Syria, Lebanon, Damascus
Despite the proclamation of the proclamation of its independence in 1943, Syria still does not admit the loss of Lebanon, and keeps on playing an important role in that country, through its history, its geography, its power and its economy.
A short historical review can be useful to understand the context of our discussion. In 1973, Damascus closed its borders with Lebanon in response to fighting between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerrillas. Syrian troops have been stationing in Lebanese areas since 1976, when, at the beginning of the Civil War, Hafiz El Assad intervened in the name of Christian Maronites, trying to prevent Muslim to take power. In 1982, fights between Syria and Israel took place in the East of Lebanon, after the latter invaded these territories. The Ta'if agreements, in 1989, put Lebanon under Syrian trusteeship for two years. Finally, after the UN resolution n°1559, signed on the 2nd of September of 2004, and the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, on the 14th of February of 2005, Syria had to remove its army from the Lebanese territory, after thirty years of occupation.
Syrian and Lebanese economic models appear as being very different. Syrian economy is marked by socialism, and, despite incremental and gradual reforms, the public sector remains very important. On the other side, Lebanon, whose nickname is the Swiss of the Middle-East, disposes of a liberal model, and is opened to the Western economies. During the 1970's, Syrian economic performances were inferior to its neighbour's ones, particularly to Lebanese ones.
[...] Thus, Syrian politicians had private interests in these Lebanese telecommunication companies. The scandal laid in the stipulation of the contract that the companies would have contributed half of their profits to the governments. The companies were accused to have understated their profits, between 2001 and 2003, in order to pay fewer taxes. What we have to notice here is that pro-Syrian Lebanese President of Lebanon Emile Lahoud instrumentalized that scandal so as to lead an anti- Hariri campaign. Through Jean-Louis Qordahi, the “loud and aggressive Telecommunications minister”, he used personal attacks, and mobilized the press and the media so as to fuel the idea that Hariri's position was motivated by “concern for his personal financial interests”. [...]
[...] Lebanon was, in a certain way, the intermediary between Western consumerist society and the socialist economy of Syria: the latter had a direct interest in keeping Lebanon alive, since that state of things did not put any pressure on its own economy. But Syria also wanted to keep Lebanese economy viable so as to preserve its capacity to absorb Syrian workers surplus. As Lebanon provided employment for “half a million to a million Syrians, about one-seventh of the labour workforce”, the “jobs reduce unemployment in Syria and provide a source of remittances estimated at billion per year as well as foreign exchange earnings” (p575). [...]
[...] In 1983, Syrian army set derivations on the outskirts of the powerhouse located on the Litani river, and since that moment, about 30% of the electric production directly goes to Syria. Thus, Syrian officials profited from Lebanese infrastructures The transformation of the Lebanese economy into a economy”, encouraged by Syria, forced the continuation of the Civil War The control operated by Syrian officials on the Lebanese economy is not the only thing that one has to remember of the economic circumstances of the Civil war. Facing the Syrian domination, Lebanese political economy slowly transformed and turned into a specific structure: a war economy. [...]
[...] The prices proposed were very high, much higher than in many Western countries, at the expense of the Lebanese society. However, the debate was not strictly economic, opposing privatisation to nationalisation, since others people were criticising Hariri's position. Indeed, largest shareholders in Liban Cell by 2004 were the sons of former Defense Minister Mohsen Dalloul, who it was claimed were acting as a front for top Syrian officials, including Vice President al-Halim Khaddam.” In addition, “Celis was associated with Minister Najig Miqati, whose family was connected with the ruling Asad family in Syria”. [...]
[...] A short historical review can be useful to understand the context of our discussion. In 1973, Damascus closed its borders with Lebanon in response to fighting between the Lebanese army and Palestinian guerrillas. Syrian troops have been stationing in Lebanese areas since 1976, when, at the beginning of the Civil War, Hafiz El Assad intervened in the name of Christian Maronites, trying to prevent Muslim to take power. In 1982, fights between Syria and Israel took place in the East of Lebanon, after the latter invaded these territories. [...]
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