Lebanon

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Template:Otherplaces Template:Infobox Country The Republic of Lebanon, or Lebanon (لبنان), is a small, largely mountainous country in the Middle East, located at the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south, with a narrow coastline along its western edge. The flag of Lebanon features the Lebanon Cedar in green against a wide, white stripe backdrop, with two thinner red stripes alongside.

The name Lebanon (also "Loubnan" or "Lebnan") is derived from the Aramaic word laban, meaning "white", a reference to the snow-capped Mount Lebanon.

Contents

History

Main article: History of Lebanon

Lebanon is one of the main regions of the Phoenicians, Semitic traders whose maritime culture flourished for more than 2,000 years, roughly from 2700 to 500 BCE. The region was a territory of the Roman Empire in the province of Syria and during the Middle Ages was important in the Crusades. It was then taken by the Ottoman Empire.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the League of Nations mandated the five provinces that make up present-day Lebanon to France.

Modern Lebanon's constitution, drawn up in 1926, specified a balance of political power among the major religious groups.

The country gained independence in 1943, and French troops withdrew in 1946. Lebanon's history from independence has been marked by alternating periods of political stability and turmoil (including a leadership crisis in 1958 marked by the intervention of US Marines) interspersed with prosperity built on Beirut's position as a regional center for finance and trade.

Civil War (1975-1990)

Main article: Lebanese Civil War

Until the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, noted for its wide boulevards, French-style architecture, and modernity, was called the Paris of the Middle East. Lebanon as a whole at that time was known as the Switzerland of the Middle East (Sweesra Al Shark), enjoying a similar conflict-free status title as Costa Rica in Central America and (until recently) Uruguay in South America.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanon became home to more than 110,000 Palestinian refugees who had fled from Israel. More Palestinian refugees arrived in Lebanon after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and Black September, and by 1975, they numbered more than 300,000, led by Yassir Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). During the early 1970s difficulties arose over the rise of Palestinian refugees in the south, and full-scale civil war broke out in April 1975, leaving the nation with no effective central government.

On one side were a number of mostly Maronite militias, the most important of which was the one linked to the Phalangist Party; its commander was Bachir Gemayel. The other side comprised a coalition of Palestinians, Sunni, and Druze forces. By early 1976, the war was going poorly for the Maronites, and Syria sent 40,000 troops into the country to prevent them from being overrun; that Baathist Syrians were fighting against Palestinian forces was and remains ironic. In the same year, the Palestinian militia committed the Damour massacre. By 1978, many of the Maronites had become convinced that the Syrians were really occupying Lebanon for reasons of their own, and by September of that year, they were openly feuding. The Syrian forces remained in Lebanon, effectively dominating its government, into the first years of the twenty-first century.

Cross-border attacks from Lebanon against Israeli territory led to an Israeli invasion on March 15 1978, in what was titled the Litani River Operation. Israel withdrew its forces thirteen days later, in response to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 on March 19, and the establishment of an international peace-keeping force for South Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The PLO's armed forces continued to use Lebanon as a base to attack Israel with rockets and artillery, and in 1982 Israel again invaded Lebanon with the objective of evicting the PLO. Israeli forces occupied areas from the southern Lebanese border with Israel northward into areas of Beirut. It was during this invasion that the Phalangist militia, under the command of Elie Hobeika, moved into the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, with the knowledge of Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and committed the first Sabra and Shatila massacre. Israeli plans for Lebanon suffered a severe setback on September 14, 1982, with the assassination of the Phalangist leader and President-elect Bachir Gemayel, who was regarded as secretly sympathetic to Israel.

A multinational force landed in Beirut on August 20, 1982 to oversee the PLO withdrawal from Lebanon and U.S. mediation resulted in the evacuation of Syrian troops and PLO fighters from Beirut.

This period saw the rise of radicalism among the country's different factions, and a number of landmark terrorist attacks against American forces, including the destruction of the United States Embassy by a truck bomb and an even deadlier attack on the U.S. Marines barracks. Concurrently, in 1982 Hezbollah was created by some of the old members of Amal with other religious clerics.

1988 and 1989 were years of unprecedented chaos. The Parliament failed to elect a successor to President Amine Gemayel (who had replaced his slain brother Bachir in 1982), whose term expired on 23 September. Fifteen minutes before the expiry of his term, Gemayel appointed an interim administration headed by the army commander, General Michel Aoun. His predecessor, Selim al-Hoss, refused to accept his dismissal in Aoun's favour. Lebanon was thus left with no President, and two rival governments that feuded for power, along with more than forty private militias.

The Arab League-sponsored Taif Agreement of 1989 marked the beginning of the end of the war. In all, it is estimated that more than 100,000 were killed, and another 100,000 handicapped by injuries, during Lebanon's 15 year war. On May 22 2000, Israel unilaterally completed its withdrawal from the south of Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 from 1978. On September 2 2004, the United Nations Security Council, recalling previous resolutions, especially 425 (1978), 520 (1982) and 1553 (July 2004), approved Resolution 1559, sponsored by the United States and France, demanding that Syria, though not mentioned by name, should withdraw its troops from Lebanon. "All foreign forces should withdraw from Lebanon" to allow for free elections.

The country is recovering from the effects of the civil war, with foreign investment and tourism on the rise. Syrian forces occupied large areas of the country until April 2005 (see Cedar Revolution below), and Iran exercises heavy influence over Hezbollah forces in the Beqaa Valley and Southern Lebanon. Nevertheless, areas of Lebanon and Beirut in particular are moving toward a sense of normality and stability. Lebanese civil society enjoys significantly more freedoms than elsewhere in the Arab world.

Cedar Revolution (Intifada of Independence)

Main article: Cedar Revolution

Note: Although international media prefer calling it the "Cedar Revolution", Lebanese called it the Intifada of Independence

On February 14, 2005, after 10 years of relative political stability, Lebanon was shaken by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a car-bomb explosion. It is widely believed that Syria was responsible for the attack (though it denies any involvement), because of its extensive military and intelligence presence in Lebanon, as well as the public rift between Hariri and Damascus over the extension of President Lahoud's term. After Hariri's assassination, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt alleged that a shaken Hariri had told him months before that he was personally threatened by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a 15-minute meeting in the Syrian capital Damascus in August 2004: "[President of Lebanon] Lahoud is me. ... If you and Chirac want me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon."[1]. Jumblatt said "When I heard him telling us those words, I knew that it was his condemnation of death." This testimony is contained, but not confirmed, in the UN's FitzGerald Report, issued 24 March 2005. Up to this point, no person or party has been directly accused of the murder. The Report has called for a further, much more extensive international inquiry. This has been seconded by the UN Secretary General and agreed to by the Lebanese government, but with reservations about respect for Lebanese sovereignty and the participation (not supremacy) of Lebanese agencies.[2]

Hariri's rift with Assad began with the former's vehement opposition to the Syrian-backed constitutional amendment that extended pro-Syrian president Lahoud's term in office. Hariri resigned over the incident.

It was reported by some sources that upon hearing purportedly leaked information from the United Nations' special investigation report that the Lebanese authorities had covered up evidence of the murder, Hariri's two sons fled Lebanon after being warned that they too were in danger of assassination. [3] However, both sons strenuously denied these claims, asserting that they were called away by business which had been on hold since their father's murder.

The assassination resulted in huge anti-Syrian protests by Lebanese citizens in Beirut demanding the resignation of the pro-Syrian government. Following the examples of the Rose Revolution and Orange Revolution in 2004, the popular action was dubbed the "Cedar Revolution" by the US State Department, a name which quickly caught on among the international media. On February 28, 2005, as over 70,000 people demonstrated in Martyrs' Square, Prime Minister Omar Karami and his Cabinet resigned, after the parliament named him twice to assemble the cabinet, as a part of the constitution, they remained in office temporarily in a caretaker role prior to the appointment of replacements.

In response, Hezbollah organized a large counter-demonstration, staged on March 8 in Beirut, supporting Syria and accusing Israel and the United States of meddling in internal Lebanese affairs. Hezbollah is a secondary target of Resolution 1559, which demands all Lebanese militias be disarmed; it has since been trying to rally masses to protest against foreign intervention. This demonstration was much larger than earlier anti-Syrian protests. Anti-Syrian protests have been subjected to controversy, due to extensive anti-Syrian agitation by the Hariri-owned Future TV Lebanese network and other Hariri-linked media outlets, which dwarf Hezbollah's. CNN noted some news agencies estimated the crowd at 200,000 [4], the Associated Press news agency estimated that there were nearly 500,000 pro-Syrian protestors, while the New York Times and Los Angeles Times simply estimated "hundreds of thousands". [5], [6] Al Jazeera reported a figure of 1.5 million, citing an unnamed official and the television station run by Amal.

File:BEY14MARS05.jpg
March 14th Rally at Martyrs' Square

On March 14, one month after Hariri's assassination, approximately 800 thousand rallied in Martyrs' Square, in the largest gathering to date. Protestors of all sects (even including a number of Shiites) marched for the truth of Hariri's murder and for what they call independence from Syrian occupation. The march reiterated their will for a sovereign, democratic, and unified country, free of Syria's hegemony.

In the weeks following the demonstrations, bombs were detonated in Christian areas near Beirut. Although the damages were mostly material, these acts demonstrate the danger of Lebanon relapsing into sectarian strife.

After weeks of unsuccessful negotiations to form a new government, Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned the post for the third time in his political career on 13 April 2005. Two days later, Najib Mikati, a US-educated millionaire businessman and former Minister of Transportation and Public Works, was appointed as Prime Minister-designate. A moderate pro-Syrian, Mikati secured the post through the support of the Opposition, which had previously boycotted such negotiations.

During the first parliamentary elections held after the Syrian withdrawal from the country in May 2005, the anti-Syrian coalition of Sunni Muslim, Druze and Christian parties led by Saad Hariri, son of assassinated ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, won a majority of seats in the new Parliament. The combinations were quite interesting as in some areas, the anti-Syrian coalition allied with Hezbollah and others with Amal. They were denied the two-thirds majority required to force the resignation of Syrian appointed President Emile Lahoud by the unexpectedly strong showing of retired army general Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement party in Mount Lebanon. Aoun has established himself as the dominant Christian figure in the new parliament. Known previously for his strong anti-Syrian sentiment, Aoun aligned himself with politicians who were friendly to the Syrians in the past decade: Soleiman Franjieh Jr and Michel Murr. Aoun's party joined forces with these two to dominate the North and the Matn district of Mount Lebanon. Saad Hariri and Walid Joumblat joined forces with the two staunchly pro-Syrian Shiite movements, Hezbollah and Amal, to secure major wins in the South, Bekaa, and Baabda-Aley district of Mount Lebanon.

After the elections, Hariri and his Future Movement party, now the country's dominant political force, nominated Fouad Siniora, a former Finance Minister, to be the new Prime Minister. His newly formed representative government has obtained the vote of confidence from the parliament despite the lack of representation of Gen. Aoun.

On July 18, Lebanon's newly elected parliament, which is dominated by an anti-Syrian coalition, approved a motion to pardon Samir Geagea, who had spent most of the past 11 years in solitary confinement in an underground cell with no access to news. The motion was endorsed by pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud the next day. [7]

On September 1, 4 current and former officials of Lebanon: Maj Gen Jamil al-Sayyad, former head of General Security, Maj Gen Ali Hajj, former chief of police, Brig Gen Raymond Azar, former military intelligence chief, and Mustafa Hamdan, Republican Guard commander are charged in the connection of assassination of Hariri.[8]

On October 21, Detlev Mehlis, lead investigator in the UN Hariri Probe released the report of the investigation. The report said that "many leads point to the direct involvement of Syrian Officials". [9] On the press conference Mr. Mehlis insisted that part of the names in the report "were given by a witness whose reliability required further investigation", and given information the report is becoming public he would have removed more names under the presumption of innocence. [10] [11]

Withdrawal of Syrian troops

Maj. Gen. Jamil Sayyed, the top Syrian ally in the Lebanese security forces, resigned on Monday, 25 April, just a day before the final Syrian troops pulled out of Lebanon.

On 26 April 2005, the last 250 Syrian troops left Lebanon.

During the departure ceremonies, Gen. Ali Habib, Syria's chief of staff, said that Syria's president had decided to recall his troops after the Lebanese army had been "rebuilt on sound national foundations and became capable of protecting the state."

UN forces led by Senegalese Brig. Gen. Mouhamadou Kandji were sent to Lebanon to verify the military withdrawal which was mandated by Security Council resolution 1559.

Politics

Template:Politics of Lebanon

Main article: Politics of Lebanon

Lebanon is a republic in which the three highest offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups:

This arrangement is part of the "National Pact" (al Mithaq al Watani), an unwritten agreement which was established in 1943 during meetings between Lebanon's first president (a Maronite) and its first prime minister (a Sunni), although it was not formalized in the Constitution until 1990, following the Taif Agreement. The pact included a promise by the Christians not to seek French protection and to accept Lebanon's "Arab face", and a Muslim promise to recognize the independence and legitimacy of the Lebanese state in its 1920 boundaries and to renounce aspirations for union with Syria. This pact was thought at the time to be an interim compromise, necessary until Lebanon formed its own sense of a national identity. Its continued existence and the fallout from subsequent civil wars continue to dominate politics in Lebanon.

The pact also stipulated that seats in the Parliament would be allocated by religion and region, in a ratio of 6 Christians to 5 Muslims, a ratio based on the 1932 census, which was taken at a time when Christians still had a slight majority. The Taif Agreement adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions, but some argue that they still do not reflect current demographics: owing to a higher Muslim birthrate and a higher rate of emigration among Christians, Muslims are now believed to have a slight majority, 59 percent of the population counting the Druze. However a majority of Lebanese living abroad are Christians.

The Constitution grants the people the right to change their government. However, from the mid-1970s until the parliamentary elections in 1992, civil war precluded the exercise of political rights. According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every four years. The last parliament election was in 2000; the election due to be held in 2004 was postponed for one year.

The parliament composition is based on more ethnic and religious identities rather than ideological features. The distribution of parliament seats has been modified recently.

Template:Parliament of Lebanon

The Parliament elects the President of the republic to a six-year term. Consecutive terms for the president are forbidden. This constitutional rule has been bypassed by ad-hoc amendment twice in recent history, however, at the urging of the Syrian government. Elias Hrawi's term, which was due to end in 1995, was extended for three years. This procedure was repeated in 2004 to allow Emile Lahoud to remain in office until 2007. Pro-democracy campaigners denounced the moves.

The last presidential election was in 1998. The President appoints the Prime Minister on the nomination of the Parliament. Lebanon has numerous political parties, but their role is less important than in most parliamentary systems. Most represent, in practice if not in theory, sectarian interests; many are little more than ad-hoc lists of candidates endorsed by a well-known national or local figure. Electoral tickets are often formed on a constituency-by-constituency basis by negotiation among local leaders of clans, religious groups, and political parties; these loose coalitions generally exist only for the election and rarely form cohesive blocs in the Parliament subsequently.

Lebanon's judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system has three levels - courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Lebanese law does not provide for Civil marriage (although it recognizes such marriages contracted abroad); efforts by former President Elias Hrawi to legalize civil marriage in the late 1990s foundered on objections mostly from Muslim clerics.

Lebanon has been under Syrian domination since 1990. More information is available here. Many Lebanese are unhappy with what they see as the undue influence exerted by the Syrian government over their affairs. The pro-Syrian administration of Emile Lahoud has curbed freedom of speech, and has attempted (successfully, until recently) to ban demonstrations. Recently, after the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, international pressure on Syria was dramatically increased, demanding a complete and immediate withdrawal of its forces, including intelligence personnel, from Lebanon.

On Monday February 28, 2005, the Syrian-backed government of Prime Minister Omar Karami announced its resignation, staying on in a caretaker role. However, Karami was reappointed and asked to head a national unity government on Wednesday March 9, 2005, one day after a massive demonstration expressing support for Syria. Negotiations over the formation of the national unity government have stalled, however, over the demands of some politicians for the immediate withdrawal of Syrian forces, and over the reluctance of others (such as Walid Jumblatt) to serve in a government under President Lahoud.

On March 14, the anti-Syrian opposition party responded with a protest that by an Associated Press estimate by reporters on the scene put the number at much higher than the approximately 500,000 (around a million ) who attended the 8 March pro-Syrian rally, however, CNN and The Guardian estimated the crowd at only 200,000, in line with their estimates for the March 8 rally.

Administrative divisions

Lebanon is divided into six governorates (mohafazat, singular - mohafazah), which are further subdivided into 25 districts (Aqdya, singular - qadaa), also divided into several municipalities englobing a group of cities or villages.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Lebanon

A Middle Eastern country, Lebanon is demarcated to the west by the Mediterranean (Coast: 225 kilometres) and to the east by the Syro-African Depression. Lebanon borders Syria for 375 kilometres to the north and to the east and Israel for 79 kilometres to the south. The border with Israel has been approved by the United Nations (see Blue Line (Lebanon)), although a small piece of land called "Shebaa Farms" located in the Golan Heights is claimed by Lebanon but occupied by Israel, who claim that it is actually Syrian land. The UN has officially declared this region not to be Lebanese territory, but Hizbulla occasionally launches attacks against Israeli positions within it.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Lebanon

Lebanon has a competitive and free market regime and a strong laissez-faire commercial tradition. The Lebanese economy is service-oriented; main growth sectors include banking and tourism. There are no restrictions on foreign exchange or capital movement, and bank secrecy is strictly enforced. Lebanon has recently adopted a law to combat money laundering. There are practically no restrictions on foreign investment.

The 1975-1991 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepot and banking hub. Peace has enabled the central government to restore control in Beirut, begin collecting taxes, and regain access to key port and government facilities. Economic recovery has been helped by a financially sound banking system and resilient small- and medium-scale manufacturers, with family remittances, banking services, manufactured and farm exports, and international aid as the main sources of foreign exchange.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Lebanon

The population of Lebanon comprises different ethnic groups and religions: Muslims: (Shi'ites and Sunnis), Christians (Maronite Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek-Catholic Melkites, Armenians, Copts) and others (including the Druze and Alawite sects). No official census has been taken since 1932, reflecting the political sensitivity in Lebanon over confessional (religious) balance. It is estimated that a slight majority of the resident population is Muslim; the rest is Christian, predominantly Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Chaldeans, Copts as well as a minority of Protestants. There is a small minority of Jews, mostly living in the eastern region of Beirut. Also, a small community (less than 1%) of Kurds (also known as Mhallamis or Mardins) live in Lebanon. There are approximately 15 million people of Lebanese descent, mainly Christians, spread all over the world.

While 360,000 Palestinian refugees have registered in Lebanon with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) since 1948, estimates of those remaining range between 160,000 and 225,000.

The urban population, concentrated mainly in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, is noted for its commercial enterprise. A century and a half of migration and return have produced Lebanese commercial networks around the globe from North and South America to Europe, the Gulf, and Africa. Lebanon has a high proportion of skilled labor compared with many other Middle Eastern countries.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Lebanon

Lebanon has been a major crossroads of civilizations for millennia, so it is perhaps unsurprising that this small country would possess an extraordinarily rich and vibrant culture. Lebanon's wide array of ethnic and religious groups contributes to the country's rich cuisine, musical and literary traditions, and festivals. Beirut in particular has a very vibrant arts scene, with numerous performances, exhibits, fashion shows, and concerts held throughout the year in its galleries, museums, theaters, and public spaces. Lebanese society is modern, educated, and very comparable to other European societies of the Mediterranean. Despite their European resemblance, the Lebanese are proud of their Levantine heritage and have made Lebanon and in particular Beirut, the cultural center of the Arab world. Lebanon is a member state of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. This is why most Lebanese are bilingual, speaking Arabic and French; however, English has become very popular, especially among university students. The country is not only where Christianity intermingles with Islam, but Lebanon is also the Arab gateway to Europe and the European bridge to the Arab world.

Lebanon also hosts several prestigious universities, including the American University of Beirut, the public Lebanese University, and the Université Saint-Joseph.

Several international festivals are held in Lebanon, featuring world-renowned artists and drawing crowds from Lebanon and abroad. Among the most famous are the summer festivals at Baalbeck, Beiteddine, and Byblos, where the elite and eclectic line-ups perform against the backdrop of some of Lebanon's most famous and spectacular historical sites.

Foreign relations

Main article: Foreign relations of Lebanon

The foreign policy of Lebanon reflects its geographic location, the composition of its population, and its reliance on commerce and trade. Lebanon's foreign policy has been heavily influenced by Syria, which maintained forces throughout parts of Lebanon prior to the Cedar Revolution.

Lebanon concluded negotiations on an association agreement with the European Union in late 2001, and both sides initialled the accord in January 2002. Lebanon also has bilateral trade agreements with several Arab states and is in the process of accession to the World Trade Organization. Lebanon enjoys good relations with virtually all of its Arab neighbors (despite historic tensions with Libya, the Palestinians, and Iraq). Lebanon also is a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference and maintains a close relationship with Iran.

Lebanon does not have diplomatic or trade relations with Israel. In May 1983 Israel and the Christian government of Lebanon signed a de facto peace treaty that would have established bilateral ties but this treaty has been abrogated. Lebanon's official stance on relations with Israel is that relations can only happen after a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian settlement and a return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Lebanon and Israel have one remaining boundary dispute, over a district in southern Lebanon, on the north side of the Golan Heights, called Shebaa Farms. Lebanon claims that the Shebaa farms are occupied Lebanese territory, while Israel claims they are occupied Syrian territory (and thus should be dealt with in an Israel-Syrian treaty). Lebanon would also like Israel to take back a quarter million Palestinian refugees, who have been in Lebanon for decades.

See also

References

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Template:Southwest Asia Template:Middle East Template:Mediterraneanar:لبنان an:Libano bg:Ливан zh-min-nan:Lebanon ca:Líban cs:Libanon da:Libanon de:Libanon et:Liibanon el:Λίβανος es:Líbano eo:Libano fa:لبنان fr:Liban gl:Líbano - لبنان ko:레바논 ht:Liban hr:Libanon io:Libano id:Lebanon is:Líbanon it:Libano he:לבנון ka:ლიბანი lv:Libāna lt:Libanas li:Libanon hu:Libanon ms:Lubnan nl:Libanon nds:Libanon ja:レバノン no:Libanon nn:Libanon pl:Liban pt:Líbano ro:Liban ru:Ливан sq:Libani simple:Lebanon sk:Libanon sl:Libanon sr:Либан fi:Libanon sv:Libanon tl:Lebanon th:ประเทศเลบานอน uk:Ліван yi:לעװאָנען zh:黎巴嫩

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