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Comparison Between The Damascus Agreement And The Taef Agreement

Contrasting political documents, which address the same situation, allow for a useful comparison of their competing political influences. With Taef accord in 1989 and the Damascus agreement in 1985, this particular direction of analysis is poignant. Both allege to bring peace to Lebanon and ensure the nation's survival throughout political reconstruction. keeping in mind these intentions, it is useful to compare each documents' articles.
Essentially, both accords work under six categories of reform: the political structure, the transition to a new system, economic issues, military/security parameters, education, and Syrian/Lebanese relations.
In the preamble and general principles both documents set tone and aim of their formulas. Both affirm Lebanon as a sovereign, independent and unified country. Its Arab identity and affiliation are mentioned among the foundations Lebanon is built upon. The 1985 preamble, however, adds ideals espousing the necessity to resist Israeli aggression and unite Lebanon with "Fraternal Syria." Taef opts for no clear alliance asserting instead Lebanon's membership in the Non-Aligned Movement. Indeed, Taef's general principles concern internal reform, reconstruction, and democratic ideals more so than foreign policy issues. While the Damascus accord also mentions democracy and equality, there is a decided emphasis at the onset to "liberate Lebanon from Israeli occupation," and work toward the implementation of UN resolution 242. In a later section Taef declares the same desire to dislodge the Israeli presence, but it is not included in the general principles.
Under the heading of political system each accord outlines a parliamentary, democratic state in which equality of all citizens is ensured. Damascus adds as basis of political reform need to reinforce the "homeland's unity" and its Arab affiliation. Beginning with the presidency, both Taef and Damascus are designed to reduce the office's power. Aside from issuing of decrees and the chairing of the Council of Ministers, the President is structured as a caretaker. Both documents specifically refer to the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief, are checked by the office's lack of vote on the Defense Council and the obligation to clear the Prime Minister's appointment with the Speaker of the Legislature. The only noticeable difference in Presidential prerogatives is minor and concerns Taef's placing of the President as the negotiator of treaties, albeit with final approval from the Prime Minister and Council.
Political power in both documents rests with t he Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister, who are jointly assigned to perform the roles of policy development and execution. Taef terms the PM as "Chairman of the Council of Ministers," and therein lies the office's power in both documents. In this position he represents the government, decides on the Council's agenda, and is responsible for policy implementation. Taef carries more details as to the exact parameters of the PM's responsibilities such as coordination of public administration, and the opening of extraordinary council meetings.
The Council of Ministers develops policy in both documents by simple consensus, yet in Taef a two-thirds majority is needed on issues of fundamental concern such as: the budget, treaties, the ending of states of emergency, and the dismissal of Ministers. the Council is also represented in both agreements as active in securing the transitional process. Though Damascus states council members are additionally members of the Defense Council, Taef specifically cites the armed forces as obeying the authority of Council of Ministers.
Legislation is delegated in both agreements to the Chamber of Deputies which is divided equally between Christians and Moslems. Taef adds proportionality among the sects. however, the sectarian split is designed to aid transformation and decide when a new electoral process can be established. Both include an expansion of the Deputies, 108 in Taef and 198 in the Damascus agreement.
Regarding the Judiciary, Taef and Damascus set up a constitutional council to deal with the "Constitutional nature of laws." Moreover, Taef defines issues which may be brought before the court. Included are religious freedom, personal status, and other cases deemed vital by the President, Prime Minister, or Speaker of the house. As well, each document sets up a special supreme council to judge presidents and high government officials. Taef includes a provision whereby members of the supreme council are elected form t he judiciary in order to "consolidate their independence."
A final element in political restructuring is the element of decentralization. The attempt is to "extend the power of the governors and mayors" (Taef) and "transfer most administrative responsibilities..to the local authority." (Damascus)
The question of transition and ending the war is dealt with as separate articles in each proposal. There is a shared goal in each to achieve in the transition period a non-sectarian government and consolidation of Lebanese territory. Damascus calls for a strengthening of security forces with Syrian aid to "expand its are of jurisdiction to include all Lebanese territory." It also espouses the desire, at the onset, to disband and disarm all militia. While Taef echoes support for the role of the security forces and an end to militia, it specifies that the assistance of Syrian forces in achieving these goals is not to exceed 2 years. Thereafter, "the Syrian government and the Lebanese government of national accord will decide on the redeployment of Syrian forces." the actual vehicle of transition, the body to decide on its operative stages, is the Council of Ministers, however, the process begins with the Council of Deputies election of a President, the appointment of a PM, and the formation of the Council of Ministers. Once reforms are in place, the Damascus agreement ends the transition period by a decision of the Deputies to end sectarianism. With Taef the period concludes with Syrian/Lebanese discussion on the withdrawal of troops.
Economic matters in the accords carry a commitment to a free market economy and protection of private property. The 1985 plan devotes additional concern to regional economic revitalization, housing projects, and distribution of funds to depressed areas. In much the same fashion, Taef asserts "balanced cultural, social, and economic development."
In the area of education some discrepancy exists. Though both documents hold to "unifying educational cirrcula," TAEF goes further to emphasize intellectual freedom and the option of private education. The coordination between Lebanon and Syria in the 1985 agreements surfaces strongly in the educational sphere whereby both countries are to set up a joint committee "that will draw up a nationalist, integrated educational bias."
this concern for Syrian/Lebanese integration is most pronounced in the military/security sphere. Here, Taef deals rather simply with the army's role assigning it the primary duty of defending the"homeland" and mentions only a side "confronting Israeli aggression." The Damascus formula, on the other hand, particularly assigns the army's greatest task as of resisting the Israeli "occupation." Syria's assistance in reconstructing the security forces and army is a key addition in the Damascus formula not found in its counterpart.
The military/security issue figures prominently into the wider issue of Syrian/Lebanese relations. The aim in the earlier accord to institutionalize very close relations is evident and declared necessary to prevent relations from being "at mercy of whims, interests and regional and international factors." While Taef mentions both Lebanese and Syrian security claims, as well as the special status of Syrian/Lebanese relations, it takes no steps toward alliance other than vague concepts for future "coordination and cooperation...manifested by joint treaties in all fields." Damascus is far from detailed terming future relations as "strategic integration," calling for "complete and firm coordination" in foreign policy and the stationing of Syrian troops in Lebanon. The proposed Damascus alliance also includes common security definitions, economic integration, information and education, all to be accomplished by a ministerial council to oversee its provisions.

POLITICAL INFLUENCES

Asad's long term desire to bind Lebanon --and eventually Jordan--into a regional alliance greatly influences the 1985 document. There are, however, lines of continuity within both documents: settlement and formation of a national government prior to troop withdrawal, Syrian "assistance in the transition period, and similar political structures." It is the differences, however, which mark the competing political influences.
It is quiet evident Taef reflects the influence of Lebanon's Deputies, who ratified the accord. The fact the deputies were not present at the Damascus meeting is reflected in that documents' one-sided construct for Lebanon's foreign and security policy. Syrian influence on the Taef accord was seriously diluted from its persuasiveness on the Damascus agreement. the divergent underlying concepts and operative means reflect this diluted Syrian influence.
The entire tone and intent of the Damascus accord concerns strategic integration between Lebanon and Syria. From reference to the "struggler President Hafez el-Asad" to the actual clause legitimizing the stationing of Syrian troops in Lebanon, the forfeiture of Lebanon's sovereignty to Syria is a clear intent. By comparison, Taef mentions Syria's role only in assisting the Lebanese state to extend its authority; more importantly, the withdrawal of Syrian troops is included. There is no institution, no operative means provided in Taef to achieve the type objectives present in the Damascus accord. the closest reference in Taef is a non-binding call for cooperation between the two nations.
Hence, one realizes that the Damascus accord institutes relations between the Syrian and Lebanese states before a Lebanese state is constituted. Taef specifically frames relations between Lebanon and Syria as that between the respective governments with no a prior arrangement outside Syrian assistance to secure Lebanese authority. The convening of the TAEF accord under Saudi auspices further suggests an intent to lessen Syrian control and begin the process of weeding Lebanon away from Asad's grasp.
Apart from this board conceptual difference, Taef reflects a diversity of influences not present in the Damascus formula. The sects represented in the Council of Deputies each exercise influence in the Taef framework. A specific important issue concerns the Council of Ministers which under Damascus requires a simple majority on decisions; whereas, Taef stipulates a two-thirds vote, a significant difference. A two-thirds majority forces compromise among the various sects represented on the Council, whereas Damascus simple majority might allow minority interests to go unheard. Moreover, since the entire transition process itself under control of the Council of Ministers, the Taef process itself is under control of compromise. Consequently, the implementation of its articles is subject to this two-thirds compromise.
On the whole, Taef structures a more sound system of checks and balances. Institutionalization of the judiciary and the two-thirds rule are both examples of this progress. More workable and less deterministic, Taef represents significant movement from Damascus plan.
 

WHY TAEF AND WHAT NOW?

If Taef represents such a departure from the earlier plan, why did Asad agree to its terms?
The new agreement does not imply and abandonment of Asad's strategic design for the region. A political document, Taef in no way threatened Asad's short-term interests in Lebanon. Indeed, it can be safely speculated Syrian influence would remain pervasive in any-post Taef Lebanon. It most not be forgotten, given the control Asad exercises on the ground, that it would be rather easy to scuttle any local process which could endanger Syria's position-- witness last year's assassination of the Mufti.
In one respect, the agreement can be interpreted as a tool for Asad to push out Aoun and reverse his earlier bad fortunes with the Tripartite Commission. For the deputies it was simply a reconstitution of the Damascus accord. What then is to be done with the Taef agreement?
There appear several options: ignore the document as Aoun has done, treat it as a fait accompli, oppose it through presentation of a completely different plan, or work to reform its most disagreeable elements.
Even for those that find Taef less than a godsend, it must be dealt with. One should not blindly accept its terms given the flexibility in its articles; likewise, full opposition has been demonstrated by Aoun to be fruitless. Proposing a completely new document requires bringing the deputies back together, and there is no guarantee of agreement again.
Clearly, the most profitable route entails negotiation of the Taef structure within the Council of Ministers where compromise would be likely. This allows the most room for options and would ease the isolation within the Christian camp. Something must move in Beirut, and the most benign direction is towards Taef.

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