Lebanese civil war still relevant to regional conflicts

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Nearly 40 years after the war in Lebanon erupted, the effects of that time are still rippling across the modern-day Middle East.

Today, after a bit less than 40 years — a sufficient time period to draw a clear picture — we can say that the Ain el-Remmaneh bus massacre was the starting point of the Arab civil war. Lebanon represented the first stage of this war (in fact, it was the second stage after Jordan), which is still raging on several fronts. The winds of this war have blown in several Arab countries between Yemen and Libya, and the possibility of their explosion in Algeria and Tunisia remains open. Meanwhile, there are fears that the Egyptian borders will not remain untouched.

Is it necessary to recall that the war in Lebanon, on Lebanon and on the Palestinian resistance in the country broke out a year and a half after the October 1973 war, which some Arab leaders wished would be the last war with the Israeli enemy?

The Lebanese and Palestinian parties that went willingly into the bloody battlefield or were pushed into it had affiliations with different states, including Israel, many Arab countries and some eastern and Western countries. Each state had its own purposes and interests. The Lebanese people and their weak state, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with its complicated situation and the Palestinian people, paid the price of this war from their blood, their economy and from the souls of the youth, children and elderly. The Palestinian cause also bore the brunt of this war and was almost desecrated.

Worst of all was breaking the taboo of dealing with Israel. Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was the first to do this, and the repercussions of his decision affected the command of the PLO, which had the illusion, for a short while, that Sadat’s deal with the Israeli enemy might provide it with a better negotiation position.

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In Lebanon, we prefer to talk about the “Lebanese war” or the “war in and on Lebanon” and ignore the other parties, mainly the Palestinian one. We have assumed the position of victim, even after details of the secret relationship between some political forces in Lebanon and the Israeli enemy were revealed — a relationship built under the pretext of confronting the Palestinian weapons.

In the Arab region, we prefer to ignore a famous statement by Sadat and a Lebanese magazine issued in London in late 1975, which goes as follows, “You still haven’t seen anything in Lebanon. The war has just begun.”

On the sidelines of that war, which appeared to be a civil one at first, the first division — limited as it was — happened in the ranks of the Lebanese army (Maj. Saad Haddad defected from the army), while the Israeli enemy sponsored that division (1977) in the south. 

The authorities tried to hide this truth by closely monitoring the press. The division grew bigger a while later and constituted a Lebanese cover for the Israeli enemy. A year later, in March 1978, the Israeli army invaded south Lebanon up to the Litani River mouth in Qasimiyeh and stopped the Syrian-led Arab Deterrent Force from reaching the location that it was supposed to reach as per the deployment plan.

This is how Sadat continued his unilateral reconciliation efforts in compliance with the conditions of the occupier, while the Syrian-Iraqi war found in the Lebanese war a perfect setting under the unified partisan slogan.

Then came the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and a few months later, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (on Aug. 2, 1980), backed by Arab support and financing (from Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries), attacked Iran. This deprived Arabs (and the Palestinian cause) of their most powerful armies and of the huge support they got as a result of the Iranian revolution. The Lebanese wound still hadn’t mended, and the Palestinian resistance was already jumping between the two fighting Arab camps. The Israeli enemy was not confronted by a serious power when it invaded Lebanon, reaching its capital, Beirut, in early June 1982. Israel expelled the resistance and imposed a president who it had long been negotiating with in the occupied Palestinian territories. After that president was assassinated, the Sabra and Shatila Massacre was plotted to scare the Lebanese people and the remaining Palestinians in the country. The Israeli army had obliged the PLO and its leaders to vacate the country by sea toward remote exiles (Tunisia, Yemen and other countries).

The Iraqi-Iranian war persisted for eight long years, after which Hussein invaded Kuwait. Then, he was deterred, and the US troops invaded some Iraqi territories ([early] ... 1991). Wars broke out between Yemenis, between Algeria and Morocco over the desert, between Libya and Egypt, between Libya and Chad and between Libya and Tunisia. An open-ended civil war raged in Sudan and ended with the division of the country into two states. A reconciliation pact was signed between Egypt and the Israeli enemy, and then during the Gulf War, in which many Western countries participated under the US command, countless fruitless Israeli-Arab meetings were held in Rome.

During these meetings, the Oslo Accord between the Israeli enemy and the Palestinian Authority was unveiled. The accord provided for the return of self-government, and the Palestinian resistance lost its way to Palestine. A long and pricey resistance against the Israeli enemy was waged, and the army was finally expelled a quarter of a century after the outbreak of the civil war (on May 25, 2000). The US forces invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein’s regime (April 2003), and Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in February 2005. The Israeli enemy launched a war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, then the Arab regimes started to collapse (starting with Tunisia, then Egypt and Libya), and the attempt to blow up Syria internally through its border still continues until this day with an unknown ending.

It all started with the war on Lebanon, and the chapters of this series have kept unfolding ever since.

Israel has proved to be the strongest state and the most stable in a region whose inhabitants cannot find peace of mind. This calls for a new reading of the civil-Arab-international war in and upon Lebanon.

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Found in: sadat, palestine liberation organization, plo, october 1973 war, lebanon war, lebanon
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