The United States, France and the Cedar Revolution

By Sami Emile Baroudi
Submitted to Session P2048 (External Intervention, Civil Peace, and Post-Syria Lebanon, 2009 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Lebanon;
19th-21st Centuries;
The United States, France and the Cedar Revolution:

The assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005 triggered a wave of anti-Syrian protests and demonstrations in Beirut and other parts of Lebanon, which official Washington hailed as the Cedar Revolution. Almost instantly, Washington and Paris declared their support for the protesters, endorsing their demands for a speedy Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon and an international investigation into Hariri’s murder. Although the United States and France had been collaborating over Lebanon since at least early 2004 and were the driving force behind the adoption by the UN Security Council in September of that year of Resolution 1559 – which called, inter alia, for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Lebanon, the disarming of all militias on Lebanese soil and the extension of government authority over all of Lebanon – the Cedar Revolution provided the backdrop for deepening their involvement in internal Lebanese affairs. Thus, after years of internationally uncontested Syrian hegemony, Lebanon was transformed in the spring of 2005 to a stage on which an intricate set of local, regional and international games and alliances that transcended its national borders was played out. While the United States and France were the key international players in this game, they were joined by a cohort of regional and local players, each pursuing its interests. Focusing on the period between 2004 and the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, this paper explores a number of questions regarding US-French collaboration over Lebanon: why did the United States and France choose to work in unison over Lebanon after drifting apart over the US invasion of Iraq? What alliances they did they build with Lebanese, regional and international players in pursuit of their common goals? And what impact did their collaboration have on the politics of Lebanon and the Middle East, as well as the overall US-French relationship. In light of the paucity of academic writings on this subject, I will rely primarily on the statements of US and French leaders, US, French and Lebanese newspaper coverage and interviews with selected key players.