Standing Firm in Lebanon

Report Middle East

Standing Firm in Lebanon

October 24, 1983 22 min read Download Report
Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.

(Archived document, may contain errors)

302 October 24, 1983 STANDING FIRM IN LEBANON I INTRODUCTION The multinational force MNF) dispatched to Beirut to help end the violence that has claimed 100,000 Lebanese lives over the last decade has itself been engulfed in viol.ence On October 23 more than 200 American servicemen were killed in a suicide bombing of the U.S. Marine headquarters at the Beirut Airport. Minutes later a second terrorist attack killed at least 26 French para- troopers billeted nearby itself the Islamic Revolutionary Movement claimed responsibility for the brutal bombings, the identity of the terrorists currently is unclear. What is clear is that these are the latest attacks in a war of attrition against the MNF, designed to wear down the will of Western powers commit t ed to restoring the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon. There is only one appropriate response for the West: to stand firm Although a shadowy group calling A war-torn country the size of Connecticut, Lebanon is occupied by soldiers from eighteen fore i gn armies that control over half of Lebanese territory Each of these foreign armies The Syrian and Israeli armies have staked out military enclaves along their own borders establish themselves in the Bekaa valley and Soviet advisers accompany Syrian troop s in Lebanon.

Britain, and Italy comprise the multinational peacekeeping force in Beirut.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon includes contingents from Fiji, Finland, France, Ghana, Ireland, Italy Netherlands, Norway, Senegal and Sweden. In addition, the Palestine Libera tion Organization (PLO) controls ter r oris t/mi li ta ry units in northern Lebanon while Syrian-dominated Palestinian forces are grouped in the Bekaa valley The Syrians have allowed Iranian and Libyan troops to Soldiers from the United States, France, Great 2 was drawn into Lebanon because th e Lebanese government was unable to extend its authority within its own borders to leave until the Lebanese government grows strong enough to regain control of its territory or until the country is partitioned along sectarian lines.

Lebanon is a crazy quil t of clannish ethnic and religious groups that historically have been suspicious and resentful of central government. Since the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1976 the central government's authority has stopped at the city limits of Beirut. The Lebanese Army s plintered along sectarian lines and left Lebanon hostage to scores of militias, "liberation groups, and street gangs that align themselves with foreign powers to gain advantage in the bloody internecine warfare. Lebanon's anarchy resulted in a Syrian occu pation of half the country and two Israeli interventions aimed at blunting PLO I terrorist operations.

American troops were dispatched to Lebanon as part of the multinational peacekeeping force in the wake of the 1982 Israeli intervention. Their mission wa s to facilitate the evacuation of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) forces from Beirut and to shore up the authority of the new Lebanese government.

The deaths of over 200 American Marines in Lebanon focuses attention on the role of the MNF in g eneral and the Marines in particular. Although the War Powers issue has been sidestepped through the prudent compromise reached by the Reagan Administration and members of Congress, American policy in Lebanon remains a subject of strong debate.

Restoratio n of an independent Lebanon is critical to the success of U.S. foreign policy for several reasons. An independent Lebanon would pose a barrier to the expansion of Syrian/Soviet influence in the Middle East It also would provide a concrete example of the v a lue of an American connection to uneasy Middle Eastern governments that have doubts about U.S. credibility. This would go far'to reassure jittery Persian Gulf nations that the U.S. is willing and able to frustrate the Syrian/Soviet drive for hegemony. The reconstitution of a stable Lebanon would remove a major source of tension between Israel and Syria that could trigger another Arab-Israeli war. Finally, the reestablish- ment of a unified Lebanon would give American Middle East diplomacy a shot in the arm and clear the way for a possible negotiated resolution to the Arab-Israeli impasse. As long as Lebanon remains under the Syrian thumb it will remain an unstable entity a major impediment to peace in the region, and a potential long- term threat to Israeli security.

At stake in Lebanon is first and foremost Lebanon's national sovereignty. Although sectarian squabbling sparked the latest outburst of fighting in September, Syria long has fanned the flames of internal Lebanese discord and exploited Lebanon's d isunity in an effort to establish hegemony over the Lebanese. Syria is the chief enemy of the Lebanese government, the chief Few are likely I 3 threat to Lebanese sovereignty, and the chief obstacle to a negotiated solution of Lebanese problems. should su p port strongly President Amin Gemayel's attempt to reassert government control over outlying districts. But before Lebanon can be reconstituted it must be reformed should encourage President Gemayel to seek a lasting reconcilia- tion with disenfranchised M oslem groups to build a firm foundation for Lebanon's future groups, the Lebanese government can deprive Syria of its most dangerous fifth columnists--its Lebanese Shi'ite and Druze allies.

While pursuing the long-term goal of a political settlement the U. S. in the short run must act firmly to contain the political damage inflicted by the October 23 terrorist attack. Hostile Lebanese factions and the Syrians must be disabused of the notion that the MNF can be forced out of Lebanon through intimidation.

Washington should restate its unshakeable determination to back the Lebanese government's efforts to regain Lebanonls sovereignty.

The U.S. should launch a relentless effort to identify and punish the group responsible for the attack on the Marines. A strong reprisal is necessary to restore Lebanese confidence in American power, deter future attacks on the MNF, and demonstrate that the American military presence in Lebanon is not a paper tiger The United States Washington By regaining the loyalty of these di s affected Beyond this, the U.S. has three basic options in Lebanon: It can pull the Marines out, maintain them at their current level of strength, or reinforce them. Any action should be coordinated with U.S. allies in the MNF. A unilateral pullout would a b andon Lebanon to Syrian domination and would haunt U.S. Middle East policy fo'r years to come. By rewarding terrorism it would only encourage it. Also, the Marines have bec0me.a measuring stick of U.S. credibility in the Middle East. For these reasons the real choice in the short run is between maintaining the Marine contin- gent at its present size or expanding it. As long as the Marines are to be deployed merely as political symbols of international support for the Lebanese government, their strength sho u ld be maintained at current levels. More Marines would only add more targets. Additional reinforcements would be required only if the role of the MNF were to be eypanded to include active patrols in support of the Lebanese army THE U.S. ROLE IN LEBANON U. S . Marines entered Lebanon on August 25, 1982, as part of a multinational force including French and Italian troops deployed to oversee the evacuation of the PLO from Beirut. The Marines withdrew on September 11 without incident. President Reagan ordered t h e Marines to return on September 29 after Lebanese Christian militiamen, enraged by the assassination of President- elect Bashir Gemayel, massacred up to 2,000 people in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. to help the Lebanese government rest o re order in Beirut and create an atmostphere of calm that would strengthen government authority throughout the country The MNF's new mandate was I I I 4 The MNF intervention, like previous Syrian and Israeli interventions, did not signal the end of civil s trife but only the beginning of a new phase in Lebanon's tortured history. The eviction of the PLO from Beirut had altered the balance of power between the warring Lebanese factions. The Phalangist Party Kataeb in Arabic a Christian right-wing party that h ad allied itself with Israel, was the strongest faction, controlling the Maronite heartland north of Beirut. Shi'ites, Sunnis and Druze-found their land occupied by the Israeli Army in the south or the Syrian Army in the north and east. Newly elected Pres ident Amin Gemayel's government, supported by the MNF, exercised tenous control over the Beirut area.

The Reagan Administration set three principal goals for U.S policy in Lebanon: 1) the restoration of government authority in a united, independent Lebanon 2) the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon; and 3) the provision of adequate security for Israel's northern border. The prime vehicle for restoring government authority was to be the strengthening of the Lebanese Army, which had disintegrated d u ring the 1975-1976 Lebanese civil war. American military advisers were dispatched to retrain the Lebanese military, restore its shattered morale, and mold it into a cohesive multi-sectarian national institution capable of unify- ing the country. The army w as expanded from 18,000 men in late 1982 to 32,000 in September 1983 and is planned to grow to 50,000 within a year. Although its growth in firepower has been impres sive, its staying power remained an unknown element until its baptism under fire during t h e prolonged battle for the strategic village of Suq al-Gharb overlooking Beirut in September 1983 The other major sects--the While the Army's recent successes have instilled an invaluable esprit de corps, they also contain the seeds of prospective failure . Thus far the army's victories have come at the expense of Lebanese factions that historically have viewed the Army as a tool of the Maronite Christians. enlisted men are Moslem, the officer corps is predominantly Christian, particularly in its upper eche l ons. If the Lebanese Army is to play a central role in reunifying Lebanon, then it must gain the trust of Lebanon's non-Christian groups. The United States should encourage the Lebanese government to elevate capable and patriotic Moslems into leadership p o sitions within the Army as a means of allaying suspicions about the government and increasing its base of popular support Although 60 percent of the The second goal of American policy--obtaining the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon--also will be an uphill struggle.

During the fall of 1982, Washington consigned the Lebanese problem to the back burner and pushed the September 1 Reagan peace initia tive, which focused on the broader Arab-Israeli conflict. It was assumed that the two most powerful mil itary forces in Lebanon-the Israeli and Syrian armies--would have less reason to remain as occupiers if the Arab-Israeli problems could be resolved through negotiation. Both Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and President Hafez Assad of Syria rejected the Reagan initiative, however, and each sought to derail it at every opportunity. When Jordan's King Hussein made the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon one of his conditions for participating in the Reagan initiative, Jerusalem gained a major inc e ntive for stalling on negotiating Israeli withdrawal with Lebanon. King Hussein's other condition --obtaining a green light from the PLO--gave Syria-additional incentive to thwart the flirtation of PLO ragma- tists with the Jordanians and bend the PLO to its own will After the Reagan initiative fell victim to Palestinian recalcitrance and King Hussein's equivocations, negotiations on the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon began in earnest.

In retrospect, the State Department can be criticized for 1) failing to push through a withdrawal agreement before Syria strengthened its diplomatic position by force-feeding its defeated army massive quantities of modern Soviet-supplied weapons; and 2) taking the Syrian regime at its word when Damascus indicated it would withdraw when Israel did. Because Foggy Bottom assumed that Syria's withdrawal was assured once Israel agreed to with draw, it brought American pressure to bear on Israel, giving Syria a diplomatic free ride.

The May 17 1983, Lebanese-Israeli acco rd that paved the way for Israeli withdrawal therefore addressed only one side of the problem. Under the terms of the agreement the two countries jointly declared their common border to be inviolable, terminated the state of war that technically.had exist e d between them since 1948, guaranteed that their respective territories would not be used as a base for hostile or terrorist activity against each other, and established joint security teams to patrol a security zone along Lebanon's southern b~rder Israel agreed to withdraw its armed forces from Lebanon after the PLO had left Lebanon, Israeli prisoners of war were repatriated, and Syria had agreed to withdraw.

Syria vehemently denounced the withdrawal accord, a predict- able reaction given Syrian ambitions in Lebanon. Damascus had never reconciled itself to the 1920 establishment of Lebanon never recognized Lebanon's sovereignty, and never established an embass y in Beirut. The Assad regime instead has pursued the vision of reconstituting the ancient borders of a "Greater Syria that included what is now Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank. These irredentist designs have generated friction with the Pales- tinians a s well as the Lebanese, since Palestinians no more desired to become "southern Syrians" than most Lebanese desired to become "western Syrians It Syria strongly supported the opposition of PLO hardliners to the U.S initiative, was suspected of abetting the assassination of PLO pragmatist Issam Sartawi in the spring of 1983, and aided PLO rebels against Yassir Arafat in the summer of 1983.

For the full text of the agreement see 3 New York Times, May 17, 1983 6 Damascus rejected the May 17th accord because it stood in the way of Syrian hegemony over Lebanon. Syria a central role on the Middle Eastern diplomatic stage; protected Syria's soft underbelly--the Bekaa valley--from a possible Israeli military thrust in time of war; and enabled the corrupt Assad regim e to enrich itself through lucrative smuggling operations inside Lebanon.4 drawal agreement because it takes Lebanon out of the Arab-Israeli conflict and consolidates Lebanese-Israeli ties The Syrian Army assured Damascus also rejected the w'ith The Syrian s hope to transform Lebanon into a confrontation state that would strengthen their position vis-h-vis Israel and enhance Syria's claim to leadership of the Arab world. Syria's patron, the Soviet Union, also would profit from the establishment of a Syrian-d o minated Lebanon. Given the pro-Soviet sentiments of many Lebanese leftists allied to Syria, Moscow would gain another foothold in the Middle East and possible additional naval, air force, and missile bases. A pro-Syrian, pro-Soviet Lebanon would be anothe r nail in the coffin of the Middle Eastern Pax Americana envisioned by the Reagan Administration. Moreover it would ppse a new and dangerous threat to Israel's security that eventually could lead to another war.

To frustrate Syrian/Soviet ambitions Washing ton must bolster the Lebanese government to the point where it can stand up to the Syrians history. This will be a difficult task given Lebanon's past LEBANESE POLITICAL FERMENT Lebanon is one of the world's most complex ethnic/religious jigsaw puzzles. L e banon's three million people belong to sixteen officially recognized sects that form an intricate mosaic of minorities spread throughout the country. The Lebanese mountains historically have been a refuge of last resort for minority groups persecuted in o t her parts of the Middle East. Most Lebanese sects were not part of the mainstream of their respective religions and were often discriminated against by co-religionists as well as non-believers. The Maronites, the largest of twelve Christian sects, fled to Lebanon from Syria at the turn of the 8th century.

The Druze, believers in an heretical offshoot of Islam, were driven out of Egypt and sought refuge in Lebanon in the 11th century. The Shi'ite Moslems, relegated to a minority status in most other Arab st ates, dominate the lower rungs of the Lebanese economic ladder. Smaller numbers of Armenians, Kurds, Greek Orthodox Christians, and Nestorian Assyrians also fled to Lebanon for sanctuary. Because of \\ the legacy of fear inherited from I The Bekaa hashish trade is estimated to have brought the Syrians $1 bil- lion since 1976. tion in the parts of Lebanon they control.

The Syrians also operate an extensive auto theft opera7 previous generations, Lebanese sects have a siege mentality that makes them extremely suspicious of each other and the central government.

Under the Ottoman Empire, Lebanese sects maintained an uneasy coexistence. After World War I, France carved Lebanon out of the Ottoman Empire under a League of Nations mandate and created a protectorate in which pro-French Maronites were favored over Moslem minorities. In 1943, the Lebanese wrested independence from a prostrate France without the benefit of a lengthy struggle that could have unified the sects and molded a common Lebanese national consci ousness.

Maronite and Sunni political barons that narrowly averted civil strife, enshrined Maronite dominance by specifying that Lebanon's President would always be Maronite. Political power was appor tioned among traditional elites according to the findin gs of the 1932 census. There were to be six Christians for every five non-Christians in the Lebanese parliament and civil service. The office of Prime Minister was reserved for a Sunni, the Speaker of Parliament was to be a Shi'ite, and the Minister of De f ense a Druze. balance of power. In practice, the Maronites were assured the lion's share of national power The 1943 National Pact, the unwritten understanding between This system was more a division of the spoils than a For several decades Lebanon flouris h ed as the only Arab democratic state. Beirut's rising importance as a financial and mercantile center encouraged cooperation for the sake of mutual economic interests. The National Pact grew obsolete, however due to changes in the demographic balance caus e d by Christian emigration from Lebanon and higher Moslem birthrates. Maronite families, determined to preserve their accumulated privileges, resisted the staging of a new census that could be used as the basis of a new power-sharing arrangement. A brief c ivil war was nipped in the bud by President Eisenhower's dispatch of 14,000 Marines in 19

58. The United States was broker for an agreement between the contending factions under the slogan Ifno victors, no vanquished" that essentially preserved the status quo for more than a decade The ruling By the early 1970s the rising expectations of the burgeoning A critical change in the Lebanese body politic was Moslem population eclipsed the capabilities of Lebanese national institutions the cancerous growth of a P L O "state within a state" in southern Lebanon. An estimated 400,000 to 500,000 Palestinians had taken refuge in Lebanon after the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars. They became increasingly radicalized in the late 1960s and increas ingly militarized because of the influx of large numbers of armed Palestinians expelled from Jordan after the ''Black September of 19

70. The growing military power of the PLO led Lebanon's sects and political factions to build up their own militias. a Lebanonls foreign policy had been one of "strength through weakness." Army to avoid involvement in the Arab-Israeli dispute and preclude a coup d'etat. The weak Lebanese Army, unlike its Jordanian counterpart, was incapable of reining in the PLO. as a catalyst to polarize Lebanese po l itics and reinforce sectarian cleavages It undermined the authority of the government in clashes with the Army that underlined Lebanon's military impotence and precipitated a mass migration of southern Lebanese v'illagers--mostly poor Shilites-to a belt o f shantytowns on the outskirts of Beirut. Alienated by urban poverty-and the breakdown of their traditional society, these internal Lebanese refugees became a reservoir of recruits for radical leftist groups allied with the Palestinians.

Rising political t ensions led to the establishment of more than forty private armies, each one dedicated to advancing the interests of a particular religious group, ideology, or clan. In April 1975 a chaotic civil war erupted, pitting a coalition of predominantly Moslem le f tists called the National Front, which advocated the transformation of Lebanon into a secular socialist state, against a coalition of Christian rightists called the Lebanese Front, which defended the old order and sought to rid Lebanon of the Palestianian s . Regional powers such as Syria, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and later Khomeinils Iran contributed arms and money to favored groups. Lebanon became a microcosm of the Middle East itself, an area where regional powers jousted through proxies to give vent to Arab-Israeli and inter-Arab tensions The central government had restricted the size of the.

The PLO acted It provoked Israeli retaliatory raids Although the Lebanese Front initially had the upper hand in the fighting, stepped-up involvement of rad ical Palestinians decisively altered the balance of power in favor of the National Front. In the spring of 1976, Syria intervened on behalf of the beleaguered Christian/rightist Lebanese Front. Assad feared that if a PLO/leftist alliance gained dominance o ver Lebanon, Syria would lose control of the timing of future confrontations with Israel and would be open to attack through the Bekaa valley. The Syrian Army blocked a leftist/PLO victory and scaled down the intensity of the fighting, although chronic ou t bursts of fighting and terrorist activity continued. to have perished in the course of two years of fighting. Up to 60,000 people are believed ISRAELI INTERVENTION IN LEBANON Although Israel had reached a modus vivendi with the Syrians in post-1976 Lebano n , the PLO remained an active threat to civil ians in northern Israel. A March 1978 PLO massacre of Israelis provoked Israel to launch a cross-border attack against PLO strongholds in southern Lebanon. Israel withdrew its 20,000 troops in June 1978 after a g reeing to the formation of UNIFIL, a seven-nation peacekeeping force meant to halt PLO infiltration across the border. In addition, Israel turned over a slice of 9 Lebanese territory to the Christian/ShiIite militia of Major Saad Haddad, one of Israel's c losest allies in Lebanon.

The June 1982 Israeli military intervention, precipitated by the attempted assassination of the Israeli Ambassador to Great Britain by a PLO splinter group, originally was designed to strike a crushing blow at PLO bases in souther n Lebanon course of the operation, however, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon presented the Israeli cabinet with a series of faits accomplis and managed to expand the operation to the outskirts of Beirut, where the bulk of the PLO had gone. Sharon counted hea v ily on the cooperation of Bashir Gemayel, the young commander of the right-wing Phalangist militia, who shared Israel's goal of forcing the PLO out of Lebanon. latch onto the coattails of the Israeli Army and expand the area I controlled by his militia bu t , held back from committing his forces against the besieged Palestinians, preferring to let the I Israelis incur the human, economic, and world public opinion I1 arm's length, at least in public, Bashir Gemayel was able to I realize his ambition of being e lected President of Lebanon although he never lived to take office In the Gemayel welcomed the opportunity to costs of forcibly expelling the PLO. By keeping the Israelis at Bashirls assassination on September 15, 1982 and the subse quent election of his b rother Amin as President effectively ended Sharon's hope of cementing an Israeli alliance with a Phalange dominated Lebanon. Amin Gemayel, who entered office with strained relations with his brother's Phalangist lieutenants, immediately distanced himself f rom Israel in an effort to cultivate the support of Lebanese Moslems and Arab states. Once Sharon had been removed as Defense Minister, Israel scaled back its goa1s.h Lebanon and staged a limited military pullback in early September 1983 to reduce Israeli casualties and the economic burden of its presence in Lebanon. Israel, however, has announced its intention to retain this military presence as long as Damascus remains in Lebanon.

THE LATEST ROUND OF FIGHTING The current round of fighting in Lebanon was triggered by a scramble to fill the vacuum left by the Israeli withdrawal from the strategic Chouf region, southeast of Beirut. When the Israelis pulled out on September 4, the Druze immediately sought to eject Phalangist militiamen who had moved into the Chouf, the Druze heartland, in the wake of the Israeli army i'n 19

82. Walid Jumblatt, leader of Lebanon's 200,000 to 250,000 Druze, claims that this is a strictly defensive action motivated by Druze fear of massacres at the hands of their longtime Maronite enemies. Others are not so sure. The Gemayel government suspects that the Druze are driving toward Beirut to link up with rebellious Moslem militias in West Beirut. It points out that the Druze are being assisted in their campaign to I'liberatell the Chouf by Syrian Druze drawn from the Syr'ian Army, the Lebanese Communist Party, and at least 10 one thousand Syrian-controlled PLO guerrillas government is alarmed that the Jumblatt-led National Salvation Front, composed of D r uze, Moslem, and Christian opposition figures increasingly is dominated by the Syrians. Although there is no love lost between Jumblatt and Assad--Syria is believed to have engineered the assassination of Jumblatt's father-=there is a growing danger that the Druze marriage of convenience with the Syrians will develop into a permanent relationship.

Jumblatt has warned that the Druze will never accept a Lebanese Army presence in the Chouf until a political understand- ing has been reache.d between the govern ment and the Druze. Such an understanding apparently was reached in negotiations between the Gemayel government and Jumblatt in Paris in early September only to be vetoed by Syria. The Druze offensive that followed was checked at Suq al-Gharb by the Leban e se Army, supported by the naval artillery of the U.S. Sixth Fleet. Once the steadfast- ness of the Lebanese Army had been demonstrated under fire, the Syrian-backed Druze agreed to a shaky ceasefire, undoubtedly discouraged from further probes by the incr e asing support that the Lebanese Army received from the multinational force various factions agreed to convene a national reconciliation conference aimed at creating a new power-sharing formula that would unite warring groups behind a government of nationa l unity.

Left to themselves, the Lebanese probably could work out an arrangement acceptable to all .major factions. The Lebanese are exhausted from eight years of brutal turmoi.1 and most fervently desire the restoration of civil peace. genuine reconciliat ion would weaken their leverage over their Lebanese allies The Lebanese During the ceasefire, Lebanon's 179th since 1975, Lebanon's Syria does not. For a POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS American Marines have become entangled in the ancient quarrels of Lebanese sec t s and the more recent struggle between Lebanon and Syria. The recent terrorist attack on the Marines reveals a shocking lack of security, particularly in view of the similar attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut last April. The first order of business is t o reduce the vulnerability of the Marines, move all nonessential personnel offshore and give them more flexibility to defend themselves. The terrorist attack must be avenged as soon as the culprits have been identified and suitable targets chosen. keeping f orce that is not capable of protecting itself same time, however, the U.S. must take care to strike only at the guilty parties capable of withstanding Syrian imperialism, i.t must encourage national reconciliation and scrupulously avoid becoming identifie d with the interests of any single faction. Washington should convince President Gemayel of the absolute need for a government of national unity that is broad enough to give all minorities The Lebanese are not likely to be reassured by a peace If the U.S. is to help rebuild a united Lebanon At the 11 especially those that have functioned as Syrian proxies, a stake in Lebanon's independence.

As the Syrians and the Israelis discovered, there is no military solution that will unify Lebanon. strong enough to im pose its will on the others. grows dominant, dissenting Lebanese groups merely seek foreign support against their domestic rivals. When a foreign power grows dominant, dissenting Lebanese seek a counterbalancing foreign power. The only solution to Lebanon 's problems is a negotiated settlement between contending domestic factions, culminating in the formulation of a new National Pact.

Syria's embrace. The Phalangist militia, but not the Lebanese Army, should be withdrawn from the Chouf soon, before Syria de velops an unbreakable hammerlock on Walid Jumblatt. role in determining Lebanon's future. Both the Maronites and the Sunnis will have to make concessions to accommodate these demands or the Druze and Shi'ites will continue to block the restoration of gove r nment authority and Lebanese sovereignty No Lebanese group is When one coalition The Druze must be made to feel secure so they will leave This must be done The Druze and the Shi'ites want a larger political Washington should be talking directly to these m inority groups to enlist their cooperation--not trying to woo Syria.

Assad's unpopular Alawite regime has a vested interest in main taining tensions in Lebanon to defuse domestic discontent and buttress Syria's claim on Arab leadership. Syria will never qu it Lebanon until a united Lebanese front forces it to. Negotiating with the Syrians before reaching accommodations with Syria's Lebanese allies will only strengthen Syria's hold over these groups and prolong Lebanon's occupation.

CONCLUSION The U.S. Marin es are performing a thankless, but indispens- able, task in Lebanon. As part of the MNF, they buttress the authority of the beleaguered Gemayel government, deter Syrian adventurism in Lebanon, and symbolize the Western commitment to Lebanon's sovereignty. The Marines should be kept in place until the Lebanese government grows strong enough to stand on its own feet. A premature withdrawal of the Marines would doom the Gemayel government and plunge Lebanon into Syrian-orchestrated civil strife that would dwa r f the bloody terrorist attack on the U.S. Marines. A unilateral American pullout would open the door to increased Syrian and Soviet influence in Lebanon. It would devalue the credibility of American commitments elsewhere in the world, particularly in the e yes of Arab governments increasingly fearful of Soviet-Syrian hegemony. A decision to cut and run in Lebanon also would diminish any chance of a U.S.-brokered, Arab- Israeli peace. No other Arab governments would be likely to step forward to sign an agree m ent with Israel if Syria should succeed in bringing down Amin Gemayel's government for such an agreement. 12 I In addition to being the chief enemy of the Gemayel government Syria is the chief enemy of the MNF likely to withdraw his army from Lebanon unle ss he is pressured strongly to do so. The only force capable of doing this is the Israeli army. dealing with Assad.

Lebanon's agony while producing meager results.

While the Marines should stand firm in Lebanon for the time being, Washington privately sho uld make it clear to the Lebanese government that they are there only on a temporary basis. Presi- dent Gemayel should be encouraged to form, as soon as possible, a government of national unity that would include leaders of the Druze and Shi'ite communiti es. the Syrians of their most important local surrogates by giving these dissident sects a greater stake in the survival of his government.

Syrian withdrawal from Lebanese territory President Assad is not Washington should work closer with Jerusalem in The wooing of Assad has only prolonged President Gemayel would deprive Only a unified Lebanon has a chance of forcing a If the Gemayel government does not move quickly to broaden its base of domestic support, the 1976 de facto partitioning of Lebanon probabl y will become irreversible. This would inevitably lead to the withdrawal of the MNF, for no Western government would continue indefinitely to shed the blood of its soldiers to reunify Lebanon if the Lebanese continued to shed their own blood to prevent reu nification.

James A. Phillips Policy Analyst 13 APPENDIX ARMED FORCES IN LEBANON NAME Syrian Army STRENGTH (approximate 40,000 to 50,000 DESCRIPTION Entered Lebanon in 1976 occupies eastern half of Lebanon 10,000 to 15,000 Entered Lebanon in June 1982; wit hdrew to Awwali River September 4, 1983 Israel Defense Force Palestine Liberation Organization Umbrella organization for several independent groups.

Fatah, the largest, is split by a rebellion supported by Syria 10,000 in north, 1,000 rebels in Bekaa valley and Chouf Mountains. Some may have infiltrated south Beirut.

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL Peacekeeping force in south since 1978 7,000 Multinational Force MNF Dispatched in September 1982 to support government 5,200 total 2,000 Frenc h 1,600 U.S 1,500 Italian 100 British Lebanese Army Now being trained by American advisers. Con centrated in Beirut and along coast to south 32,000 Lebanese Front Phalangist-dominated militia Right-wing, predominantly Maronite. Controls East Beirut and en clave to north 12,000 when fully mobilized.

Progressive Socialist Party (PSP Druze dominated leftist group with ties to Syria and PLO. Concentrated in Chouf 3,000 to 4,000 Ama 1 Shi'ite militia concentrated in West and South Beirut. 2,000 to 3,000 Mur ib i tun Predominantly Sunni Moslem.

Nasserist-leftist movement.

Concentrated in West Beirut 2,000 2,000 Free Lebanon Forces Predominantly Christian pro-Israeli militia led by Major Haddad. Deployed along border with Israel.


James Phillips

Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation