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Digital Archive International History Declassified

1956

THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN LEBANON

This document was made possible with support from the Youmna and Tony Asseily

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    Account of the importance of the President to Lebanon's policies, the stages of Lebanon's foreign policy in the last two years, and a British visit to Cairo.
    "The Political Situation in Lebanon," 1956, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, Emir Farid Chehab Collection, GB165-0384, Box 14, File 26/14, Middle East Centre Archive, St Antony’s College, Oxford. https://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/document/176141
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26/14

The political situation in Lebanon

The role of the President of the Republic, Mr Camille Chamoun

Without a doubt, the President of the Republic is the main influence behind Lebanon’s policies, and his policies are affected, to a large extent, by his very good relations with the British and, by extension, with their friends in the Arab world, especially Iraq.

Once we realise that, it becomes easy for us to understand the reasons behind Lebanon's various political developments and relevant ministerial reshuffles.

Lebanon's foreign policy has passed through several stages in the past two years.

The first phase: The announcement of its friendship with Turkey, leader of the Baghdad Pact, and the exchange of visits between the two presidents of the republic and prime ministers, Messrs. Mandares and Sami al-Solh, and issuing the Ankara and Beirut declarations.

Lebanon was very much in favour of both a union with Turkey and accession to the Baghdad Pact, but was waiting to see Syria and Jordan's positions. Lebanon's policies, however, clashed with opposing trends, namely the failure of Hizb al-Shaab's policies in Syria. Syria’s leanings towards the Egyptian-Saudi bloc, and the escalation of popular resistance in Jordan against the Baghdad Pact. This escalation was due to the influence of the Palestinian refugees in the Jordanian cities and in those parts of Palestine that are under Jordanian rule; of Jordanian parties such as al-Baath, al-Watani, al-Tahrir al-Islami, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the leftist organisations; and Syria and Saudi Arabia's clout in Jordan.

This served to push Lebanon into a corner and make it hesitate as to whether it should preserve in its policy towards Turkey and Iraq. Sami al-Solh's cabinet was replaced by another, under the premiership of Rachid Karami, and the new cabinet announced Lebanon’s neutrality regarding the Egyptian and Iraqi blocs, and declared that its mission was to reconcile the two.

When Syria decided to align itself with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and concluded a military agreement with Egypt, and when Jordanian popular pressure against Glubb Pacha’s policies increased on King Hussein, and when, as a result of this, King Hussein was compelled to dismiss Glubb and his colleagues from the Army.

At that point Lebanon was placed in an embarrassing position, isolated from its Arab neighbours, and the resistance in the country to the Baghdad Pact and to its position of neutrality escalated. This opposition comprised Lebanese political parties, leftist institutions, and the Christian majority that was under the influence of France's position against the Pact and against a rapprochement with Turkey.

Under the weight of these pressures, the President of the Republic instructed Prime Minister Rachid Karami to change his policies for fear that incidents, similar to those in Jordan, might take place in Lebanon and lead to the removal of the President from power.

As a result, a disagreement arose between the two old friends, Nouri al-Said and Camille al-Chamoun; the former blamed the latter's hesitation in announcing Lebanon's accession to the Baghdad Pact as the reason behind Syria's dithering and as having encouraged Jordan's troubles. Efforts by Nouri al-Said and Hizb al-Nida' al-Qaoumi in support of Mr Hamid Franjieh's candidacy to the Lebanese presidency started in earnest through the intermediary of Mr Kazem al-Solh, Lebanon's Ambassador in Baghdad and their friends in Hizb al-Shaab in Syria.

Camille Chamoun and Deputy Emil Boustani felt the weight of these developments and waited for further developments in Britain's policies in the Arab countries, after their failure in Jordan, and for the appearance of a devastating opposition to the Baghdad Pact in every Arab country, including Lebanon.

British Foreign Secretary's visit to Cairo, and his discussions with the Revolutionary Government, led to the crystallisation of a new policy, namely:

To refrain from either imposing pressure on the Arab countries or compelling them to accede to the Baghdad Pact; and the suspension of the Pact.

To bring about an Arab political consensus, as stipulated by the Arab League, in a manner which would allow it to gradually replace bilateral military agreements and the Baghdad Pact.

The King of Jordan and the Government of Lebanon will act as intermediaries between Iraq and Egypt to dispel any disagreement between them and implement the new policy.

In order for Jordan and Lebanon to arrive at a successful outcome and avoid public pressures m Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon, King Hussein’s policies in Jordan and Camille Chamoun's in Lebanon took a new and different direction, and witnessed a heightened enthusiasm towards Egypt and Syria coupled with condemnations for the Baghdad Pact and the imperialists' tools.

Rachid Karami's cabinet was replaced by Abdullah al-Yafi's, and included political personalities capable of playing the new Arab political role. Emil Boustani, Mr Camille Chamoun’s political partner, joined the cabinet as did Mr Sa'eb Salam, a close friend of both King Saud and President Nasser.

The new cabinet issued a statement endorsing the new policy, which opposed the Baghdad Pact and all other foreign pacts, and supports consensus and coordination between the Arab countries.

This new policy, agreed upon by the friends of Iraq and the British and those of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, aims at enhancing the popularity and influence of the Lebanese President who was under threat of being removed from power. It also aims at preparing the Lebanese Government for its future role as intermediary between Iraq and the Arab countries, and at mitigating the anger of the Arab masses against it.

Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq are undoubtedly relieved by this new Lebanese policy, because it is endorsed by them and comes as a result of an agreement between Eden and Nasser.

This new policy in both Lebanon and Jordan is a brilliant manoeuvre designed to gain the trust of the political parties and the masses, and allow the plan to be carried out in a peaceful atmosphere.

These new political manoeuvres started unfolding at the popular level in Jordan soon after the expulsion of Glubb Pacha and his colleagues from the country. In Lebanon, popular rallies, such as the rally in the Fruit and Vegetable Market to which to which opposition leaders were invited, were held upon the invitation of the sellers' Unions in Beirut.

These manoeuvres succeeded due to the support of several parties, the Patriarch, leftist organisations, and the public majority, in favour of Mr al-Yafi's cabinet that became the first cabinet to earn wide public trust, as well as the trust of the President of the Republic and the policies guiding him.

Strong opposition to the Government among the Deputies will lessen under the pressure of the public's support for it.

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