Clovis Maksoud Describes "Lebanon at the Crossroads"

By Hanley, Delinda C. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, May/June 2005 | Go to article overview

Clovis Maksoud Describes "Lebanon at the Crossroads"


Hanley, Delinda C., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


Upon his return to Washington, DC from Beirut, Ambassador Clovis Maksoud spoke to a full house at the Palestine Center on March 17. He described the healthy but still unstable situation in Lebanon following the Feb. 14, 2005 assassination of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Ambassador Maksoud was optimistic: "People are animated and emboldened with a new level of spontaneity."

Ambassador Maksoud, director of the Center for the Global South at American University, where he is a professor of international relations, and former Arab League ambassador to the U.S. and U.N., characterized the situation as complex rather than chaotic. The problems that caused Lebanon's civil war remain suspended and unresolved, he warned. Lebanon's problems affect the region and is in turn affected by the complexity of the Arab world.

People on all sides of the Lebanese political spectrum desire the truth about alHariri's assassination, Maksoud said: "Who did it, why did they do it, and what were the instruments of doing it?" As the Lebanese searched for answers their resentment over the presence of Syria's army and intelligence forces soon boiled over, he explained. The Syrian presence was seen as "intrusive in the extent to which it corrodes the dignity of the Lebanese political establishment and lacks popular legitimacy," according to Maksoud.

The ambassador, himself a native of Lebanon, attributed part of Lebanese resentment toward the Syrian presence to the fact that Syrian intelligence officers have tended to inflict a level of humiliation on the political elite of Lebanon. The activities of pro-Syrian "satellite politicians" were also divisive, Maksoud said, adding that Syria and Lebanon do not need "satellite politicians"-nor need they be enemies. It was this tense and vulnerable situation which made any incident combustible-especially ones of the dimension of extending the term of the Lebanese presidency, and Hariri's assassination.

However upsetting the behavior of the Syrian troops in Lebanon is, it is not fully accurate to say they are foreign, Maksoud argued. Rather, they are considered by many as "brother troops. …

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