Friday, April 20, 2012


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Lebanon, which used to be called “Switzerland of the East”, was devastated by a civil war which started on April 1, 175 and lasted for 16 years and 7 months. The impacts of this war are still present until these days.

In my paper, I’ll show that, in addition to Lebanese groups which were involved in the war, there were some external forces which played a major role in the Lebanese civil war. Every foreign group involved, had an agenda the Palestinians, Syrians and Israelis, not to mention the Americans whose troops were also sent in.

Before I start my proof, I would like to give a brief history of Lebanon prior to the civil war. Lebanon, which is multi-religious country, is mainly composed of Muslims and Christians. It’s one of the Arab countries, if not the only one, that has a relatively percentage of Christian population. It’s also considered to be the country of all Arabs where they could meet freely to exchange services and ideas, and communicate with the western world . However, the lack of national integrity, that most of the developing countries suffer from, including Lebanon, has cost this small country a huge price.

In 14, and after the end of French Mandate on Lebanon, the foundations of the state were set out in a National Covenant, which distributed the seats in the Chamber of Deputies on a ratio of 6 to 5 (6 for Christians and 5 for the Muslims). The Lebanese President is to be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shiite Muslim. The distribution of seats was based on the 1 census which had shown that Christians were 54% of the total population .


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However, by the early 170s, the religious distribution had shifted. The Christians now made up only 8% of the population; and the combined Sunni-Shiite-Druze population had shot up to 6% . This in fact, pushed Muslims to demand reforms; the Maronites wouldn’t accept. Since then, private religious armies started to emerge .

At the same time, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) troops, got forced out of Jordan, so they decided to head for Lebanon where Palestinian refugees were living in many camps, after the 148 and 167 Arab-Israeli wars .

By the mid 170s, the Palestinians had established a state within a state. The PLO mainly settled in west Beirut, the Lebanese capital, and in the south where they launched attacks and got engaged in a guerrilla war against the Israelis. The Palestinians weren’t just regular refugees or fighters. They acted in Lebanon if they own it, which made the Christian militias angry and frustrated at the same time .

On April 1, 175, Lebanese Christian Phalangist gunmen ambushed a bus in the suburb of Beirut, killing 7 of its mainly Palestinian passengers. The Phalangists claimed that Palestinians attacked a church in the same area few days before. This incident triggered heavy fighting between the Phalangists and Palestinian militants which later, evolved into a full scale war . So, when the civil war started, all the regions injustices, hatreds, tensions, and weaknesses had found a home in this fragile, fractious state, with its delicate Christian-Muslim balance, its weak central government and its impotent military.

In 176, the Syrian involvement in the war became clear, after the Syrian army joined the battlefield. Syria moved in at the invitation of the Christian Maronites to restore peace and also to curb the Palestinians .

Countries, which supported the Palestinians, were concerned about the Syrian intervention. For instance, Iraq, with its rival Ba’th ruling party, exploited this action to accuse Syria of betraying the Palestinian cause and cooperating with Israel .

The reasons for Syria’s involvement in Lebanon weren’t just to restore peace and stop the Palestinians. Syria, by its military intervention, was trying to prevent any side in the war from prevailing. Syria didn’t want Lebanon to fall under the control of groups and factions that might drag it into an undesired confrontation, and probably a full scale war with Israel . In addition to that, Iraqi Ba’thists, who opposed the Syrian version of Ba’thism, became active in Lebanon as early as the 160s. The breakout of the civil war, made the pro-Syrian Ba’thists in Lebanon weaker. It was necessary for Syrians to move in, in order to halt the activities of Iraqi Ba’thists, and restore the power to the pro-Syrian Ba’thists . On top of that, Syria considers Lebanon a major area of influence and a part of natural Syria that was detached from it by the colonial powers (France and Britain) .

At the same time, Palestinian militants staging raids on Israel from Lebanese territory drew punitive Israeli raids on Lebanon and a large scale Israeli invasion in 178. Israel’s target was those Palestinian militants using the south to launch their rockets and raids against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Israelis rolled in, pushed the Palestinians back, and after few months withdrew their troop after training, equipping and financing their own surrogate army of Christian militiamen .

Israel’s involvement in Lebanon wasn’t motivated mainly by the presence of Palestinian militants in Southern Lebanon, but also by the volume of Lebanon’s water resources (Litany River) and Syrias presence on the Lebanese soil, which could harm Israel’s interests in Lebanon .

The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 178 didn’t stop Palestinian guerrillas from attacking Israel. This led to a second invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 18. This time Israel went all the way up to the capital of Lebanon, Beirut. The invasion forced the PLO out of Lebanon. At this point, the main role of Palestinians in Lebanon was over .

Then, the assassination of the newly-elected Christian president, Bashir Gemayel in 18 - who was the head of Phalangists (Israel’s main ally in Lebanon) - pushed Israeli forces to occupy West Beirut. Few days later, the Phalangists revenged, by murdering Palestinians in the refugee camps of Shabra and Shatila in West Beirut.

The massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps, prompted the United Nation, to send a multinational peacekeeping force to Lebanon . This force was mainly composed of Americans, French and Italians. Its main role was to support the central Lebanese government and to restore peace in Lebanon. This multinational force didn’t stay long enough. It left Lebanon in the spring of 18, after 60 U.S. Marines and about 60 French soldiers were killed in suicide bomb attacks by Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian Shiite group .

Like Syria, the role of western countries in Lebanon wasn’t just to restore peace. For instance, the U.S. wanted to have the Shiites in Lebanon under control so their anti-Western fervor can be contained. A domination of Hezbollah guerillas in Lebanon for instance, might lead in future, to the creation of an Iran-like state on Lebanese soil, which implies more threat to U.S. interests in the region. In addition to that, U.S. wanted Syrian troops to get out of Lebanon, so it can bolster a Lebanese government sympathetic to Israel .

The withdrawal of most of Israeli troops from in Lebanon in 185, didn’t affect Israel’s involvement in the Lebanese war due to the following factors

1. Israel maintained its political and military contacts with Christian parties

. “Its policy of dialogue and deterrence vis-à-vis Syria”

. The creation of a security zone in Southern Lebanon, where the Israeli army kept a plastered occupation from 185 onwards .

In 18, The Lebanese National Assembly, met in Taif, Saudi Arabia, to find a solution to the Lebanese problem. It endorsed a Charter of National Reconciliation, which gave the Christians and the Muslims an equal number of seats in the National Assembly instead of the previous six to five ratio. The Lebanese civil war officially ended in 11 .

In conclusion, it’s clear that the causes of the Lebanese civil war aren’t purely internal in their origins. Foreign forces have played a major role in the conflict. Palestinian militants were directly involved in the incident, that triggered the war. They also, used Lebanon as a base to launch their attacks on Israel. Israel’s involvement was, by their political and military support for the Christian militants, by their invasions of Lebanon in 178 and 18. Syria played a key role in the civil war. Syrian troops moved into Lebanon at the beginning of the war in order to restore peace, put an end to the Palestinians’ actions, and to halt the activities of Iraqi Ba’thists. The U.S. got indirectly involved in Lebanon. Its involvement was by supporting Israel’s backing of Christian militants, in order to minimize the possibly of a creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Lebanon, similar to the one in Iran. Regardless of who was involved, the result of this civil war was tragic The destruction of a beautiful little country.

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