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ATLANTIC TREATY ASSOCIATION

Volume 3 - Issue 12, December 2013

Lebanon In The Middle East: The Struggle For Democracy and Human Rights The Christians in Lebanon have been the most prominent group in the country’s ongoing fight for democracy for decades. With a historical presence dating back thousands of years, the spread of Christianity in Mount Lebanon has had a lasting impact on the political, cultural and social dynamic of the country. Today, Lebanon faces a myriad of challenges. With widespread regional instability, foreign meddling on the part of Syria and Iran, political consolidation by militant groups and spillover from the war in Syria, the future of Lebanon and its Christian population face a level of threat not previously known since Lebanon’s civil war. This month’s edition of Atlantic Voices analyzes

Lebanon’s Christian community takes to the streets to advocate for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon (Photo: Olivern Moody)

Contents:

the historical challenges faced by the Christian pop-

Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East: Challenges and Prospects

ulation in Lebanon and their role in the national and

Elsy Ouesis analyzes the emergence of new democratic systems following the Arab Spring and

regional struggle for democracy and equal rights. It

argues that these developments will lead to positive changes for the countries that will help

will examine how Lebanon’s challenges have devel-

shape the new trajectory of the Middle East and secure a safer position for Middle Eastern

oped over the last two decades to provide a clear

Christians and Lebanese Christians who pioneered the fight for democracy in Lebanon.

understanding of the different challenges facing the democratic movement in Lebanon along with the role played by the Christian community and what this means for the future of the country. - Alessandro Niglia Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 12

The Issue of Democracy and Independence in Lebanon Rudy Sassine analyzes the main challenges facing Lebanese democracy and argues that the biggest obstacles arise from the continued presence of non-state actors operating their military wings without legitimacy or cross-confessional approval. Rudy analyzes the current situation of Hezbollah to demonstrate the political obstruction this causes in democratic development. 1


The Christians in Lebanon and the Middle East: Challenges and Prospects By: Elsy Oueiss

I

Sunni, Shiite, Christian, and Druze populations. It

nterest in the Middle East has soared among

is indeed the only Middle Eastern country where

the world following the recent uprisings

Christians have set their sights high and retain con-

throughout the region, causing a widespread

siderable political power. The Lebanese Christians

fear that this will trigger broader instability. De-

have been pioneers in the fight for freedom and de-

spite these fears, the

mocracy, which led

emergence of new dem-

to the Arab Spring

ocratic systems follow-

first initiating itself

ing the Arab Spring

in Lebanon in 2005

would have positive con-

with the Cedar Rev-

sequences and shape the

olution,

new trajectory of this

come of a historic

region. As a very diverse

political

region when it comes to

throughout

religious

and

ethnic

Christians protesting in Jouniyeh, north of Beirut (Photo: Reuters)

groups, an important

the

out-

resistance thirty

years against the Syr-

ian occupation.

question for the future outlook of the region is to

Since the early days, the Church had a great

ask how the Arab Spring uprisings will affect Chris-

impact on the lives of Christians in Lebanon. Before

tian minorities throughout the region, with partic-

the French mandate (ended in 1943), the Church

ular emphasis on Lebanon and Syria due to their

was the primary religious and political institution

sizable Christian populations. By analyzing the Leb-

for Lebanese Christians. Patriarchs and clergymen

anese model, it is clear that Middle Eastern Chris-

formed the political voice of the community and

tians must adopt a new dynamic with moderate

played an important role in the independence and

Muslim political groups to navigate the challenges

creation of Greater Lebanon. After the mandate,

that lay ahead.

the political leadership shifted from the Patriarch to

Lebanon: The Country Where The "Arab

the Christian presidency and to the laity. However,

Spring" Started

the Church still had a very strong voice in the polit-

Just about four million people, Lebanon is the most diverse country in the Middle East, with Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

ical life of Lebanon and remained highly involved in internal politics and external relations. 2


The harsh practices of the Assad regime we are

did its best to turn Lebanon's Christians into sub-

witnessing today against the Syrian people may be

jects subordinate to him. The Lebanese Christians

astonishing for outsiders but definitely not for the

refused to be indebted to a regime that occupied

Lebanese Christians who have been oppressed, perse-

their country and rejected any kind of submission.

cuted, kidnapped, jailed and killed by the same Assad

Their utmost desire has always been a sovereign

regime for decades before the 2005 Cedars revolu-

state that protects all its citizens from religious,

tion.

sectarian or political discrimination. As a result of Christians in Lebanon have suffered from a Syr-

their rejection, the ruling pro-Syrian regime in

ian regime that tried since the

Lebanon launched a persecu-

time of Hafez al-Assad during the

tion and terror campaign

1960's to destroy this small country and the basis on which Lebanon was founded in order to

Christian parties succeeded in preparing the way to the 2005 Cedar revolution

weaken it. The smuggling of

against the Christian parties, starting with disbanding a major Christian party, the Lebanese Forces Party in 1994 and

armed Palestinian militants into Lebanon from Syria

falsely imprisoning its leader Dr. Samir Geagea for

in 1966 marked the beginning of Assad the father’s

more than 11 years in solitary confinement. The

policy of informally annexing Lebanon. As Minister of

judicial process was seriously flawed and politically

Defense at the time, Assad’s efforts were followed in

motivated as described by Human Rights groups

1969 by the Cairo Agreement which was imposed on

including Amnesty International. The waves of ille-

Lebanon, ceding control over large swaths of territory

gitimate arrests targeted Lebanese Forces Party

in Southern Lebanon to the command of Palestinian

Cadres and hundreds of its members. Many were

militants. Resulting from this influx of foreign fighters

killed during torture while in prison.

into Lebanese territory, relations eventually deterio-

However these Christian parties succeeded

rated into civil war from 1975-1990. The Taef Ac-

in preparing the way to the 2005 Cedars revolu-

cord meant to finish the Lebanese civil war was falsely

tion, thanks to Patriarch Sfeir for leading the

implemented in 1989 and resulted in a single-handed

Church and not only supporting the Christians in

Syrian control over Lebanon. Throughout this time,

their struggle but also for being the first line of de-

the Church protested Syrian interference in Lebanese

fense at a time when Christians leaders were falsely

politics as major Christian parties resisted Assad’s oc-

imprisoned or forced into exile by the pro-Syrian

cupation and didn’t hesitate to initiate military actions

government. Cardinal Sfeir had repeatedly protest-

to maintain their political privileges and protect their

ed the Syrian presence in Lebanon and its impact

cities.

on the freedom of political decisions of the Leba-

After 11 Years Of Persecution By The Pro-

nese state. He also criticized the election law and

Syrian Government, The Lebanese Forces Par-

spoke of the need for new politicians to implement

ty Is Still A Pioneer

the views and dreams of the people calling upon all

During the years of occupation, Assad’s regime

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

Lebanese to establish a society of freedom, justice,

3


and equality, based on dignity and equal oppor-

are supporting Assad because of his alleged commit-

tunity. The goals of the 2005 Cedars revolution

ment to minority rights, Assad is now using the Chris-

were all achieved: withdrawal of Syrian troops

tians as a public relations weapon to demonstrate to

from Lebanon, freedom of Dr. Samir Geagea

the West that he must remain in power in order to

(head of the Lebanese Forces Party who was falsely

protect the minorities in Lebanon and Syria.

imprisoned by the pro-Syrian government), re-

A Strong President of the Republic in May

placement of the pro-Syrian government and new

2014 Can Strengthen Christians in Lebanon Today, the greater concern resides with the

elections. Today, the Lebanese Forces Party is solid,

Presidency in Lebanon, the only Christian Presidency

organized and works hard to prepare a better fu-

in the Middle East. Today, the state’s institutions in

ture. It turned out to become a modern pioneer

Lebanon are almost paralyzed, and the constitutional

party in the Middle East after developing an inter-

entitlements are canceled until further Syrian notice.

nal manifesto in line with the Arab Spring’s pro-

Lebanon is in its hardest days, because armed parties

posed commitment to

like Hezbollah decided on behalf of the rest of the

freedom in Lebanon and

Lebanese population, and con-

the wider region. Its

trary to their will, to confis-

party leader Dr. Samir

cate the power of national de-

Geagea is still the main

cision making and use it as it

obstacle against Syrian/

suits them internally and ex-

Iranian interference in

ternally. The war against Israel in

Lebanon. His enemies any

2006 and the drone sent over

chance to liquidate him,

Israel a year ago were all uni-

whether falsely impris-

lateral decisions by Hezbollah

oning him from 1994

upon Iran’s instructions with-

didn’t

overlook

until 2005 or trying to

The Lebanese Forces Party became a modern pioneer party under

out even consulting the Leba-

assassinate him in April

the leadership of Dr. Samir Gaegea (Photo: Naharnet)

nese government. The crip-

2012 when shots were fired by 3 snipers at his res-

pling in government formation for over 7 months by

idence. The importance behind eliminating Geagea

Hezbollah, trying to once again impose their own for-

is for his significant role in the Lebanese national

mula for a new government amounts to a confiscation

and Christian scenes, for his steadfast resistance

of the constitutional powers of the Premier and the

against Syrian control over Lebanon and his ongo-

President, who are the only ones entrusted with the

ing commitment to prevent the Assad regime from

power to form a new government.

coercing the Lebanese Christians into the first line of defense against the Syrian rebels.

The upcoming presidential elections in May 2014 may also be crippled by the continued confisca-

Having recently tried to trick the West into

tion of the national decision. During the Syrian occu-

thinking that the Christians of Syria and Lebanon

pation, no proper presidential elections occurred.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

4


Political postings were always decided on by the ar-

Syria from below includes the majority of the

rangements and appointments of the Syrian regime in

people who are all afraid, oppressed, persecuted, fol-

an attempt to put the position of the Presidency on

lowed and targeted. Poor people who are in need and

the sidelines and out of the actual political life.

annoyed , revolted against the Assad regime and were

In Lebanon, to have a strong republic and a

never scarred or deterred from this choice, despite the fact that the Assad regime

strong Christian community, this requires a strong president that can ensure the principles of the Cedar Revolution, stabi-

The Assad regime is only 40 years old, while the Christians cohabitation with their surroundings dates back two thousand years

addressed them with arrests and extortion, then shooting, then with tanks, missiles and air raids , and last but not least

lize the judicial system and ensure a monopoly of armed forces in the hands of

with chemical weapons. So one cannot be surprised

the Lebanese army, hence the importance of the 2014

when the opposition takes up arms after continuous

elections. It is therefore vital to stick to the Lebanese

government repression.

constitution and have the Presidential elections hap-

The Syrian crisis is a matter of people’s right,

pen on time in order to liberate the decision making

but unfortunately it is mixed into all levels, whether

power in Lebanon from the grip of anti-democratic

internally or externally, despite the fact that the inter-

forces.

ests of the Syrian peoples largely overlap. Yet one

Christians In Syria: Between Democracy and

should discern between the democratic movement

Dictatorship

within Syria on the one hand versus the Assad dicta-

The Assad regime is only 40 years old, while

torship and extremists on the other. On the one hand,

the Christians cohabitation with their surroundings

the democratic movement within Syria that went

dates back two thousand years. The Syrian Christians

down to the streets during the first six months to pro-

among other Middle Eastern Christians are the roots

test peacefully, were shot and killed by the regime

of Christianity. Churches, monasteries and neighbor-

while the international community and the world

hoods where Syrian Christians live and maintain an

stood by to observe these massacres against children,

active presence have always been part of the fabric of

students and citizens.

the Middle East long before the rule of the Assad fam-

On the other hand one should correlate between the Assad regime and the extremists. Assad’s

ily. What is happening in Syria did not come out of

regime has always been a patron of fundamentalists

thin air. Syria under the umbrella of Assad shaped a

such as the Fatah al-Islam organization, whose mem-

deep schism between a high category composed of the

bers were brought from Syria to North Lebanon to

Assad family which has always been surrounded by the

fight the Lebanese army in 2008 leading to the Nahr

military, various segments of the security and intelli-

el Bared War. Other fundamentalist organization like

gence forces and the quintessential Baath Party. This

the Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) were

group has always been the primary apparatus of pow-

fully supported by the Syrian intelligence as many of

er in Syria, controlling its resources and people while

its members were jailed in Iraqi and Syrian prisons

maintaining its corrupt practices.

and were released to form ISIL. It also includes some

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

5


members who are still in contact with the regime in

Bin Walid in Homs as well as other historical land-

Syria, for instance, in Rakka city where the regime

marks demonstrate that extremists are against Mus-

controls the area from which oil is extracted, ISIL

lims and Christians alike.

encircled the city from all sides but allows the regime

Assad continues to present himself to the

to continue extracting oil from this region in return

Christians as the only alternative for religious extrem-

for money, while at the same time ISIL fights directly

ism in Syria. He associates all the opposition with ji-

against the rest of the opposition.

hadists and promoted the idea that removing his re-

Over a year ago, Syrian security Chief Ali

gime only means reinforcing Al-Qaeda. Christians

Mamlouk was charged with ex-Information Lebanese

should not follow Assad in his malignant game but

Minister Michel Samaha

rather should encourage the mod-

with forming a group to

erates among the Sunni majority

commit crimes and plot-

to reject both the regime and the

ting to assassinate politi-

extremists, in order to get rid of

cal and religious figures

all terrorists in Syria whether they

in Lebanon. In addition

are Assad loyalists or extremists

to this, two terrorist at-

like Al Nousrah, ISIL or al-

tacks last August in Trip-

Qaeda. Christians should not sup-

oli were proven to be

port oppressive dictator regimes

organized by the Syrian

which continue to thwart oppor-

regime which lead to the

tunities for development, pros-

death of 47 Lebanese citi-

Lebanese Christians at a funeral proceeding

zens and injured over 500.

(Photo: ourcog.org)

This demonstrates that Assad supports extrem-

perity and freedom, and generate extremism and fanaticism.

Christians In The Arab Spring

ists when it suits him and defends Christians and secu-

It is crystal clear that being Christian in the

lars when it is in his interest. This allegation to pro-

Middle is not easy, but contrary to some beliefs, the

tect Christians has fallen since the time the regime

future holds brighter horizons as the majority of Mus-

bombed churches and mosques in Lebanon and perse-

lims tend towards a moderate tone that is materializ-

cuted Lebanese Christians for years during the occu-

ing slowly in the countries of the Arab Spring.

pation. To ask for freedom, equality and justice from

Recent initiatives from the Egyptian govern-

the Assad regime, amounts to you being considered a

ment to accelerate the re-construction and renovation

fundamentalist regardless of ones religion.

of churches that were subject to attacks during the

The Christian identity is only a tool in the

uprisings gives a clear idea of the nature of the Egyp-

hands of the Assad regime that he is abusing. Christian

tian spring in general and the existing system which

cities in Syria pay the price during war like any other

will lead to a new constitution and parliamentary

cities. For instance, the destruction of the statue of

elections followed by presidential elections in the

Abu Alaa Maari and destruction of the shrine Khalid

coming months.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

6


The cohabitation in Lebanon between Christians

tice. Therefore it is better to seek to politicize all Chris-

and moderate Muslims is a model for the Arab Spring.

tians by making them a political force that is integrated

Both components were allies during the Cedar Revolu-

into their communities to promote democratic values

tion, working together to defend the sovereignty and

for the whole of society. Removing their need for inter-

independence of Lebanon, trying to safeguard free-

nal or external protection.

dom, democracy, equality and security for all Lebanese citizens and to preserve Lebanon’s distinct identity.

To live on the margins of revolutions results in being factored out of all equations in the aftermath. The

Egyptians and Syrians among other Middle East-

vital and future interests of Christians in this particular

ern people revolted for freedom, equality, pluralism

area, is not with autocrat Ephemeral regimes that have

and human rights. These Middle Eastern advocates for

put the Christians on the sidelines of events and socie-

democracy discovered a power they did not know they

ties, but rather with the democratic peoples who seek to

had; the power to mobilize revolutions, sustain leader-

build a long-lasting system based on freedom and equal

less movements, unite different groups under socio-

rights. The biggest mistake one can commit towards

economic banners and the power to bring together ordinary citizens without using ideology or partisanship but with the simple call for de-

Christians is to take them out of

The biggest mistake one can commit towards Christians is to take them out of their natural environment

mocracy. This people power has

their natural environment, from the Middle Eastern texture that has long embraced them at the moment when this texture

completely changed the landscape of the Middle East.

strongly needs them in its struggle for democracy and

The Arab Spring opened to the Arab people new mod-

freedom.

ern democratic horizons despite the extremists and

Western Distancing

jihadists that have tried to hijack it. These extremists

The United States has a checkered history in the

do not correlate in any way with the Arab Spring be-

region. However hated he was, President Bush

cause their ideological project was founded centuries

had injected himself into the Middle East debate. The

before the dawn of the Arab Spring, a project that does

struggle for Arab democracy had been internationalized.

not recognize neither Arabs nor spring.

A re-imagined relationship between the U.S. and the

Dynamic Citizenship For Christians

Arab world promised by Obama in his 2009 Cairo ad-

Middle Eastern Christians should choose the

dress was not delivered. The optimism over the Cairo

Arab Spring and participate as dynamic citizens who

speech quickly subsided and the US role as a systemic

can count on themselves to carry their community in-

guardian and guarantor of the global order faded away.

terests along with their partners in the struggle for de-

Washington didn’t do a lot to address the deficit of hu-

mocracy. A dynamic citizenship that goes beyond state

man and political rights across the region and continued

membership and political participation to encompass

to pursue stability at the expenses of democracy in the

social, cultural and economic rights. These rights,

Middle East.

based on democracy, are the ones that construct the

From the European side, Europe’s interest in this

civil society by promoting equality, pluralism and jus-

region and the high priority the European Union (EU)

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

7


places on establishing and maintaining a close and spe-

Europe, the considerable European/US involvement

cial relationship with its neighbors from the Mediter-

in economic development and democratization of

ranean and the Middle East lacks a common position

Middle Eastern countries and the economic interests

on a number of major prob-

of the West in this region - especially in

lems, and this reduces the po-

the field of energy resources - require

tential of their impact in the

neutralizing the threats coming from

region.

the region. From here, there is a clear

Assad read quite well the

need to have strong transatlantic coop-

Western mindset. When mas-

eration in order to craft effective poli-

sive revolutions occurred in

cies that benefit the Middle East and

Syria, he predictably pushed the

the international community.

Al-Qaeda

button

capacity to embrace this policy is

and

pointed the finger at the

T h e

Syrian protesters dance during a demon-

evident since the majority of the peo-

Islamists and Jihadists while stration against the regime (Source: Slate.com) ples who took to the streets during the Arab Spring remain moderate and promoting the protection of Christian minorities and secular groups for political investment, and very soon

democratic due to the fact that they revolted for free-

the Western publics bought in to Assad’s narrative

dom, democracy and development. But how many

and began to believe that removing Assad will only

revolutions are still needed in this region for the West

lead to reinforcing jihadists throughout the region.

to realize that stability cannot be pursued at the ex-

Yet, the indifference of the West granted the Assad

penses of democracy?

regime the ability to get away with the use of chemical weapons without any punitive military action by

About the author

their governments, allowing Assad to proceed with

Elsy Oueiss is a founding member of the Depart-

the massacres against Syrian citizens.

ment of Foreign Affairs in the Lebanese Forces Party

More Transatlantic Involvement Needed

and the head of Foreign Parties Sector in charge of

The Middle East remains the single most vola-

relations with International Parties. She holds a Mas-

tile region in the world today. It is crystal clear that

ters Degree in Civil Engineering and works as Project

fledgling democracies have a higher risk of backsliding

Manager at RELK&P. She is also a board member of

into dictatorships and that instability in the region can

the Lebanese Forces Engineers Association, a member

lead to religious extremism that may ignite a wider

in OEA and a member of the United States Alumni.

conflagration, sucking in neighbouring countries and

Her former Positions: LFYA (Lebanese Forces Youth

regional actors.

Association): Treasurer and founding member of the

A burning Middle East on the Mediterranean is definitely not in the interest of Europe or the US. The

International committee. Bibliography

demographic link reflected by the presence of an im-

*Political Islam, Citizenship, and Minorities: The Future of Arab

portant population from Middle Eastern countries in

Christians in the Islamic Middle East by Andrea Zaki Stephanous. * The Struggle for Middle East Democracy by Shadi Hamid.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

8


The Issue of Democracy and Independence in Lebanon The new status resulting from the Cedar Rev-

By: Rudy Sassine

R

olution in 2005 seems unsustainable in the longecent events in Lebanon have reinforced the belief that the same old problems may persist for another decade. As more assas-

term, especially if no tangible international diplomatic and political support is given to the proindependence March 14.

sinations and street clashes are deepening the confessional divide and widening the political divergence

Historically, the international community and

between the pro-intendance March 14 and the pro-

more particularly the West, have shown strong commitment for supporting the

Syrian March 8 coalitions, have reduced the chances for political consensus and have caused spillovers from the Syrian uprising that have proved catastrophic to the

Historically, the international community and more particularly the West, have shown strong commitment for supporting the independence of Lebanon

overall socio-economic order in

independence of Lebanon. That was particularly the case when

the

autonomous

“Christian” enclave of Mount Lebanon successfully engaged

Lebanon. Challenges in the form of further economic

the Vatican and later the French during Ottoman

pressure and deteriorating social conditions face the

rule, in a bid to ensure protection and repel any mili-

caretaker Mikati government, while the latter seems

tary and political interference from the outside. In

hapless in the face of multiple rifts within the cabinet.

the post-independence period, the Unites States went as far as sending its military in 1958 to prevent

The main challenge in Lebanon stem from the fact that non-state actors are still operating their military wings without legitimacy or cross-confessional approval. The case of Hezbollah, the Shiite Iranbacked militant group, best represents this challenge in Lebanon, as its use of military force to extract political ends was what brought the Lebanese balance of power into question. In other words, despite March 14’s track record of standing steadfast against Hezbollah’s intimidation, the gains of the 2005 Cedar revolution could be short-lived.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

incursions from Egypt and lend support to the regime. In 1982, a legion of multinational forces was dispatched to ensure that the central government retain control over its territory and pave the way for all foreign forces to withdraw. But support for Lebanon has also been the result of strong ties that the Christian community successfully built with Western countries; whereas their historically-rooted, inherited cultural and political course has imbued them with what has been called “an inherited feeling of existential insecurity.” The political posture the Christians

9


adopted and maintained throughout history has gener-

alliance with the “Catholic West”, namely France

ally favored strong pro-Western social economic rela-

and the Vatican, prevented the Ottomans from tak-

tionship. This has earned them a relatively autono-

ing steps into Lebanon by embedding a unique na-

mous Lebanon, and later paved the way for political

tional sentiment of perseverance among the Maro-

independence, but it nonetheless came at a high price.

nites, leading to Lebanon being the sole entity to en-

Rather than being a military invasion by a nearby

joy nearly four decades of autonomy in a hostile re-

country, the Christian community is challenged today

gion.

with a complicated set of socio-political problems.

Drawing on the relevance of this history in

Whatever the experience of foreign support for Leba-

modern times, the stakes today are even higher for

non, it was meant to preserve independence and pro-

the forces struggling to restore some degree of au-

vide security.

tonomy against Syrian and Iranian incursions. March

The Problem of Hezbollah

8, which consists primarily of Hezbollah and the

Today, the historic existential fear of the Lebanese Christian community toward the surrounding hostile Islamic environment has led some of the right-

Christian’s Free Patriotic Movement, continue unabated in their alliance with Iran and has shown no reluctance in supporting an embattled Assad in Syria.

wing thinkers to

More critical-

elaborate on ideolo-

ly, Hezbollah’s mili-

gies advocating a

tary involvement in

distinct

Syria has made it

national

identity for Leba-

Press briefing by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh

difficult for its lead-

non and attributing

Rasmussen (Photo: NATO)

ership to try to

to the Christians a

reach

Phoenician

ances-

entente with March

try. Such rationale

14 in order to pro-

dates back to old-

vide a certain de-

day autonomous

gree

Christian enclaves

Hezbollah issued its founding manifesto in 1985 (Source: Reuters)

a

of

political

political

normalcy in the coun-

in the Mount of Lebanon, before the Muslim popula-

try. Hezbollah’s military entanglement in Syria has

tion arrived, when the Maronite church played the

otherwise tarnished the stature of the Party of God as

leading role in forging social and cultural relations

a national resistance movement. Such support for the

with the Vatican. Later on, they successfully engaged

Syrian regime is most understood within the strategic

France to play a protective role when Ottoman power

landscape involving Iran, Syria and the Gulf coun-

was degraded and the Ottoman Empire began wit-

tries; however, Hezbollah has willingly thrown all its

nessing interference from the Europeans under the

muscle and credibility behind Assad in order to

guise of protecting minorities. The resulting political

preempt damaging consequences, and most im-

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

10


portantly, to preserve, or at least salvage, what remains

and international powers, his party has been the first

of the regional balance of power that exists between the

in Lebanon, and perhaps the Middle East, to reform

so called “resistance axis” and the other more lenient and

and institutionalize along democratic lines providing

docile Arab regimes.

promising young cadres opportunities to compete for

Despite this, experts who have studied Hezbollah from a comparative perspective find it unthinkable that the militant Shia group would be able to forgo violence

high-ranking positions. Aoun’s Support To Iranian – Syrian Axis To many in the Christian community, Aoun’s

and integrate completely into mainstream politics. Engaging Hezbollah in the hopes of building trust with its leadership and reassuring its constituency has

political posture contradicts the his-

The political structure of the Party of God shows that its military wing is organically linked to its political body.

toric pillars that have characterized Christian politics for decades. The unquestionable support to Hezbollah’s policy by Aoun and his reluc-

proved useless, even counter-

tance to heed western support for

productive at times. Attempts to do so have put March 14

Lebanon has made observers wonder if such a politi-

on the defensive, providing Hezbollah with a large margin

cal posture is based on genuine concerns. More im-

to maneuver and extract valuable concessions, gaining

portantly, accepting an explicit Iranian role in Leba-

leverage at critical junctures over the past 8 years.

non and consenting to Syrian security and military

The Lebanese Forces Party: Pioneers In Democra-

involvement, has been one of the reasons for Aoun’s

tization

loss of popular support among the Christian elec-

The political structure of the Party of God shows that its military wing is organically linked to its political

torate, since this has generated a great deal of questions about Aoun’s intentions and ultimate goals.

body, and in no way can the two be dissociated or dealt

As maintaining Western-Lebanese cultural and

with separately. This sharply contrasts Hezbollah from

economic ties is considered crucial to sustaining de-

the other Lebanese factions that participated in the civil

velopment and growth , the West should do more on

war, but thanks to the political settlement of the Taef

the diplomatic and political fronts to support the in-

Agreement, successfully turned into civil entities and

dependence agenda and preserve freedoms in what is

took full responsibility to conform to the terms of the

perhaps the only remaining liberal oasis in the region.

post-war settlement. Among those, stands the Lebanese

About the author

Forces, a party commanding large and seemingly growing

Rudy Sassine is an independent researcher with a track

support from the Christian community. Its leader, Samir

record of providing policy analysis on diverse public policy

Geagea, a political detainee who has been freed in the

and political issues. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts

wake of the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, is highly

in Political Sciences from the Lebanese University and has

credited for his brave stances and unwavering support for

been actively involved in the reform process in Lebanon,

democracy and freedoms in the country. Showing an ex-

consulting for a number of firms as well as working as a

emplary role in cultivating substantial ties with regional

full-time research analyst for others. He blogs at Kalimaforum.com.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 3, Issue 11

11


ATA Programs From December 9th-11th the 59th General Assembly took place in Brussels, Belgium. The event hosted a series of prominent speakers and scholars hosting discussions on the most important issues of the day. More information can be accessed here.

Atlantic Voices is the monthly publication of the Atlantic Treaty Association. It aims to inform the debate on key issues that affect the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its goals and its future. The work published in Atlantic Voices is written by young professionals and researchers. The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an international nongovernmental organization based in Brussels working to facilitate global networks and the sharing of knowledge on transatlantic cooperation and

On December 20th the Atlantic Council of Albania organized

security. By convening political, diplomatic and military leaders with

in Tirana a conference on “The ATA Role in the Mediterranean and

academics, media representatives and young professionals, the ATA promotes

the Middle East.” This event was

the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty: Democracy, Freedom,

an important occasion for recon-

Liberty, Peace, Security and Rule of Law. The ATA membership extends to 37

sidering the role of ATA and its

countries from North America to the Caucasus throughout Europe. In 1996,

national chapters in order to

the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) was created to specifially

face the new challenges in the

include to the successor generation in our work.

Mediterranean and Middle East. Mr. Fabrizio Luciolli, Vice presi-

Since 1954, the ATA has advanced the public’s knowledge and

dent of the ATA and Secretary General of the Italian Atlantic Com-

understanding of the importance of joint efforts to transatlantic security

mittee was one of the key note speakers.

through its international programs, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum, the Ukraine Dialogue and its Educational Platform.

From 19-21 December the Euro-Atlantic of Macedonia held

In 2011, the ATA adopted a new set of strategic goals that reflects the

a conference on “NATO Partnership Policy - Addressing Insecuri-

constantly evolving dynamics of international cooperation. These goals include:

ties and Creating Security” in Berovo. This conference was based

on a broad spectrum of activities such as lectures, workshops, trilateral student simulations as well as training for students on pro-

security issues.

ducing timely policy recommendations in crisis scenarios. Atlantic Voices is always seeking new material. If you are a young researcher, subject expert or professional and feel you have a valuable contribution to make to the debate, then please get in touch. We are looking for papers, essays, and book reviews on issues of importance to the NATO Alliance. For details of how to submit your work please see our website. Further enquiries can also be directed to the ATA Secretariat at the address listed below. Editors: Jason Wiseman and Alessandro Niglia Images should not be reproduced without permission from sources listed, and remain the sole property of those sources. Unless otherwise stated, all images are the property of NATO.

the establishment of new and competitive programs on international

the development of research initiatives and security-related events for its members.

the expansion of ATA’s international network of experts to countries in Northern Africa and Asia. The ATA is realizing these goals through new programs, more policy

activism and greater emphasis on joint research initiatives. These programs will also aid in the establishment of a network of international policy experts and professionals engaged in a dialogue with NATO.

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

This publication is co co--sponsored by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Atlantic Voices Vol 3. No. 12 (December 2013)  

Elsy Ouesis analyzes the emergence of new democratic systems following the Arab Spring and argues that these developments will lead to posit...

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