The stated objectives of the Syrian intervention in Lebanon

publisher: المرجة.نت

AUTHOR: موسى سليمان موسى

Publishing date: 2017-08-06


First and foremost, the priority is to halt the war and establish peace in Lebanon.

Amidst the clashes between Palestinian and Lebanese forces, Syria’s political intervention manifested through delegations, killings, kidnappings, and assassinations that continued to plague the Lebanese arena.

Arab and European nations also acknowledged the situation, yet they struggled to put an end to these acts of violence. Despite widespread calls for the cessation of bloodshed and the attainment of a prevailing peace among Lebanon and its various sects, this objective remained elusive.

The Syrian leadership perceived a deteriorating situation, prompting them to take action both in the media and on the ground to address the crisis. During his time as the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdel Halim Khaddam, while in Kuwait, expressed the following:

“Our efforts in Lebanon revolve around facilitating dialogue among Lebanese factions to resolve the crisis. We will not allow Lebanon to be divided. Lebanon was once part of Syria, and we will not tolerate any genuine attempts to partition it. Efforts to Arabize Lebanon only lead to further confusion and detract from establishing the desired solution that serves the interests of the Lebanese people.”

The statement made by the Syrian Foreign Minister highlights the objectives of Syrian action in Lebanon, which include the following:

  1. Assisting Lebanese parties in avoiding the crisis.
  2. Safeguarding the unity of Lebanon within its recognized international borders.
  3. Seeking a solution to the Lebanese crisis that serves the interests of Lebanon.

Regarding the term “Arabization attempts,” the Foreign Minister referred to the efforts of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to address the Lebanese crisis within the framework of Arab countries. Syria rejected this approach because, in its view, the Lebanese crisis is an internal matter among Lebanese communities. From the beginning, Syria has been opposed to internationalizing the Lebanese crisis, recognizing the potential political implications of doing so and aiming to exert control over the crisis’s direction, whether towards escalation or resolution.

Furthermore, on April 1, 1976, the Syrian government issued a statement outlining the intentions behind the plan of events, which include the following:

  1. Diverting attention from and providing cover for the Sinai Agreement.
  2. Creating a new development in the region that attracts Arab interests and shifts the focus away from the primary conflict between the Arab nation and the Zionist enemy.
  3. Involving the Palestinian resistance in a distasteful internal Lebanese battle and submerging it in the events within Lebanon to hinder its ability to carry out its duties against the enemy, ultimately aiming to neutralize it completely.
  1. Impeding the progress of the Syrian Arab country in its national plan to confront the ongoing plots aimed at undermining the Arab nation.
  2. Fostering division among the Arab population in Lebanon, leading to internal fragmentation of the unity of the Lebanese nation and the establishment of sectarian-based entities. This aligns with the overall policy of the racist Zionist enemy, whose objective is to dismantle the Arab nation and annihilate its elements of Arab nationalism (1).

While the fifth provision of the Syrian government’s statement aligns with the remarks made by Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdel Halim Khaddam, at the time, the remaining provisions shed light on Syria’s distinctive role, among its neighboring countries, in upholding the Arab nationalist stance and steadfastness against Israel’s comprehensive plans to resolve the Arab cause, including the central Palestinian issue, despite the opposing party’s disbelief in such a role. Instead, it contends that Syria plays a primary role in escalating these actions, intending to shift its conflict with Israel to Lebanon following the separation of forces agreement between Syria and Israel on the Syrian Golan front.

The Syrian statement identifies the following as the planners of the events in Lebanon:

  1. Israel.
  2. The Egyptian regime, led by Anwar Sadat at the time.
  3. Israel’s allies, both inside and outside Lebanon.

Furthermore, the decision to establish a special commando organization called the Thunderbolt was made during the 1966 conference of the Arab Socialist Baath Party. This organization, led by Zuhair Mohsen, a Palestinian officer in the Syrian army, was formed in response to the Fatah movement’s decision to independently monitor and direct Palestinian military operations despite Syrian support. The Arabs’ setbacks and defeats were attributed to their weakness, leading to a sense of Arab responsibility for the inability to thwart the Israeli and foreign plan to establish an Israeli entity in Palestine in 1948. Additionally, the consequences of the tripartite aggression against Egypt and the failure of attempts at Arab unity played a role in the adoption of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement (Fatah) in 1956, led by Yasser Arafat, Salah Khalaf, and Khalil Minister, as an independent decision-making entity financially supported by Arab countries. The Arab National Movement, led by George Habash at the time and established in 1948, also transitioned from relying on Arab support to embracing Marxist ideology as an approach and practice due to the Arabs’ failure to achieve unity among Arab countries. This led Palestinians to feel that they were solely responsible for their own achievements, particularly in terms of independence, while still seeking assistance and cooperation from Arab countries to utilize their territories for the liberation of Palestine without hindrance.

As a result of the war operations initiated by neighboring Arab countries starting in 1968, those countries became targets of retaliatory Israeli raids. Fearing such raids, campaigns were launched to control guerrilla actions in order to prevent further Israeli attacks. The Palestinian cause gained significant attention from Arab governments, leading these countries to compete in attracting Palestinian organizations and exerting influence over them. In some cases, alternative organizations were established to gain control over those not aligned with existing governments (2).

Following the events of September in Jordan in 1970, known as Black September, Palestinian organizations lost their major stronghold. Consequently, they shifted their focus towards Lebanon. However, the spirit of Arab unity that emerged during the October 1973 war, when Arabs believed they could unite against Israel, quickly faded after the disengagement agreement between Egyptian and Israeli forces. This was followed by Syrian forces, peace talks, and the Camp David Agreement.

The implications of these developments include:

  1. The impossibility of launching a war or any attack on Israel from Egyptian and Syrian territories.
  2. Egypt, as the largest Arab power, exiting the confrontation after reaching agreements with Israel.
  3. The search for a potential arena to launch military operations against Israel.
  4. Syria’s efforts to undermine individual Arab agreements with Israel.

The Lebanese territory became an alternative arena for various reasons:

  1. It was not occupied by Israel, unlike other neighboring territories.
  2. There was no Lebanese-Israeli agreement in place to prevent attacks from Lebanese territory.
  3. The presence of armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon was significant.
  4. Palestinian armed organizations enjoyed freedom of movement in Lebanon and had the right, according to the Cairo Agreement of 1969, to carry out operations against Israel from Lebanese territory (3).

As a result, the interests of Palestinian organizations and the Syrian government aligned, despite their differences, as they both opposed the Egyptian-Israeli rapprochement. They actively worked against the agreement and began forming a joint Palestinian-Syrian defense against Israel from Lebanese territory. This sent a clear message to Israel and Egypt that unilateral peace and reconciliation processes cannot proceed without their involvement. Any reconciliation that excludes the Palestinian cause, which is at the heart of the conflict, cannot be achieved. Therefore, any reconciliation efforts should prioritize the inclusion of the Palestinians above all others.