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Lebanon Loses Again
By Andrew L. Jaffee, September 5, 2004
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Ah, the travails of a tiny country caught at the crossroads of greater powers. Sound familiar? Lithuania? Armenia? Israel? There have been so many holocausts that we could easily pick one out of a hat and discuss it. But because of recent developments in Damascus and Beirut, we’ll discuss Lebanon today.

In a move I found quite surprising, the U.N. Security Council voted Friday in,

support for a free and fair electoral process in Lebanon's upcoming presidential election, conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence.

The new U.N. resolution also called for,

the restoration of the territorial integrity, full sovereignty, and political independence of Lebanon.

The resolution passed with 9 votes, with the Security Council’s six other members abstaining. The wording “foreign interference or influence” was obviously directed at Syria, who has 17,000 troops occupying Lebanon. Apparently the resolution would not have passed if it mentioned Syria by name. The resolution was sponsored by the U.S. and none other than Syria’s traditional ally, France.

Lebanon’s parliament, “dominated by allies of Syria,” responded to the U.N. resolution by voting to amend the country’s constitution and allow President Emile Lahoud, “Syria's strongest ally in Lebanon,” to remain in power for another 3 years. Lebanon’s constitution had originally banned any president from serving two consecutive terms in office. Lahoud was due to finish his first 6-year term in November. According to the BBC,

Our correspondent says many Lebanese politicians are opposed to the extension.

They say the decision was made in Damascus and imposed on top Lebanese officials.

Our correspondent says these opponents had hoped international displeasure with Syria's intervention in the elections would encourage more legislators to vote against the bill.

The history of Lebanon is a long and painful one. The country achieved full independence in 1944. According to nationbynation.com,

Between 1944 and the early 1970s, Lebanon enjoyed a comfortable prosperity based on international banking and trade. This period came to a close as the Palestinians began to use Lebanese territory from which to stage attacks on Israel.

During this period of prosperity, built mainly by Lebanon’s Maronite Christians, Beirut was fondly known as the “Paris of the Middle East.” But the greatest terrorist of them all, Yasser Arafat, made sure Lebanon’s peace would come to an end. Starting in 1968, he and his fellow goons tried to take over Jordan. They failed and by 1971, moved into Lebanon. According to cedarland.org,

… Lebanon was to suffer more than any other country at the hands of the Palestinians whose actions and those of their allies resulted in [a] fifteen year war and the destruction of the Lebanese state.

Again, nationbynation.com,

In 1975, civil war broke out between Christians against Moslems and the Palestinians joining in against the Maronite Christians. Thousands died and much of the formerly cosmopolitan Beirut was left in ruins. In 1981, Christian militiamen fought Syrian troops and all the others combatants joined in. Israel placed itself in the position of supporting the Christian militiamen and in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to force the PLO out.

Even worse for Lebanon, the terrorist group Hezbollah was formed there in 1982, whose “political rhetoric has centred on calls for the destruction of the state of Israel” and has “dreamt of transforming Lebanon's multi-confessional state into an Iranian-style Islamic state,” according to the BBC. Obviously, other Lebanese, like the Maronites, are not sanguine with Hezbollah’s intentions. The group has close ties with Syria and Iran.

Syria still has a strangle-hold over Lebanon. But pressure is building. Friday’s U.N. resolution was a move in the right direction. President Bush has signed the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act into law. The bill (House version; Senate version) was passed by wide margins in both the House and Senate. The law requires Syria to end its development of weapons of mass destruction, end its support for terrorism, prevent terrorists from entering Iraq, and end its 27-year occupation of Lebanon. If Syria fails to meet these terms, the law requires Bush to stop sales of "dual-use (civilian and military use)" exports to the country. The president would also have options like restricting American business investment in Syria and/or freezing Syrian financial assets in the U.S.

I hope an pray that Lebanon can one day be a truly free and independent nation.

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