Much like Lebanon's economy, the US - Lebanese relations is and has been vulnerable to events in the Middle East region. Lebanon was a US ally and was considered by the US as one of the friendly Arab nations in the Middle East who also wanted to stop the Soviet expansion in the region. The pinnacle of the US - Lebanese relationship was the dispatch of US Marines to Beirut in 1958 by the US government. This happened soon after the Socialist-Arabist revolution in Iraq during which Iraq's pro-western King was deposed. Soon after the Iraqi revolution there was a Muslim revolt in Lebanon and the Lebanese authorities (who were Christian at the time) feared a repeat of events in Lebanon as they had happened in Iraq. Upon request for help from Beirut, the US sent its Marines to Beirut to reassure the Lebanese authorities that the US intends to stand by its ally Lebanon and will assist the Lebanese authorities in stopping the spread of Arabist and Soviet backed Socialist ideas to the country.
In the late 1960s relations between the two countries were placed under strain due to regional events. After Israel's victory in 1967, the US was seen as the enemy of the Arabs, due to its seemingly overwhelming support of Israel. As a result any Arab government which had good relations with the US was accused of forsaking the Arab cause by other Arab countries. As Lebanon had good relations with the US, the Lebanese government found itself being condemned openly by many Arab states. Furthermore the arrival of Palestinian refugees and Anti- US PLO forces in Lebanon between 1968 - 1970 meant that there was armed internal opposition to Lebanon's relations with the US.
The US - Lebanese relations took on a new form subsequent to the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975 and invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1978 and 1982. Although the US had been expressing its concern regarding the situation in Lebanon prior to the outbreak of the civil war, Washington found itself compelled to start acting as a mediator after the outbreak of the civil war. This is because as a result of the civil war two major anti - US groups were gaining a foot hold in Lebanon. These were the PLO, and Syria (which was a Soviet client state). Furthermore as events developed, the PLO and Syria came to threaten the security of Israel, another US ally in the area.
Therefore subsequent to the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1978, US mediation efforts moved up a gear as means of putting an end to the fighting. The mediation efforts included dispatch of US envoys to the region as means of hammering out agreements and getting the sides involved to agree to them. However as the situation in Lebanon worsened, and the US found the Syrians more entrenched in the country, the US - Lebanese completed a full circle whereby the US again dispatched its Marine forces to Beirut in August 1982. The US initially sent its forces to oversee the repatriation of Palestinian forces from Lebanon. However the role of US forces changed from passive to "aggressive self-defence" in 1983 in order to allow U.S. forces to back the Lebanese Army in the defence of its positions against anti - government Syrian backed forces. In the words of President Reagan "The U.S. will not allow Syria, aided and abetted by 7,000 Soviet advisers and technicians, to destroy chances for stability in Lebanon". Upon the entry of US forces into the military foray battles broke out between US forces and the Syrian Army and its allies. The US took some losses, however the knock out blow for the US forces came after a truck-bomb attack against U.S. on October 23 1983 which killed 241 Marines. This was the second Truck bomb against US forces as a previous truck-bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy 6 months before in Beirut killed over 30 and wounded 100.
After the death of the US Marines the American government withdrew its forces and again resorted to acting as a mediator. Therefore the US again dispatched envoys between Israel - Lebanon and Syria after major outbreak of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah in 1993 and 1996. Since then the US has been behind renewed efforts to reduce the influence and presence of Syrian and Pro- Iranian Hezbollah armed militias with the final aim of removing them from Lebanon altogether. This is based on the US perception that an independent Lebanon will more pro - US, whilst stability in Lebanon will allow the Lebanese government to pursue its economic and political reform programs.
According to the US Census Bureau, US exports to Lebanon for the year 2003 totaled USD $314 Million Dollars, whereas Lebanese exports to Lebanon for the same year totaled USD $92.3 Million Dollars.
By: Meir Javedanfar- www.meepas.com