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Digital Archive International History Declassified

April 20, 1956

DEVELOPMENT OF LEBANON'S POLITICAL SITUATION

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    While the Lebanese government favors Iraq and the British, it faces pressure to support Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi policies, and an opposition front is expected to form in the coming weeks.
    "Development of Lebanon's Political Situation," April 20, 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 13, File 127/13, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176104
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127/13

April 20, 1956

Development of Lebanon's political situation

International and Arab foreign policy has become the focus of attention and the weapon of choice of the various warring factions in Lebanon.

As is well known, Lebanon's foreign policy has pursued, up until this last cabinet, the President of the Republic's political line favouring Iraq and friendship with the British.

However, thanks to Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi pressure on Lebanon, the ever-growing popular pressure in support of Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi policies, and the victory of the popular movement in Jordan, which culminated in the expulsion of the British commander Glubb, the Lebanese President of the Republic was compelled to change his own policies after making a secret agreement with the British. Abdullah al-Yafi’s cabinet thus emerged on the scene and included friends of the President, such as Messrs. al-Boustani, Salam, Hakim, and Lahoud, and published its programme of manifesto, which in general leaned more towards Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi policies. Statements and speeches by various members of this cabinet continuously reiterated this policy.

Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi political observers, and their supporters in Lebanon, did not trust this policy and considered it a scheme devised and written by the British in order to sedate public opinion and win it over. The aim is to gain time and prevent the expected collapse of the President of the Republic, Camille Chamoun's position in the aftermath of the fundamental change that took place in Jordan, and its transference in the means, policy, political parties, and methods, to Lebanon.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia delegated the Syrian Government to negotiate with Lebanon's Government, after King Hussein's visit to Damascus, to be sure in which direction Lebanon’s policies were going. A meeting took place in Damascus between the Syrian and Lebanese Governments, and the Syrian Government was very frank with its Lebanese counterpart by asking it to demonstrate through action whether what was stated was true, and urged it to sign a bilateral military agreement with it and approve the economic unity.

Although the Lebanese Government's answers were positive, it used elastic terms and bargained for more time. The Syrian Government felt the animosity and lack of clarity in the Lebanese position and was not satisfied with the outcome of the negotiations.

As a result, the Egyptian-Syrian-Saudi axis started to think once again about taking action to change Lebanon's leaders through propaganda and public pressure, and doing the necessary to ensure the success of its friends in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Personal secret contacts took place between President Shukri al-Kouatly and his close friend Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury, the former Lebanese President of the Republic.

President al-Kouatly was promised by his friend, President al-Khoury, to pursue pro-Egyptian-Saudi policies, and a search ensued for a Muslim leader capable of pursuing such a policy in conjunction with Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury. This resulted in the visit of Sami Beik al-Solh.

After these contacts and visits had taken place, instructions were given to all Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury's friends, from different areas and sects, designed to constitute the strong bases on which his political power in Lebanon would be rebuilt. Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury still maintains strong friendships with many powerful people.

In Beirut there are Messrs. Henri Pharaon, Omar Beik Beyhom, Sheikh Butros al-Khoury, and the al-Husami family; among the religious figures there is Patriarch al-Maouchi and many Maronite religious personalities; and in the north there is the strong and large Raad clan, as well as others.

In the South there are Messrs. Ahmad Beik al-As'ad, Rachad 'Azar, and the al-Maouchi caln; and in Mount Lebanon there is Messrs. Bahij Takieddin, Fouad al-Khoury the former minister, Philip Takla, the Maqsoud clan, Emir Majeed Arslan personally, and the Takieddin family.

In the Beqaa there is Sabri Beik Hamadeh, Ibrahim Haidar, and others; today, all these personalities are putting their power behind the opposition to the Lebanese Government.

Contacts among Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury's supporters have started in earnest to reactivate   his overt political activity and search for allies.

The next few weeks will witness the formation of an opposition front, which Sheikh Bechara al-Khoury will lead when he returns from his trip to Europe, which will work alongside the opposition.

Though the Lebanese Government senses this new threat, it is nevertheless pursuing its publicity campaign by holding popular festivals and issuing political statements to win public opinion over to its side. It is also trying, through personal contacts with leaders of opposition groups, to conclude agreements similar to those concluded with al-Boustani and Jumblatt. Sami al-Solh is playing a major role in this new movement, which is worrying the Government, especially Prime Minister al-Solh's participation in it.

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