August 7, 2007


Lebanon divided: Syrian influence across Lebanon's porous borders is intensifying the country's security and political crisis (Robert G Rabil, 7/08/2007, Open Democracy)

Lebanon's politics remain highly charged as the anniversary of the end of the war of July-August 2006 approaches and the campaign for the presidential election on 25 September 2007 gets underway. The conduct and outcome of the by-elections which took place on 5 August - one of which, in the majority-Christian Metn region, saw the narrow victory of the pro-Syrian Camille Khoury (an ally of opposition leader and presidential candidate Michel Aoun) over the anti-Damascus former president Amin Gemayel - is an example of the way that widespread tensions over the country's political direction and even its identity are dominating Lebanon's body-politic.

In this environment, there are fears that the presidential election could result in a constitutional crisis where the country could descend into civil strife or face two governments each claiming legitimacy. The realisation of either scenario would mean that Lebanon would effectively forfeit its status as a unitary state.

That status is, of course, a fiction based on repression of the majority and serves no good interest.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 7, 2007 10:19 AM

The history of Lebanon is a little more complicated than you always make out.

There's always been a difficulty in figuring out precisely what % of the population the Christians, Shia, and Sunni are b/c so much is at stake politically.

However, to the extent that the Shia are the majority, if they are (it's probably more accurate to say that there are more Shia than Christians or Sunni, but that Christians and Sunni together still outnumber the Shia) that is a very recent development and the product of a civil war that drove vast numbers of Christians out of the country.

When the political system now in place was developed I believe the Christians represented the majority.

Of course you are right in pointing out that the depths of the divisions effectively mean that there is no Lebanon.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 7, 2007 12:20 PM

Saddam likewise tried to create confusion about how many Shi'a there were.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2007 12:40 PM

Based on my recent email exchange with a USAT editor, the MSM seems more inclined to accept Saddam's "census" than the current UN and CIA estimates. Pathetic. And directly traceable to their Sunni stringers.

Posted by: ghostcat at August 7, 2007 1:27 PM

A quick internet check of Lebanon's demographics yielded these results:

A 1986 estimate by the United States Central Intelligence Agency of the confessional distribution of the population showed 27 percent Sunnis, 41 percent Shias, 7 percent Druzes, 16 percent Maronites, 5 percent Greek Orthodox, and 3 percent Greek Catholics. However, these data were, at best, informed estimates subject to revision.

Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%

Posted by: Brandon at August 7, 2007 6:34 PM

The same CIA claimed the Sunni Arabs were 40%+ of Iraq.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2007 8:21 PM

Brandon, you'll note too that 1986 was about a decade into the civil war. Lebanon's Christians had emigrating even before that, but from 1975 it was an exodus.

Surely oj you're not saying that the census that laid the basis for the 1943 constitution, allocating high offices and parliamentary seats, based on religion, was rigged? At that time the ratio was 6:5 X'n to Muslim for parliamentary seats. So Christians were in fact the majority, but agreed to share power.

Since the onset of the civil war, Christians have been more or less run out of the country, and the Shia and their patrons in Syria and Iran have had more than a little to do with that. But go ahead and reward the ethnic cleansures of a formerly majority Christian nation.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at August 8, 2007 12:52 AM

Of course it was rigged. And the settlement wasn't even based on a census, just used the old rigged one.

Posted by: oj at August 8, 2007 7:19 AM