Comparison Between The Damascus Agreement And The Taef Agreement
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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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