TITLE=LEBANON AFTER THE WITHDRAWAL
INTRO: Flush with victory, Hezbollah is acting with
moderation. After the Israeli withdrawal from
southern Lebanon, the successful resistance fighters
are curtailing violence, refraining from revenge and
pledging their support of the Lebanese government.
But they have emerged as a much enhanced power within
Lebanon, and how they will use it remains to be seen.
They will inevitably cause yet another shift in the
complex politics of a small country that remains in
the grip of outside forces, in particular Syria.
V-O-A's Ed Warner reports the outlook for Lebanon now
that it has recovered its territory from Israel.
TEXT: Syria and Lebanon may have the closest
relations of any countries on earth, and not by choice
on Lebanon's part. Starting in 1975, Syrian forces
intervened in the civil wars convulsing the country.
There they have stayed, generally suppressing conflict
and sometimes contributing to it, and always in
Syria's best interest.
Some 30-thousand Syrian troops are stationed in
Lebanon, mostly out of sight in the Bekaa Valley,
close to the Syrian border. Nobody knows how many
Syrian security forces out of uniform patrol the
An estimated one-million Syrians work in more
progressive Lebanon and prefer to put their money in
its private banks rather than the state-owned one in
their country. They also enjoy more freedom in
Lebanon than they have back home.
Lebanese benefit from cheaper Syrian goods, which also
undercut local businesses. Now that Israelis have
withdrawn from the south, there is more grumbling
about Syrian control. But Lebanese know not to carry
their criticism too far. Punishment awaits the
Roscoe Suddarth, president of the Middle East
Institute in Washington, says Lebanese politicians get
their guidance from Syria. If they fail to heed it,
they soon learn the perils of running for public
/// 1st SUDDARTH ACT ///
There is an understanding at all levels of the
Lebanese government that they are not going to take
any strategic moves, from the president right on down,
without consultation with Syria. The Syrians exert
their control on the ground through a military
commander, but also through someone who is in the
Lebanese security forces and a very powerful member of
the Lebanese cabinet.
/// END ACT ///
Mr. Suddarth, a former U-S ambassador to Jordan, says
Syria plans a permanent presence in its smaller
neighbor. As evidence, President Hafez al-Assad has
assigned supervision of Lebanon to his son and
possible successor, Bashar.
Talcott Seelye, a former U-S diplomat in the Middle
East, says many Lebanese think the Israeli withdrawal
ends the need for a Syrian presence:
/// SEELYE ACT ///
I understand that Syria in response to this has
withdrawn security checkpoints in and around
Beirut, but I am pretty sure they will stay in
the Bekaa Valley indefinitely. Syria feels that
its presence there has been a stabilizing
factor, and of course, they have always felt
that Lebanon is an integral part of the Syrian
homeland. So I think it is unlikely Syria will
withdraw in the near future, even though the
/// END ACT ///
Fresh from their victory, as they see it, in southern
Lebanon, the Hezbollah are expected to assume a larger
role in Lebanese politics, and increase their seats in
parliamentary elections in August.
Ambassador Suddarth says Lebanon remains as
politically divided as ever:
/// 2nd SUDDARTH ACT ///
There is still a lot of bad sectarian blood in
Lebanon, and they have a very fragile
constitution, which gives inordinate power
politically to the Christians. That is being
chipped away, particularly as the Shia, who are
the most populous part of Lebanon, are beginning
to gain more and more political power. But the
Christians are not wont [inclined] to give up
political power. So I think Lebanon is still a
society in formation.
/// end act ///
Mr. Suddarth says politicians continue to speak for
various sects rather than for Lebanon as a whole. A
prime minister once remarked: "The Lebanese will all
do well. The question is: Will Lebanon?"
Talcott Seelye thinks sectarian tensions have eased to
/// SEELYE ACT ///
Obviously, there are still some rivalries and
bitterness from the 17-year civil war, but it is
remarkable how much reconciliation there has
been. For example, the Lebanese army, which
fell apart during the civil war along sectarian
lines, has in the last 10 years been rebuilt --
a cohesive army where all the various religious
sects work together.
/// END ACT ///
Still unreconciled to Lebanon are the 300-thousand
Palestinian refugees living in the country, packed
into a dozen squalid camps. They are denied
citizenship or decent jobs because Lebanese fear they
will upset the country's shaky sectarian balance.
Their fate and that of Lebanon is thus dependent on an
overall peace agreement that will finally provide a
home for the people dispossessed by Israel. (Signed)
02-Jun-2000 16:09 PM EDT (02-Jun-2000 2009 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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