The Syrian occupation of Lebanon began nearly a quarter-century ago; its implications continue adversely to affect what is the world's only satellite state. At the same time, Lebanon policy has atrophied in Washington.
When Syria imposed itself on its western neighbor in 1975, Washington officially supported "the sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of Lebanon." The government in Damascus repeatedly promised to withdraw its forces. Instead, it deepened its hold on Lebanon orchestrating a forceful occupation when the world's attention was focussed on the crisis in Kuwait. Today, the occupation appears more entrenched than ever.
In response to these circumstances, the Middle East Forum convened the Lebanon Study Group to analyze this situation and recommend assertive measures in the interests of the United States, Lebanon, and the Middle East at large. The bipartisan group comprises statesmen, diplomats, legislators, military officers, scholars, experts and business leaders. The group recognizes that Lebanon is a significant and forceful presence in the Arab world capable of being a leader towards religious tolerance, democracy and greater economic and social freedoms, once Syrian hegemony is brought to an end. Stemming from this understanding, the Lebanon Study Group holds that until Damascus removes its heavy-handed influence re-deploying its forces in accordance with the Ta'if agreement, endorsed by Syria in 1989, there will be no real and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Although Syrian rule in Lebanon stands in direct opposition to American ideals, U.S. policy has been to court the Asad regime with the hopes of it achieving a peace treaty with Israel. This approach has had grave consequences for both Lebanese society and American strategic interests in the Middle East, and has met with very limited success.
The Lebanon Study Group endorses an American foreign policy strategy refined to reflect a commitment to salvaging Lebanon's freedoms and anchor its regained sovereignty. The U.S. government should make the withdrawal of Syrian forces a priority. In accordance with this conviction, the Lebanon Study Group presents several specific policy recommendations designed to effect this goal.
The Middle East Forum extends its appreciation to the members of the Lebanon Study Group and their efforts to forge the consensus opinion detailed in this report. That said, not every member endorses every judgement or recommend-ation in the report. Further, the signatories endorsed this report in their individual capacities. Finally, as sponsor of the Lebanon Study Group, the Middle East Forum did not control the group's deliberations nor does it or its Board of Governors necessarily endorse the report's findings or conclusions.
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Ziad Abdelnour is a New York-based international investment banker and financier, and president of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon.
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and senior lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. A former official in the Departments of State and Defense, he has taught at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the U.S. Naval War College. For seven years, 1986-93, he was director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
Dr. Pipes is the author of twelve books on the Middle East, Islam, and other political topics. He has published widely in leading magazines and newspapers. His writings have been translated into sixteen languages of Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia. Dr. Pipes occasionally discusses current issues on television and radio. He serves on three editorial boards and belongs to the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Pipes has testified before many congressional committees and served on three presidential campaigns.
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