Panel 1e. The fallout of the Syrian war on Lebanon

Chair: Daniel Meier

Lebanese Muslim Rivalries since May 2008: National vs Regional Polarisation
Nasser Kalawoun, Independent consultant

The showdown between Hizbullah and its allies in 8th March movement and their adversaries in the March 14th movement in the streets of Beirut and the Mountain eroded the political camouflage of the main camps – thus giving way to open Muslim sectarian strife. The complete neutrality of the Lebanese army and the Christian elite signalled the beginning of a process of open linkage between regional sectarian politics and the thinly dormant internal conflict; raging since former PM Rafiq Hariri’s assassination. Moreover, the withdrawal of Walid Jumblatt from inter Muslim strife has exposed Sunni-Shia rivalry as a race to win the street and grab, or preserve, power within a declining state. Therefore, instability, inherited or manufactured, represented a fight linking internal with regional and international, actors while using sectarian, religious, political and national institutions to achieve the dominance of one’s camp. This paper aims to survey the declared positions of the main protagonists since the Doha accord of 2008, and show that the Syrian internal conflict, raging since 2011, has undermined most the remaining layers of state sovereignty. Borders, national interest, loyalty to the state and its institutions faded while competing non state actors took liberty in crossing to Syria to achieve sectarian agendas. Moreover, analysis and interviews with former army officers, political fixers and local chiefs in hot spots of Tripoli, Sidon, Arsal & Beirut will shed light on mechanisms applied to launch battles or pacify the situation. The big question remains: can a winner translate any gains in reshaping the National Pact and state institutions to justify all sacrifices and investments allocated to this venture? Or the conflict will obliterate the state of Greater Lebanon as it reaches its first centenary?

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Securing Lebanon in times of crisis: The role of the Lebanese Army since 2011
Nayla Moussa, Arab Reform Initiative and CERI, SciencesPo Paris

This paper seeks to go back to the beginning of the Lebanese crisis since 2005 to explain the role of the Lebanese army since the eruption of the Syrian civil war (2011). When the Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon after the assassination of former Primer Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, none of the political and security actors were prepared. There was no consensus on a national defence strategy that would have defined the missions of each of the security institutions – and of Hizbullah. This created a very uncertain climate for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), forced to intervene on a “case-by-case” basis. After the beginning of the civil war in Syria, the Lebanese government declared that it would remain neutral. But the Syrian crisis has major consequences on the Lebanese security scene especially with the involvement of Hizbullah in favour of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The LAF has to manage the eruption of violence in different Lebanese areas such as Saida (South Lebanon), Ersal (close to the Syrian borders) or Tripoli (North Lebanon). This paper will analyse the army’s strategy (or lack of) in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis and its interaction with civilian authorities that are supposed to determine this strategy. It will also look at the different political actors’ assessment of the army’s interventions. It will finally scrutinize its relation with Hizbullah since 2011-2012.

The Syrian war and the crisis of political Sunnism in Tripoli, Lebanon
Tine Gade, University of Oslo and SciencesPo Paris

This paper analyses the rise of new populist leaderships in Tripoli, Lebanon, in the wake of the Syrian war. The Future current gained political control of Tripoli, a Sunni-majority city, in 2005, but, recently, Sunni poor from Tripoli have become uneasy with the Future current’s strong stance of support vis-à-vis the Lebanese army command. While Hizbullah fighters are allowed to cross to cross the Syrian borders freely, Sunni militants who return from Syria are arrested. Sunni activists and Sunni populist leaders have in recent years protested against what they see as the “exaggerations” in the army’s repressive measures against Sunni activists. A group of populist Sunni politicians close to, but independent of, Sa‘d Hariri, have taken the lead in a media campaign against the army leadership, and have gained large popularity. They are secular, but coordinate politically with Lebanese anti-Assad Salafi clerics. It may be asked whether populist Sunni politicians in Lebanon help let out some steam in the “Sunni street” and contain the influence of Salafism, or whether politicians’ attacks on the army command contribute to escalating the Sunni anger. How can the cohesion of the army be safeguarded, in a situation where most Sunni leaders are convinced that the army is under the influence of Hizbullah? And to what extent do Saudi-sponsored Salafis in Lebanon echo the kingdom’s support of the Lebanese army? By discussing the growing Sunni alienation vis-à-vis the Lebanese state, the paper analyses the competition between Sunni populists, “Future”, and Salafis, and between national, regional and transnational influences, in a highly strategic city in the Levant.

Patronizing a Proxy-War: Soldiers, Citizens and Zu’ama in Syria Street, Tripoli
Are Knudsen, Christian Michelsen Institute, Bergen, Norway

Tripoli is Lebanon’s second largest city and the most conflictual. The city has a history of communal conflict between the Sunni stronghold Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite quarter Jabal Mohsen. The conflict is the bloodiest in the country more than 250 killed during the past four years (2011–14). The Army’s 12th Brigade is deployed in the Syria Street, bordering the two neighbourhoods but has been unable to end this spatially limited conflict. To understand why, this paper uses a micro-conflict approach to examine the conflict history starting with Tripoli’s anti-statist heritage, leading to rampant poverty and entrenched patronage politics. Despite the huge Army deployment (rivalling that of Beirut), the Army finds itself in a complex conflict setting that is both historical, political and increasingly sectarian. The conflict also has a strong regional dimension, replicated in political blocs at either side of the national divide (“March 8” versus “March 14”). Because of its multi-layered nature, the Army cannot use brute force to quell it. The political nature of the conflict constrains the Army’s options, leaving it to monitor the conflict amidst claims of political bias. Rival intelligence agencies also manipulate the conflict at the expense of the hapless residents who see the Army not as the solution, but as part of the problem.

Possible politics after the Arab uprisings: The production of activist subjectivities in Lebanon
Fuad Musallam, London School of Economics

In this paper I investigate how, in Lebanon, the breakdown of the Arab uprisings altered the possible forms of political subjectivity for a younger generation of activists outside of traditional party-political networks. Based on fourteen months of participant-observant fieldwork with non-party political activists, carried out in 2013-2014, and oral historical and archival work on the previous years of political activism, I argue that activists’ self-fashioning as political subjects was wrought through the engagements with, and the ultimate failures of, the possibility of liberation – from sectarianism in Lebanon and dictatorship in Syria. I begin by discussing how the Arab uprisings’ foothold in Lebanon, the isqāṭ al-niẓām al-ṭāʾifī campaign (bring down the sectarian regime), though initially modestly successful, succumbed to infighting between different factions. With the demonstrations in Deraa in early 2011, isqāṭ divided between supporters of the Syrian people’s right to protest and supporters of the Syrian regime. In isqāṭ’s wake there continued to be confrontations between the pro- and anti-Syrian regime sides, now as opposing groups at protests and counter-protests. For anti-regime activists, this experience helped to crystallise a subjectivity framed around the triad independent | progressive | secular. This frame produces their responses to substantive social problems and the inequities of the Lebanese political system. It guides the associations, tactics, and targets of activist political engagements. It also opens political space for these activists apart from those with whom, in the aftermath of the responses to the Syrian uprising, it is clear they can no longer work.

Multilayered Dependency – Understanding the Transnational Dimension of Lebanese Clientelism
Sina Birkholz, Free University Berlin

This paper asks how external actors and resources have been embedded in clientelist networks in Lebanon’s post-Ta’ef order and after the Cedar Revolution. Clientelism has been extensively studied in its in relationship to sectarianism, consociationalism, to political mobilization and identification, to processes of democratisation and development. At the same time, there is a common understanding as to Lebanon’s remarkable permeability and vulnerability to external influences. And while both clientelism and external dependency are seen as crucial characteristics of Lebanese politics, they are mostly analysed in isolation of each other. While it has been recognized that the affiliation with external “patrons” constitutes a material and symbolic resource in internal struggles (Zahar 2012; Baumann 2012), the bulk of recent research mentions these dimensions of clientelism only in passing. Hamzeh (2001) is one of the few to emphasize the importance of regional and Western powers in his analysis of clientelism. Based on a review of existing literature and preliminary results from fieldwork in Beirut, this paper opens up the following questions: How are external actors and resources implicated in clientelist networks? How do external actors react to clientelist practices? What effect did the critical junctures of 1989 and 2005 have? Has the role of external material and symbolic resources changed with the rise of a new type of patron, the “new contractor bourgeoisie” (Baumann 2012)? On a conceptual level, how do we adjust the criteria for defining clientelism (such as reciprocity, asymmetry, direct-ness) to reflect the reality of multi-level clientelism?

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