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Policy On Lebanon
The Policies on Lebanon, the Patriarch and Unity
The International Maronite Foundation

The International Maronite Foundation represents the feelings and opinions of Maronites around the world concerned with issues and actions that impact the Maronite Church.  Any actions undertaken by the United States government or any other government concerning the disposition of issues pertaining to Lebanon and the rights of its people to self-governance and self-determination are of great concern to us.  We believe it to be in the best self-interest of the United States and all other nations to ensure that Lebanon remains a sovereign and effective politically independent, western-style democracy in the region.  To this end, and based on the following document “A Maronite Role in Lebanon,” the International Maronite Foundation does hereby proclaim its positions that:

Lebanon is a critical element in the geo-political and economic future of the Middle East, and as such, must be engaged in regional security, economic and political aspects of the region.

Lebanon must engage in strategic partnerships and alliances within the region to ensure social, economic, and political stability.

Substantive action must be taken to improve economic conditions to reduce the debt and create new jobs to retain the educated leaving the country, creating a brain drain, and severely jeopardizing the economic future of the nation and the region.

Lebanon undertake to establish a framework for the development of a treaty of alliance with Syria to refine the Taef Agreement and definitize a strategic alliance for defense and security with Syria and redeployment of Syrian troops in accordance and the complete departure of Syrian security personnel from Lebanon.

To this effect the Foundation proposes that:

No person or nation, other than a Lebanese government elected free of outside influence, can truly represent the people of Lebanon. 

Only the properly elected government can protect the sovereign rights of the nation and give proper consideration to issues relating to its citizens and the nation’s future. 

Lebanon, as a sovereign nation, has the right to participate in any political process affecting the region in general and itself in particular.

Only the Lebanese, free from foreign occupation, can fully guarantee its borders.

The only way to protect the Lebanese way of life is to ensure there are no non-Lebanese forces in Lebanon, and to turn over the affairs of state to the Lebanese government. 

The Maronites of Lebanon and the international community fear for the church and its communicants as well as for the religious freedom of all Lebanese while the nation is under foreign occupation and domination. 

We support the consensus among all Lebanese that no consideration be given to permanent Lebanese citizenship of Palestinians living in Lebanon today.  The economic and religious balance extant today would be seriously jeopardized.

We strongly support active and effective Lebanese participation in all discussions and talks involving issues relating to its future.

We insist on the implementation of the United Nations Resolutions 425 and 520. 

The sovereignty and de facto independence of Lebanon is a moral commitment the United States must undertake and ensure.  

The International Maronite Foundation recognizes the Patriarch of the Antiochan Maronite Catholic Church as the father and head of the Church, and pledges to him loyalty and commitment to his guidance while supporting his efforts on behalf of people of all faiths, especially Lebanese of all faiths, and his concern for peace, justice and the safeguard of freedom and human rights.  

The Foundation strongly supports the concept of unity among all Maronites in support of a free and sovereign Lebanon

We support the Patriarch in a call for unity of all Lebanese and his condemnation of extremism.






Since the time, almost 1500 years ago when the ancestors of the present church fled the plains of Syria for the protection of Lebanon, the identity of this community of believers, the Maronites, has been tied to the land of Lebanon. Lebanon and the Maronites are linked by history and faith with an indelible seal.  The Maronites have known great persecution as well as great success in Lebanon.  Before the days of the modern republic, they were persecuted and ostracized by the majority religion of the region, as practiced by the Byzantine Empire, for their loyalty to the Pope.  They were persecuted by the Arabs at the time of the Islamic conquest of the region (600Ìs AD) and subjugated by the Turks for nearly the entire 500-year life of that empire (900Ìs AD).  However, they knew freedom during the time of the Crusades and later were given almost total autonomy within the context of the Ottoman Empire (1400-1900Ìs AD).  They had their first taste of political freedom in their land of refuge, Lebanon, but always tempered by the reality that they lived in an occupied land in which they could be persecuted and massacred because of the simple fact of the manner in which they worshipped God.




Colonial Period Following World War I. Through these centuries of trial, the Maronites of Lebanon were always able to survive. In 1919 at the end of the First World War and the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Maronite Patriarch, Hoyek, traveled to Versailles, the site of the peace conference, to inveigh upon the French, one of the victorious Allied Powers, to petition for Lebanese independence.  This was a historic time following the end of the war of carving states from the old colonial order, according self-determination to indigenous peoples.  The Patriarch was determined that Lebanon should emerge as an independent viable state. He therefore petitioned that the new Lebanon, to be carved from the old Ottoman Empire, have boundaries that extended beyond Mount Lebanon, the Grand Liban, in order to reflect the ancient boundaries of this ancient land.   Lebanon was thus established under the French Mandate to include Mount Lebanon, the coastal cities of Tripoli, Beirut, Sidon and Tyre, as well as south Lebanon and the fertile Bekaa Valley.  Under the French Mandate, which ran from the early 1920's until November 22, 1943, the date of Lebanese Independence, the Lebanese Christians,  in particular the Maronites, held a favored position due to the demographic majority of Christians in the country and the Maronite affiliation with the French colonial power.


Lebanese Independence. In 1943, French colonial rule ended when the Maronites joined with their Muslim countrymen in the formulation of the National Pact.  At the heart of the pact, was the understanding that the Maronites would not resort to outside assistance from the West, and that the Muslims of Lebanon would not seek to incorporate Lebanon into the larger Arab world. From the Maronite side a clear commitment was made to the principle of Christian-Muslim coexistence.  A confessional quota system of representation within the Lebanese government was established in order to balance the religious communities and guarantee the basic tenets of the National Pact understanding. The Lebanese Presidency and Army Chief, which under the French Mandate could be either Christian or Muslim, was to become the exclusive province of the Maronites with other offices established    for various other religious sects and denominations in Lebanon.

In May 1948, Israel was declared by the United Nations to be an independent sovereign state, carved from the old British Mandate over Palestine. With the establishment of Israel, war commenced between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The legacy of that war on Lebanon and the region was a massive influx of Palestinian refugees and the reactionary rise of Arab Nationalism, first manifested in the name of Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt. The presence of such large numbers of dispossessed impoverished people, to whom an emotional appeal was made to unite in order to better confront the enemy, being defined as Israel, had serious repercussions on Lebanon internally.


The 1958 Crisis and Its Consequences. The Maronite leadership of the country in 1958 turned to the West, and particularly the United States. to assist in putting down what was then characterized as a civil war.  The Marines landed and order was restored. This crisis took place against the regional backdrop of the rise of Arab Nationalism and the global backdrop of the East-West Cold War. The Maronite leadership in Lebanon had chosen not to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the time, opposition to their leadership could be emotionally rationalized to the Islamic sectors of the population by questioning Maronite loyalty to the Arab cause of confronting the Israelis. Even though, initially, the Maronites had a great deal of sympathy towards the Palestinian refugees, a general feeling of empathy gradually dissipated when the Palestinians moved to destroy the essential foundations of the Lebanese republic.


The Interim Period 1958-1975. The Arabs fought and lost another war in 1967, which sent another flood of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon. In 1969, the Cairo Accord   virtually gave Palestinians autonomy within their camps, The Melkart Accord soon followed allowing Palestinians to be armed in their camps and free to engage in wars of liberation from their Lebanese refugee camps. The agreements came as a result of a 6 months deadlock by the government of then Sunni Prime Minister Rachid Karame. Lebanon was torn between two strongly opposing tendencies: an inclination within the Christian community that gave the order of priority to focus on the idea of coexistence while keeping Lebanon out of the sphere of regional conflict, in contrast to an overwhelming sense within the Muslim community that made a higher priority of integration of Lebanon into the Arab hinterland as a prerequisite to the destruction of Israel. Against this backdrop, there was complete governmental breakdown; militia rule arose as the various communities felt that they could no longer depend on the legitimate internal security forces of the government to protect their lives and property.  Hafez al Assad, who had come to power in neighboring Syria during Lebanon's descent has been described, quite correctly, as playing the role of both arsonist and fireman in Lebanon during this period.  In 1973, Syria participated in the October Yom Kippur War against Israel, from which Lebanon refrained.  In the aftermath of that war, the Kunaitra Disengagement Accord was reached between Israel and Syria on the Golan Heights in which both countries agreed, under U.S. mediation, not to attack each other's territory from their respective sides of their common border.


The Lebanon War 1975-1982.  From the date of the 1974 Kunaitra Disengagement Accord, Assad had one obsession: to stay in power. This is a difficult task for him given his Alawite minority status within Syria. Without being viewed by the Sunni majority in Syria as an Arab liberator, or a champion of the Palestinian cause, Assad's hold on power in Syria was tenuous. Thus he sought to circumvent the requirements of the accord by maintaining a status of low intensity military confrontation against Israel through neighboring Lebanon. Assad first approached the Maronite leadership of the Lebanese Government who declined to involve Lebanon in such a confrontation or to condone such activity from Lebanese territory knowing the destruction such activity would wreak on the country.  Assad next acted through Yasir Arafat' s Fatah and PLO, bolstering their military presence in Lebanon through use of units of the Syrian Army being infiltrated into Lebanon as the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) to assist Arafat in his war to liberate Palestine through Jounieh.  By weakening the Lebanese state and dividing the Lebanese Army, Assad was able to bolster his image. This partnership with the PLO continued until 1982 when the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) invaded Lebanon and militarily defeated the PLO and expelled them from Beirut.  Ironically, the PLO, as a fighting force, was finally defeated and expelled from Lebanon by the Syrian Army at Tripoli in 1983.


Aftermath of the Lebanon War 1983-1990.  With the liquidation of PLO military power in Lebanon, Assad turned to the local Shiite population of the south and the weapon of Hezbollah to maintain the confrontation against Israel.  Through a regional alliance with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the financial and political sponsors of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Assad was able to make Syria the logistics key to the military operations of this new resistance and maintain low intensity military pressure on Israel.  With the opening of the Madrid Conference and the start of the Middle East Peace Process in 1991, this capability was not only viewed as strategically necessary to leverage Syria into a more favorable negotiating position against the Israelis but as a key factor for the political survival of both Alawite power structure in Syria, and the growing power of the Shiite community in Lebanon, in the midst of an overwhelmingly regional Sunni milieu.

During this period from 1975 to 1990, though the Lebanese Maronites could not secure the liberation of all Lebanon by virtue of the Muslim alliance with the Syrian regime, they were at least successful in preserving a sector of Lebanon and some degree of independent political decision-making from complete hegemony and control by Syria or Israel, through maintaining a fairly united front.

1989-1990 saw the intra-Christian battles in the Christian controlled areas of Lebanon and the total collapse of independent political decision-making in Lebanon. The Taef agreement was brought about only after the balance of power on the ground resulted in a deadlock, leading to a large wave of Christian emigration from the country. Taef was largely rejected in the Christian community as a solution, but rather viewed as a means to create a forum for dialogue between the warring factions, to arrive at a fair and just solution. It garnered, for the first time, an international endorsement and acknowledgement of Syria's occupation of Lebanon and specified a phased Syrian withdrawal from the Lebanese territories. However, the lack of political foresight and diplomatic skills in the implementation of this agreement as a means to start the process of withdrawal of foreign forces, and thus the liberation of the country, set the Maronites on a course of self destruction. Consequently Assad was able to use the division and dissention within Lebanon as an excuse not to implement his obligations and withdraw his forces from Lebanon.


The Effective Syrian Occupation of Lebanon - The War Legacy.  Through a series of treaties entered into by the government of Elias Hrawi in May 1991 and supplemented by Prime Minister Salim el Hoss during the Fall of 1999, Lebanese security, military, diplomatic and foreign policy has been ostensibly turned over to Syrian control and direction. Though the treaties call for "coordination" between the two governments, the reality is that Syria effectively occupies and controls Lebanon.  It appears that any "coordination" between the governments requires that Syrian interests be met first. If any trading space remains, then and only then are Lebanese interests considered or accommodated.

The Lebanese have been left out of the loop in the managing of their nation 's international affairs for a number of reasons.  First, because the Maronites remain divided.  Washington places a premium on being able to deal with a party that can produce results and Assad had shown himself to be a person on whom the Americans could rely for results.  The Israelis had a similar view of Assad, as a person who could deliver.  If he could deliver peace with two countries, his own as well as Lebanon, then he was twice as valuable to the Americans and Israelis. With the succession of Assad’s son, Bashar, the leadership of Syria appears to be less reliable. Second, there is no person within the Lebanese government, with whom the Americans deal, who can deliver results for the Americans.  American diplomats believe the problem is that there is no "go-to-guy". Therefore through a combination of abdication by Lebanese authority and usurpation by Syrian authority, the fate of Lebanon in the Middle East Peace process has been left in the hands of non-Lebanese.

This is the recent history of the Republic of Lebanon.  Maronite Christians, who played such an essential role in the creation of the modern state and a leadership role through much of its history, after years of struggle to maintain its power within the country, face the current reality:

1. A divided community represented by only a few of its elements, some of whom, for mere personal gain, have handed over an entire community to outside hegemony.

2.  A state in which no indigenous Lebanese constituency has sufficient credibility to manage the affairs of the Lebanese Republic in a way as to maintain internal stability and to make and keep international agreements.

3. One of the principle legacies of past Arab Israeli Wars, that being the creation of Palestinian Refugees, is most strongly felt by the Lebanese which is host to 342,121 refugees in a country of only 3.5 million resident Lebanese, or 1 Palestinian refugee for every 5 resident Lebanese citizens. Only Jordan hosts a higher number of refugees per capita, and no other country hosts as many Palestinian refugees in terms of density (per square kilometer).  In Lebanon the rate is 57/, while in Jordan, which admittedly hosts the greatest absolute number of refugees, the rate is only 13/sq. km.  (UNRWA 12/31/94)

A little publicized fact concerns Lebanese citizens as refugees within their own country. A study commissioned by the Maronite League of Lebanon reported in February 1998 that there were 70,735 households displaced; representing approximately 400,000 Lebanese citizens.

4.  Syria ultimately succeeded in destroying Lebanese independence and winning control of the Lebanese government.

5.  The Lebanese economy is subject to exploitation by neighboring Syria as a result of various treaties and protocols into which the government of Syria has entered with its proxies in control of the Lebanese government. The Lebanese labor markets are flush with low wage Syrian workers.  Syria maintains a customs office at the port of Beirut.  The infrastructure of the two states have, or are in the process of merging, in terms of power grids, fiber optic cables connecting telephone service and data service as well as water resources.  Travel between the two countries no longer requires a visa or a passport thus diminishing the significance of an international border between the two states for commerce as well as tourism purposes.




 Post Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.  Post September 11, the United States has a new resolve in dealing with foreign policy, especially the Middle East – war has become a viable option and tool of diplomacy. The US has adopted a style of diplomacy with more directness and less tact. Democracy has become an important objective in the Middle East. Consequently, the US is now into nation building, which it had avoided for so long.

There is intolerance to rogue states and for those who support terrorism. The world is weary of the Middle East conflict and the Bush Era is one that will see the US dictate the way, such as the “road map” for the Israeli-Palestinian problem.


New Significance of Lebanon to the Middle East and the United States.

It appears that the “Bush Doctrine” is to follow the road to democracy in the Middle East. Lebanon has taken a new importance because, historically, it is the first democracy in the region and has the infrastructure in place. Lebanon has an ideal mix of communities who have a long experience in accommodation and negotiation. In spite of the long years of conflict, which many have categorized as a “civil war,” Lebanon has not been “Balkanized.” Lebanon can rapidly be restored as a functioning republic.


The Dangers.

1.  The lack of participation by the Lebanese (Maronite, et al) leadership will lead to Syrian and Israeli issues being resolved at the expense of the Lebanese

a.  The Lebanese national leadership is so docile and passive to Syria that they are more “Syrian” than the Syrians. Therein lies the danger of relying on the current Lebanese government to negotiate independence.  An internationally supervised election, free of Syrian supervision and influence must be conducted before any honest negotiations can be conducted.


b.  Lebanon must negotiate its own interests. For Lebanon, there is a quid pro quo to the negotiation between giving Israel security on its northern border and the repatriation or resettlement of the Palestinian refugees currently in Lebanon.  However, for Syria, imposing control on Hezbollah military activities in southern Lebanon may be needed as a negotiating chip used to secure some Israeli concession to Syria, totally unrelated to the Lebanese national interest with regard to the refugee resettlement issue. Syria and Israel may both find common interest in granting to Syria the role of securing peace along the Lebanese-Israeli border.  Such a result would leave Lebanon with a permanent Syrian military presence, now sanctioned by the peace accords, as well as saddle Lebanon with hundreds of thousands of stateless Palestinian refugees for the foreseeable future.


2.  Failure to participate will allow the Syrians to broker Lebanese national interests.  They should not allow their fate to be negotiated by other parties.


3.  Israel has no interest in a Maronite role in Lebanon as long as they view Syria, as being able to deliver to them what Maronite leadership in Lebanon could not, namely security on its border.

4. Unless the Maronites stand to reclaim their freedom and right to self-determination, their future in Lebanon will remain bleak. 

5.It is a peace guaranteed by the Lebanese Government and the Lebanese Army, and no one else.  It is a peace freely and voluntarily entered into between Israel and Lebanon after the conditions of each side have been fully subjugated to the negotiation process.


Lebanese National Interests - Essential to the Success of the Peace Talks.

1.As the Maronite Patriarch in 1919 sensed that a new order was being created in which Lebanon must have an identity, now at the beginning of the 21st Century a new order is again being created in which an independent national Lebanese voice must be sounded. 

2.It is not in the national interest of Lebanon, nor in the interests of peace in the region, that the peace talks conclude leaving the Palestinian Refugees on Lebanese soil, being dispossessed and with no stake in the peace:  they will fight to break it;       

3.It is not in the national interest of Lebanon, nor in the interests of peace in the region, that either Syria or Israel or both maintain spheres of economic or security hegemony over Lebanon: the repression and poverty that such a policy would bring would radicalize the Lebanese population, making it ripe for fundamentalism or some other radical ideology to take root and destabilize any peace that could be agreed upon;

4.It is not in the national interests of Lebanon, nor in the interests of peace in the region that a significant portion of the Lebanese body politic be dispossessed of its rightful place in the life of the nation: it would make of Lebanon the weak link in the chain of peace thus weakening the entire regime of peace that is attempting to be born in the region.

The United States cannot rely upon Syria to serve as the Lebanese proxy and give expression to these interests, since they are not the interests of Syria. Only Lebanon can make the case for itself. Without Lebanon, no agreement between Israel and Syria will prove durable.


Maronite Unity - Gathering of the Lebanese Nation. The Maronites should unite behind the  free independent voice of the Maronite Patriarch in his articulation of these national interests and bring their Lebanese brethren into the ranks behind these national interests.  The old suspicions purveyed against the Maronites that they were not sufficiently ardent or loyal to the Arab cause against the National Enemy, Israel, has become passé; at a time when Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel; when Israeli commercial interests have representatives in Riyadh Saudi Arabia and in the Emirates; when Yasir Arafat embraces Israeli Prime Ministers and calls them his brothers; and when Hafez al Assad is discussed in the media as contemplating addressing the Knesseth in support of an Israeli Ç Syrian peace treaty. The taboo is lifted. 

It is time for the Maronites, the traditional keepers of the Lebanese national flame, to come out of their long sleep, chastened by the bitter lessons that they have learned from placing reliance on any power other than the power derived from the voluntary consent freely given by their fellow countrymen, gather the Lebanese nation behind, not just Maronite interests, but behind Lebanese national interests.


The Maronite Expansion in the World. At the heart of the solution is the gathering support of the Maronite expansion in the world. There are more than three times the number of Maronites in the rest of the world than there are Lebanese in Lebanon. The recent International Maronite Congress and the Patriarchal Assembly are heartening signs of the stirring of the Maronite Church worldwide.


Lebanese Unity – the Key to Peace. After reaching out across the barriers artificially placed between our people by years of bitter war and recriminations, the Maronites will have to unite with  fellow Lebanese to make the case to the Americans who are driving the peace talks to conclusion, that no agreement that they can cobble together which ignores or subordinates Lebanese National Interests will long last.  There can be no peace for Israel or Syria sharing a common border with a weakened and subjugated Lebanon.  The enemies of peace will attack it from its weakest point, Lebanon, and the war will continue. 

For there to be peace, the consequences of war must be addressed and reconciled.  The Arab - Israeli wars produced occupation of Arab land and dispossession among Arab populations.  Restoring the land to the Arabs without restoring the Arabs to the land is not the stuff of which durable lasting peace is built.

During the Arab - Israeli Wars, Lebanon has served as a pressure relief valve where the warring parties could maintain warfare against each other through surrogate forces in a proxy war zone.  It has served as a dumping ground for Israelis to expatriate undesirables from Israel and the Occupied Territories.  It has served as an economic iron lung by which the Syrian leadership could survive in the face of the loss of its communist patrons in the Soviet Union.

As the region moves from an era of military confrontation to one of economic competition, a successful transition is made less likely if the consequences of the war on Lebanon and the enabling use of Lebanon by the parties to prosecute the military confrontation between them is not reconciled and dismantled.  Should a peace be concluded that does not address this consequence of the war, then the continuing availability of Lebanon as a place where the parties may revert back to military confrontation will eventually cause whatever is negotiated to fail.

In the final analysis, Lebanon can only exist if the Lebanese   abandon the traditional feudal type associations and allegiances; this is the only way to create a truly united Lebanon. The assumption of the label "Lebanese" (Loubnani), from the heart, the mind and the soul, , represents the only salvation for Lebanon as a free and sovereign nation, fully recognized in the community of nations, respected by others for the loyalty and allegiance of its people to a “nation”, rather than to a politicized sect or religious label which has proved to be divisive. It is now time to speak of unity with a capital "U". Without the unification of each and every group under its own label, and then the abandonment of the political mantle in favor of a national mantle, the future will be bleak. Though it may seem to be heresy, the Lebanese must all assume the mantle of nationhood and reach out together in the spirit of trust and understanding in order to assure a Lebanon for tomorrow: stronger, tolerant, and free.





  It is a basic premise of any political strategy of a demographic minority that "United we stand, divided we fall". While it would appear evident that Lebanon has survived as a country to this point, there yet remains the existential struggle over the identity of the country. With Maronite Christian influence essentially repressed and silenced in Lebanon, the interests of Syria in Lebanon will take precedence over the age old values of freedom, tolerance and independence, dear to the hearts of Maronites, and indeed, to all Lebanese. Though the Syrians maintain a brutal grip on this indigenous Lebanese leadership, the path yet remains open for the constructive engagement of the Maronite Patriarchy. In its secular role, it is one of the last uncorrupted symbols of Lebanese national unity. The Patriarch's voice cannot be silenced or repressed and his consent is necessary to the integrity and credibility of any negotiated agreement that affects Lebanon.

The time is ripe with the conclusion of the Peace Talks at hand, for Lebanese National interests to reassert themselves.  No other Lebanese constituency can fill the vacuum in this area: it is the role of the Christian political forces to assume the leadership. It must unite all the interests of all the constituencies in Lebanon, and create the Lebanese identity. As Syria has now moved into position to make peace with Israel in an irreversible way, Lebanon is freed to pursue its interests without fear of Syrian reprisal or resort to military means.  There is an immediate need, a case for which can be made with the American negotiators, for this reassertion of traditional power in Lebanon to play this essential role at this critical time.



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