Is the division of Lebanon a realistic possibility?

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

On the ninth of May 2008, the American ambassador (who was at the time a Chargé d’Affaires) Michele J. Sison sent a letter to her superiors and other US security offices relative to her meeting with the Lebanese Christian leader of the “Lebanese Forces” (FL) Samir Geagea, leader of the “Lebanese Forces”. Geagea had told Sison that he had 7,000 to 10,000 fighters ready to fight Hezbollah and that, if the airport were shut down, the reception of weapons via amphibious roads could be facilitated. “The document bearing the number O8 Beirut 642-a, leaked by WikiLeaks, indicates that Geagea had requested the intervention of Arab forces that could put Hezbollah in trouble”. Local media reported the Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as saying that Geagea had « 15,000 fighters ready for war.” This information was already available and published last August (2020). Does this mean that in the meantime, the Christian canton has become the centre for a realistic project leading to the partition of Lebanon?

Sources within the “Axis of Resistance” have said that “the establishment of a Christian canton in Lebanon is never possible because the Christian Lebanese regions are not controlled by one party, but by multiple groups standing against the project to divide Lebanon into regions and states. » The “Lebanese Forces” (FL) have some control and the “Free Patriotic Movement” (FPM) has a more critical presence and a larger number of supporters. Then, there are other Christians who are anti-LF: the Syrian National Social Party and the MaradaMovement led by former Minister Suleiman Franjieh. These could count on Hezbollah as their ally if needed and even if the Lebanese Army were to remain neutral and did not prevent the occupation of its warehouses. The fragility unity of the Lebanese Army is not a secret in a country still affected by civil war; the confessional system has not helped to heal domestic wounds. 

The “Lebanese Forces” group does not possess the weapons required to wage war on a scale similar to the Lebanese civil war from 1975-1989. The LF armaments supply depends on assaulting Lebanese army depots and access to ammunition provided by the US. Washington imposes on Lebanon that weapons donated to the Lebanese Army be stored in Christian areas, on the pretext that they must be kept out of reach of Hezbollah and far away from its areas of control. Accordingly, local groups may believe that their dependence on light, medium and heavy weapons (as well as regional and international support) would be enough to kickstart a mini-war and create a “small confederation” in Lebanon. However, to be successful in this sort of plan, the LF needs substantial support – unavailable for the time being – within the regular Lebanese army.

Some believe that the creation of a Christian canton in Lebanon might halt the emigration of Christians and make that part of Lebanon more attractive to the Arab and Western world:

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Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B