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Lebanon The Cairo Agreement and the Prelude to the 1975 Civil War
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    The army's inactivity continued under Shihab's successor, Charles Hilu (also seen as Helou), who became president in 1964. Hilu and his army commander refused to commit Lebanese troops to the June 1967 War, enraging many Lebanese Muslims. In the aftermath of that war, the army and its Deuxième Bureau turned a blind eye to Palestinian guerrillas infiltrating Lebanon from Syria, an attitude that angered Christians. But when the army did not interfere with commando raids and the Israelis launched attacks into Lebanon in retaliation against the Palestinian forces, the army and the Deuxiéme Bureau were charged with collusion with Israel. In December 1968, the government was humiliated when Israeli commandos landed at Beirut International Airport and destroyed Middle East Airlines aircraft with impunity.

    In October 1969, Lebanese the Army took a more active role in fighting Palestinian forces. Nevertheless, it was clear that the army could decisively defeat the Palestinians only at the risk of splitting the nation. Therefore, army commander General Emil Bustani signed the Cairo Agreement in November 1969 with Palestinian representatives (see The Hilu Era, (1964-70), ch. 1). The Cairo Agreement remains officially secret, but it apparently granted to the Palestinians the right to keep weapons in their camps and to attack Israel across Lebanon's border. By sanctioning the armed Palestinian presence, however, Lebanon surrendered full sovereignty over military operations conducted within and across its borders and became a party to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    A turning point in Lebanon's modern history occurred in 1970. In that year, Sulayman Franjiyah (also seen as Franjieh) was elected president. Franjiyah, who came from the Christian enclave of Zgharta in northern Lebanon, was accused of promoting his own power and catering to the interests of his clansmen instead of confronting Lebanon's growing security problems. Believing that the Deuxième Bureau was staffed with Shihab loyalists, Franjiyah purged it and stripped it of its powers. But the Deuxième Bureau had been the only governmental entity capable of monitoring and controlling the Palestinians, and Franjiyah's action unintentionally gave the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) more freedom of action in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the PLO made a bid to topple Jordan's King Hussein, but it was crushed and evicted from the country--an event known in the Palestinian lexicon as "Black September." Therefore, the PLO leadership and guerrillas moved their main base of operations from Jordan to Lebanon, where the Cairo Agreement endorsed their presence. The influx of several hundred thousand Palestinians upset Lebanon's delicate confessional balance (see Glossary), and polarized the nation into two camps--those who supported and those who opposed the PLO presence.

    Public order deteriorated with daily acts of violence between Christians and Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force launched raids against the Palestinian refugee camps in retaliation for PLO terrorist attacks in Western Europe. On April 10, 1973, Israeli commandos infiltrated Beirut in a daring raid and attacked Palestinian command centers in the heart of the capital, killing three prominent PLO leaders. Once again, the conspicuous absence of the Lebanese Army during the Israeli attack angered Lebanese Muslims. Prime Minister Saib Salam claimed that Army commander General Iskandar Ghanim--a Maronite--had disobeyed orders by not resisting the Israeli raid, and he threatened to resign unless Ghanim were stripped of his rank. Because Ghanim was allowed to remain as army commander (until he was replaced by Hanna Said in September 1975), Salam did resign and was succeeded by a series of weak prime ministers.

    When the Lebanese Army finally went into action, it was against the PLO. In May 1973, fierce combat raged around the refugee camps for two weeks. When the dust settled, it became clear to all Lebanese that their army was not strong enough to control the PLO. To end the fighting, the government negotiated the Melkart Agreement, which on the one hand obligated the PLO to respect the "independence, stability, and sovereignty" of Lebanon but on the other hard ceded to the PLO virtual autonomy, including the right to maintain its own militia forces in certain areas of Lebanon. These provisions of the Melkart Agreement differed greatly from the Cairo Agreement, which preserved the "exercise of full powers in all regions and in all circumstances by Lebanese civilian and military authorities."

    Lebanese Muslims believed that under the Melkart Agreement Palestinian refugees in Lebanon had been accorded a greater degree of self-determination than some Lebanese citizens. Inspired by this, they organized themselves politically and militarily and tried to wrest similar concessions from the central government. In 1974 Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt (also seen as Junblatt) established the Lebanese National Movement (formerly the Front for Progressive Parties and National Forces), an umbrella group comprising antigovernment forces.

    Data as of December 1987

    NOTE: The information regarding Lebanon on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Lebanon The Cairo Agreement and the Prelude to the 1975 Civil War information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Lebanon The Cairo Agreement and the Prelude to the 1975 Civil War should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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