Lebanon’s 30-seat government collapsed while its Prime Minister met with Obama. How did this once Christian nation get to this point and what does it mean to the U.S.?
Last Wednesday while the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri was meeting with President Obama in the oval office, Lebanon’s 30-seat government collapsed with the resignations of 11 ministers, including all 10 representing the parliamentary opposition of the militant Shiite Hezbollah group leaving the country with no government.
In order to understand why and how a move such as this affects the U.S. we first need to understand the history of Lebanon.
Voted by the NY Times as the number one best place to visit as recently as 2009, Lebanon was once known as the Paris of the Middle East.
A simple explanation and time line of Lebanon’s history from the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, DC website,
From 1516 to 1918 Lebanon was under the administrative rule and political sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the territory defined by the present-day boundaries became a state called “Grand –Liban” (Great Lebanon) by decree of General Gouraud, head of the French troops in the Levant. The state remained under French Mandate until November 26, 1941.
1920 - September 1 - After the League of Nations grants the mandate for Lebanon and Syria to France, the State of Greater Lebanon is proclaimed. It includes the former autonomous province of Mount Lebanon, plus the provinces of north Lebanon, south Lebanon and the Biqa, historically part of Syria.
1926 – May 23 - The Lebanese Representative Council approves a Constitution and the Lebanese Republic is declared.
1940 - Lebanon comes under the control of the Vichy French government.
1941 - After Lebanon is occupied by Free French and British troops in June 1941, independence is declared on 26 November.
1943 - March - The foundations of the state are set out in an unwritten National Covenant which states that Lebanon is an independent Arab country with ties to the West but which cooperates with other Arab states while remaining neutral. The 1932 census which had shown that Christians were 54% of the population is used as the basis for the distribution of seats in the Chamber of Deputies (later to be called the National Assembly). The President is to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shi'i Muslim.
1943 - December - France agrees to the transfer of power to the Lebanese government effective January 1, 1944.
During the 1960s, Lebanon enjoyed not only calm and prosperity but Beirut focused on tourism, banking and was known as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. With cafés, 5 star hotels and a night life that rivaled the finest locations anywhere in Europe, Lebanon was truly a gem in the desert.
Then, the problems started. How, you ask? The so-called “Palestinians” of course, they have been thrown out of every country they were ever welcomed in. Have you ever wondered why the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were ‘refugee camps’ long before Israel gained control of those areas? No, the media never talks about that. Well, here is the reason.
After the 1967 ‘six day war’ in which Israel gained control of Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan, large numbers of ‘Palestinians’ left the West Bank and relocated in Jordan.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s Jordan had major difficulties with these so-called refugees from the West Bank. Many of them were PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) terrorist guerrillas ‘fedayeen’ and used the area in which they lived as a staging area for attacks against Israel.
Certainly Jordan had no issues with attacks against Israel, but when the PLO’s ‘fedayeen’ and Yasser Arafat’s, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)threatened to undermine Jordan’s King Hussein and attempted to create a “state within a state”, basically attempting to overthrow the government, King Hussein declared military rule expelling and killing thousands of Palestinian people.
This all came to a head on September 6, 1970, when terrorists from the PFLP hijacked TWA flight 741 from Frankfurt to New York and Swiss Air flight 100 from Zurich to New York, diverting them both to a airfield in the Jordanian desert known as ‘Dawson’s Field’. Other terrorists also hijacked Pan Am flight 93 from Amsterdam to New York and diverted it to Beirut and then Cairo. El Al officials thwarted another hijacking attempt on their flight from Amsterdam to New York. Yes, all planes were bound for New York, long before G.W. Bush, Iraq and any other excuse you’ve heard for why were attacked.
This was the first time in history and the only time other then September 11, 2001 that 4 airliners were attempted to be hijacked on the same day. On September 9, another PFLP terrorist hijacked a British Overseas Airways Corporation flight in Bahrain and brought it to the same Jordanian airstrip as the first two. After terrorists removed all hostages and separated fifty-four Jewish and other captives they blew up the empty planes.
These multiple coordinated hijackings started a crisis culminating in battles between Palestinian militias and terrorists and the Jordanian army. On September 16, 1970 Jordan's King Hussein declared martial law. From September 17 to 27, his military forces deployed into Palestinian-controlled areas in what became known as Black September.
On September 18, Syrian-based forces intervened on the side of the Palestine Liberation Army which prompted Israel to mobilize its army as a warning that Syrian interference would lead to a wider war.
President Richard Nixon then ordered the Sixth fleet aircraft carrier task force to the area to evacuate U.S. citizens and protect U.S. interests as well as the Jordanian monarchy. The Jordanian military was victorious over the Palestinian and Syrian forces and averted what would have been a much larger crisis.
A group vowing the revenge of the death of the fedayeen leader, Abu Ali lyad calling itself ‘Black September’ assassinated Jordanian Prime Minister Wasif al-Tali on November 28, 1971 while he was in Cairo attending an Arab League Summit. It was believed that al-Tali personally killed Ali lyad during the military rule in Jordan.
Black September also attempted to assassinate King Hussein as well as Zaid al-Rifai, Jordan’s ambassador to London, but they are probably best known for the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany.
As a result, large numbers of Palestinians were expelled and deported from Jordan and they resettled in Lebanon where they saw it as the most suitable area to continue their attacks against Israel.
The Palestinian guerrillas aligned themselves with leftist Lebanese organizations to form new organizations that received support from the Lebanese Muslim community. This furthered problems for the Lebanese government and created a larger problem between the Lebanese Muslims and Christians which would only grow worse.
This lead to clashes between the Palestinians and Lebanon’s right-wing groups and at the end of 1971 PLO leader Yasser Arafat met with Lebanese government officials who attempted to establish acceptable limits of terror activity in Lebanon.
The beginning of this civil war was on April 13, 1975 when gunman killed 4 Phalangists while attempting to assassinate the founder of the al-Kata’ib (the Phalange party), Pierre Jumayyil.
Jumayyil opposed Nasserism and Arab nationalism. He was hostile to the armed Palestinian fighters and the al-Kata’ib repeatedly clashed with Palestinians in the early 1970s.
The Phalangists believed that the Palestinians were behind the failed assassination attempt and later that same day attacked a bus of Palestinians that was crossing through a Christian area killing 26 people on board. The next day mass fighting broke out that left the ‘Paris of the middle east’ in civil war dividing the country.
Through all the problems this beautiful country has faced we can now add in the Hezbollah. Many have argued as to when Hezbollah was actually founded as explained by Mideast Conflict website,
Hezbollah is an Islamic political and paramilitary organization based in Lebanon. The exact point of time when Hezbollah History started is a matter of debate among historians. It is commonly believed that Hezbollah was founded in 1982 in response to the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Although the movement started with only a small militia, it has gained significantly in strength since the turn of the century. Today it is an organization able to mobilize demonstrations of hundreds of thousands. Much of its membership is derived originally from the 1980’s coalition of Islamic Jihad. Today it has ties to Iran, Syria and other Arab nations as well. The United States and other countries define it as a terrorist organization. It is fiercely opposed in Israel.
In 1985, Hezbollah published a manifesto listing three main goals: “putting and end to any colonialist entity” in Lebanon; bringing the Phalangists to justice for “the crimes they [had] perpetrated,” and the establishment of an Islamic regime in Lebanon.
Just as a side note of history, the first suicide bomber ever used was by Hezbollah against the Iraqi Embassy in Beirut in December 1981 which leveled the Embassy, the second was against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut on April 18, 1983 that killed over 60 people, mostly staff members along with United States Marines and sailors.
Then on October 23, 1983 a peace keeping force which you may recall was attacked by a suicide bomber. It was the American Marines barracks. The death toll was 241 American servicemen. 220 Marines, 18 Navy and 3 Army soldiers, along with sixty other Americans injured. Once again, all before G.W. Bush and the “occupation” of Muslim lands.
The 2005 election in Lebanon was a milestone for the terror organization. They won 14 seats in the 128 seat Parliament. Then in 2008 Hezbollah was granted veto power controlling 11 of the 30 seats in the cabinet.
So how and why does this matter to those of us in the U.S.?
After the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri (the current Prime Ministers father) that also killed 22 others on Feburary 14, 2005, the U.N. convened a special investigation commission. In its initial report from 2005 it states in section 3 of its preface,
In a letter dated 29 March 2005 (S/2005/208), the Government of Lebanon expressed its approval of the Security Council’s decision to establish an international commission of inquiry as well as its readiness to cooperate with the commission within the framework of Lebanese sovereignty and of its legal system.
Well, needless to say, Hezbollah isn’t too happy about this upcoming report. According to Newsmax, Iran ordered the assassination of Hariri and Hezbollah carried it out,
A U.N. investigative body is expected to ignite tensions in the coming weeks when it releases its report on the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Sources familiar with the investigation told Newsmax that the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon will accuse Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei of giving the order to murder Hariri, and will lay out evidence showing that the murder was committed by Iran's Quds force and their allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The order to murder Hariri was transmitted to Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's military leader, by Quds force chief Qassem Suleymani, sources familiar with the investigation told Newsmax.
"The Iranians considered Hariri to be an agent of Saudi Arabia, and felt that killing him would pave the way for a Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon," the sources said.
Hezbollah is trained, supported, financed and receives its weapons from Iran and Syria. This is not news, but if Hezbollah carried out the attack on the orders of Iran, murdering a sitting Prime Minister of a sovereign nation, consider the ramifications?
Iran is still playing a cat and mouse game with the world over its nuclear power and enrichment program. Thus far any sanctions that have been imposed have done nothing to sway them from continuing to try and produce nuclear grade weapons. Now couple that with the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister.
Does the current administration being so nonchalant send a message to Iran that since the U.S. won’t do anything to stop their nuclear program, that they can gain the overall control of Lebanon by assassinating the Prime Minister and “pave the way for a Hezbollah takeover”?
Maybe the U.S. and the world will just sit on their hands and let that happen as well? The world sat by when our only true ally in the Middle East, Israel, was humiliated and shunned by Obama back in March of last year when Obama walked out of a tense meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S. went to war with Iraq to defend and eventually liberate Kuwait in 1991. Is Lebanon or any another nation in that region any less significant?
I am not suggesting that the U.S. attack Iran, although many believe that they should. I am suggesting that our administration not let it escalate to that point. If the U.S. sits by once again and just lets Iran do as they please as they attempt to gain control of other areas of the Middle East war will become the only option.
Israel will eventually get to that point; they will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear capabilities, but what then? Israel will probably not attack Iran without the backing, blessings and help of the U.S.
Do we wait for that to happen at which point it will be too late and possibly lead to nuclear war or does our administration show some back bone and really put pressure on Iran now?
In today’s day and age, like it or not, any country no matter how far away can be a threat to the U.S. and her people. When countries like Iran and North Korea are literally one step away from a missile that can reach our shores we can no longer sit idly by and hope it won’t happen.
Iran’s most advanced missile, the Shahab 6 was in a report by Global Security back in 2007,
The Shahab-6 is expected to have a range of 5,470-5,500 and 5,632-6,200 kilometers with a 1,000-750-500 (1,158-650 kilograms identified) kilogram warhead. This range capability will depend on the number of stages used in the launch vehicle and their performance. December 1996 news reports claimed that Iran is developing a 3,500-mile (5,632 kilometers) range missile called Shahab-6 that would be capable of reaching Europe.
The Shahab 3 already has the capability of reaching Russia, India, Egypt, Romania and of course all of Israel. Oh, that also includes all of our men and women in our Armed Forces currently stationed in the Middle East as well.
The first domestically produced Iranian satellite made it into space last year as reported by Bloomberg,
The first locally made Iranian satellite, called Omid, was launched in February 2009, carrying experimental satellite- control devices, communications equipment and power supply systems up to 350 kilometers (220 miles) above the earth’s atmosphere, state media reported at the time. Omid re-entered the atmosphere three months later, according to today’s Fars report.
In February last year, Iran fired a domestically produced rocket into space with a satellite carrying two turtles, a rat and several worms.
How far is the technology from putting a missile in to space to one that can reach the U.S.? Its not, and that’s the problem. Let’s remember, Iran achieved this technological feat while all those tough sanctions were in place.
Its time that the U.S. started acting like the world power it once was rather than apologizing to it. If we do not want face a nuclear Iran or any other nuclear nation that wants to see the U.S. or any of its allies “wiped off the face of the earth” as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once put it so succinctly, then we’d better start now, not after another Prime Minister or government leader is assassinated.
Then again, do we really care? Lebanon was just the Paris of the Middle East, it’s not like the U.S. ever came to Paris’s rescue before.
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