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The Rise and Fall of Syrian Rule over Lebanon 1976-2005

Johannes Becke
Hertie School of Governance
Johannes Becke
Hertie School of Governance
Open Panel

Abstract

As a result of military confrontations, arbitrary postcolonial borders and cases of essentially contested statehood, the Middle East is home to a peculiar category of temporary authoritarian rule in the form of several long-term military occupations, including the Israeli presence in territories conquered in 1967 and the ongoing Moroccan attempt to annex and incorporate Western Sahara since the ‘Green March’ in 1975. The Syrian presence in Lebanon (1976-2005) represents an intriguing case study for this pattern of military occupations: Classified in diverse categories ranging from peace-keeping and short-term external intervention to systematic state expansion, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon was legitimized for decades by a flexible network of transnational and international alliances. This form of coalition-building not only represented a form of rule by proxy inside Lebanon (complemented by effective coercion through the Syrian security apparatus), it also provided channels to negotiate and leverage Syria’s regional ambitions. Applying insights from historical institutionalism and in particular power-distributional approaches to a case in the borderlands between Comparative Politics and International Relations, this case study will attempt to theorize what international and transnational conditions enabled the Syrian regime to mobilize the relevant resources in order to maintain this form of rule over time. Additional attention will be paid to the slow-moving processes that led to the decline and eventual breakdown of this form of temporary authoritarian rule in 2005.