Assad and the Peace Process: The Pivotal Role of Lebanon

Assad and the Peace Process - The Pivotal Role of Lebanon (1995)
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State institutions have reestablished their authority, the army is united and gaining strength, and the deterioration in economic conditions has stopped, although a lot has to be done to face a serious financial deficit and economic stagnation. However, the Taif Agreement was and is still being implemented within a different balance of internal forces as well as a different balance of regional, Arab forces, than originally intended.

This is reflected through the increase of Syrian influence and a lack of balanced internal representation in Parliament because of the "Christian" decision to boycott the elections held in the summer of This imbalance has led some of those who participated in and supported the agreement to join the opposition and declare that what is being implemented is not the Taif Agreement Mansour , 8. In the first two years of the implementation of the Agreement, it was obvious that the Lebanese agreed on the necessity of state revival, but they disagreed on the model that they should adopt.

Did it have to be the traditional liberal model which existed before the war, the Shehabist strong-state model, or a new model that would provide for both a sharing and concentration of power? Hudson The Agreement resulted in a reproduction of the Lebanese confessional state under a new formula. Sectarian balance and sectarian participation replaced one-sect hegemony, thus power became distributed centrally. At the state level, the Agreement produced a three-man show or "troika" consisting of the three Presidents: the President of the Republic, that of the Council of Ministers, and that of the Parliament.

In practice, the understanding among these three presidents as individuals has come to mean that the three institutions, qua institutions, have paled in importance. This contradicts the fundamental purpose of the Agreement which was to replace the rule of the individual the President by the rule of the institutions.

Furthermore, many different interpretations of the way to implement the Agreement have emerged. These differences result from the attempt of each President, as a representative of his confessional community, to enhance his position and his prerogatives al-Hoss , Moreover, the insistence of the President of the Republic to exercise many of the prerogatives that the Agreement has already canceled represents an attempt to maintain some common unwritten practices in order to revitalize the old, pre-war system, thus curtailing the intent of the Taif Agreement through different practice Mansour , For instance, one may mention the insistence of the President of the Republic on attending, and thus presiding, over every meeting of the Council of Ministers in order to assert that he still has control over the executive power.

Yet, the most alarming consequence of the implementation of the Agreement has been the intensification of confessional conflicts and divisions leading to the paralysis of the political and administrative authorities. The disagreement on the appointment of the Grade One public posts has been an indication of such conflict.

Wien some of these appointments were declared, they reflected a confessional distribution based on compromises that were based on neither competence nor expertise. The Taif state has not yet been able to establish a clear and relatively stable formula to rule, govern, and exercise authority. In addition to the previously mentioned problems, one can note the lack of new socio-political forces and leadership that can implement the Agreement fully, leading the nation towards a more democratic system.

The Lebanese state in the post-Taif era has been arbitrarily controlled by contradictory and conflicting socio- political forces. On the one hand, the militias that were dominant during the war years were invited and encouraged to participate in the political reformation process because they were considered to be representative of a reality that needs to be acknowledged first and gradually changed later. On the other hand, new socio-political forces foreign to the war forces came into power; they represent the economic power of local capital allied with regional capital, with important support from the rich and conservative Gulf states as well as that of European and American states.

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At the same time, the influence of the traditional confessional leaders greatly diminished during the war years, and this process continued in the Taif state. This new socio-political coalition does not have an agreed upon xxxxx program because it includes contradictory visions and interests.

Moreover, the role of the traditional bourgeoisie who is relatively tied to the national market and to the local social structure has been losing its importance as new elements who are externally oriented at the financial and commercial levels, and who are tied more to regional and international economic projects and interests, have been gaining power and control over the Lebanese market. The coming of Rafik al-Hariri to power as a prime minister in October reflected such developments. The changes in the Lebanese system cannot be considered as due exclusively to changes of leaders.

Moreover, exaggerating the role of the individual does not help to understand the Lebanese situation fully, nor its effects upon Lebanon's internal and external relations Marlow In fact, an analysis of the new qualitative stage of development in the Taif state is necessary for the understanding of the current situation in Lebanon.

The Hariri phenomenon The Hariri phenomenon took place in the context of particular regional and internal developments. Regionally, it came about in the aftermath of the Gulf war and the launching of the Madrid Peace Conference. The American administration acknowledged the Syrian role; in return the Syrian regime adapted itself to the new conditions and accommodated the interests of others, especially those of the Americans and the Gulf states in Lebanon.

Internally, the social base of the old system was already weak, if not destroyed, and there was an urgent need to restructure a new one. Therefore, the Hariri government introduced representatives of the new segments of the bourgeoisie who were foreign to the political process, most of whom had lived outside the country during the war years.

Significantly, these persons came into power with their own program of reconstruction and development. This program was independent of the internal traditional and sectarian militia forces, but was subservient to regional and international ones. This new socio-political coalition is based on these segments of the big bourgeoisie controlling internal financial and economic systems.

These systems have become more centralized, and are concentrated under a small group headed by Rafik al-Hariri himself This coalition was politically supported by both the militia forces and some of the neo-traditional forces. The internal compromise between these two factions, and the compromise between the Syrians and a sort of balancing Gulf influence headed by Saudi Arabia, supported by the U. The militia forces in power have based their own political practice on their experience of the war years.

This experience is characterized essentially by the use, exploitation and division of the available resources of the state. At the same time, these forces frequently resorted to traditional mobilization methods reflecting the sectarian political culture. The Hariri faction once in power could not establish a different political culture nor produce a clear, definitive political program. Moreover, the Hariri government seems unwilling to fulfill its duties, especially the political ones, whether they concern the peace negotiation process or the return of the displaced.

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Many government actions have been conflictual; however, such a state was especially true of the administrative "reform" that turned out to be an ill-planned administrative purging. Instead of modernizing and reforming the existing administration, the government kept it intact and established at the apex a parallel one tied to the Prime Minister. Even the cabinet is divided in two. The first part represents Hariri, and controls the ministries of finance, the economy, and the essential services; the second is a political one grouping the militias and a number of Syrian-tied or traditional politicians.

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This arrangement is a compromise that is reproduced in other institutions of the state. Such a situation may perhaps be viewed as the result of the lack of capable social forces able to transcend the politics of confessional power-sharing to build a national and non-sectarian identity. Moreover, if we examine the opinions expressed by Rafik alHariri, it seems that he is not interested in reforming the existing system.

When he was asked about this matter he answered that "there was no need for political reform because reform has already taken place. What we need is an election. The election will give a new leadership to the country. As for the differences or conflicts with the President of the Republic and the Speaker of the Parliament, Hariri thinks that it is a matter of "different personal moods and what is existing is the best possible system; what is needed is better coordination and more hardworking efforts.

Any other system, other than the troika, will create problems that we can not foresee.

The plan is divided into three phases: rehabilitation, recovery, and development. The first stage will take three years, the second five years, and the third two years. The distribution of these costs over sectors reflects a heavy emphasis on infrastructure and services, and a relative neglect of the productive sector and social projects.

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In effect, 41 percent of these costs are assigned to infrastructure, 24 percent to socio-economic projects such as public transportation, water resources and railroads, and 27 percent to social projects, such as education, health, housing and social affairs; however, this 27 percent will be mostly spent on ensuring the reconstruction of buildings and providing compensation to the displaced.

Finally, only 8 percent will be assigned to economic projects in the productive sectors of agriculture and industry Issa ; an-Nahar The CDR is responsible for formulating the overall planning and for securing financing for the implementation of these projects. This plan is highly dependent on foreign loans and has a propensity to overspend on luxury projects.

Moreover, it lacks any ranking of priorities. Recent experience has shown that the capacity to administer and manage such projects under the current administration is less than impressive. A recent report of the Bureau of Accounting stated that more than 58 percent of the contracts awarded were consensual between the contractors and the various ministries As-Safir However, the most alarming fact is the existence of many institutions that act independently of any auditing or review by either government or parliament.

What is more important is their way of spending large amounts of funds and their political implications. The ways in which such institutions manipulate their funds suggests that some sort of distribution of benefits is taking place. The Prime Minister controls the basic financial and economic decisionmaking processes through his control of the CDR, the Central Bank, and the finance Ministry. In turn, the old militia forces control other resources and play an important political role in the cabinet and the parliament.

Despite its shortcomings, the Hariri government is seriously engaged in the process of reconstruction. Moreover, many of the future regional developments will certainly affect the position, function, and role of the Lebanese state. The question remains as to whether Lebanese society will be able to protect itself from negative developments and benefit from positive ones. In either of the two above-mentioned cases, it is necessary to solidify national unity and to transcend the conflicting political confessional formula into a more stable and secular democratic one.

Conclusion The Taif Agreement constitutes a step forward, but does not yet provide the basis for a more stable and democratic system in Lebanon. In fact, the civil war experience showed that the modern state cannot be built on the basis of sectarian identities.

There is a need to transcend such an identity and to establish a clear conception of the national identity. Unless such a state is achieved, the Lebanese might not be able to develop or maintain this Agreement and the dangerous options of partition, disintegration, and war remain possible. As McLaurin puts it "any new national pact that does not reflect the Lebanese consensus and does not respond to Lebanese requirements will survive only as long as the guns to impose and enforce it remain in current alignment.

Moreover, the survival, development, and stability of the Lebanese system "depend on whether the Lebanese republic can break with its history to become truly a commonwealth involving citizens rather than community rights. The dilemma of the post-Taif state results from the fact that a national and non-sectarian form of representation cannot be carried out by sectarian forces, within a sectarian structure, and under a system which is based on a confessional power sharing formula.

Such change needs new forces and a different political and civic culture. It would be interesting to compare the Shehabist regime with the Hariri government. In fact, Shehabism attempted to carry out a major reform but failed, in spite of the existence of the instrument needed for such a reform, i. In comparison, the Hariri government has not been able so far to organize and establish a social base of support or find the instrument upon which it can rely to initiate the process of reform.

Finally, the achievement of such a task needs perhaps the existence of a different vision, different political forces, a different notion of politics, and a new generation. It is a process based on a continuous struggle between the forces of change and those of tradition. Meanwhile, the Lebanese system continues to suffer from the inadequacies of the Taif Agreement. In such a context, one may say that while the old Lebanese system is dying, the new one is not yet able to establish itself Works Cited Awn, F. Beirut: n. Beyhum, N. Chalala, E. Syrian Policy in Lebanon, Moderate goals and pragmatic means.

Chomski, N. Boston: Southend Press. Dagher, C. Jeneral wa Rihan [A General and a Wager].

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Beirut: FMA. Dubar, C. Beirut: Arab Research Institute.