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While Syria does not want Lebanon to begin separate negotiations with Israel, I believe most Lebanese, and certainly all the parties represented in the government, agree that separate negotiations are not practical
The U.S. travel ban: This can be dealt with very briefly. It is outdated, unnecessary, mostly ignored and contrary to American interests. I also believe it to be unconstitutional, although the State Department has never allowed it to be tested in court, and in fact has not attempted to enforce it very strictly. That means individuals who wish to go to Lebanon simply go, while U.S. companies are prevented from taking any real part in Lebanon's reconstruction. Billions of dollars of contracts have been let to European and Japanese companies. Billions more will be signed in the future. We're left out
There is no discernible danger to Americans or any other foreigners in Lebanon today. I personally travelled all over the country, including the Bekaa Valley, Baalbeck and even into the southern border zone without hearing of any assault on a foreigner. I would not recommend, of course, anyone going into the combat area. The rest of the country is safe, far safer than many other countries to which Americans travel without objection from the State Department. That could of course change at any time. But there is no real indication that it will.
Lebanon's reconstruction and U.S. Aid: The rebuilding of Lebanon is an amazing and inspiring sight, especially the downtown reconstruction project called Solidere. Yes, there have been charges of corruption. There has always been corruption in Lebanon, as in many other places. It seems to be of a much lesser extent than it reached during the war, and does not seem to be hindering progress in rebuilding. There are other problems with the reconstruction. While the Solidaire project and some others are well-planned and carefully controlled, there is rampant overbuilding in other areas, especially around Beirut, without adequate planning for infrastructure. The southern Suburbs remain for the most part neglected, without adequate water, sewage or medical facilities. The few remaining Palestinian camps are being totally ignored, their residents left in poverty.
Overall, the country is rebuilding itself rapidly and well. Its economy is growing rapidly and in as balanced a way as can be managed. Yes, Lebanon could use a great deal more aid. The amount contributed by the United States is welcome, but minimal. Most especially, the drastic drop in American aid to the American University of Beirut (AUB) is, I believe, a mistake of serious proportions. AUB has for a century represented the best of American ideas, ideals and philosophy in the Middle East. It has been our most successful initiative in the region, with far more positive and long-lasting impact on Lebanon than either of our two military interventions in the country. AUB is said to have educated more presidents and prime ministers than any other university in the world - educated them with American political philosophy, espoused by American teachers
We seem to be graudaliy abandoning this wonderful success, just when we and Lebanon could use it most.
If this committee would change and improve U S. policy toward Lebanon, I would suggest it could do so most with two immediate actions: Forcefuly recommend to the State Department that it lift the travel ban, and restore substantial funding to the American University of Beirut
U.S. Policy toward Lebanon
Testimony presented to the
House Committee on International Relations
June 25, 1997
Rayburn House Office Building
Daniel Pipes is editor of the Middle East Quarterly and the author of three books on Syria, most recently Syria Beyond the Peace Process (Washington, D.C.: Washington Institute Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, for the opportunity to discuss Lebanon. I would like to focus on the dimension of this subject I know best, namely the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. I shall tell you something about its background, the current situation, and future prospects. I will then conclude with some recommendations for U.S. policy.
The Syrian Occupation
With the collapse of the Soviet bloc, Lebanon has acquired the distinction of being the only satellite state anywhere on the globe. It is a state with all the trappings of sovereignty a flag, an independence day, a constitution, membership in the United Nations -- but very little of its substance.
This situation culminates a process that goes back to the beginning of the century. In 1920, when the French government drew the borders of modern Lebanon, it met with considerable opposition in Damascus, a resistance that continued through the next two generations. But only with the outbreak of Lebanon's civil war in 1975 did the Syrian authorities find an opportunity to act. Their takeover of the country occurred step by step, culminating in 1990 with the domination of some 90 percent of the country -- all but a small sliver in the south.
Though done with far greater subtlety and skill, Hafiz al-Asad's takeover of Lebanon closely resembles Saddam Husayn's occupation of Kuwait. In both cases, the dictator of a powerful totalitarian state exploited an old irredentist claim to justify the subjugation of a small and Western-oriented free neighbor. The major difference is one of finesse: in contrast to Saddam's crude and brutal invasion, Asad prepared the way by sponsoring a range of Lebanese dissident groups, had himself invited in by bona fide Lebanese leaders, and then over a fifteen-year period slowly sliced off portions of the country.
Asad disposes of many levers of power over Lebanon. Today, an estimated 40,000 Syrian troops enforce his will in the country. Indeed, arrive by plane in Beirut and you'll encounter Syrian troops right in the airport. In addition, a large number of Syrian political and intelligence agents maintain a formidable presence throughout Lebanon.
So subservient is the Lebanese government to Damascene wishes, Lebanese politicians visit the Syrian capital before making any major decision. Speaking candidly, President Ilyas al-Hirawi once confessed his shame that so many Lebanese travel to Damascus to discuss their differences: "We now disagree on the appointment of a doorman and go to Damascus to submit the problem to the brothers (there]."1 Lebanese officials openly acknowledge that Damascus makes all their decisions in the peace process with Israel. In all, as Israeli military intelligence puts it, "Lebanon's dependence on Syria is absolute."2
Now, the curious thing is that this occupation is illegal by the Syrian government's own lights. For Damascus has on three occasions concurred with decisions made by other bodies that Syrian troops should leave Lebanon. It first agreed to withdraw the troops in October 1976 as part of the Riyadh-Cairo accords.3 In September 1982, it signed the Fez Declaration that committed it to "start negotiations" with the Lebanese government about "an end to the mission of the Arab deterrent forces in Lebanon [i.e., the Syria troops)."4
In October 1989, to win Lebanese Christian support for a revision of the Lebanese government structure (the Ta'if Accord), Asad accepted a provision that Syrian troops would be redeployed from their positions in Beirut to the Bekaa Valley two years after some conditions had been met.5 Those conditions were all fulfilled in September 1990; but September 1992 came and went without any change. Theodor Hanf, a German scholar of Lebanon, dubs this a "blatant violation" of the Ta'if Agreement.6 More generally, Binyamin Netanyahu rightly noted some years ago that "in Lebanon the Syrians broke just about every agreement they signed."7
The Current Situation
Syrian control has had many consequences for Lebanon. Earlier the most open of the Arabic-speaking countries, Lebanon boasted decentralized power, real democracy, rule of law, unimpeded movement, a Hong Kong-style free market, independent schools, and an unfettered press.
Now, the central government in Beirut keeps gaining in authority and recent parliaments are, according to Hanf, "the least representative in Lebanese history."8 Syrian operatives function almost entirely outside the rule of law (for example, they routinely make arrests without warrants) leading Human Rights Watch to conclude that "the record of violations in Syrian-controlled Lebanon has been worse than in Syria."9 Syrians police who comes into the country and who goes out. Asad's regime imposes Syrian-style standards on the school curricula, including the requirement that Arabic and Islam be taught. It brings the freewheeling Lebanese economy more in line with that of statist Syria, creates organic links between the two countries (for example, in the electricity grid and in roads), and dumps Syrian goods in Lebanon. As for the press, long the least
Specifically, Damascus agreed to "the withdrawal of armed elements to the places they occupied before April 13, 1975, and to remove all armed manifestations." For the text of the document in English, see Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives, The Search for Peace in the Middle East: Documents and Statements, 1967-79 (Washington: U.S. Goverment Printing Office, 1979), pp. 33637.
For the text of the declaration in English, see John Norton Moors, ed., The Arab-Israeli Conflict, vol. 4, The Difficult Search for Peace (1975-1988), part 2, pp. 1154-56.
For the text of the accord in English, see Dilip Hiro, Lebanon Fire and Embers: A History of the Lebanese Civil War (New York: St. Martin's, 1993), pp. 231-40.
Theodor Hanf, Coexistence in Wartime Lebanon: Decline of a State and Rise of a Nation, trans. from German by
The Star (Amman), 21-26 July 1994.
inhibited in the Arabic-speaking countries, Human Rights Watch states that it "has been forced to toe a Syrian-drawn line, leave Syrian-controlled Lebanon, or cease functioning."10
Perhaps most significant for the long-range future, the Asad regime has opened the doors for Syrians to move to Lebanon, seek work there, settle there, and possibly bring other family members to join them there. With time, this emigration may profoundly alter Lebanon's population by increasing the proportion of peasants and Muslims.
All these changes have the additional virtue, from Asad's point of view, of making the Christian population, and especially the Maronites who are the heart of independent Lebanon, feel less welcome in their own homeland. Lebanese Christians already have a century's legacy of emigration; the Syrianization of their country makes it likely they will abandon their ancestral home in ever-increasing numbers. Should they do so, Damascus will have cleared the major obstacle to its permanent colonization of Lebanon.
Ruling Lebanon brings many benefits to Asad. It marks a significant step toward bringing all of "Greater Syria" under Damascus's direct control, one of his long-term aims. It perits him to stamp out the press criticism and political intrigue that once came out of Beirut. Lebanon provides his officials with an annual income from drug trafficking estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars, or even more. It provides employment for a million Syrian workers and a protected market for Syrian products. More broadly, as a prominent Arab banker writes, "Damascus is clearly turning Lebanon into its private economic engine by allowing Beirut to attract foreign investments, launch huge construction projects and reopen its financial markets."11
Control of Lebanon also offers a convenient venue for housing terrorist proxies, keeping them under Syrian control but outside of direct Syrian responsibility. It gives Asad control of a second voice in Arab councils and the peace process. Finally, the Lebanese theater offers him a way to tangle with Israel without endangering his own regime; the two sides have tacitly agreed to reserve total war for the Golan Heights and engage in lesser skirmishes in Lebanon. For all these reasons, holding on to Lebanon has critical importance to Asad.
The record suggests several conclusions: (1) Syrian promises to leave Lebanon have no value and should not be sought again. (2) Even were the uniformed troops to withdraw, Asad may still have enough assets in Lebanon to exert considerable control over the country. (3) The Asad government seeks to occupy Lebanon permanently.
Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of Lebanon's population
Human Rights Watch, World Report 1991, p. 605.