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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Western Nations Consider Intervention after mass Chemical attack outside Damascus.


HISTORY IN THE NEWS

Dedicated to the background of contemporary events around the world. 


IN BRIEF:  Western humanitarian interests in Syria are the descendant of Western Christian interests in Syria. Russia's geopolitical interest in the region, whether Ottoman or Syrian, remains the same. China, never a power to project force very far abroad, asserts its traditional defense of the status quo and therefore of economic and trading interests in the larger world, meaning leave Syria alone.

Syria




IN THE NEWS:AMATEUR FOOTAGE OF MANY VICTIMS DYING FROM WHAT IS EVIDENTLY NERVE GAS, IN A SUBURB OF DAMASCUS, BRING FRENCH AND BRITISH CALLS FOR INTERVENTION BY FORCE- AND DENIAL BY SYRIA AND ITS RUSSIAN SPONSOR THAT THE ASSAD REGIME IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ATTACKS.


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: 

-Western interests in the Levant were once framed as Christian interests; now they are framed as humanitarian interests. Humanitarianism, it must be remembered is a largely Western idea, with Christian origins, despite the abuses committed in the name of Christianity during the Crusades.

-Britain and France have maintained an interest in Syria and the Levant for centuries, primarily through trade and the protection of Christian minorities and holy places. Now, since the widespread threat of anti-western, radical Islam in the region, their goal, though vocally humanitarian, is also geopolitical.

-France is still bound to protect Christian minorities in the region as it has for over three centuries.

-the United Sates had no significant interest in the region before the creation of the state of Israel. Since the creation of the State of Israel and since the 9/11 attacks on US soil, American interests have become geopolitical as well as humanitarian.  

-Russia's interests in Syria are in some ways the same as their interests in the region in 1800. A stable, secular (read Aalawite or Baathist)  Syria is a guarantee of the security of Russia's southwestern borders, its naval access to the Mediterrnean and the protection of Orthodox Christian Christan minorities in the Middle East and the Balkans. 

RELEVANT DATES for International Reaction to Syria's Worst Gas Attacks Yet.

Early European Contact with Syria and the Levant.
-1500 (circa) -France joins the Italian city states in trade with the Ottoman Levant.
-1536- Francis I of France and the sultan, Suleiman I, sign a treaty of capitulations concerning permanent French trading settlements in the Levant and Turks trading in France; free trade and freedom of religion in one another's countries. Right to be tried in court by one's own consul or nationals. The agreement is renewable upon expiry.
1600- (circa)- -European powers begin to close in on the Ottoman Empire but they want the sultan kept in place so that no country can seize any overall advantage.

France Gains a Foot hold in the Levant through Trade and Religion.
-1600-1900- Lebanese tribal chiefs encourage French Catholic missionaries to develop education in the country. Rome-educated Maronite priests return to Lebanon and spread western ideas.
1649- Ottoman Sultan issues a decree allowing France's Louis XIV to protect the Maronites. French clergy and French-educated Maronite priests begin to influence political institutions.

1703-1730- the Ottoman court attempts to adopt the styles of French royalty. Some Enlightenment ideas begin to filter into the intelligentsia. The first Arabic printing press.
-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.
-the coastal area around Beirut and Tyre becomes the most Europeanized part of the Muslim world.

Russia Takes the Black Sea, Enters the Mediterranean.

-1757- contrary to the agreement with the French, the the Ottomans agrees to Russia being the protector of Christians in the Levant.
1768-1774- Russo-Turkish War of 1768-1774, Admiral Grigory Spiridov (1713-1790) commanded a naval squadron.

1770- July- Russia defeats Turkey in battles of Chios Strait and Cesma Bay
1774- Ottoman forces routed by Russia under Catherine II.

1774- treaty of Kuc.huk Kainarji- Russia seizes north shore of Black Sea from Ottomans-  gains control of Black sea and right to protect Orthodox religious sites
-Russia consolidates control over the Black sea and reduces Turkish power in the Crimean, clearing the way for Crimea’s annexation. This treaty is seen as the beginning of Ottoman decline.
-the Treaty of Kuchuk Kainarji also allows Russia to be protector of Greek Orthodox Christians in the Ottoman empire and the Levant.
1800 (circa) -The Russians blockade of the Dardanelles Strait facilitated Russia's eventual victory in the war and fully opened the Mediterranean to the Russian Navy

Westernization via France and Egypt in Syria

1798-99- to cut India off from the British, the French, under General Napoleon Bonaparte, launch an invasion of Egypt and from Egypt to Palestine and Syria, breaking the rule of the Mamluks. The English destroy the Bonaparte's fleet at Aboukir. Bonaparte is forced back to Egypt. Though their attempt at domination fails, the French manage to sustain a presence in the region dating back to the Crusades.

-1831-1840- Muhammed Ali, Egyptian viceroy to the Ottomans, deals with rebellions against the Ottomans in Saudi Arabia and in Greece. The Ottoman Sultan, Mahmoud, having promised him Syria and Palestine as a reward, reneges. Ali rebels, takes Syria and from Syria occupies Palestine. He and his son open the area to European influence.
-education of medical and army personnel in French, English and German and leads to enlightenment and adoption of western ideas. Western books printed. When the clergy objected or blocked the reforms, they were ignored or killed outright.

- through Ali Pasha, France supports Egyptian Viceroy’s modernization program and invasion of Ottoman Syria to increase its own protection of Christians and trade interests.
-Mohammed Ali invites the French Jesuits to set up in Lebanon where the Jesuits become protectors of the Maronite Christians.-Russia supports Ottomans against Ali Pasha with aim of Carving up Ottoman Empire.

Muslims Turn Against Westernization.
-Muslims tend to compete for political positions, while entrepreneurship and progress in commerce is left to Jews, Greeks and Armenians and through them, the Europeans. Increasingly the Muslim population has contempt for Christians and their modernizing tendencies.

France, England and Russia Help Vie for Influence, Helping or Hindering the Ottomans.
-Russia supports Ottomans against Ali Pasha with aim of Carving up Ottoman Empire. 
-England supports Ali Pasha at first- but then supports Ottomans against Russian expansion into the Mediterranean.

The British Expel Muhammad Ali.
-1840-1 -in a bid to stop the center of power in the Middle East moving to French-supported Egypt, the British invade and expel Muhammed Ali from Syria and Palestine and the Ottomans reassert control. Nevertheless, western influence continues to penetrate the area. The allied powers in Europe, minus France, force Ali to withdraw from Syria to Egypt.


British-Russian Rivalry in the Eastern Mediterranean
-with France sidelined, the British turn to the problem of Russia.
-Britain regards control of the Eastern Mediterranean as crucial to protection of the sea route British India.
-Britain regards any Russian naval presence south of the Black Sea and the Dardanelles as the threat to her Indian empire.


The Civil War of 1840-1861. Ottomans Resent European Protection of Christians.
-Maronites were considered to be dhimmi, (protected as 'People of the Book' like Jews and Christians) but 2nd class citizens. Prompted by French potection of the Maronites, Lebanon's Ottoman rulers incite the Druzes to move against the Maronites.
-1840- the stabilizing Maronite-Druze feudal system falls apart. A civil war begins which will last until 1860

Britain Supports Muslim Druzes against French Protection of Maronites.
-Britain, meanwhile, allies itself with Druze chieftains in southern Lebanon.
1843- France and Britain persuade the Sultan to allow French-backed administration by the Maronites in the north and British-backed Druze administration by the British in the south.

-in Lebanon, Maronite Christians, with French support and European cultural influence begin to challenge the Druzes. The local Ottoman governor inflames the conflict in hopes that the groups would destroy one another.

The Crimean War: FRance and Britain now see Russia as the Greater Danger.
-as the civil war in Lebanon continues, Britain considers Turkey to be a barrier against Russian expansion into the Balkans or into the Mediterranean.
1853-1856- -Crimean war: Russia asserts right to protect Orthodox holy places, occupies Moldavia and Wallachia. France and Britain support Ottomans against Russia.
-France and Britain defeat Russia in the 1853-1856 Crimean War.
-Under the 1856 Paris Peace Treaty, Russia is forced to scrap its Black Sea fleet.
1856 -French and English allies of Turkey pressure the Sultan to adopt reforms with the “Hatti-Humayun”, a second edict of reform, promoting tolerance, tax reform, modernization of the role of banks and investment houses.. However the reforms are mostly ignored by. anti-Christian Muslims. Officials, enraged by Christian-revolts in the Balkans, evade all implementation.

End of Civil war. Special Status for the Province of Lebanon.
-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, Mount Lebanon.

-Britain forces France to withdraw from Lebanon. An international commission declares it an autonomous region. French influence is sustained, however, through commerce, trade and religion.
1864-1914- the Ottoman province of Mount Lebanon retains semi-autonomous status. But during this period many Lebanese Christians flee Ottoman rule or internal violence. The links maintained between Lebanese abroad and those still at home form an important cultural bridge between Lebanon and Europe

Russian Provocation in the Balkans.
-1870s- Russia secretly provokes Orthodox Christian nationalist movements in the Ottoman Balkans. Local rebellions together with the expected repression by the Sultan are used to justify increased Russian influence and control in the region and its protection of Orthodox minorities as well and Russian security.
-1876- Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro revolt against Ottoman rule. The Ottomans respond by raping, burning and slaughtering 15,000. Prime Minister Disraeli, representing British, Victorian civility, expresses outrage at the Turkish atrocities  but is given pause by Russia's strategic influence in the Orthodox Balkans. The Ottoman Empire, indeed, is seen a a buffer against Russian ambitions in Europe and, vi the Mediterranean, against the Russian threat to British India. Disraeli speaks and writes more or less in defense of Turkey. Liberal leader Gladstone and the Birtish public express outrage at the Ottoman atrocities and Disraeli's defense of Turkey.

-through the Constantinople Conference and the 'London Protocol' Britain's Disraeli government attempts, without real success, to nudge the Ottomans into reform and reconciliation in the Balkans.  
1877- Russia, encouraged by the London Protocol, declares war on Turkey on the pretext of defending the Orthodox Balkans.
 
The Treaty of San Stefano.

-1878- by the Treaty of San Stefano, Russia secures territorial gains from the Ottoman Empire chiefly in the region of Armenia as well the independence of several Balkan regions and the creation of an over-sized autonomous Orthodox Bulgarian buffer state. 

1878- the British navy faces down the Russian fleet in the Dardanelles, halting further Russian aggression in the Balkans and vindicating the policy of Disraeli.

The Congress of Berlin.

-1878- following quickly upon the Treaty of San Stefano, Bizmark calls the Treaty of Berlin to stem Russian advances on the fringes of the Ottoman Empire and in the Balkans. As a result, the European powers push back with a diplomatic offensive securing the autonomy of many areas of the Balkans, the independence of several Balkan nations and the dismantling of Russia's 'Greater Bulgaria."
-1878- French predominance in Lebanon is recognized by the Berlin Treaty. Lebanese eastern Christians become a means of French influence in the Levant.




Russia and The Mediterranean 
-In the 19th and 20th centuries, Russian expeditions to the Mediterranean Sea tried to undermine British and Turkish naval superiority. In case of war, Russian squadrons were to attack British shipping, while avoiding superior enemy forces. 
-If war breaks out with Turkey, the Russian Black Sea Fleet would blockade and seize the Bosporus and the Dardanelles Straits.

End of World War One British and French Mandates.
1920 June - By the Treaty of Sevres, the San Remo conference splits up King Feisal's newly-created Arab kingdom by placing Syria-Lebanon under a French mandate, and Palestine under British control.
 1920 August - France proclaims a new state of Greater Lebanon. 



Decolonization.
1945-1946 -Lebanon and Syria become independent. Last French troops leave Syria.  


Israeli War of Independence- Birth of the State of Israel.

1948-49- Jordan, Syria and Egypt attack the new state of Israel. Israel successfully holds them off. Under the terms of UN armistice lines, Israel rules the northwestern Palestinian territory on the Lebanese border in the north and the southwest Palestinian area long the Sinai border as well as a large central area around the West Bank. Eastern Palestine is ruled by Jordan as the West Bank. Gaza, a sliver of coastal territory unconquered by Israel, goes to Egypt. Israel controls all of Jerusalem west of the Ramallah-Bethlehem highway. Jordan rules the reimaining sliver of Jerusalem east of the highway.
-the birth of the State of Israel brings American influence to the region, much as the British, Russian and French protection of Christian minorities had brought European powers to the region.


The Cold War Eastern Mediterranean
-the Cold War does little change 19th century alignments. Britain, France and the US remain aligned against Russian influence in the Mideast; and against those Arab states that threaten Israel and lean toward the Soviet Union.. 
-however, "International strategies changed with the advent of long-range missiles, nuclear weapons and aircraft carriers. After World War II, Soviet naval squadrons stationed in the Mediterranean Sea were ordered to pin down and destroy NATO carriers and strategic missile submarines in case of a hypothetical conflict, thereby preventing them from hitting targets in the U.S.S.R.." -Rusnavy

-1955- Baghdad pact- Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan in alliance with US and British against against Soviet Union and its Middle Eastern clients like Syria and Egypt.
-mid- 1950s- fear of Iraq and the Baghdad Pact as well as fear of the alternative, Nasser’s proposed United Arab Republic (union of Syria and Egypt)- causes Syria to turn to Soviet union for support.


Russia and the Cold War Mediterranean. 
-“Russia saw a strategic advantage for itself in the the ports of the Syrian coastline between Lebanon and Turkey; a large naval base there would give it an unprecedented foothold in the eastern Mediterranean, one that would enable its fleet to begin to act as a counterbalance to the considerable United States and NATO military presence in the area.” Thomas Kiernan, THE ARABS.
-1967 War won by Israel against Syria, Jordan and Egypt. The Soviet union “greatly expanded its Mediterranean fleet and acquired special privileges for its naval operations in several Arab ports. The buildup of Soviet strength in the area was in reality, not an 'intrusion' but a forceful reassertion of centuries-old Russian interests in an area considered vital to Russian security and commerce. As seen from the West, the Soviet buildup threatened the eastern wing of NATO and was evidence if growing militancy.” Don Peretz, THE MIDDLE EAST TODAY. 

The Lebanese Civil War.
1974- the Lebanese Civil War (1974-1990) ignited, as did the civil war of 1840-1861- between Christian and Muslim militias. European  and American forces were present to protect continuing European interests and American Interests.
1983- Oct. 23- -Multinational Peace Troops suffer simultaneous bomb attacks, killing 230 US marines in a marine barracks and 58 French paratroopers. Hezbollah militant Imad Mughaniyah is suspected in the blast that killed the 230 marines.
1985-Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley is kidnapped and murdered. Imad Mughaniyeh is suspected.
-mid 1980s- various militias begin taking westerners hostage. Islamic Jihad kidnaps western academics and journalists in an attempt to free 17 Hezbollah members imprisoned in Kuwait. When attempts to force the release of the 17 failed, Imad Mughaniyah apparently arranged the kidnapping of British Anglican peace envoy, Terry Anderson.

The Post Cold War Period.
-"Although tensions have relaxed since the Cold War, and though the United States has scaled down its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, this theater of war linking Europe, Asia and Africa retains its key importance." -Rusnavy

-in the post-Cold War period, Russia continued to value greater access through the Black sea and Mediterranean to fellow Slavs in the Balkans. Russia’s rejection of Western humanitarian intervention in Kosovo was also a geopolitical position.  

9/11 and Sunni and Shia Militant Islam.

1990--present -since the rise of Sunni and Shia findamentalism, religiously inspired attacks on the West, and the danger that failed states throughout the Middle East will provide a home for sectarian terror, Western nations find themselves drawn back into regional conflicts from which they thought they had been free since decolonization.


 IN HISTORY:




MORE CONTENTS: SCROLL DOWN FOR:  
CURRENT EVENTS: CIVIL WAR- 2011--PRESENT
SYRIA-LEBANON: 1989-2010. 
SYRIA-LEBANON: 1945-1989
SYRIA-LEBANON: 1850-1945
SYRIA-LEBANON: 1500-1850.

TIMELINE FOR THE HISTORY OF SYRIA LEBANON

THE SYRIAN CIVIL WAR TO JANUARY, 2013.

                                     The Uprising  is Neither Regional Nor Sectarian.

2011. Encouraged, perhaps, by the success of revolutions in Libya and Egypt, citizens of Daraa, in southwestern  Syria embarks upon a January "Day of Rage", demanding the release of political prisoners. Further protests are met with gunfire and deaths at the hands of the Security forces. President Assad  makes token promises of reform while hinting that the public anger has been in cited by Israel. Beneath this upsurge of violence lies a simple, sinister fact. Assad's liberalizing of the economy over the previous decades, instead of enriching the nation, has concentrated wealth in the hands of the Aalawite elite, his co-religionists and cronies, but also among the Sunni business business class which has remained loyal to the regime. The so-called economic reforms have enriched the Alawites and business class and caused  serious impoverishment of the highly populated rural areas  as poor people of all religious sects crowded into the slums that ring the cities of the economic western corridor- a belt that runs from Aleppo in the north, though Idlib, Hama and Homs down to Damascus in the south. Instead of recognizing his country for the economic tinderbox that it is, Assad blames Israel and sectarian elements for causing trouble. In the impoverished north, there has already been at least one self-immolation like the one in Tunisia which set off the entire Arab Spring.

 In Lebanon, meanwhile, Shia Hezbollah gains a majority of seats in cabinet, making it next to impossible for the UN Tribunal on the 2005 murder of  Sunni Prime Minister Rafik Hariri to commit Hezbollah suspects for trial.

                     The International Community Puts Pressure on Syria.

In Syria, throughout April and May the protests, which are neither tribal nor regional nor sectarian, but entirely a response to economic hopelessness and political repression, begin to spread acrossthe country. The Assad government, perhaps  mindful of the the other Arab revolutions and the amorphous and intractable state into which it has allowed the country to fall, insists that Sunni radials or"Salafists" are behind the trouble and meets the protests with military force, killing more peaceful demonstrators every day. Provoking further rage, Assad has set off on a path of no return.


 In summer, 2011, As the US and the European union tighten sanctions on Syria, Assad decides to  make a few gestures toward reform, calling it a "national dialogue." Meanwhile a nominal Syrian Opposition begins to emerge, holding its first significant meeting in Istanbul. The goal is to put forward a national opposition leadership and gain international recognition.  Protests spread amid signs that the conflict is overflowing Syria's borders and threatening to draw in the region as Sunni-Alawite clashes explode in Lebanon.

As the summer progresses,   the US and other Western and Arab nations use sanctions to pressure Assad to step down as the UN reports floods of refugees leaving Syria for neighbouring countries.  In the fall, just as the Arab League expels Syria from membership, Russia and China, block a UN resolution condemning government atrocities.

In winter, 2011-2012, Syria allows Arab League observers to monitor the conflict as giant suicide bombs explode near military installations in Damascus. The Opposition denies responsibility and suggests the government is trying to start a sectarian war. Both sides will point to each other as instigators of the sectarian war that everyone fears.
                                               
                             Russia and China Block Intervention in Syria in the UN.

Russia and China block another UN resolution on Syria amid increasing government violence as it retakes Homs in March killing scores including children in reprisal. Immense terrorist bombings begin to point to Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, Arab observers, immobilized by the violence, begin to arrange support for the opposition. The government continues it attacks on peaceful demonstrations at "protest hubs" in cities like Idlib, Hama, Homs and Deraa, that string the western corridor.

In March and April 2012, UN envoy Kofi Annan proposes a ceasefire that might allow the beginnings of dialogue. Russia and China support the plan but only after weakening its stipulations. But violence continues as the government steps up its offenses and the opposition responds as the deadline approaches. Annan's ceasefire deadline comes and goes in early April leaving the ceasefire in tatters. The government forges ahead using heavy weaponry and perpetrates another massacre at Hula.

The Red Cross has already declared the Syrian conflict a civil war. Violence spills over into Lebanon in mid-May as anti-Assad Sunnis in Tripoli and Kobbe lash with local supporters of the Syrian regime while a Lebanese critic of the Assad regime was arrested, setting of more clashes and hinting that Hezbollah government authorities might be putting their weight behind their longt-time Syrian ally.

 The war internationalizes with the onset of summer, 2012, as a Turkish jet in Syrian airspace is shot down by Syria and Western diplomats pull their ambassadors from embassies in Damascus. Turkey meanwhile sharpens its rules of engagement, threatening to attack any Syrian incursion on its border. Syria is increasingly beleaguered as high level defections from the Assad regime combine with President Obama's warning of  serious measures of Syria uses its alleged stores of chemical weapons. As UN observers pull out of Syria citing the increasing violence, Lakdar Brahimi becomes the new UN peace envoy.

                      The rebel Syrian Free Army Begins to Make Progress around Aleppo

At summer's end, the free Syrian army and other rebel groups make headway in fighting in Damascus and Aleppo, both cities being key to the regime's survival. Meanwhile border tensions arise again between Syria and Turkey with both countries banning each other from using their airports after Turkey discovers Russian weaponry on a Syrian aircraft stopping over in Istanbul.

 Instability further threatens Lebanon in October with the assassination of security chief General Wissam al-Hassan, who had supplied logistical support for the Syrian rebels, setting off clashes between Sunnis and Lebanese supporters of the Assad regime-most probably the Shia Hezbollah party.

                      Syrian Opposition Groups Unite to get Western Support.

In November,2012,  just as the press reports summary executions of prisoners by the Free Syrians Army, Syrian opposition groups meeting in Qatar declare themselves united and form the Syr­i­an Na­tion­al Co­ali­tion for Op­pos­i­tion and Re­volu­tion­ary Forces, making themselves more eligible for funding and weapons from outside Syria. Ominously, sectarian militia groups like the Al Qaeda backed Al Nusra refuse membership.

Upsurges of Violence continue in Lebanon as alignments in the Syrian civil war begin to be taken up in multi ethnic Lebanon. Sunni militants clash with the huge Shia militia, Hezbollah,and Syria planes kill volunteers attempting to cross the border from Lebanon into Syria. But Lebanese soldiers also clash with
Syrian rebels in the border area.

                        Syria Discovered to have Chemical Weapons.

In December, the US warns Syria about its apparent possession of chemical weapons and hints at direct intervention is Syria uses them. As fighting continues to spread to rebel positions along the Turkish border, Turkey warns Syria to stay clear and gets a commitment from NATO to place patriot missiles along its frontier with Turkey.  Fighting between pro and anti Syria factions on the Lebanese border threaten once again to bring Lebanon into the conflict

As US intelligence detects the actual presence of chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria, internatiomal pressure is placed on Russia and China to prevent Syria from using them. As rebels continue to fight for Aleppo, Russian envoy Serge Lavrov, UN envoy Lakdar Barahimi and the Syrian Foreign Minister all report that Assad had no intentions of stepping down. Indeed, Assad accuses Islamist sectarian fighters of destroying he company. On this sole point of agreement, perhaps, the US declares Al Qaeda's Syrian Al Nusra Front a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, Washington joins an increasing number of countries recognizing the official Syrian Oppositiion.  

On Jan. 6, 2013,  In a theatre, President Assad addresses Syrian faithful, or perhaps a captive audience, rallying supporter to the cause, attributing the war to Islamist extremists and refusing to stop fighting until victory is achieved. Meanwhile, US and Russia officials hold talks on building a transitional givernment but the talks are not substantive.

In mid-January, the international dimensions of the conflict are once again prominent with the Syria Opposition meeting in Istanbul to consider a prime minister for a transitional government while the US and Russia hold their own talks on shape a new government might take place. And all of this in the shadow of massive Russian naval exercises off the coast of Syria which some suggest have the joint purpose of giving moral support to President Assad, evacuating Russian personnel from Syria and projecting Russian power into the region over fears of the collapse of its greatest middle eastern client.


EVENTS IN SYRIA- 1989-2010
With the Taif Accords of 1989, the Lebanese civil war, which had been raging since 1973, ended. Throughout the 1990s, Sunni-Christian domination of the government was confirmed but with reduced participation of Christians. Both Syria and Israel, who had repeatedly occupied Lebanon during the civil war, ceased hostilities. While Syria continued its occupation, Israel finally withdrew. The nationalist Sunni Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, rebuilt much of the war-torn country but after he refused any extension of pro-Syrian president, Emile Lahoud's constitutional time limit, Syria delivered a veiled threat. On February 14, 2005. Hariri was assassinated, much of the evidence pointing to Syria. International pressure then forced Syria's final and full withdrawal from Lebanon. Periodic violence accompanied efforts by the UN and the international community to set up a tribunal to bring pro-Syrian Lebanese suspects to justice. After the election of a pro-western Sunni-Christian government headed by Prime Minister Siniora (a Sunni), Lebanon began once again to fall into pro-Syria and anti-Syria factions, 'anti- Syria' Siniora sharing power with the 'pro-Syria (albeit Christian) President Lahoud. In 2005-2007, anti-Syria politicians were frequently assassinated. The hand of Syria was widely suspected. After Hezbollah fought Israel's summer, 2006 invasion of Lebanon to a stand-off, the Shia Party's prestige increased vastly. In the fall, Lebanon's leaders ignored Hezbollah's demonstrations for a greater share in government and its demands for the governemnt to resign in favour of elections which would reflect Hezbollah'a increased power. The Shia party also insisted on two-thirds of the seats in cabinet as well as the power of veto. In support of Hezbollah's demands, Michel Aoun, a Maronite Christian who once led the fight to drive Syria from Lebanon, led his party into a pro-Syrian alliance with Hezbollah. Hezbollah opposed all criticism of Syria and in December, 2006, pulled its strong representation from Siniora's cabinet, protesting his refusal to give them the veto. Recent acts of terrorism and street clashes raised fears that Syria was trying to provoke a civil war in order to reestablish control over Lebanon.

French president Chirac, due to personal and poltiical ties to the late Sunni Prime Minister Hariri, had given partisan support to the anti-Syria March 14th Coalition led by Hariri's son, Saad. Charic's support of Hariri's legacys was pleasing to Washington. But after President Sarkozy succeeded Chirac, Washington was guarded about Sarkozy's non-partisan decision, in the spring of 2007, to hold all-party peace talks at St. Cloud. In Washington's view Sarkozy was playing into the hands of the Lebanese anti-Syria opposition's demands for a "unity government." In a June, 2007 meeting at the Elysee Palace Sarkozy met with Lebanon's Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Although Siniora had accepted French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner's offer to host all-party peace talks on Lebanon, Siniora was fully satisfied that France's new government would not be neutral but would fully back his beleaguered government against the pro Syrian alliance of which the militant Shia party, Hezbollah, is a part.


In August, 2007, Aoun's anti-Syria party made further inroads against the government in by-elections. With pro-and anti-Syrian factions in parliament unable to agree on a way of choosing a president to replace outgoing President Lahoud, presidential elections were postponed until October 23, 2008. Meanwhile Hezbollah boycotted the legislature along with its existing cabinet posts. October 23 came and went as Lebanon descended into a political morass, without a president. In December, the army's celebrated neutrality was threatened when Francois Al Hajj, a candidate for commander-in-chief was killed by a car bomb. A Damascus Arab League summit in March tried but failed to break the stalemate in Lebanon. In spring, 2008, the new army chief and presidential hopeful Michel Suleiman threatened to resign if the party didn't agree on a president by summer. The tensions, which have mounted since the murder of anti-Syrian president Rafiq Hariri in February, 2005, broke when the government attempted to close down Hezbollah's telecommunications network. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nazrallah called it a declaration of war. However, the fighting ended when the government agreed to leave Hezbollah's telecommunications intact. On May 25, 2008,Parliament finally elected former army chief Michel Suleiman as president. Three days later, Fouad Seniora was re-appointed prime minister by Suleiman. On July 11 Seniora formed a unity government and the following day, France's President Sarkozy brokered an agreement by which Syria and Lebanon would restore diplomatic relations.

Prospects for reconciliation received a setback in March 2009, when the International CriminalTribunal, having tried tried the four Lebanese generals suspected in the 2005 Hariri Assassination, acquitted them for lack of evidence. Moreover, in May, US Vice President Biden's visit to Lebanon before elections in June was seen by Hezbollah as political interference. The elections, the following month, produced a victory for Prime-Minister designate Saad Hariri's March 14 Party, an alliance formed around his his father's assassination, implicitly opposing  the defeated pro-Syrian Hezbollah party and its backer, Syria.

Al Qaeda, which has an interest in continuing instability in Lebanon had infiltrated fighters in the south before ten were arrested by the Lebanese army. Instability continued as Saad Hariri failed to achieve agreement in the allocation of cabinet posts as he attempted to form a government.

Meanwhile, Iraq and Syria cut off diplomatic relations after Iraq linked Syria with a string of bombings in Baghdad. By September, Prirme Minister Saad Hariri had still not been able to form a government through ethnic allocation of cabinet posts. Border unrest flared the following month with south Lebanese militants exchanging rocket and artillery barrages with Israel on October 27. In early November the border tension gained a maritime aspect when Israeli commandos intercepted a ship carrying 600 tons of arms from Egypt to Hezbollah (according to Israel) in South Lebanon.

Finally, on November 7, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announces the formation of a unity government five months after the victory of his March 14 Party. A period of conciliation  follows, the new cabinet ruling that Hezbollah could remain armed with its considerable arsenal and Hariri traveling to Damascus for what he described as productive talks with Syria. Relations seem warmer yet as Washington restores its ambassador to Damascus in February, 2010 after a five year chill when relations were broken because of presumed Syrian implication in the assassination of Saad Hariri's father, President Hariri.

2010- Tensions resume, however, as an Israeli cabinet minister remarks in February 2010 that another war with Lebanon remains likely before Prime Minister Netenyahu distances himself from the comments. The rough patch continues as the US reprimands Syria upon hearing that Damascus supplied weapons to Hezbollah with Prime Minister Hariri moving, perhaps surpsingly, to Syria's defence. Implying that its suspicions are confirmed, the US hits Syria with sanctions in April accusing it of seeking weapons of mass destruction and arming terror groups in violation of UN resolutions.

In July Lebanon's revered Shia cleric Hussein Fadlallah dies. Syria and Iran, meanwhile deny US accsusations that Iran has supplied Syria with radar that can interfere with Israeli capabiliy of overflight in the event of a mission to destroy Iranian reactors. In August a skirmish between south Lebanese militants and Israelis on Lebanon's southern border leaves a few dead on each side and in September, Syria and Iraq restore diplomatic relations broken a year before.

2010: Syria and Iraq retires diplomatic relations in September after a one year standoff., restoring what some have called "the Shiite Crescent" of Shia nations or Shia governments from Iran to Syria. But elsewhere Syria's prestige is threatened as it fails to arrest witnesses in the Hariri case for perjury in October. The UN tribunal decides Syria has no legal authority over witnesses who are Lebanese and on Lebanese soil.

An October visit to Lebanon by Iranian Preident Ahmedinijad reinforces regional Shia solidarity as Shia Hezbollah leader Nasralla stages a mass rally against the UN Tribunal investigating the Hariri assassination and claims that the tribunal is backed by Israel. Meanwhile reports of  Hezbollah's immense arsenal of rockets and other weapon raised fer of all-out war between Syria, Israel and Iran.

The year closed as President Obama ended a diplomatic standoff by appointing a US ambassador to Syria.



EVENTS IN SYRIA LEBANON, 1945-1989  Since 1945, France has maintained interests in Lebanon and and tried with the UN, the US and Britain  With the simultaneous creation of the state of Israel, Lebanon took in thousands of Palestinian refugees. The presence of radicalized Palestinians, Egyptian President Nasser's pan Arabism and the prospect of a union of Egypt and Syria, galvanized Lebanese Arabs, while upper class Sunnis and Christians looked toward Europe for support. Throughout, the government tried to steer a middle course. The further radicalization of the Palestinian refugees and the entry of PLO units into Lebanon as a result of Israel's 1967 war only raised tensions. Soon the PLO was using Lebanon as a base from which to launch attacks into Israel. By the early 1970s, the battle lines were drawn: clannish Maronite Christians and the Sunni upper class who together controlled the government, were opposed by anti-government Shia and Druze Muslim militants supported by units of the PLO. By 1975, full scale civil war had broken out with Shia muslims fighting Christian minority rule. In 1979-1982, Israel invaded twice to prop up the Christian government and to drive out the PLO. In the second invasion, in 1982, Israel made way for its allies, the Christian Falangists, to massacre Palestinians in the Shabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut. Syria intervened throughout the 1980s and the 1990s, ostensibly to restore order but with ulterior motives of drawing Lebanon back under Syrian control and what Damascus saw as the restoration of a historical Greater Syria. The war began to end in 1989, with the Taif Accords which reduced the share of the dominant Christians in the government. LATER to act as a peace broker during Lebanon's civil war. Like other western powers, France kept its eye on the welfare of Christians in the region during the turublent years of the 1970s and 1980s. In 1983, a French military force was withdrawn from Lebanon after its barracks were bombed by Hezbollah. With the election of French president Sarkozy, Washington became nervous that France's traditional support of the pro western government and Prime Minister  Harir'si March 14 Coalition might weaken and that Sarkozy's attempt at peacemaking might not be as non-partisan as it appears


EVENTS IN LEBANON SYRIA, 1850-1945  By the mid-19th century a Druze-Maronite civil war had ingited, not to end until 1860. The war concluded with an international agreement making Lebanon an autonomous region and providing it with a multi-ethnic adminstrative council or Majlis. In 1861,France helped pressure the Ottoman sultan to create a Sanjak or Christian-governed autonomous region in Lebanon and form a Majlis or multi-ethnic administrative council which included Maronites, Sunnis, Druzes and Shia. By the Berlin Treaty in 1878, however, French interests in Lebanon were confirmed and protection of the Maronites became the means by which France furthered its influence. Until World War I, ethnic strife continued and many Lebanese Christians moved to Europe; but by retaining ties in Lebanon, they only strengthened the European presence there. Otherwise, an uneasy peace was maintained until Wolrd War I. In 1919, in the post World War I settlement, Washington's King-Crane Commission decided that close Maronite ties with France were inevitable while the Muslim majority wanted Lebanon to remain part of Syria. As a result, King-Crane recommended maintaining the compromise of an autonomous Lebanese province within a larger Syrian State. But with the treaty of Sevres in 1919, Israel-Jordan fell under British mandate. At the same time, Greater Syria, which included Lebanon fell under French mandate. The European powers promised that territorial divisions which for example, separated Lebanon from Syria, would only be temporary. The French, however, increased the size of Lebanon so that it ended up containing more Muslims.  After Muslims rebelled in 1925-26, demanding more power, France adopted the "Communal System" of ethnic representation copied from its own Republic, determining that the Prime Minister would be a Sunni, the President a Maronite and the speaker a Shia. It also fixed the proportion of Christians to Muslims in the assembly at 6 to 5. This formula, balancing power toward the Christians, would remain more or less in place until the present day and remains a source of dissatisfaction with Shia Muslims who may now be in the majority.
             Western relations with the region were not helped when France brutally suppressed several rebellions in Syria during the 1930s. At the same time, imported French Fascist ideas took root among Maronite Christians like Phalange militia leader Pierre Gemayyel. European promises never to divide up Syria permanently were broken. Syria, meanwhile, tried to form its own secular democratic government against the French mandate but French repression only radicalized Islamist groups, giving then power. . During Wolrd War II, Vichy France provided a Fascist influence, chiefly among Lebanese Maronites. In 1945, France granted Lebanon its independence leaving many Maronites feeling they were really a European enclave facing what would soon become a tide of Pan Arab nationalism. Syria gained its independence the following year.
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EVENTS IN SYRIA LEBANON: 1500- 1850- Though the Crusades ha ended in failure, they brought the Levantine coast to the attention of Europe and trade developed first with Venice and Genoa and then with France. As the Levant and Middle East fell under Ottoman rule, Europe retained a concern with protecting the holy places of Palestine along with Christian minorities, chiefly in Lebanon. In 1580, Pope Gregory XIII founded a seminary in Rome to train Lebanese Maronite Christians for the clergy. France gained its foothold in Lebanon through trade and through the education and protection of the Maronite Christian minority. Over the next three centuries, Lebanese Maronites encouraged French Catholic missionaries to develop French, Christian western-style educational institutions in Lebanon. In 1649, the Ottoman Sultan accepted France's Louis XIV as protector of Christians in Lebanon and thenceforward, French education and culture influenced Lebanese political institutions.In the eighteenth century, rivalry in Lebanon grew between Britain and France, both of whom made trade agreements with the Ottoman Sultan- but the extensive reach of Jesuit and other Catholic religious and educational institutions inside Lebanon guaranteed a strong French infleunce. Throughout the 18th century, France pursued its political, commercial and religious interests in Lebanon. The coastal region of Beirut and Tyre became the most Europeanized area of the Middle East. Soon the western powers each had a religious group to protect. France protected the Maronites, Russia the Armenian and Greek Orthodox, Britain the Druzes and the Jews. Sectarian divisions deepened as the respective powers maintained diplomatic relations with each group.By the 19th century, the consequent empowerment of Lebanese Christians began to chafe on the Druze Muslims of the interior. In 1831, the Sultan's viceroy of Egypt, Muhammed Ali, rebelled against Constantinople, invaded Palestine and took Syria. He and his son, Ibrahim proceeded to bring Europeanizing reforms to Syria and Lebanon, facilitating the entry of European missions and increasing support and tolerance for the Christians, angering Lebanon's Muslims. The British soon threw the Egyptians out of Syria but ethnic strife had already begun. As Druze bridled against French-backed Maronite power, they obtained the backing of the British  


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