AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Lebanon is a religiously diverse country transitioning toward independence and democratic consolidation after a ruinous civil war and the subsequent Syrian and Israeli occupations. The United States and Lebanon have historically enjoyed a good relationship due in part to cultural and religious ties; the democratic character of the state; a large, Lebanese-American community in the United States; and the pro-western orientation of Lebanon, particularly during the cold war. Current policy priorities of the United States include strengthening the weak democratic institutions of the state, limiting the influence of Iran, Syria, and others in Lebanon's political process, and countering threats from Hezbollah and other militant groups in Lebanon.
Following Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 and the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, the Bush Administration requested and Congress appropriated a significant increase in U.S. assistance to Lebanon. Since 2006, U.S. assistance to Lebanon has topped $1 billion total over three years, including for the first time U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and Internal Security Forces (ISF) of Lebanon.
Several key issues in U.S.-Lebanon relations could potentially affect future U.S. assistance to Lebanon. The scope and influence of foreign actors, primarily Syria and Iran; unresolved territorial disputes; concerns about extremist groups operating in Lebanon; and the strength and character of the LAF are among the challenges facing the Lebanese government and U.S. objectives in Lebanon.
On November 9, 2009, five months after the parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Hariri announced that consensus had been reached and a cabinet had been formed. Since then, Hariri has faced the challenging task of governing in an environment where sectarian tensions, political jockeying, and external actors penetrate deeply and often paralyze the day-to-day functions of government. The United States has thrown its support behind the Hariri government in an effort to build the capacity of state institutions in an attempt to counter those destabilizing forces.
Current U.S. policy toward Lebanon centers on containing Iran's sphere of influence while maintaining security and stability in the Levant. As regional actors like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria continue to compete for influence in the region, Lebanon has become the staging ground for a proxy war that exacerbates historic sectarian tensions and holds hostage the functions of state institutions. The extent to which Prime Minister Hariri's government, bolstered by U.S. support, can overcome these challenges and move toward fully functioning state institutions also depends on the ability of the LAF and United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to keep the peace along Lebanon's southern border with Israel and the willingness of Lebanon's neighbors to limit activities that undermine the Hariri government.
This report provides an overview of Lebanese politics, recent events in Lebanon, and current issues in U.S.-Lebanon relations.
August 3, 2010
Contents Recent Developments Lebanon, Iran, and United Nations Sanctions Weapons Smuggling to Hezbollah and Alleged Missile Transfers Special Tribunal for Lebanon U.S. Policy Toward Lebanon Background Recent U.S. Assistance to Lebanon Economic Issues and Trade Relations Political Profile Demography Civil War, Occupation, and Taif Reform Syrian and Israeli Incursions Taif Agreement Syrian Withdrawal and Parliamentary Elections of 2005 Syrian Withdrawal Parliamentary Elections of 2005 U.N. Resolutions 1595, 1757, and the Tribunal Sectarianism and Stability Political Stalemate Renewed Sectarian Violence Doha Agreement Parliamentary Elections 2009 Current Issues in U.S.-Lebanon Relations Hezbollah Lebanon's National Dialogue, Hezbollah, and Israel Hezbollah's Al Manar TV Lebanon-Syria Relations Unresolved Territorial Disputes The Shib'a Farms Ghajar Extremist Groups in Lebanon The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) U.S. Assistance to Lebanon Economic Support Funds Security Assistance Budget Transparency Unexploded Cluster Munitions in Lebanon Appendixes Appendix A. U.S. Assistance to Lebanon Appendix B. Map of Lebanon Contacts Author Contact Information
Lebanon, Iran, and United Nations Sanctions
Lebanon held the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council in May 2010 as a non-permanent member and abstained from the recent vote on sanctions against Iran contained in Resolution 1929. Hezbollah holds two seats in the Lebanese cabinet and rejects sanctions against its primary benefactor. According to Lebanese Ambassador to the United Nations Nawwaf Salam:
Lebanon encourages a peaceful solution to the crisis with Iran. We refuse to imagine a failure to diplomacy. If the current diplomatic efforts fail, our response will be a call for more diplomatic efforts. There are still many opportunities, and we have to secure all means of success for them through support for the mediation of the Brazilian president and the efforts of Turkey. If these efforts do not work, new doors for diplomacy should be opened. This is our position. (1)
Weapons Smuggling to Hezbollah and Alleged Missile Transfers
Current international assessments of Hezbollah's military capabilities reflect concern that the organization has replenished and improved its arsenal and capabilities since 2006. In April 2010, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reported that he continues "to receive reports asserting that Hezbollah has substantially upgraded and expanded its arsenal and military capabilities, including sophisticated long-range weaponry." (2) He also noted that "Hezbollah itself does not disavow such assertions and its leaders have repeatedly claimed in public that the organization possesses significant military capabilities, which they claim are for defensive purposes." In testimony before the Israeli Knesset (parliament) on May 4, 2010, Israeli Defense Force (IDF) Military Intelligence research director Brigadier General Yossi Baidatz stated:
Hezbollah has an arsenal of thousands of rockets of all types and ranges, including long-range solid-fuel rockets and more precise rockets.... The long-range missiles in Hezbollah's possession enable them to fix their launch areas deep inside Lebanon, and they cover longer, larger ranges than what we have come across in the past. Hezbollah of 2006 is different from Hezbollah of 2010 in terms its military capabilities, which have developed significantly. (3)
In early April 2010, multiple reports surfaced suggesting that Syria may have transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon. (4) Syria has denied the charges. Unnamed U.S. officials have acknowledged that they believe that Syria intended to transfer long-range missiles to Hezbollah, "but there are doubts about whether the Scuds were delivered in full and whether they were moved to Lebanon." (5) The State Department issued a statement saying, "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah.... The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon." (6) Subsequent Israeli press reports have cited Israeli military officials as stating that the missiles transferred to date have been M-600s, a ballistic missile with a 185-mile range and half-ton payload. (7)
Hezbollah leaders deny allegations that they have transferred weapons south of the Litani River in violation of Resolution 1701. (8) Nevertheless, U.N. reporting has noted Israel's stated concerns about the use of private homes in southern Lebanon to store weapons and explosives belonging to Hezbollah. Explosions at suspected weapons caches in south Lebanon in July and October 2009 and the discovery of over 600 pounds of explosives near the Israeli-Lebanon border in December 2009 appeared to substantiate general concerns that illegal weaponry continues to enter and circulate in southern Lebanon, in spite of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) presence and patrols.
According to U.S. officials, the Islamic Republic of Iran is Hezbollah's principal source of external material, financial, and political support. The Obama Administration's 2010 report on Iran's military power states:
With Iranian support, Lebanese Hizballah has successfully exceeded 2006 Lebanon conflict armament levels. On 4 November , Israel interdicted the merchant vessel FRANCOP, which had 36 containers, 60 tons, of weapons for Hizballah to include 122mm katyushas [Soviet-style short-range rockets], 107mm rockets, 106mm antitank shells, hand grenades, light-weapon ammunition. The IRGC-QF operates training camps in Lebanon, training as many as 3,000 or more LH fighters. Additionally, Iran also provides roughly $100-200 million per year in funding to support Hizballah. (9)
For more information, see "Hezbollah" below.
Special Tribunal for Lebanon
After more than five years since the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) at The Hague, Netherlands has yet to issue indictments against any alleged perpetrators. The only suspects ever named in the ongoing investigation, a group of four Lebanese generals who headed Lebanon's security services at the time of the assassination and were detained in 2005, were released in 2009. According to one Lebanese observer, "Foreign governments fear the instability that might ensue if Mr. Bellemare [STL Chief Prosecutor] issues indictments, so few will regret it if he doesn't. But the United Nations pushed for the Hariri investigation; its integrity is tied up with a plausible outcome. If that's impossible, there is no point in insulting the victims by letting the charade continue." (10) In March 2010, STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare questioned several Hezbollah officials, including Hajj Salim, who heads the Special Operations Department, Mustafa Badreddine, head of the counter-intelligence unit, and Wafiq Safa, chief of security. (11) Then, in May 2010, STL President Antonio Cassese stated that "Prosecutor Bellemare announced that he is likely to issue an indictment between September and December of this year." Numerous media reports in July and August 2010 speculated that high-ranking members of Hezbollah may be indicted, and expressed concerns that such indictments could trigger sectarian and regional tensions that could lead to conflict. (12) For background information, see "U.N. Resolutions 1595, 1757, and the Tribunal" below.
U.S. Policy Toward Lebanon
The United States and Lebanon have historically enjoyed a good relationship due in part to cultural and religious ties; the democratic character of the state; a large, Lebanese-American community in the United States; and the pro-western orientation of Lebanon, particularly during the cold war. The American University of Beirut (AUB) was founded in 1866 by Americans in Lebanon and continues to receive the support of the United States Government and the Congress. A large Lebanese-American community further strengthens the cultural ties and has supported U.S. assistance to Lebanon in various forms.
Despite long-standing contact and interaction between the United States and Lebanon, some might argue that Lebanon is of limited strategic value to the United States. Unlike many American partners in the Middle East, Lebanon has no U.S. military bases, oil fields, international waterways, military or industrial strength, or major trading ties with the United States. Others would disagree, pointing to Lebanon's strategic location as a buffer between Israel and Syria, Lebanon's large Palestinian refugee population, and its historical role as an interlocutor for the United States with the Arab world.
Current U.S. policy toward Lebanon centers on containing Iran's sphere of influence while maintaining security and stability in the Levant. As regional actors like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria compete for influence in the region, Lebanon has become the staging ground for a proxy war that exacerbates historic sectarian tensions and holds hostage the functions of state institutions. The extent to which Prime Minister Hariri's government, bolstered by U.S. support, can overcome these challenges and move toward fully functioning state institutions also depends on the ability of the LAF and UNIFIL to keep the peace along Lebanon's southern border with Israel and the willingness of Lebanon's neighbors to limit activities that undermine the Hariri government.
During the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war, the United States expressed concern over the violence and destruction and provided emergency economic aid, military training, and limited amounts of military equipment. In addition, the United States briefly deployed military forces to Lebanon in the early 1980s. The forces withdrew after a bombing at the U.S. Embassy in April 1983 and a bombing at the U.S. Marine barracks in October 1983 collectively killed 272 civilians and members of the U.S. Armed Forces in Lebanon. The United States supported and participated in various efforts to bring about a cease-fire during the civil war and subsequent efforts to quiet unrest in southern Lebanon along the Lebanese-Israeli border.
The United States supported Lebanon in its reconstruction following the civil war with economic assistance aimed at rebuilding Lebanon's badly damaged infrastructure and political support for a democratic, independent Lebanon (see Appendix A). In 1996, the United States helped negotiate an agreement between Hezbollah and Israel to avoid targeting civilians and is a member of a five-party force monitoring this agreement. The United States also endorsed the U.N. Secretary General's findings in May 2000 that Israel had completed its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
Since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, U.S. efforts have focused on countering terrorism and promoting democracy, two agendas that sometimes clash in Lebanon as Hezbollah maintains a political party that competes in Lebanon's national and municipal elections, extensive social and educational services, a militia wing, and an overseas terrorist capability. The United States also opposed the ongoing Syrian occupation of Lebanon as part of its policy to contain Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The Bush Administration reacted strongly to the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005, criticized the Syrian presence in Lebanon, and demanded the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. The United States welcomed the formation of a new Lebanese government following the withdrawal of Syrian forces in April 2005 and also supported the United Nations in establishing an independent tribunal to prosecute those responsible for Hariri's assassination. After a meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on July 22, 2005, then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "I think that you cannot find a partner more supportive of Lebanon than the United States." (13)
Large-scale fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-2006 …