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The Lebanese Forces (LF) (Arabic: القوات اللبنانية al-quwat al-lubnāniyya, Syriac: ܚܝܠܘܬܐ ܠܒܢܢܝܐ haylawothe lebnanoye) is a right-wing Lebanesemarker political party founded by Bachir Gemayel. During the Lebanese Civil War, the movement fought as the main militia within the Christian-dominated Lebanese Front. After the civil war ended, the movement reinvented itself as a political party. In 1994, while Lebanon was under Syrian occupation the party was banned, and the activities of its militants repressed by the Lebanese services in Lebanon. The Lebanese Forces returned as legal party after the Cedar Revolution in early 2005 resulted in a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. Its leader since 1986 is Samir Geagea.

Early history (1976–1982)

Formation

The Lebanese Front was informally organized in 1976 under the leadership of Bachir's father, Pierre Gemayel and Camille Chamoun . It began as a simple coordination between the predominantely Christian Phalange, Ahrar, Al-Tanzim, Marada and Guardians of the Cedars militias. The main reason behind the formation of the Lebanese Front was to strengthen the Christian side against the alliance of Palestine Liberation Organization, including the Palestinian factions of the Rejectionist Front, Muslim militias, and the Lebanese National Movement, an umbrella of leftist militias. Relations within the Lebanese Front between militias started to decline when the Marada party, led by Tony Frangieh and the Phalange, whose military wing was now led by Bachir Gemayel began to clash. On June 13, 1978, Bachir sent a group of Phalangists to Ehden, where Frangieh and his family were on vacation, with the intention of kidnapping Frangieh and forcing him to surrender his militia, who Bachir feared was becoming too close to the predominantely Muslim Lebanese National Movement. However, Phalangists ended up disobeying their orders, killing Frangieh, his family and militiamen in the Ehden Massacre. This, as well as other problems within the Lebanese Front, caused the group to collapse. The Lebanese Forces was soon after established with an agreement that the direct military commander would be a Kataeb member and the vice-commander an Ahrar member.

In July 1980, following months of intra-Christian clashes between the Tigers, the militia of Camille Chamoun's son, Dany and the Phalangists, who by now were under the complete leadership of Bachir Gemayel, Pierre Gemayel's younger son, the Phalangists launched an operation dubbed Unification of the Rifle, in an attempt to unite all the Christian militias under Gemayel's command. This operation resulted in a massacre of tens of Tigers' members at the Marine beach resort in Safra, 25 km north of Beirutmarker. Camille Chamoun's silence was interpreted as acceptance of Gemayel's controls, because he felt that the Tigers led by his son were getting out of his control.


On April 2, 1981, the Syrian army heavily bombarded the city of Zahlemarker, the largest Catholic city in the Middle East, located in the Bekaa region of Eastern Lebanon. There were less than a hundred Lebanese Forces fighters in the city at the beginning of the shelling. Zahle was sieged for three months during which it was violently hit. The Lebanese Forces successfully fought of the Syrian troops as protests were held in East Beirut urging the end of the siege. It finally ended with the withdrawal of the Syrian troops (and snipers) from around the city, and the evacuation of Lebanese Forces fighters to Beirut. The Lebanese Forces combatants were honored at their arrival to their headquarters in Karantina.

Israeli invasion

In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, arguing that a military intervention was necessary to root out PLO guerrillas from the southern part of the country. Israeli forces eventually moved towards Beirutmarker by the leader Elie R. Touma and laid siege to the city, aiming to reshape the Lebanese political landscape and force the PLO out of Lebanon. By 1982, Israel had been the main supplier to the Lebanese Forces, giving them assistance in weapons, attire, and training.
Israel supplied the Lebanese Forces with warships and other valuable military equipment


After the PLO had been expelled from the country to Tunisia, in a negotiated agreement, Bachir Gemayel became the youngest man to ever be elected as president of Lebanon. He was elected by the parliament in August; most Muslim members of parliament boycotted the vote. On September 3, 1982, he met Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in Northern Israel, and said he would try to establish diplomatic ties between Lebanon and Israel after Lebanon's various religious groups and militias reunited. Nine days before he was to take office, on September 14, 1982, he was killed along with 25 others in a bomb explosion in the Kataeb headquarters in Achrafiehmarker. The attack was carried out by Habib Shartouni, a member of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), believed by many to have acted on instructions of the Syrian government of President Hafez al-Assad. The next day, Israel moved to occupy the city, allowing Phalangist members under Elie Hobeika's command to enter the centrally located Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila; a massacre followed, in which Phalangists killed hundreds of Palestinian refugees, causing great international uproar. Many cite the massacre as revenge for the killing of Bachir Gemayel.

The Amine Gemayel years (1982–1988)

Battles

Mountain War

After the Israeli invasion, the IDF troops settled in the Chouf and Aleymarker districts in Mount Lebanon. The Lebanese Forces returned back to the positions in the villages they were in seven years before and many Christian civilians from the districts returned after having fled earlier in the war. However, soon after, clashes broke out between the Lebanese Forces and the Druze militias who had now taken over the districts and had earlier kicked out the Christian inhabitants. The main Druze militiamen came from the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Walid Jumblatt, in alliance with Palestinian militants who had not departed Lebanon in 1982. For months, the two fought what would later be known as the "Mountain War." At the peak of the battle, Israeli troops infamously abandoned the area, leaving the Lebanese Forces to defend the Christians in the area with very little backing. The result was the death of thousands of Lebanese civilians, mostly Christian, and the destruction of dozens of Christian villages.

At the same time, the Lebanese Forces also fought battles against the Palestinian and Druze militias and Syrian troops east of the southern city of Sidonmarker. The outcome was also a Progressive Socialist Party victory and a contigous Druze Chouf district with access to Lebanese sea ports.

Internal power struggles

After the death of Bachir, his brother Amine Gemayel replaced him as President, and his cousin, Fadi Frem as commander of the Lebanese Forces. The two had a frosty relationship, and in 1984, pressure from Amine led to Frem's replacement by Fouad Abou Nader.

On March 12, 1985, Samir Geagea, Elie Hobeika and Karim Pakradouni rebelled against Abou Nader's command, ostensibly to take the Lebanese Forces back to its original path. The relationship between Geagea and Hobeika soon broke down, however, and Hobeika began secret negotiations with the Syrians. On December 28, 1985, he signed the Tripartite Accord, against the wishes of Geagea and most of the other leading Christian figures. Claiming that the Tripartite Accord gave Syria unlimited power in Lebanon, Geagea mobilized factions inside the Lebanese Forces and on January 15, 1986, attacked Hobeika's headquarters in Karantina. Hobeika surrendered and fled, first to Parismarker and subsequently to Damascusmarker, Syriamarker. He then moved to Zahlemarker with tens of his fighters where he prepared for an attack against East Beirut. On September 27, 1986, Hobeika's forces tried to take over the Achrafiehmarker neighborhood of Beirut but the Lebanese Forces of Geagea's command held them back.

This failed attempt by Hobeika was the last episode of internal struggles in East Beirut during Amine Gemayel's mandate. As a result, the Lebanese Forces led by Geagea were the only major force on ground. During two years of frail peace, Geagea launched a drive to re-equip and reorganize the Lebanese Forces. He also instituted a social welfare program in areas controlled by Geagea's party. The Lebanese Forces also cut its relations with Israel and emphasized relations with the Arab states, mainly Iraqmarker but also Saudi Arabiamarker, Jordanmarker, and Egyptmarker].

On August 18, 1988, the Lebanese Forces detained several members of the Lebanese Parliamentmarker, thereby preventing the return to the Presidency of Suleiman Franjieh who was staunchly pro-Syrian.

The Elimination War (1988–1990)

Captain Salim Meayki was killed during attempted peace negotiations with the Lebanese Army.
Two rival governments contended for recognition following Amine Gemayel's departure from the Presidency in September 1988, one a mainly Christian government and the other a government of Muslims and Lebanese Leftists. The Lebanese Forces initially supported the military Christian government led by Gen. Michel Aoun, the commander of the Lebanese Army. However, clashes erupted between the Lebanese Forces and the Lebanese Army under the control of Michel Aoun on February 14, 1989. These clashes were stopped, and after a meeting in Bkerkémarker, the Lebanese Forces handed the national ports which it controlled to Aoun's government under pressure from the Lebanese National army.

Geagea initially supported Aoun's "Liberation War" against the Syrian army, but then agreed to the Taif Agreement, which was signed by the Lebanese deputies on 24 October 1989 in Saudi Arabia and demanded an immediate ceasefire. Aoun's main objection to the Taif Agreement was its vagueness as to Syrian withdrawal from the country. He rejected it vowing that he "would not sign over the country." Fierce fighting in East Beirut broke out between the two, called the "Elimination War" on January 31, 1990.

The Second Republic (1990–2005)

After Aoun surrendered on 13 October 1990 to the rival Syrian-backed President Hrawi, Geagea was offered ministerial posts in the new government. He refused several times, because he was opposed to Syrian interference in Lebanese affairs, and his relationship with the new government deteriorated.On March 23, 1994, the Lebanese government ordered the dissolution of the LF. On April 21, 1994, Geagea was arrested on charges of setting a bomb in the church in Zouk, of instigating acts of violence, and of committing assassinations during the Lebanese Civil War. Although he was acquitted of the first charge, Geagea was subsequently arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment on several different counts, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. He was incarcerated in solitary confinement, with his access to the outside world severely restricted. Amnesty International criticized the conduct of the trials and demanded Geagea's release, and Geagea's supporters argued that the Syrian-controlled Lebanese government had used the alleged crimes as a pretext for jailing Geagea and banning an anti-Syrian party.Many members of the Lebanese Forces were arrested and brutally tortured in the period of 1993-1994. At least one died in Syrian custody and many others were severely injured.

After the Cedar Revolution

The LF was an active participant in the Cedar Revolution of 2005, when popular protests and international pressure following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri combined to force Syria out of Lebanon. In the subsequent parliamentary election held in May and June, the Lebanese Forces formed part of the Rafik Hariri Martyr List, which also included the Future Movement, Popular Socialist Party, the reformed Phalange party, and other anti-Syrian political groups, as well as a brief tactical alliance with Amal and Hezbollah. The tactical alliance with Hizbollah and Amal would soon end and these majority parties and movements would later form the anti-Syrian March 14 Alliance, opposed to the oppositional March 8 Coalition backed by Hizbullah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement lead by General Michel Aoun, who had returned to Lebanon. The Lebanese Forces was able to win 6 out of the 8 MPs that were nominated throughout the various regions of the country. Nevertheless, the elections proved to be very significant because for the first time, many Lebanese Forces followers were able to participate in the election process freely, without any Syrian interference.

Following the party's new political gains, Samir Geagea was freed on 18 July 2005 after parliament decided to amend all charges he formerly faced. Since Geagea's release from prison, the Lebanese Forces has been rebuilding much of its former image, by reorganizing its members and their families, reopening political facilities, and by reestablishing their main presence among the Christians of Lebanonmarker. In addition to rebuilding their former image, the Lebanese Forces has also been attempting to reclaim their former privately funded facilities, which were seized by the Syrian backed government once Geagea was imprisoned. Currently, the Lebanese Forces has been striving to reclaim its rights to the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, which was initiated by the party in the mid 1980s, in the Lebanese courts.

Since the emancipation of the party's main leader, Samir Geagea, the party has gained a lot of new popularity among the Christian population throughout all of Lebanonmarker, and has gained increasing support from many Sunni Muslims and Druze in Lebanon. In addition, the Lebanese Forces have been able to attain a great deal of popularity amongst the younger generations. As seen in the various student elections in Lebanese colleges, the party was able to make a great deal of gains amongst the elected student bodies. The Lebanese Forces, along with their other March 14 allies also made additional gains in the elections for engineers, doctors, lawyers, and even teachers. Consequently, the Lebanese Forces has been able to revitalize itself in hopes of being the largest Christian party in Lebanon.

Present political representation

The Lebanese Forces currently hold 7 out of the 128 seats (5%) of the Lebanese Parliamentmarker, and were represented in the Siniora government, formed in July 2005, by the minister of Tourism Joseph Sarkis, and then in the second Siniora government, formed in July 2008, by the minister of Justice Ibrahim Najjar and the minister of Environment Antoine Karam. They are the leading Christian party within the March 14 Bloc, an anti-Syrian movement.

Today, the LF and its main political representatives strive to re-establish the many Christian rights, which were allegedly taken away by the Syrian regime and its main Lebanese allies during Syria's occupation of Lebanonmarker, specifically from 1990-2005. Some of the LF's other main objectives include formulating a just electoral law, which would enable the Christian population to be represented fairly, giving the large Lebanese diaspora voting rights, and reaffirming the powers formerly endowed to the Lebanese president before being lessened in the Taef Agreement.

As of February 2009, the LF has announced that all its current MPs, in addition to LF Akkar representative Wehbe Katicha and LF Matn representative Eddy Abillammaa will be candidates for the upcoming legislative election on June 7, 2009.

On April 4, 2009, in a speech to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the disbandment of the Lebanese Forces militia, Samir Geagea announced nine candidates in Lebanese parliamentary elections that were set for two months later. Those named in the current parliament - Georges Adwan, Strida Geagea, Elie Kayrouz, Antoine Zahra, and Farid Habib - were all re-elected. Eddy Abillammaa, Michel Salloum and Robert Khoury also ran as LF candidates but lost.

Leaders



Current Deputies



In addition, Toni Abi Khater, Joseph Maalouf, and Chant Jinjenian joined the LF bloc after winning seats in the 2009 elections.

See also



References



External links




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