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Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Published by Watser?
Tablet Civil War of 1958/Chehabism

Civil War of 1958

The National Pact was a fragile compromise however which was tested severely several times. In 1958 there was an armed struggle between supporters and opponents of President Camille Chamoun. The most important cause for this was Chamoun’s foreign policy. After the Egyptian president Nasser had nationalised the Suez Canal, Israel, France and Britain had attacked Egypt in 1956. Egypt and Syria called for breaking relations with France and Britain, which Chamoun refused. Prime-minister Abdallah al-Yafi and Minister Saeb Salam then resigned. This conflict flared up when Chamoun accepted the Eisenhower Doctrine on 16 March 1958, which promised military and financial support by the US to every country in the Middle East which requested it to oppose aggression from a country controlled by international communism (i.e. Syria and Egypt). The opposition accused Chamoun of breaking the National act. There was also a conflict about Chamoun’s plans to change the constitution so he could serve a second term.

On 8 May 1958 Nasib al-Matni, the owner of the opposition paper at-Tayer was murdered. The opposition called for a general strike in response, which soon resulted in fighting between the opposition and supporters of the government.3 The opposition was supported by some Maronite leaders, such as Suleiman Frangieh, Bechara al-Khoury and the patriarch. The Sunni leaders Saeb Salam, Abdallah al-Yafi and Rashid Karami and the Druze Kamal Jumblatt were also members of the opposition. Chamoun’s most powerful supporters were two parties whose followers were mainly Christian: the Kataeb and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), who were armed by the pro-Western Iraqi government of Nuri as-Said.4

In July the fighting ended when US marines invaded Lebanon (this was connected to the regional situation: the pro-Western government in Iraq had just been overthrown by a military regime). Army commander general Fuad Chehab, who had kept the army out of the fighting, was elected president the same month as he was acceptable to both sides.5


President Fuad Chehab tried to modernise the country and build a strong state. This policy was named after him (Chehabism) and continued by his successor Charles Helou. The method Chehab used to strengthen the state was the weakening of the opposition by supporting new leaders against traditional ones. After the elections of 1960 a large majority in parliament was behind him and he started his attempts to develop the countryside. He also tried to make the bureaucracy more representative by distributing civil service positions on a 50/50 basis. This policy did not work out however because the Muslim half was mostly occupied by Sunnis (the traditional ruling class under the Ottoman Empire). His other reforms as well were only partially successful, because of resistance by land owners and other traditional leaders.

One of the most significant side-effects of Chehabism was the important role of the intelligence branch of the army, the Deuxième Bureau. This Bureau started meddling in politics and trying to undermine the position of traditional leaders and set up rivals in their place. In the south, for instance, Imam Musa as-Sadr was supported against the Shi’ite traditional leaders. The Bureau also spied on and intimidated opponents.6

Chehabism ultimately failed because it was trying to modernise the state while working inside of the existing system. Important for the story about the Civil War is that Chehabism stimulated the rise of new forces and that the control over these new forces was lost when an anti-Chehabist was elected in 1970.


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curses (08-02-2008), Sophia (01-22-2011), Stormlight (08-01-2008)
By Watser? on 12-27-2010, 12:10 AM
News Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

Here's a story from the Lebanese press about one former member of Tawhid who was murdered Saturday in the Palestinian camp Ain al Hilweh, near Sidon.
Located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sidon, Ain al-Hilweh, like most other Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, does not fall under the control of the Lebanese government but under that of local Palestinian armed factions.

The camp saw normal activity Sunday morning, one day after the body of Ghandi Sahmarani, a member in the disbanded Jund al-Sham Islamist group was found.

Security sources said that Sahmarani, who is a Lebanese citizen wanted by Lebanese authorities, was found hand cuffed, leg cuffed and struck by a sharp device on the head. Sahmarani who hasn’t shown up for a long time, used to live in the Taamir neighborhood, which lies to the north of the camp, and which is considered a stronghold for Salafi Islamists. The area falls under the influence of Osbat al-Ansar, an Islamist group.

The fugitive was a member of Al-Tawhid al-Islami movement in the 1980’s, during which he participated in the fierce battles that broke out between the movement and the Syrian Army in Tripoli. He left Tripoli in 1987 and moved to Sidon where he joined a number of fundamentalist movements including Osbat al-Ansar and Jund al-Sham. After the disbandment of Jund al-Sham, Sahmarani joined Fatah al-Islam.

Sahmarani reportedly sheltered a number of Islamists who fled the northern Dinnieh district after taking part in the clashes that erupted between their comrades and the Lebanese Army in the district in 2000.

As a member of Jund al-Sham, the group fought the Lebanese Army several times. Armed clashes broke out between the two around Ain al-Hilweh in 2007, when the army was fighting Fatah al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
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By Watser? on 10-28-2014, 01:10 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

"The army has taken over Bab al-Tebbaneh," said the spokesman, adding that troops had captured 162 fighters since Friday.

The army urged other fighters still at large to turn themselves in.

The soldiers carried out house-to-house searches and made several weapons seizures.

A 72-year-old woman said she had never before been forced out of Bab al-Tebbaneh, "not even during the civil war. But this time, I had to flee my house, along with my five grandchildren. I am in charge of them, because their father is in jail", said Umm Mohammed Jaaburi. "The violence was unprecedented," she said.
Lebanon army back in control of Tripoli
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By Watser? on 10-30-2014, 02:36 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

No two people would disagree about the outcome of the most recent round of clashes in Tripoli. The army was able to defeat the gunmen. The outcome is unambiguous, at least in terms of appearances. The Lebanese army succeeded in driving the gunmen underground and removed all signs of their former existence. It set up checkpoints and carried out raids in areas that were forbidden to it in the past even if it cost the lives of 12 officers and soldiers, while there were no heavy casualties among the gunmen.
Jihadi groups in north Lebanon admit to defeat in battle against the army | Al Akhbar English
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