Revisiting American Intelligence and Diplomacy During the Lebanon Crisis of 1958

By Jeffrey G. Karam
Submitted to Session P4858 (Tales of Espionage, Diplomacy, and War, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Arab States; Egypt; Iraq; Jordan; Lebanon; Mashreq; Mediterranean Countries; North America; Syria; ;
19th-21st Centuries; Arab Studies; Arabic; Colonialism; Conflict Resolution; Foreign Relations; Historiography; Mediterranean Studies; Middle East/Near East Studies; Security Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The political crisis and later turned armed insurrection in Lebanon in 1958 is still one of the most significant episodes in the history of modern Lebanon. While scholars have focused on the American intervention in Lebanon in mid-July 1958 and how this event paved the way for ending the civil war, there is little scholarship on attempts by American intelligence officers and diplomats to bring an end to the civil war weeks before American intervention. Drawing on untapped intelligence and diplomatic records in Arabic, English, and French, this paper sheds light on how two American intelligence officers created back channels with political actors in Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon to end the Lebanese Civil War of 1958. Recently declassified records reveal that these back channels had an impact on diplomatic relations between Egypt, the United States, and Lebanon. This paper argues for a novel understanding of the Lebanon Crisis of 1958 through the lens of key intelligence officers, intelligence agencies, and recently declassified records. By bringing in new memoirs and interviews with participants in the events of 1958 in Lebanon, this paper will also explain why a handful of officials in the pro-Western Chamoun regime in Lebanon rejected the political settlement that was offered by American intelligence officers and their Egyptian counterparts.