President Camille Chamoun

The 1958 rebellion, known as the lebanese mini civil war was aimed at preventing President Chamoun to renew his second term at office. Muslims, Druzes and Christians opposed the government to amend the constitution on his favor. Many internal, regional factors led to the downfall of President Chamoun.

First of all since 1956, strong arab nationalistic feelings were among the arab countries due to Nasser’s ideologies. The latter’s hostility grew towards the pro-western maronite president since he did not support Egypt during the Suez crisis by cutting relations with the british and french governments. Following the Suez crisis, the lebanese government’s western ideologies found support among the christians whereas pan-arabism was to be found popular among the muslim population od teh country.

Nasser encouraged muslims in Lebanon to unite and rebel against their government.  He encouraged  them to support the arab cause by uniting to the United Arab Republic, which united Egypt and Syria.

President Chamoun’s foreign policy was one important factor that collided with the basis of the National Pact of 1943 that aimed both, christian and muslim communities not to enter external alliances that would upset the domestic political balance of the country. President Chamoun was known for his pro-ally ideologies and close relationship to the USA President Eisenhower. However, he criticized the US administration for not finding any solid solution to the Palestinian cause. Moreover, President Chamoun surrounded himself with politicians from his own party, diminishing the influence of the opposition in the government. His actions led to tension among the muslim population who felt alienated from  political power.

Another factor threatening the internal affairs of the country was the  increase of communist activities. The US accused Beirut of becoming the center of the propagation and dissemination of communist propaganda in the Near-East. Although communism did nit contribute to the downfall of Chamoun’s presidency, it indirectly encouraged anti-Chamoun sentiments among the Lebanese arab nationalists.

Criticism about the Chamoun era and the US influence over Lebanon was at its turning point during the 1957 parliamentary elections where anti-Chamoun politicians established a United National Front against the President and its allies. Although popular opinion was growing in favor of pan-arabism, the Eisenhower administration provided full financial support for to the campaigns of pro-Chamoun candidates leading, hence, to their majority in the parliament. The election’s outcome was viewed by Washington as a victory over Nasserism. The National Front refused to recognize the election’s outcome and violence erupted between the two sides.

On the other hand, the creation of the UAR in 1958 introduced fear among christians with the revival of pan-arabism that led to the encouragement of all muslims to ally to the union. The speculation that Chamoun intended to remain in office beyond expiration of his constitutional term in 1958 led to the armed insurrection against the government, prompting Chamoun to seek help from the USA.

Most leaders’ fear was that if Chamoun was re-elected, he would deprive the muslims from political influence for the 6 years to come and continue strengthening the country’s pro-western status. An armed revolt initiated towards the Lebanese government incited the USA to convince Chamoun to step down and preferred a candidate that would compromise Lebanon’s relationship between the west and the Arab states.

The first anti-government riot erupted in the town of Tripoli (northern Lebanon) with the murder of an anti-Chamounist journalist. Many suspected Egypt of the crime so as to trigger the beginning on the 1958 rebellion. The Eisenhower administration did not intervene fully in the civil war so as not to increase its negative image in the Arab world. At the end, President Chamoun surrendered his seat to General Fouad Chehab till the upcoming elections.

 

In conclusion, it is mainly Chamoun’s pro-western policies in conflict with the growth of Nasserism in Lebanon that led to his downfall. Furthermore, breaking the National Pact’s law arose many discontent among the muslim population who felt marginalized from political power.

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Author: Patyl-Astrid

"Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the common place, the slaves of the ordinary." Cecile Beaton

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