The Opposing Forces in the Lebanese Civil War
The two combatant coalitions in the Civil War were the right- wing Christian Lebanese Front, sometimes called the Kufur Front, and the left-wing Muslim Lebanese National Movement. Combined Lebanese Front forces totaled about 30,000 fighting men and women. Total Muslim-leftist forces were slightly fewer, but they were occasionally allied with Palestinian forces totaling some 20,000. The Syrian Army deployed about 30,000 men in Lebanon, and intervened first on the Christian, and then on the Muslim side. The Lebanese Army numbered about 18,000 men at the outset of the Civil War. It split quickly along confessional lines, with about 3,000 officers and men joining the Lebanese Front and an approximately equal number joining the Lebanese National Movement. These defections, as well as widespread desertions, left the Lebanese Army with a primarily Christian rump force of about 10,000 men. Commanded by General Hanna Said, the Lebanese Army was officially neutral and followed the orders of the government, but provided tacit and active support to the Lebanese Front.1
The Lebanese Front
The Phalangist Party
Known in Arabic as the Kataib, the Phalangist Party was the mainstay of the Lebanese Front and bore the brunt of the fighting for the Christian side. The Party was founded by Christian patriarch Pierre Jumayyil (also seen as Gemayel) in the 1930s, and modeled on the German and Italian fascist parties. The Phalangist army called itself the Lebanese Forces (LF). It could muster up to 20,000 troops, of which a core of 3,000 were full-time soldiers. Under the leadership of William Hawi, and then of Bashir Jumayyil, it evolved into a formidable and highly organized fighting force. The Phalangist Party practiced conscription in the areas it controlled, drafting eligible young men to swell its ranks. In internecine fighting throughout the Civil War and up to 1982, the LF consolidated its leadership of the Lebanese Front by assimilating other Christian militia, often by force of arms.2
A 500-man militia that was the armed force of the National Liberal Party of ex-Lebanese President Camille Shamun. The Tigers were more aggressive than the Phalangists, often initiating hostilities with the Muslim side. On July 7, 1980, the Tigers were virtually wiped out by Phalangist forces in a surprise operation known as the "Day of the Long Knives."3
The Marada Brigade
This 3,500-strong unit, also called The Marada (Giants) Brigade, named after Byzantine border guards in ancient Lebanon, represented the interests of Sulayman Franjiyah, president of Lebanon at the outbreak of the Civil War. It was also called the Zhagartan Liberation Army after Zgharta, Franjiyah's home town. It operated mainly out of Tripoli and other areas of northern Lebanon, but it also fought in Beirut. The alliance between the Phalangists and the Marada ended on June 13, 1978, with a surprise LF attack on Ihdin, the Marada headquarters, during which the Marada commander, Tony Franjiyah (Sulayman's son), was killed.4
The Guardians of the Cedars
An extremist Maronite militia and terrorist organization led by a former police officer, Etienne Saqr. Named after Lebanon's national symbol, it consisted of about 500 men and cooperated with the Phalangists in the Civil War.5
The Order of Maronite Monks: An order of militant monks with a militia of 200 priests led by Father Sharbal Qassis, it fought alongside the other Christian forces.6
Arabic for "the organization," At Tanzim was originally a small secret society of Christian officers within the Lebanese Army who supported the Phalangists. At Tanzim helped split the army early in the Civil War, and attempted to incorporate defectors from the army into its ranks. At Tanzim also accepted members from outside the army, mostly from the upper and professional classes. It fielded its own militia of about 200.7
The Lebanese National Movement
The Popular Socialist Party (PSP)
Lebanon's Druze community, led first by Kamal Jumblatt, and, after his assassination by Syrian agents in 1977, by his son Walid, provided the titular leadership of the Muslim-leftist coalition in the Civil War. The PSP militia of approximately 2,500 men played only a small role in the actual combat, however, limiting its involvement to fighting in the Mount Lebanon area.8
The Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (SSNP)
The SSNP was established in Lebanon in the 1930s by Antun Saadah who hoped to unite the Levantine nations and form a "Greater Syria." Even though it fought in alliance with the Muslims and leftists in the Civil War, its membership was primarily Christian and its political stance was right-wing; in fact, its red hurricane symbol was modeled after the Nazi swastika. The SSNP has a long history of terrorism and subversion in Lebanon. Saadah was executed by the Lebanese government in 1949, after launching an abortive coup attempt. The SSNP was active in the 1958 Civil War, where it fought on the pro-Western side. In December 1961, an SSNP armored battalion commander staged the Lebanese Army's only significant attempted coup d'?tat against the government, and managed to arrest a half-dozen high-ranking officers before he was stopped. During the Civil War, the SSNP fielded a militia of about 3,000 men. After the 1976 Syrian intervention, it split into anti-Syrian and pro- Syrian factions. The latter group assassinated Druze patriarch Kamal Jumblatt in 1977 and President-elect Bashir Jumayyil in 1982. Since March 1985, the SSNP has dispatched about a half-dozen suicide vehicle-bombers against Israeli positions in southern Lebanon.9
The word for "hope" in Arabic, Amal is also an acronym for Afwaj al Muqawimah al Lubnaniyah, Lebanese Resistance Detachments. Amal, with a strength of approximately 1,500 men, played only a marginal role in the Civil War. Nevertheless, many Shias fought for other leftist organizations and were the cannon fodder of the Civil War.10 The Shia renaissance was initiated by the Imam Musa as Sadr, a charismatic Iranian religious figure of Lebanese ancestry who founded a husayniyyah (Shia religious site) in Sidon in 1959. In 1974, on the eve of the Civil War, Musa as Sadr established the Harakat al Mahrumiin (Movement of the Dispossessed) to represent Shia interests. In 1975, with the help of the PLO, he organized the Amal militia.
Musa as Sadr disappeared and was presumed murdered while on an official visit to Libya in August 1978, and leadership of Amal was assumed by Nabih Berri, a secular-oriented Beirut lawyer. In 1987 Berri continued to lead Amal, but several fundamentalist splinter groups had broken away from his organization.11
The Lebanese Communist Party (LCP), led by George Hawi, had a membership of about 3,000, mainly Orthodox and Armenian Christians. Its militia, the Popular Guard, played a significant role in the Civil War, fighting on the Muslim-leftist side despite its Christian membership. The Communist Action Organization (CAO), a dissident, radical splinter group of the LCP, was led by Muhsin Ibrahim, and had a membership of about 2,000.
Led by Adnan Hakim, the Najjadah was established in the 1930s as a Sunni Muslim counterpart of the Christian Phalangist Party, although it was not as successful. Its militia numbered about 300.
The Lebanese Arab Army (LAA)
The establishment of the LAA was announced on January 21, 1976, by Lieutenant Ahmad al Khatib, a Sunni Muslim officer in the Lebanese Armed Forces. Khatib urged his fellow Muslims to mutiny and desert the army. Within several days, he rallied 2,000 soldiers, including 40 tank crews, to his side. At the zenith of its power, the LAA controlled three-quarters of all army barracks and posts in Lebanon.12
The Baath (Resurrection) Party
Both the Syrian and Iraqi governments were, and in 1987 continued to be, run by rival wings of the pan-Arab socialist Baath Party, and each government supported a Lebanese branch. The pro- Iraqi branch was headed by Abd al Majid ar Rifai and fielded a militia of about 3,000 men. The pro-Syrian branch was headed by a Shia, Issam Qansuh, and had a militia of similar size. The two militias fought each other in proxy battles for their sponsors.
Several Nasserite organizations, which adhered to the socialist ideals of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, fought in Lebanon's Civil War. The largest was the Independent Nasserite Movement led by Ibrahim Qulaylat. Its 3,000-man militia, the Murabitun (the Sentinels), was one of the mainstays of the anti-establishment side. The Union of Toiling Peoples' Forces, led by Kamal Shatila, was tied closely to Syria. Its 1,000-man militia, called the Firqat an Nasr (Victory Divisions), played an active part in the Civil War. Another group, the Nasserite Correctionist Movement, was led by Issam al Arab and had a militia called the Quwwat an Nasir (Nasser's Forces). The Popular Nasserite Forces, led by Mustafa Saad, and the 24 October Movement were also active in the war.
Dozens of Palestinian military entities operated in Lebanon during and after the Civil War. Most of these groups were controlled by the mainstream, moderate Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which maintained its neutrality during the first year of the Civil War. Other groups in the radical Rejectionist Front fought on the Muslim-leftist side. Still others, such as Saiqa, the Arab Liberation Front, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) were essentially mercenary armies for foreign governments (Syria, Iraq, and Libya, respectively). About 25,000 Palestinians were under arms during the Civil War.
1 (NT) Jurdeini, Paul A., McLaurin, R.D., and Price, James M. "Military Operations in Built Up Areas 1975-78. Appendix B. U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Technical Memorandum 11-79 (June, 1979).--for numbers of opposing forces.
2 (NT) ibid.
3 (NT) ibid.
4 (NT) Creed, John. Congressional Research Service Report Lebanon 85-885-F July 31, 1985, appendix.
5 (NT) Jurdeini and McLaurtin op. cit.
6 (NT) ibid.
7 (NT) ibid, and Jurdeini and McLaurin, op. cit.
8 (NT) ibid.
9 (NT) Ya'ari, Ehud. "Behind the Terror: A little Publicized Group Led By Christians Eager for Syria to Dominate the Middle east...passim." Atlantic, June 1987, pp. 18-22.
10 (NT) Norton, Richard Augustus. "Political Violence and Shi'a Factionalism in Lebanon." Middle East Insight. vol.3 no.2 1983, pp. 9-16.
11 NT ibid.
12 (NT) op. cit. Randall, p. 94. op. cit Bulloch, p. 115.
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