In October 1989, the Lebanese National Assembly met in Taif, Saudi Arabia to ratify a "National Reconciliation Accord" under Syrian and Saudi tutelage. The accords were designed to end the Lebanese civil war that had been raging for decades, to reassert Lebanese authority in South Lebanon, which was then occupied by Israel, and to legitimize and perpetuate the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
Lebanon was originally created as a separate entity to allow for the rights and special culture of the Maronite Christians, who were then a majority in Lebanon. When it became independent, Lebanon adopted a constitution that balanced between the Christian Majority, and large Sunni Muslim, Shi'a Muslim and Druze minorities. However, the demographic balance soon began to shift in favor of the Muslims. The ties binding clans and religious religious affiliations proved to be much stronger than national allegiance, and Lebanon began a long period of violence in the fifties of the last century. The internecine warfare was exploited and widened by the PLO, who came to Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan in September 1970, by Israel and by Syria. The latter was allowed to enter Lebanon in force in 1976, with the tacit agreement of Israel and the USA, in order to restore order. Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Shi'ite led Hizbollah movement, financed and supplied by Iran, gained political and military power, and became the virtual rulers of any areas of southern Lebanon not controlled by Israel. The Christian Phalanges and the Druze Al-Amal movement maintained their own armed militias, and inter-group rivalry turned Beirut into a modern day anarchic wild west. Assassinations, car bombs and kidnapping became a way of life. Normal life became impossible. The Multi-lateral force sent by the US and others to keep the peace was targeted by the Muslim militias and withdrew after a few successful suicide attacks. The Syrian army became entrenched in the Beka valley in Eastern Lebanon, and maintained a presence in other areas as well, gradually imposing a modicum of order.
The Taif accords transferred power away from the Lebanese presidency, traditionally given to Maronites, and invested it in a cabinet divided equally between Muslims and Christians. The Taif accords also declared the intention of extending Lebanese government sovereignty over southern Lebanon. Though Israel eventually withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, armed Hizbollah militia remained in control of the area, apparently maintaining a tacit arrangement whereby Hizbollah could harass Israel within limits, but not so seriously that it would provoke a massive retaliation.
The accords stipulated that militias would be disbanded, and mandated redeployment of Syrian forces inside Lebanon, and the establishment of a joint Syrian-Lebanese mechanism for making future decisions about the positioning and functions of the Syrian troops. To date, the Syrians have made the decisions in this regard. The accords included a one-sided Syria-Lebanese security agreement and calls for taking steps to bring about a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanese territory.
The accord was rejected by the Lebanese Prime Minister and Christian leader Michel Aoun. Critics of the accord consider that it is illegal because when it was ratified, Aoun had dissolved the parliament. The accord was accepted by some other Maronite leaders. While Syria voiced support for the accord, Druze militia leaders backed by Syria expressed disappointment over the accord which they considered superficial and overly favorable to the Sunni Muslim minority. The accord was never fully implemented, and lately even those who once favored it have voiced opposition. One Lebanese critic wrote:
Due to the Taef agreement, Syria has been allowed to get away with pretty much whatever it likes in Lebanon. Considerable evidence exists on the influence it really yields there. One case in point is the fact that Syria has only really partially implemented the agreement: Until recently provisions requiring Syrian redeployment to the Bekaa Valley have been ignored, while on the other hand wide-ranging initiatives have been taken to bolster the so-called "privileged relationship" between the two countries. Realistically, since its inception, Taef has been used only to swallow Lebanon through a succession of "bilateral agreements" designed to lead toward the gradual merger of Lebanon with Syria at all levels.
It must be made clear that the Taef accord was a conspiracy against Lebanon and its people. Those who are calling for the implementation of the Taef accord are committing a very serious crime, the crime of treason. By supporting the Taef agreement, they are in fact supporting Syria’s occupation of Lebanon. It is time to rip up the Taef accord and start a new chapter.
Though most of the reform elements of this plan were never implemented, and Lebanese forces did not disarm the Hizbollah or other militias, the legitimation of Syrian occupation was secured by a series of bilateral agreements, based on the Taef accords, beginning in 1991.
The translated excerpts below are those that relate to security questions and the Syrian occupation of Lebanon.
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THE TAIF ACCORDS OCTOBER 22 1989
PART II: IMPOSING THE SOVEREIGNTY OF THE LEBANESE GOVERNMENT OVER ALL LEBANESE LAND
Given the agreement among the Lebanese parties on the existence of a strong and able state based on national reconciliation the national accord government shall outline a detailed security plan for a one-year period whose aim shall be: the gradual extension of the sovereignty of the Lebanese government over all Lebanese lands through the State's intrinsic resources. The general elements of the plan are as follows:
1. Declaration of the disbanding of the Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias and the transfer of weapons in their possession to the Lebanese government within six months of the rectification of the document of national reconciliation the election of a president the establishment of a national accord government and the constitutional ratification of the political reforms.
2. The strengthening of the internal security forces through the following measures:
a. The opening of recruitment to all people of Lebanon without exception the training of recruits and their dispersal among the district units. Concurrently they will undergo regular and organized courses.
b. The strengthening of the security apparatus in order to control border entries and exits by air sea and land.
3. The strengthening of the armed forces
a. The major task of the armed forces is to defend the motherland and when necessary to maintain public order when threatened when the internal security forces are unable to handle the situation alone.
b. The armed forces shall be used to help the internal security forces in maintaining security in circumstances to be decided by the government.
c. The armed forces shall be united trained and drilled to enable them to bear national responsibility against Israeli aggression.
d. When the internal security forces shall be fit to carry out their security missions the armed forces shall be returned to their bases.
e. The intelligence system of the armed forces shall be reorganized for sole military purposes.
4. The solution of the problem of Lebanese displaced persons
Every Lebanese national who has left his home since 1975 shall have the right to return to his point of departure. Laws will be passed to ensure this right and means of rehabilitation will be provided.
Given the aim of the Lebanese government to impose its control over all of Lebanese land through its own resources first and foremost by means of the internal security forces and on the basis of the ties of legitimate Lebanese forces in extending the sovereignty of the Lebanese government during a period of time not exceeding two years after the ratification to the national reconciliation document the establishment of the national accord government and the constitutional ratification of the political reforms. At the conclusion of this period the two governments - the Syrian government and the Lebanese national accord government - shall decide on the redeployment of the Syrian forces in the Bekaa area and the western Bekaa approaches in Dahr al-Baydar to the Khamana-al-Mudayraj-Ein Dara line. Should the need arise (for the forces to be deployed) in other locations this shall be decided by a joint Lebanese-Syrian military committee with the agreement of the two governments to determine the scope of the Syrian forces and the duration of their presence in these areas. The agreement shall also define the relationship between these forces and the Lebanese authorities in the places they are stationed.
The Arab League "troika" committee is prepared to assist the two states in achieving this agreement should they so wish.
PART III: THE LIBERATION OF LEBANON FROM ISRAELI OCCUPATION
1. Renewed state control to the internationally recognized Lebanese border requires the following measures:
a. The implementation of Resolution 425 and the other Security Council decisions referring to the complete removal of the Israeli occupation.
b. Adherence to the armistice agreement signed on March 23 1949.
c. Taking all necessary measures to liberate all Lebanese lands from Israeli occupation the extension of government sovereignty to all these lands the deployment of the Lebanese army along the border with Israel and the strengthening of the UNIFIL presence in southern Lebanon in order to ensure the Israeli withdrawal and to restore security and stability to the border area.
PART IV: LEBANESE-SYRIAN RELATIONS
Lebanon which has Arab affinities and an Arab identity maintains loyal ties of brotherhood with all Arab states. It maintains preferred relations with Syria based on the roots of close affinity history and common interests.
This is the bases for coordination and cooperation between the two states which shall sign agreements in various areas in such a manner as to realize the interests of both states within the framework of the sovereignty and independence of each.
On this basis and given that the security principles create the necessary climate for the development of these preferred relations Lebanon cannot serve as the source of a threat against Syrian security nor can Syria serve as the source of a threat against Lebanese security. Hence Lebanon shall not allow itself to serve as the transit point or base for any force state or organization interested in harming its own security or the security of Syria.
Similarly Syria which meticulously upholds the security independence and unity of Lebanon and the agreement between the two countries shall not allow any activity that threatens (Lebanese) security independence or sovereignty.
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