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Sunday, May 20, 2007

TRIPOLI SUNNI GROUP BATTLES LEBANESE GOVERNMENT.

HISTORY IN THE NEWS: DEVOTED TO THE DEEP ORIGINS OF CONTEMPORARY EVENTS AROUND THE WORLD.

TAG: A place of refuge for sectarian minorities since the early days of Islam, Lebanon has bred wary, clannish, political and sectarian groups from the Christian Maronites, to the Druzes, the PLO and Hezbollah. The latest is a new type of sectarianism, Islamist Sunni Palestinians.

IN THE NEWS: In Tripoli, the Lebanese Army opens fire on the Palestinian Bahr al Bared refugee camp, battling Sunni Muslmis from Fatah al Islam, an Islamist group apparently linked to al Qaeda. The army had gone into Bahr al Bared after a gang that had robbed a bank was reported to be part of the group. Fatah al Islam militants seized control of checkpoints around the camp before the fighting started. Among fifty dead are eleven Lebanese soldiers. The Lebanese army may begin a general clamp-down on Palestinan refugee camps. Saad Hariri, Sunni leader of Lebanon's parliament, denounced the violence and other government leaders denounced Fatah al Islam.

IN A NUTSHELL: By Lebanon's Communal Constitution of 1926, political power was allotted according to ethnic group. In 1969, in a similar attempt to quell sectarian tensions, Lebanon allowed the Palestinian refugee camps self-rule, provided they kept the peace. The closing of the camps to external scrutiny has led to new developments in 2006-7. Taking their cue from the Palestinian Territories, where Islamist Hamas is challenging the ruling Fatah Party, Islamist groups like "Fatah al Islam" are confronting the Fatah's rule inside Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon as well.

THEN AND NOW: Lebanon has a long history of intervention and interference by outside powers. The latest is the allegedly Syrian and Al Qaeda-backed Fatah al Islam inside Palestinian refugee camps.

PROXIMATE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. The Palestinian refugee camps govern their own affairs through the political party Fatah, but Fatah is now facing a rival, Fatah el Islam.

Some in the Lebanese government see the hand of Syria in the Sunni Islamist infiltration of camps traditionally controlled by the secular Fatah. In February, 2005, Lebanon's pro-western Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated, allegedly for standing up against continued Syrian control of Lebanon. After massive, Lebanese nationalist demonstrations and international outcry, Syria's President Bashir Assad withdrew Syrian forces from Lebanon and acknowledged Lebanon's independence.

But his regime may be split with some elements wanting to use Lebanese sectarian groups to weaken the country. Assad's intelligence chief Asef Shawkat and his brother, Maher Assad were named as the suspected instigators in a UN investigation into the Lebanese P.M., Hariri's death. There is also reason to believe that Maher Assad and Asef Shawkat want to see the return of Syrian domination of Lebanon and are trying to maintain a pro-Arab and anti-Western line against President Assad's new, more moderate stance. Aiding Sunni Islamist groups to destabilize Lebanon could be one way of doing it.

But the Syrian-backed Shia militant party, Hezbollah, which leads Lebanon's opposition, claims, to the contrary, that the Sunni Fatah al Islam is part of a US-Sunni plot against the Shia.

But there's another outside influence. Since Hamas came to power in the Palestinian territories, international funding to the camps has been seriously cut, aggravating the division by driving young Palestinians to join Fatah al Islam. Syria, which doesn't want to see a stable, western-friendly government in Lbeanon, could indeed be the beneficiary. Back in February a Lebanese bus was bombed and in April, Lebanon arrested members of a Syrian branch of Fatah al Islam. Then, after violence erupted in Bahr al Bared between Fataj al Islam and Fatah, the Lebanese army isolated the camp, seriously damaging the local economy and causing more sympathy for Fatah al Islam. In past months, the Palestinian refugeeee camps were wracked by violence, especially at the largest camp, Ayn al Helway, south of Sidon where Fatah has been locked in figting with the Shund as Sham, another Sunni Islamist group.

DISTANT BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. In the late 1960s, under pressure from Israel, the Palestinian resistance to Israeli rule began to infiltrate south Lebanon. There followed raids by Israel on PLO positions in Beirut and by the Lebanese army on PLO positions in 1969. In 1969, Lebanon made an agreement with the PLO to wit: if they didn't disturb Lebanon itself, the PLO could govern itself inside the camps without intervention by Lebanon. The law of 1969 would have serious remifications when Islamist groups begin to set up in the camps in 2006-2007.

As the Lebanese civil war erupted in the early 1970s, the Palestinians allied themseves with left-wing Druze and Shia groups who were at war with the Su nnis and Chrisitian Maronites who ran the Lebanese government. Throught, the PLO would use its Lebanese bases for attacks on Lebanon. In 1976, however, to elmininate the danger that the PLO would set up in Syria and incur aggression from Israel, Syria intervened against the insurgent alliance with the PLO to support the Maronite government. The PLO, pressed by Syria into southern Lebanon, continued attacks on Israel. In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon to expel the PLO once and for all, driving Palestinainas and their leadership to set up in countries outside Lebanon. Gradually, the Palestinians were replaced by the Shia group, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah as the main insurgent group in the south of Lebanon. In the following years, many Palestinian militants returned and the half million or so in Palestinian refugees continued to be politicised.

REMOTE BACKGROUND TO THE EVENTS. Lebanon was part of the Umayyad Caliphate based in Damascus, after Islam expanded into the region in 644 ; and it was the Sunni Umayyads who defeated the Shia in Iraq in a struggle to claim the caliphate. So radical Sunnis have a claim on the heritage of the Umayyads of Damascus, while Shia have populated Lebanon since the early days of Islam. So the origins of the tension between them in Lebanon are old. Meanwhile, the Sunnis can also lay claims of resistance to Christian intervention. It was another Sunni dynasty, the local Abuyyids, who, under the leadership of Saladin, repelled the European Crusaders in the 12th century.

Under the Ottoman Empire, Sunnis and Christians held the power in Lebanon as trade contacts with Europe intensified. In the 18th century, French protection of the Maronite Christians was seen as a threat by the Druzes. The Ottoman-supported feudal system that had kept Maronites and Druzes at peace collapsed and in 1840 and civil war erupted between them.

In 1861, Druze Muslims in Lebanon massacred a community of Maronite Christians. As a result, the Ottoman rulers granted the Christians an autonomous, protected enclave. When the Ottoman Empire crumbled after World War I, Syria fell under French mandate and the French expanded the Christian enclave into a modern Lebanon, separate from Syria. Lebanon, under largely Christian rule, continued to lean toward the west while Syria leaned toward the Arab east. Between the wars, French misrule and atrocities further alienated Syria from the west.

The Sunnis were still part of the ruling class in Lebanon. It was only with the emergence of the Palestinian PLO and the accummulation of Palestinian rfefugees in Lebanon, that a revolutionary, if foreign, Sunni underclass appeared. In Lebanon, in the 1970s, after Muslims and Christians fell into civil war over Christian minority rule, Syria intervened in the 1980s to restore order, which still favoured rule by Christian and Sunnis. Syrian occupation led to Syrian domination of Lebanon until the assasination of Sunni Prime Minister Rafiq Harirr in 2005.

But the conditions in the Palestinian refugee camps had not improved. With the increase of Sunni Islamist extremism after 9/11 and the election of an Islamist government under Hamas in Palestine, Sunni Islamist factions have begun to apear in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps.

CROSS-CENTURY SUMMARY: Historicaly, the region, known as Syria, stretches eastward from the Mediterranean into Mesopotamia. Straddling Mediterranean west and Arab east, it was almost inevitable that Syria should split. The 19th century feud between Druze Muslims and Christians in the coastal regions provided the occasion. Mediterranean Lebanon fell away from Asian Syria when the French made them separate countries. But Syria, perhaps moved by a sense that it carries the historical mantle of the old Umayyad Caliphate and perhaps even the Ottoman Empire, has always had its eye on regaining Lebanon as part of greater Syria. Sunni Islamists in Lebanon can appeal to the same heroitage. The civil war in Lebanon provided an opportunity for Syria to assert the claim on the grounds of restoring order. Syrias's withdrawal from Lebanon after the Hariri assassination in 2005 did not put an end to those ambitions and whether of not Syrian intelligence is making common cause with Sunni Islamists in Lebanon remains to be seen.

PLUS CA CHANGE: Radicalization within Sunni Islam is slow but steady. During the civil war, left wing, secular Palestinian Sunnis opposed the Sunni establishment in Beirut. Now, inside the refugee camps, it is radical Sunni Islamists who oppose the old, 'conservative' Sunnis of Fatah, formerly of the PLO.

QUOTE: ""Lebanon has always been a place for refuge for unpopular sects." -Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911.

"The combination of sects and groups and countries that are allied or opposed may be new, but these configurations seem mostly another incarnation of Lebanon's centuries-old story. Ottoman Turks once guarded Sunni interests in Lebanon. while the French gave protection to Maronites, the Russians helped the Greek Orthodox, and the British had a loose partnership with the Druze; later Muslims turned to Egypt and Syria to replace the Ottomans. The Shiites have always looked to Iran or to the Shiite clerics of Iraq...In Lebanon, things change so that they can remain the same." -Charles Glass, 'The Lord of No Man's Land'- Harper's, March 2007.

HISTORY OF SYRIA; HISTORY OF LEBANON: CHRONOLOGICAL HIGHLIGHTS:

2250 BC- Syria-Lebanon is part of the Akkadian Empire.

1850 BC- the Kingdom of Egypt rules the Lebanese coastal region.

1600 BC- Lebanon-Syria occupied by the Hurrians.

1300 BC- the Amorites. Lebanon is on a trade route stretching fromm Ur in southern Iraq tp Assur in norhtern Iraq, to Aleppo in north Syria and down through Lebanon toward Egypt.

-1200 BC- Prompted by the Dorian invasions from the north of Greece and into Anatolia, the Luvians of Anatola occupy Syria-Lebanon.

-1000 -670 BC Phoenician civilization developes along the coast.

670 BC- Lebanon is ruled by the kingdom of Tyre as the Assyrian Empire dominates the region.

560 BC- Lebanon-Syria is ruled by Babylon.

500-334 BC- the region is part of the Persian Empire.

334-323 BC- Alexander the Great of Macedon takes the Lebanese coastal area on his march to Egypt.

323-301 BC- the region is ruled by Alexander's successor, Antigonus.

305 BC-64BC -Syria-Lebanon is rulled by the Macedonian Seleucid kings.

220 BC- the coastal region is ruled by Ptolemaic Egypt.

192 BC- Lebanon-Syria has fallen back under Seleucid rule.

74 BC- the region falls briefly under the rule of Armenia.

44 BC- the region has been taken by Rome with Syria to become a Roman province. The Lebanon region was called Phoenice.

AD 325- 644- Syria-Lebanon is part of the Oriens region of the Eastern Roman Empire.

-6th century- Monothelite Christians, persecuted in Antioch, find refuge in Lebanon.

644- Syria-Lebanon is penetrated by Islam.

-Lebanon is Islamized by migration of Kurds, Turkomans, Persians and Arabs, many of whom had been accused of the Shia heresy in their land of origin.

-Abu Dharral Ghifari, a companion of Mohammed and partisan of Ali, the first Shia Caliph, is exiled to Rubzah in Syria.

-Late 7th century- the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate rules from Damascus.

-Christian Monothelites in the mountains become known as Maronites.

-11th century- Arab Muslim sectarians name themselves Druzes.

-11th to 13th centuries- the Crusaders invade Syria.

-1187- Lebanon is held by the Crusaders, while the the Ayubids who oppose them rule from Syria.

-1258- the Mongols briefly take Damascus.

-1400 (circa) The Syrian military elite, the Mamelukes repel invasion from the east by the Samarkand conqueror, Tamerlane.

-1520-1566- the region is taken by the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent.

-17th-18th centuries- stable feudual structures provide stability between Druzes and Maronites.

-18th century. The French form close trade relations with Ottoman Syria.

-1736- with Ottoman approval, France becomes protector of the Maronite Christians. The Church of Rome grants the Maronites recognition.

-1757- contrary to the agreement with the French, the the Ottomans agree to Russia being the protector of Christians in the Levant.

-1774- the Ottomans and Russia reaffirm Russia as the protector of Christians in the Levant.

-prompted by French potection of the Maronites, Lebanon's Ottoman rulers incite the Druzes to move against the Maronites.

-1840- the Maronite-Druze feudal system falls apart. A civil war begins which will last until 1860

-1854- under threat of war, Napoleon III forces the Ottoman Sultan to recognize France as protector of the Christians in the Levant. In this he had British support against the ambitions of Russia in the Middle East.

-The Sultan begins, however, to give in to Russian pressure to restore Russia as the guarantor of Christianity and the Holy Places of the Middle East. In the end, the Sultan sides with Engand and France. In response, Russia occupies neightbouring Ottoman provinces of Wallachia and Moldovia under the prestext of protecting Russian Orthodoxy. The Russian action sparks the Cromean war.

--1860- in Ottoman Lebanon, Druze Muslims massacre Maronite Christians. Maronites were considered to be dhimmi, like Jews and Christians- 2nd class citizens.

-1861- France intervenes and forces the Ottoman sultan to appoint a Christian governor for Lebanon. As a result the Maronite Christians are awarded a special enclave.

1864-1914- the Ottoman province of Mount Lebanon retains semi-autonomous status.

1914- post-Ottomoan Turkey retains the ‘sanjak’ of Lebanon.

-1920- as part of the Sevres settlement between the allies and the Ottomoan empire at the end of World War I, Syria comes under French mandate.

-the Turkish ‘sanjak’ of Lebanon is enlarged by the French into ‘Greater Lebanon’.

-the Lebanese Maronite Christian enclave is expanded to form modern Lebanon, governed separately from Syria but still under French mandate. It includes coastal Muslim regions despite Muslim protest.

- Lebanon, on becoming a League of nations Mandate, increases in size, bringing its Muslim population almost to parity with the Maronite Christian establishment.

1925-26- uprising by the Druze Muslims. They are a Shia sect who still revered as an incarnation of God the 11th century Shia Fatimid Caliph al-Hakim who is said to have been taken up to heaven.

1926- Lebanon’s new Communal Constitution, modeled on that of the French Third Republic, representation in the assembly favours Maronites to Muslims, 6 to 5. This majority was to become permanent despite changes in the population. The President was to be a maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni and the Speaker a Shia Muslim.

-Lebanon is run by an agreement between Maronite and Orthodox Christians, Druzes, Shia and Sunni Muslims that required self-discipline and rejected radicalism. The Maronites and the Sunnis are the dominant groups but this ruling entente was run by the Higher Muslim Council which represented all the sects.

-the Lebanese inherit the political system of France's fifth republic which allocates parliamentary positions according to relgion: the President has to be a Christian, the prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, the speaker a Muslim; half the parliament must be Muslim.

1930-1939- the French put down several rebellions in Syria while trying to establish their mandate and alienate much of the population.

1936- Pierre Jumayyil, educated in France brings the idea of a Fascist militia to Lebanon, which he names the Phalanges Libanaises, founded to oppose Pan Arabism.

1941- Britain and the Free French liberate Lebanon from Vichy France.

1943- the National Pact settles differences between Muslims and Christians.

1943- The French and the British send a joint expedition to Syria to keep it out of Nazi control.

1945- Jan 1- Lebanon becomes independent. But the Muslms tend to want to be part of Syria and the Christians regard themselves as part of Europe, having no real connection with the Arab World. They called themselves Phoenicianists, considering themselves a Mediterranean, not an Arab civilization.

1945- after World War II, the influence of the Maronites declines with the withdrawal of the French and the British.

1946- Syria attains independence from France.

-Communist Syria becomes the site of cold-war rivalry between the United States and the Societ Union.

1948- as a member of the Arab League, Lebanon declares war on Israel.

1949- Lebanon is made to receive 300,000 Palestinian refugees. 100,000 are in 15 major camps, five of which ring the capital, controlling entry and exits from Beirut.

1952 -Maronite Camille Chamoun becomes President, favouring the West against the leftist, pan-Arab Nasserite movement.

- Lebanon has a bloodless revolution.

1956- many Lebanese begin to follow Nasser. Muslims believed they had lost the prestige they had had under the Ottomans before 1920 when the Franch separated Lebanon from Syria.

-until 1958- Lebanese governments tried to steer a middle course, reaching out both to the west and the Arab world.

1958- Unrest during the Suez Crisis. Chamoun’s acceptance of US aid and his opposition to a union of Syria and Egypt causes fighting between Christians and Pan Arab Nasserites, the latter with Syrian and Egyptian support.

-General Fouad Chebab, a Muslim, becomes president. US troops are withdrawn. Chebab restores Muslim parity with Christians in the assembly. Lebanon begins to lean toward the Arab states.

1961- The United Arab Republic dissolves due to a Baathist coup in Syria.

1961- Syria’s withdrawal from a Pan Arab union with Egypt aggravates a rift between pro Arb and pro Western forces in Lebanon.

1962- Syria incites a coup to draw Lebanon into a Greater Syria but the plot is crushed.

-the late 60s- Palestinian Resistance units begin to infiltrate south Lebanon . Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt encourages their entry into Lebanon in order to weaken the Maronites.

1967- Lebanon gives lip service to the Arab cause in the Six Day War but tries to steer a middle course..

-1968- Dec. 28- Israel raids Beruit in reprisal for a Lebanon-based attack by Palestinian militants on an Iasraeli air plane in Athens.

1969- after attempting to limit the PLO’s activities, the Lebanese army engages against PLO units.

1970- Bashir and Amin Jamayyel begint to take over leadership of the Maronite Phalange from their father Pierre. Their ascendance begins the eclipse of Chamoun.

1970s- Civil war breaks out when Shia and Druze Muslims rebel against Maronite Christians and Sunni rule.

-the war complicates as the PLO, driven out by the Israelis, sets up around Beirut. The PLO sides with the Drize and Shia in the civil war.

1973- a brief upsurge of sectarian fighting. The Lebanese army engages Palestinian groups.

1973- a brief upsurge of sectarian fighting. The Lebanese army engages Palestinian groups.

1973- Lebanon stays neutral in the Yom Kippur war.

1974- Palestianian groups launch attacks from Lebanon against Israel.

1975- April 13- In response to the assassination of one of their leaders, Christian Maronite Phalagists launch an attack on Palestinians, inaugurating a full civil war.

1975- Left wing Shia and Druze Muslims supported by Syria revolt against Arab Maronite Christian (Eastern Chrisitians in communion with Rome) and Sunni control of the government. The Maronites are supported by Israel. The Druzes are led by Kamal Jumblatt, the Shia by Moussa Sadr.

-Shia leader Moussa Sadr undermines the Higher Muslim Council by calling for a Higher Shia Council.

-the war complicates as the PLO, driven out of Palestine by the Israelis and from Syria by the Syrians sets up around Beirut, using Lebanon as a new base for sorties against Israel.

1975- with Egypt having signed a peace accord with Israel, Syria’s Alawite regime decides to take over leadership of the Arab cause from Egypt by backing the PLO rebellion in Lebanon.

-the Shia form an alliance with the left of the PLO.

-The PLO sides with Druze and Shia Muslims and the LNM militia in the growing civil war. Government order dissolves into anarchy.

1976- Sakris becomes president.

1976- Syria forms the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF) and invades Lebanon at the request of Suleiman Franjieh, supporting the Maronites to prevent the Palestinians from gaining control. Syrian intervention is opposed by Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt.

-Oct- a ceasefire fails to last.

1976- the PLO shifts to southern Lebanon, out of reach of Syria’s ADF, but giving Arafat more direct control over them.

-West Beirut is riven by competing militias.

-East and North Beirut is the objective of Christian militias backed by Israel.

-fighting continues despite the presence of Multinational Peace Troops.

1977- Druze leader, Kamal Jumblatt is assassinated and succeeded by his son Walid as head of the Progressive Socialist Party.

1978- March- June – seeing that there is no longer any central authority in Lebanon to deal with the PLO, Israel invades in an attempt to crush the PLO in southern Lebanon and forms a security zone north of the Israeli border.

-the UN sends in an ineffective UNIFIL force of 6,000.

-the Soviet Union provides arms for Syria and the PLO.

-the UN sends in an ineffective UNIFIL force of 6,000.

1980s- Syria sends its army in to restore order and occupies Lebanon. Syria and the PLO hold separate parts of the country.

-the Soviet Union provides arms for Syria and the PLO.

1982- Israel invades, wiping out PLO strongholds in Tyre and Sidon, attacks Beirut by land, air and sea. Israeli troops encircle and bomb East Beirut, home of the PLO HQ. Israel drives out Syria and the PLO- sending the PLO to resettle in various Arab countries under the eye of international peace keepers.

Aug. Maronite Bashir Gemael is elected President.

-Sept.- When president Bashir Gemayel of Lebanon is assassinated in a bombing of the Christian Falangist headquarters,, Israel, fearing further instability, occupies Beirut. In the process it allows a proxy force of Christian Maronite militias to massacre Palestinian refugees in the Shabra and Shatila refugee camps- the Christians probably doing do in retaliation for the death of Gemayel.

-Bashir’s brother Amin Gemayel is elected president.

-the US pressures Israel for a settlement.

-the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon results in the creation of Hezbollah as the new resistance to Israeli occupation, dedicated also to the annihilation of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian theocracy.

1982 -Israeli troops occupy southern Lebanon to stop sorties against Israel by the PLO and the Shia militia, Hezbollah.

1983- April- a bomb destroys the US embassy in Beruit, killing 50.

- May- in a treaty brokered by the US, President Amin Gemayal, though a Maronite must ask Israel, as well as Syria, to withdraw, if he is to retain national support. Even if it exposes him to Druze and Muslim militias. Nevertheless he successfully negotiates Israeli withdrawal. The Syrians, however, refuse to withdraw.

-when Israel finally withdraws, the Christian militias clash with Syrian backed Druze militias.

-Multinational Peace Troops suffer bomb attacks, killing 230 US maries and 58 French partroopers.

-fighting continues despite the 1982 ceasefire.

-1984- Israeli troops are forced to withdraw to their south Lebanon security zone.

-the Christian, South Lebanese Army, with the aid of Israeli troops, occupies south Lebanon.

-mid 1980s- various militias begin taking westerners hostage.,

-Shia women begin wearing the black Chador as a gesture of traditionalist solidarity.

-in the absence of Israel, Lebanese factions turn on one another as the civil war fragments.

-President Amin Jemayyel is forced to recognize Syrian influence.

-President Gemayel refuses to reduce the the permanent Maronite majority in the Taif Accord.assembly.

-PLO units filter back into Lebanon.

-1988- Syrian troops enter Lebanon to restore order. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt reluctantly accepts Syrian intervention.

-Sept. President Amin Gamayel’s term ends. Due to the impossibility of elections, he brings in military government by Maronite Michal Aoun whose mandate is to expel Syria.

-Syrian troops are attacked by the Lebanese army, led by General Michel Aoun.

-the Arab league brokers a truce between Muslims and Christians but makes no mention of Syrian occupation.

-1989 the Arab League proposes the Ta’if Accord, signed by the last members of the assembly standing before the civil war in 1975; the accord reduces the representation of Maronite Christians in the Lebanese government. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accepts it reluctantly.

1989-1990- revolts against Syrian occupation by Gen. Michel Aoun are put down by Syria and Aoun is forced to leave the country.

-1989 the Arab League proposes the Ta’if Accord, signed by the last members of the assembly standing before the civil war in 1975; the accord reduces the representation of Maronite Christians in the Lebanese government. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt accepts it reluctantly.

1990s- Hezbollah drives Israeli troops from southern Lebanon.

1990- President Muawad assassinated. President Hrawi succeds him.

-internecine fighting among Christian groups.

- Syria quietly re-occuppies Lebanon and enforces the Ta’if Accord.

-early 1990s- the militias begin releasing western hostages.

- Nov. -rival Shia groups make peace among themselves.

-1991- a government of national unity is established. A timetable for disarmament of the militias is established.

-the Lebanese army prepares to re-take control of the south.

-Aug- peace talks with Israel, Syria and a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation continue through 1992.

1992- fighting continues between various groups; and the Syrian military and the PLO are still in Lebanon.

-a general election in Lebanon is boycotted by many Maronite Christian parties. Amal and Hezbollah gain the most seats and Rafiq Hariri becomes Prime Minister. The constitution dictates that the president must be a maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the 108 member parliament divided equally between Christians and Muslms.

2001- Syria withdraws 25,000 troops from Beruit but leaves 20,000 in the surrounding area.

2004- Aug. Under Syrian pressure, its own man in Lebanon, President Lahoud, remains in office beyond the constitutional six year time limit.

2004- Syrian President Bashir Assad, in a private meeting with Lebanon's western-oriented Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, allegedly delivers a veiled threat of death should Hariri refuse to accept an extension of Syrian-backed President Lahoud's mandate to rule Lebanon.

2005- Hariri, who has almost rebuilt Lebanon in the wake of the war, resigns rather than confirm an extension of the mandate of Syria's proconsul, President Lahoud.

2005- February 14- Hariri is assassinated. Syria is strongly suspected. A national outpouring of support for Hariri, combined with international censure, forces Syria out of Lebanon.

-the new, pro-West, independence government of Prime Minister Sinioria is faced with heavy representation of the the Syria-supported Hezbollah Party in parliament and Cabinet.

2006- July- Hezbollah kidnaps Israel soldiers in the border area with Israel. In response, Israel invades Lebanon in order to destroy Hezbollah and cut off all support for hezbollah by Syria and Iran.

2006- November- the UN investigation of the murder of Rafiq Hariri implicates four Lebanese generals suspected of carrying out the attack on Syrian orders. Syria's president Bashir Assad's inner cicrcle is named as the instigator of the plot.

-Lebanon's finance minister, Pierre Gemayel is assassinated. Syria, once again is suspected. In light of UN disclosure of Syria's implication in the Hariri assassination, Syria is suspected of attempting to derail any further inquiries.

-Hezbollah holds masss demonstrations for the resignation of the Sinioria government and new elections that will more acurately show, in Hezbollah's view, the strength of the Shia vote.

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