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Statement by Terry Anderson before the House Committee on International Relations hearing on U S. Policy Toward Lebanon, 25 June 1997

I would first like to thank the committee for inviting me to testify this morning I remain deeply interested in Lebanon, and in U.S. policy toward this country Last August, I made a two-week trip to Lebanon to film a one-hour documentary for CNN The film, "Return to the Lion's Den," was aired in December and January, and is expected to be shown on PBS this Summer

I agree with the committee that U.S policy on Lebanon needs to be reviewed Much has changed there, and continues to change. Many of our policies and actions with regard to Lebanon have failed to keep pace with that change.

In the brief overview of committee concerns I was given before coming here, you have listed four areas for study. I will take those areas in order in my comments

Syrian domination: Your overview notes that Lebanon is under Syrian domination. This is true, at least to the extent that all major political decisions are taken in consultation with officials in Damascus. It is also true that nearly all Lebanese would like this domination to end However, in my extensive travel throughout the country, I found also that those same Lebanese, whether ordinary citizens or government officials, recognize Syria's major part in ending the 17-year civil war that destroyed a large part of the country. Some fear that without Syrian domination, that war could break out again. No one wants a renewal of the war. I quote Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and officials from nearly every major party and ethnic group in the country: "Not yet It's too dangerous.'

There is much to criticize Syria for, both on its internal domestic affairs and its relations with other countries. But there is no need to punish Lebanon for Syna's many faults.

In fact, Syria interferes very little in ordinary Lebanese life. To say, as you note some critics do in your overview, that "Syria's occupation of Lebanon has failed to promote stability or moderation" and "'Syria has turned Lebanon into a base for terrorist activities, military provocations against Israel, and even drug trafficking" is untrue in large part and simplistic for the remainder. Lebanon is stable and prospering Even its most radical groups have moved toward moderation and are fully engaged in a flawed but still democratic political process. The once flourishing drug trade in the Bekaa Valley has been wiped out, with Syrian assistance, There is, surprisingly after two decades of war, very little crime of any sort in the country. The so-called military provocations against Israel consist of a determined fight against an armed invader and occupier of Lebanese territory, legitimate on any basis. Which brings us to your next subject

Lebanon's role in the peace process: The Lebanese I talked to all wish to have peace with Israel. They have no wish to begin that process until Israel ends its occupation of southern Lebanon - what the Israelis term a "security belt." It was stated that there is no equivalency between the Syrian and Israeli military presence in Lebanon." True. Ask the Lebanese. It's my impression that most agree to the Syrian presence, however reluctantly. They uniformly and vehemently oppose the Israeli occupation. Hezbollah, the Party of God, which conducts most of the attacks against Israeli troops and their Lebanese proxies, has gained widespread support and popularity, even among Christians, with this battle The prime minister and Parliament approve of it. It is, as I said earlier, legitimate by any standard To call it "military provocation" is to reveal a surprising bias.

In fact, it is the presence of Israeli troops in Lebanon that allows Hezbollah to remain an armed militia. The government wishes to disarm them as they have other militias, but will not and politically cannot do so as long as they are fighting the Israeli occupation End the occupation and Hezbollah also will be disarmed. It, and its Iranian backers will then lose

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 US 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 US 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 ! 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 US 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 graudally abandoning this wonderful success, just when we and Lebanon could use it most

If this committee would change and improve US 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

Thank you

U.S. Policy toward Lebanon

Daniel Pipes

Testimony presented to the

House Committee on International Relations

June 25, 1997

Room 2172

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,

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]."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

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Legal Status

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)."

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. 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. More generally, Binyamin Netanyahu rightly noted some years ago that "in Lebanon the Syrians broke just about every agreement they signed."

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." 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

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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 tent 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. Government Printing Office, 1979), pp. 33637.

For the text of the declaration in English, see John Norton Moore, od., 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. 21-40.

Theodor Hanf, Coexistence in Wartime Lebanon: Decline of a Slake and Rise of a Nation, trans. from German by
John Richardson (London: I.B. Tauris, 1993), p. 636.

The Star (Amman), 21-26 July 1994.
Hanl, Coexistence in Wartime Lebanon, p. 632.




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