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What Were the Major Disagreements Between the Christian and Muslim Lebanese in 1975 That Triggered the Lebanese Civil War?

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Four decades ago, on 13 April 1975, the Lebanese civil war broke out

The conflict, which lasted 15years, cost 150,000 lives, injured 300,000, andled to the emigration of almost a million people, brought the Lebanese state to near collapse.With similar conflicts now spreading through-out the Middle East, Lebanon’s tragic history canprovide useful lessons on civil wars – and in par-ticular on how to end them.

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Before the civil war erupted in the year 1975, Lebanese Shiites did not have a remarkable role or influence in the Lebanese political life. Although they have been given the office of head of parliament since the declaration of Lebanese independence in 1943, it did not help them to have a major role in the Lebanese political decision. Before the civil war, Lebanon’s political social and economical decision was a result of the cooperation of two major Lebanese sects, which are the Lebanese Maronites and Sunnis. Maronites occupy the office of the president of Lebanon, who cannot be elected if not Maronite, while Sunnis occupy the office of prime minister. This division was done by the French occupiers before the independence of 1943, France so this to be the only way to satisfy the three major Lebanese sects. However, Lebanese Shiites still see the period of time before civil war as a time where they were not given their rights and they were treated with injustice. The origins of Lebanon’s civil war lie in the arrangements for the distribution of political power among the country’s ethnic and religious mix at the time of independence from France in 1943. Officially, Christian Maronites were recognized as the largest single group, followed by Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, Greek Orthodox Christians, and Druzes. During independence, Lebanon’s most powerful groups, the Maronites and Muslims, created a power-sharing formula called the National Pact.

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After Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the Shi’a Islamic group Hezbollah was created as a political group that provides social services to the Shiites living in Lebanon, however, it is considered a terrorist organisation in the West. The Ayatollah Khomeini’s revolution in Iran inspired and influenced the development of radical and powerful Islamic political groups in Lebanon, and eventually the small nation had become an enemy of Israel and the West

(Gordon, 1980). The Lebanese Civil War was a historically significant event because it led to a revival of Islam centred on Jihad. The growing influence of the West in the Middle East caused moderate Arab Muslims to turn to religious extremism, which is evident in the acts of terrorism taking place in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and North America. Would the war have taken place had the United Nations never introduced the state of Israel into the region? It is rather unlikely, as the Palestinians would have remained in their homeland and many speculate that there would not be a radical Muslim movement except at the fringes of society, much in the same way that hard line Christian sects are on the fringes of European society (Rabinovich, 1985). However, it is usually quite difficult to predict what would happen on an alternate timeline because who would have known that the assassination of two aristocrats in Austria-Hungary would have led to one of the worst wars of all time?

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As shown above, using Waltz third image theory we can begin to conceptualise on an academic level, thecauses of the Lebanese Civil War

Taken from the first level of analysis we must firstaddress the input of man. Lebanon was created as a composite state, which broughttogether over 17 different sects. The largest religious groupings were the Maronites followed by the Sunni’s and Shia’s and so on. French designs at protecting the Maronites resulted in the creation of a Christian hegemony, which held a smallmajority. While this is not merely enough to allow for the outbreak of such a violentconflict there is other mitigating factors.

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Ehteshami, A & Hinnebusch, R A (1997) Syria and Iran: Middle powers in a penetrated regional system Routledge, London

Gerges, F A (2006) Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy Harcourt Trade, Orlando, Florida USA

Gordon, D C (1980) Lebanon, the Fragmented Nation Croom Helm Ltd, London

Rabinovich, I (1985) The War for Lebanon, 1970-1985 Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York USA(El- Khazen F, 2000)

Ghosn, F. & Khoury, A. (2011). Lebanon after the Civil War: Peace or the Illusion ofPeace? Middle East Journal, 65, 381-397.Gilboa, A. (2005).

Hess, C. G., JR. & Bodman, H. L., JR. (1954). Confessionalism and Feudality inLebanese Politics.

Middle East Journal, 8, 10-26.Hiro, D. (1993). Lebanon, Fire and Embers, A History of the Lebanese Civil War .London. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

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