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Foreign Presence and Withdrawals | January, 1991 to December, 2005

Publication Date: October, 2014

Lebanon emerged from war a shattered country, with its economy, infrastructure, education system, and state institutions gutted, and its people broken. The newly adopted Ta’if Agreement did not much to resolve deep-seated political problems. Lebanon’s sovereignty over its territory was deeply curtailed, with Israel and its proxy militia controlling South Lebanon, and Syria, with 30,000 troops and an undetermined number of security services, controlling much of the rest.

A new government was formed, which included former warlords such as Walid Jumblatt (head of the PSP), Nabih Berri (head of Amal), and members of government from the LF, the Marada, and others. In March 1991 a ministerial declaration called on all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias to disarm, with the exception of Hezbollah (and de facto the SLA since the government had no control over South Lebanon). Parliament issued an amnesty law on August 26, 1991, absolving all politically motivated crimes perpetrated before March 28, 1991, with the exception of assassinations of political and religious leaders and diplomats. A number of militia members were reinstated into state institutions.

Despite this apparent return to some form of normalcy, the 15 years that ensued were marked by fresh rounds of violence, most notably by the ongoing conflict in South Lebanon, punctuated by two Israeli attacks in 1993 and 1996. Human rights violations continued as scores of Lebanese and Palestinians were arrested or abducted by Syrian forces operating in Lebanon or by Lebanese military agencies, and they were reportedly transferred to Syria. The use of torture against political detainees was common in Syrian detention centers in Lebanon as well as in Lebanese prisons. As for the Israeli forces in South Lebanon, they or the SLA continued to abduct and arbitrarily arrest or detain people and torture them in their detention centers. Moreover, targeted assassinations and car bombs continued during the post-war years, with a marked increase in 2004 and 2005.

Israeli forces withdrew in May 2000, and the SLA disintegrated. Syrian forces left in April 2005. These major events marked a new chapter in Lebanon’s contemporary history. The increasing demand that Syrian troops leave Lebanon gained momentum in the years following the Israeli withdrawal. Internationally, in September 2004, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1559, which called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon. That same month, 29 Lebanese parliamentarians voted against a constitutional amendment that was designed to extend the mandate of President Emile Lahoud, a staunch ally of Syria.

The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri sparked a series of mass demonstrations calling for the truth about his assassination and the withdrawal of the Syrian Army. These were met by counter-demonstrations organized by Syria’s allies in Lebanon. This led to the resignation of the government, widely seen as favoring Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon, and on April 26, 2005, the remaining 14,000 Syrian troops and the Syrian intelligence services left the country.