groups, vies for the loyalties of its Shiite constituents by operating a vast network of schools, clinics, youth programs, private business, and local security—which many Lebanese refer to as "a state within the state. This has required a gradual shift from the group's Khomeinist roots toward a more contemporary Islamist nationalist approach. Hezbollah's ties to Iran and its status as a defender of Lebanese security and priorities have been placed under increased scrutiny in Lebanon because of the group's military intervention in Syria on behalf of the Iran-aligned Asad government.
Hezbollah's intervention in Syria is leading its rivals to become more vocal in their criticism of the group, and popular criticism also is reportedly growing across sectarian lines. The central security question for Lebanon since the departure of Syrian forces from Lebanon in has been the future of Hezbollah's substantial military arsenal and capabilities, which rival and in some cases exceed those of Lebanon's armed forces and police. Debate on Hezbollah's future and Lebanon's national defense posture intensified after Hezbollah provoked the war with Israel, which brought destruction to large areas of Lebanon.
Following an attempt in by government forces to assert greater security control in the country, Hezbollah used force to confront other Lebanese factions. During this period, Hezbollah operatives are alleged to have trained Iraqi militia groups and participated in attacks on U. These actions illustrate the lengths to which Hezbollah leaders are willing to go to defend their prerogatives and position.
These issues dominate Lebanese debates and are rooted in decades-old struggles to define Lebanon's political system, regional orientation, and security institutions. In August , the U.
Treasury Department placed additional sanctions on Hezbollah for providing training, advice, and logistical support to the Syrian government. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, who was personally sanctioned for his role in overseeing Hezbollah's assistance to Damascus, publicly acknowledged Hezbollah's involvement in Syria in May As of April , Hezbollah fighters remained active in the Qalamoun region northwest of Damascus Figure 4 , after they reportedly assisted in the Asad government's recapture of the opposition stronghold of Yabroud.
Hezbollah has worked with the Syrian military to protect regime supply lines by helping to clear rebel-held towns along the Damascus-Homs stretch of the M-5 highway. A string of reported assassination attempts targeting several anti-Asad politicians also has created controversy. In early , a sniper attack was reported against the March aligned leader of the Lebanese Forces bloc, Samir Geagea, who continues to allege that unidentified unmanned surveillance drones have been spotted near his compound.
In July , March aligned independent Boutros Harb reported a failed attempt to plant explosives in his office building. In August, former information minister Michel Samaha was arrested on charges of aiding a wider plot to assassinate Lebanese figures. Many Lebanese view the ISF's role in the assassination investigations and Samaha's arrest as having motivated unidentified parties to assassinate Wissam Hassan. Suspicion in the Hassan case and other attempted assassinations fell broadly on the Asad government and its Lebanese allies.
The killing precipitated renewed confrontation over the cabinet of then-Prime Minister Najib Miqati, which subsequently resigned. Throughout this period, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon STL —formed to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others—has remained controversial but has continued its work with Lebanese and U.
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Secretary General Kofi Annan negotiated with the government of then-Prime Minister Fouad Siniora regarding the mandate for a tribunal and reached an agreement in January A majority of Lebanese parliamentarians then petitioned Annan to convene a tribunal, 15 and the United Nations Security Council created the STL as an independent judicial organization in Resolution of May The STL has worked from its headquarters in Leidschendam, the Netherlands, since March , and consists of three chambers, prosecutors and defense offices, and an administrative Registrar.
Hezbollah disavows the allegations and has refused to turn over the named individuals. The STL's most recent annual report, released in late February, noted the normal workings of the Tribunal as it entered the trial stage of its first case, Prosecutor v. Ayyash, Badreddine, Oneissi and Sabra. A fifth suspect, Hassan Habib Merhi, has now been added to the first case.
The STL Trial Chamber heard testimony against the five accused in absentia in February and consulted with defense attorneys and Lebanese officials in March. The STL credits the Lebanese government's "multiple attempts … to find the accused at their last known residences, places of employment, family homes and other locations. Security Council decide to refer the cases for STL prosecution. That appears unlikely under current political and security circumstances in Lebanon. Following Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in and the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of , the George W.
Bush Administration requested and Congress appropriated a significant increase in U. The LAF's multi-year capability development plan reportedly envisions a further expansion of the force beyond its current 65, personnel and further improvements in its armaments and logistical support capabilities. The Obama Administration believes that "international donors can complement each other's efforts in order to maximize the growth of needed capabilities for an armed force whose troops are badly stretched across the country.
The April meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon in Rome, Italy, is expected to address the needs of the LAF and solicit further international pledges of support for its development. This table includes funds from the following accounts: Over the long term, U. Such public confidence could in theory create space for the Lebanese government to address more complex, politically sensitive issues ranging from political reform to developing a national defense strategy. A more fundamental, if less often acknowledged, hope among some U. Similar hopes were advanced in the s, but U.
The political consequences of LAF confrontations with the Palestinians contributed to the outbreak of civil conflict, which in turn led to foreign intervention in the civil war that followed. During the th Congress, some Members questioned the advisability of funding U. Those purposes are "to professionalize the LAF and to strengthen border security and combat terrorism, including training and equipping the LAF to secure Lebanon's borders, interdicting arms shipments, preventing the use of Lebanon as a safe haven for terrorist groups, and to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution Author Blanchard, Christopher M.
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