Michel Aoun

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General Michel Aoun
ميشال عون
Michel aoun.jpg
Prime Minister of Lebanon
In office
22 September 1988 – 13 October 1990
Preceded by Selim el-Hoss
Succeeded by Selim el-Hoss
Acting President of Lebanon
In office
22 September 1988 – 13 October 1990
Preceded by Amine Gemayel
Succeeded by Elias Hrawi
Member of Parliament of Lebanon
Incumbent
Assumed office
1 May 2005
Personal details
Born (1933-09-30) 30 September 1933 (age 81)
Haret Hreik, Beirut, Lebanon
Nationality Lebanese
Political party Free Patriotic Movement
Spouse(s) Nadia El-Chami Aoun
Religion Maronite Catholic
Military service
Service/branch Lebanese Army
Years of service 1958–1990
Rank Lieutenant General
Battles/wars Lebanese Civil War
Coat of arms of Lebanon.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Lebanon

Michel Naim Aoun (Arabic: ميشال عون‎) (born 30 September 1933)[1] is a former Lebanese Army Commander and now a politician and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement.

From 22 September 1988 to 13 October 1990, Aoun served as Prime Minister of the legal faction of the two rival governments contending for power at that time. He declared "The Liberation War" against the Syrian Occupation on 14 March 1989. On 13 October 1990, the Syrian forces invaded Beirut killing hundreds of unarmed soldiers and civilians. General Aoun fled to the French embassy, and was later allowed to travel to France. He returned to Lebanon on 7 May 2005, eleven days after the withdrawal of Syrian troops. In 2006, as head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), he signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Hezbollah. He visited Syria in 2009.[2][3] Aoun is a Member of Parliament. He leads the Free Patriotic Movement party which has 27 representatives and is the second biggest bloc in the parliament.

Biography[edit]

Background and early career[edit]

A Maronite Christian, Michel Aoun (family origins from Haret el Maknouniye Jezzine) was born in the mixed Christian and Shiite suburb of Haret Hreik, to the south of Beirut. He finished his secondary education at the College Des Frères furn al chebbak in 1955 and enrolled in the Military Academy as a cadet officer.[1] Three years later, he graduated as an artillery officer in the Lebanese Army.

Michel Aoun is married to Nadia El-Chami. They have three daughters: Mireille, Claudine and Chantal.[4]

Civil war[edit]

During the Lebanese Civil War in September 1983, Aoun's Christian-oriented 8th Mechanised Infantry Battalion fought Muslim, Druze and Palestinian forces at the battle of Souq el Gharb.

Rival governments[edit]

On 22 September 1988, the outgoing President, Amine Gemayel, dismissed the civilian administration of Prime Minister Selim al-Hoss and appointed a six-member interim military government (as prescribed by the Lebanese Constitution should there be no election of a President as was the case at the time), composed of three Christians and three Muslims, though the Muslims refused to serve. Backed by Syria, Al-Hoss declared his dismissal invalid. Two governments emerged (one civilian and mainly Muslim in West Beirut, headed by Al-Hoss, the other, military and mainly Christian, in East Beirut, led by Michel Aoun acting as Prime Minister).[5]

Gemayel's move was of questionable validity, as it violated the unwritten National Pact of 1943, which reserved the position of prime minister for a Sunni Muslim. Gemayel argued, however, that as the National Pact also reserved the presidency for a Maronite Christian, and as the Prime Minister assumes the powers and duties of the President in the event of a vacancy, it would be proper to fill that office temporarily with a Maronite. Gemayel referenced the historical precedent of 1952, when General Fouad Chehab, a Christian Maronite, was appointed as prime minister of a transition government following the resignation of President Bechara El Khoury.

Aoun could rely on 60% of the Lebanese army, including nearly all tanks and artillery, as well as on the Lebanese Forces (LF) militia headed by Samir Geagea and the National Liberal Party headed by Dany Chamoun. He also received the support of Iraq's President Saddam Hussein.[6]

Liberation War against Syria[edit]

On 14 March 1989, after a Syrian attack on the Baabda presidential palace and on the Lebanese Ministry of Defense in Yarze, Aoun declared Liberation war against the Syrian army which was better armed than the Lebanese forces (some 40,000 Syrian troops were in Lebanon at the time). The Syrians were supported by the US government led by George H. Bush in exchange for their support against Saddam Hussein.[6] Over the next few months Aoun's army and the Syrians exchanged artillery fire in Beirut until only 100,000 people remained from the original 1 million, the rest fled the area.[6] During this period Aoun became critical of American support for Syria and moved closer to Iraq, accepting arms supplies from Saddam Hussein.[6]

In October 1989, Lebanese National Assembly members met to draw up the Taif Accord in an attempt to settle the Lebanese conflict. This accord was later revealed to have been prepared two years earlier by Rafic Hariri. Aoun refused to attend, denounced the politicians who did so as traitors and issued a decree dissolving the assembly. After it was signed, Aoun denounced the Accord for not appointing a real date for the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon. After they signed the Taif Accord (named Taif because it was made in Taif KSA with the benediction of the USA), the assembly met to elect René Moawad as President in November. Despite heavy-handed pressure from Syria to dismiss Aoun, Moawad refused to do so; his presidency lasted just 17 days before he was assassinated . Elias Hrawi was elected in his place. After assuming office as president, Hrawi appointed General Émile Lahoud as commander of the army and ordered Aoun out of the Presidential Palace. Aoun rejected his dismissal.

Exile[edit]

The end approached for Aoun when his Iraqi ally Saddam Hussein, launched his invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. Then Syria's President Hafez al-Assad sided with the United States. In return, the United States agreed to support Syria's interests in Lebanon.[citation needed] On the evening of 12 October, while giving a public speech, he survived an assassination attempt by a lone shooter in the crowd. On 13 October, with American permission,[citation needed] Syrian forces attacked the presidential palace in Baabda, where Aoun was preparing for an attack where he trapped the Syrians.[citation needed] Not very long after the attacks, Aoun was asked to leave Lebanon with the full support of the French Ambassador.[citation needed] Ten months later Aoun went into exile in France, where he led a political party, the Free Patriotic Movement. In 2003, an avowed Aounist candidate, Hikmat Deeb, came surprisingly close to winning a key by-election in the BaabdaAley constituency with the endorsement of such right-wing figures as Solange and Nadim Gemayel (the widow and son of former President-elect Bachir Gemayel, who was assassinated in 1982), as well as leftists like George Hawi of the Lebanese Communist Party, although most of the opposition (constituted mainly of Qornet Shehwan Gathering) supported the government candidate, Henry Hélou.[citation needed]

Return to Lebanon[edit]

Aoun ended 15 years of exile when he returned to Lebanon on 7 May 2005, 11 days after the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon.[7] He held a short press conference at Beirut International Airport before heading with a convoy of loyalists and journalists to the "Grave of the Un-named Soldiers and Martyrs" who died in the cause of Lebanese nationalism. After praying and expressing his gratitude and blessing to the people, he went on to the grave site of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated on 14 February 2005 . Then, he visited Samir Geagea who was still in jail for 11 years. His journey continued to Martyr's Square where he was greeted by supporters of the Cedar Revolution.(http://www.mideastviews.com/articleview.php?art=1)

Since his arrival, Aoun has moved into a new home in Lebanon's Rabieh district, where he was visited on 8 May by a large delegation from the disbanded Lebanese Forces (LF), who were among Aoun's former enemies. Aoun and Sitrida Geagea, wife of the imprisoned LF leader Samir Geagea (since released), publicly reconciled. Aoun later visited Geagea in prison (he was the first of all political leaders to do so) and called for his release. Other prominent visitors that day and the next included National Liberal Party leader Dory Chamoun, Solange Gemayel, Nayla Moawad (widow of assassinated President René Moawad), and opposition MP Boutros Harb. Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir of the Maronite community sent a delegation to welcome him, and even the Shiite Muslim Hizbullah Party sent a delegation.

2005 Elections[edit]

In the parliamentary election at the end of May 2005, Aoun surprised many observers by entering into electoral alliances with a number of former opponents, including some pro-Syrian politicians including Michel Murr and Suleiman Frangieh, Jr. The March 8th coalition (a strong ally of Syria throughout its occupation of Lebanon up until 2005) did the same by forming the Quadruple alliance with Hezbollah and Amal, two of the biggest pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon. Aoun opposed the 14 March parliamentary coalition which included the Future Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party, the Lebanese Forces and some other parties. Critics argue that this law, implemented by Syrian intelligence chief Ghazi Kanaan, does not provide for a real popular representation and marginalizes many communities especially the Christian one throughout the country (citation required).

In the third round of voting, Aoun's party, the Free Patriotic Movement, made a strong showing, winning 21 of the 58 seats contested in that round, including almost all of the seats in the Christian heartland of Mount Lebanon. Aoun also won major Christian districts such as Zahle and Metn .[2][8] Aoun himself was elected to the National Assembly. In the fourth and final round, however, the FPM failed to win any seats in Northern Lebanon due mainly to the 2000 electoral law that gave the pro Hariri Muslim community of Tripoli an easy veto over any Christian candidate in its electoral district, thus falling short of its objective of holding the balance of power between the main "anti-Syrian" opposition coalition (formerly known to be Syria's strong allies) led by Sa'ad Hariri (which won an absolute majority) and the Shiite-dominated Amal-Hezbollah alliance.

The FPM won 21 seats in the parliament, and formed the second biggest bloc in the Lebanese Parliament.

Memorandum of Understanding between the FPM and Hezbollah[edit]

In 2006, Michel Aoun and Hassan Nasrallah met in Mar Mikhayel Church, Chiyah, a venue that symbolizes Christian-Muslim coexistence as the Church, located in the heart of the mainly Muslim Beirut southern suburb, was preserved throughout the wars. The FPM signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah organizing their relation and discussing Hezbollah's disarmament given some conditions. The second and third conditions for disarmament were the return of Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails and the elaboration of a defense strategy to protect Lebanon from the Israeli threat. The agreement also discussed the importance of having normal diplomatic relations with Syria and the request for information about the Lebanese political prisoners in Syria and the return of all political prisoners and diaspora in Israel. After this event, Aoun and his party became part of the 8 March alliance.[9]

2006 Lebanese Anti-Government Protest[edit]

On 1 December 2006, Michel Aoun declared to a crowd of protesters that the current government of Lebanon was unconstitutional claiming that the government had "made corruption a daily affair" and called for the resignation on the government.[10] Hundred of thousands of supporters of this party, Amal Movement and Hezbollah, according to the Internal Security Forces (ISF), (citation required), gathered at Downtown Beirut trying to force Fouad Siniora to abdicate.

2008 Government formation[edit]

On 11 July 2008, Aoun's party entered the Lebanese government. FPM members, Issam Abu Jamra as Deputy-Prime Minister, Gebran Bassil as Minister of Telecommunications, and Mario Aoun as Minister of Social Affairs were elected into government. It is the Movement's first participation in any Lebanese Government.

2009 Elections and Government Formation[edit]

The results of the 2009 Elections granted the FPM 27 parliamentary seats. One of them was won by Aoun from Keserwan.[11]

In November 2009, and after 6 months of strong political pressure by General Michel Aoun himself, by refusing any participation in the government that was inferior to the 2008 participation, Prime Minister Saad Hariri eventually gave in. The Free Patriotic Movement nominated three ministers to join the first government headed by Saad Hariri, who would receive the ministry of telecommunications, the ministry of energy and water, and the ministry of tourism.

Aoun and his allies got one third of the government, but were one minister short of having veto power. On 12 January 2011, in a move orchestrated from Aoun's house in Rabieh, the Hariri government was toppled through the resignation of the FPM ministers and their allies. On 13 June 2011, a new government headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati saw light where Aoun's C&R bloc assumed 12 ministries.

Political strategy[edit]

In an unprecedented move, Aoun signed a Memorandum Of Understanding with Hezbollah on 6 February 2006.[12] His present strategy was an alleged "war against corruption" .

Timeline[edit]

In 1933, he was born in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik, as the son of poor Maronite parents. His father was a butcher.

In 1941, his family had to move out of their house, as British and Australian forces occupied it.

In 1955, he finished his secondary education, and became a cadet officer at the Military Academy.

In 1958, hr graduated as an artillery officer in the army. He went to France, to receive further military training at Châlons-sur-Marne. He graduated the following year. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant on 30 September.

1966: Gets military training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, USA.

1978: Goes to France for more military training at École Supérieure de Guerre.

1980: Returns to Lebanon, where he soon is appointed head of the Defence Brigade, which is stationed along the Green Line that separated West and East Beirut.

1982: Aoun is promoted to brigadier-general and gets command over the new 8th Brigade, a multi-confessional army unit. The 8th Brigade was instrumental in protecting the Palestinian refugee camp of Borj Al Barajneh from the sinister fate of Sabra and Chatila.

1983: Aoun's 8th Brigade, against superior odds, successfully fends off an attack by Syrian Aligned militias in Suq-al-Gharb firmly establishing his military credentials.

1984: Is promoted to Lieutenant-general (3 star General), and military chief of staff.

1988 September 22: Is appointed by outgoing president Amine Gemayel (15 minutes before the expiration of his term) to head a military government to be formed by members of the Martial Court, which Aoun as Armed Forces Commander chairs. The Muslim members of the Martial Court, it later transpired, are pressured by the Syrian occupant to decline their appointments. The area under Aoun's control at this point is very small: East Beirut and surrounding suburbs. Amine Gemayel appointed officers to take over after briefly considering judges or a caretaker government formed of politicians. Having failed to form a political caretaker government and feeling that judges "can't defend themselves" he opted for a military cabinet. Indeed, Amine Gemayel had recognized that his own nemesis throughout his presidency the militia his slain brother Bashir Gemayel had founded, the Lebanese Forces, would also attempt to undermine the authority of a caretaker government.

1989: In February 1989, the Lebanese army take control of the harbour of Beirut, which came to involve military actions against the "Lebanese force". On 14 February 1989, Aoun and his family escape an assassination attempt by the "Lebanese force". in March, as part of his strategy to reestablish the government's control over illegal ports, Aoun established a Maritime Control Center to stifle traffic from illegal ports operated by Syrian-aligned militias. These militias respond by shelling the sector under Aoun's control, including of the presidential palace, the seat of Aoun's government. In light of Syrian participation in these acts of sedition, Aoun declares a "war of liberation" against Syria. In September, Aoun agreed to an Arab League brokered cease-fire. In October 1989, even though the National Reconciliation Charter got support from most Muslim and Christian parliamentarians, Aoun rejected it, because it did not propose a clear schedule for the Syrian army withdrawal from Lebanon, because "the Charter was passed under duress, with Parliamentarians on foreign soil under Saudi and Syrian foreign influence". Aoun, using his constitutional powers as acting president, dissolved the parliament.

On 5 November 1989, Aoun refused to recognize the president, Rene Muawad, newly elected by a parliament that he had dissolved. On 24 November, as had been the case with Muawad (assassinated on 22 November), Aoun did not recognize the new elected president, Elias Hrawi. Hrawi responded by dismissing Aoun. Aoun ignored the dismissal, insisting that he and not Hrawi holds the legal constitutional powers. Aoun's argument remained that having dissolved parliament, the election of Hrawi (and Muawad before him) by that parliament is therefore null and void.

In January 1990, Aoun's forces, stationed in Amshit and Sarba, were attacked by Christian "Lebanese Forces" militia. The forces loyal to Aoun retreated, with four officers of the Lebanese army executed by Lebanese Forces squads. The push was then halted when commander François al-Hajj deployed MILAN anti-tank missiles against advancing LF tanks. Later military positions belonging to the Lebanese Forces in Dbayeh, Ain El Remmaneh, Jounieh, and Beirut were attacked by the Lebanese Army loyal to Aoun. In the war that ensued, the Lebanese Army claimed multiple key positions of the Lebanese Forces, including Ain el Remmaneh, Dbayeh, and parts of a key mountain redoubt in Qlaiat allowing Aoun to control 40% of the Christian parts of Beirut, together with surrounding areas, about 900 km², but lost many military barracks, territories, key ports, and towns including but not limited to the Halat airport, Armored division and barracks in Sarba, Jounieh (Sea port and city), Amshit, Dora and Dekwaneh, and most of the northern Christian areas of Lebanon.

In October 1990, following an air and ground campaign, Syrian troops and air forces were able to occupy all areas controlled by the Lebanese Army.

August 1991: Under siege and militaristic pressure by the Syrian army and the Lebanese Forces, Aoun now holed up in the presidential palace of Baabda, was requested to go to the French Embassy to declare a surrender. There, he surrendered to the Syrians via a radio address, however bad communications due to heavy bombardment prevented some divisions from receiving an official order to surrender, and kept on fighting, with a particularly bloody battle happening in the town of Dahr al-Wahsh where 200 Lebanese troops managed to inflict 500 casualties on the Syrian army (the troops and many local civilians were subsequently massacred after surrendering). Aoun left for France after the Lebanese government had granted him conditional amnesty, and the French president, asylum.

January 1999: Prime Minister Rafik Hariri said that Aoun could return to Lebanon with the guarantee that he would not be arrested. He was uncertain of how Syria would act, and stayed abroad.

On 7 May 2005, Aoun returned to Lebanon. In late May, he participated in the parliamentary elections. He was elected to the National Assembly, and his party, the Free Patriotic Movement, won 21 seats.

2008: Participated for the first time in the Lebanese government with five ministers.

On 7 May 2009, The Free Patriotic Movement won 19 seats, 5 more seats than in the last elections.[13] In November, he took part in the new government with five ministers.

August 2010: General Fayez Karam was arrested by Lebanese security forces for treason and collaboration with Israel. The arrested General was appointed by Aoun as Head of Anti-Terrorism Unit in 1988. Having served in the army under Aoun, accompanying him in his 15 years of exile in Paris, and returning with him in 2005, Fayez Karam was one of Aoun's close companions.[14] After his return in 2005, General Aoun unsuccessfully nominated Fayez Karam to the post of Head of Internal Security Forces, and twice as a Member of the Parliament of Lebanon.[15] Aoun commented at first that he would not defend Karam and hoped that the maximum punishment be imposed on him, after he and his family had received letters of confession from Fayez Karam that he was collaborating with Israel.

In 2011, the 14-month-old government collapsed after FPM ministers declared their resignation, followed by the rest of the opposition.[16] According to Aoun, the priorities of the new government would be to break all ties with the tribunal, and to stamp out the 20-year-long corruption plaguing the country. The new Government was formed on 13 June 2011, with 6 ministers for the Free Patriotic Movement, up from 3 in the last government, and a total of 11 ministers for Aoun's C&R bloc. However, the loyalties of the five non-FPM ministers of this bloc seemed to shift very easily to Mikati depending on their own interests, as did the rest of the 8 March coalition, leaving Aoun's ministers as a minority in the government without even veto powers, as they were in Saad Hariri's government.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Commander". 
  2. ^ a b "Profile: Michel Aoun". BBC News. 13 June 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  3. ^ Gambill, Gary C. (13 May 2003). "The Syrian Occupation of Lebanon". The Middle East Forum. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  4. ^ "Biography". Tayyar. 
  5. ^ "Timeline: Lebanon". BBC News. 9 May 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. Lebanon now has two governments - one mainly Muslim in West Beirut, headed by Al Huss, the other, exclusively Christian, in East Beirut, led by the Maronite Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Gen Michel Aoun. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Aoun calls majority cowards for not waging war on Syria". Ya Libnan. 25 April 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2008. During this period Aoun became critical of American support for Syria and moved closer to Iraq, accepting arms supplies from Saddam Hussein. 
  7. ^ "Chronology Of Events: 2005". Mediterranean Politics 11 (2): 279–308. 2006. doi:10.1080/13629390600683048. Retrieved 3 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "Official Election Results - Bekaa & Mount Lebanon". yalibnan. 14 June 2005. Retrieved 18 May 2008. 
  9. ^ William Harris (19 July 2012). Lebanon: A History, 600-2011. Oxford University Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-19-518111-1. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Huge Beirut rally demands change, BBC, 1 December 2006
  11. ^ "New parliament composition". Lebanese Information Center. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  12. ^ Sophie McNeill (7 December 2006). "Why Hezbollah's Al-Manar Television is broadcasting Sunday Mass". zmag. Retrieved 18 May 2008. "They're not the majority of Christians", scorns 26-year-old Hammad as he watches the crowds march past. "They might have used to be with Aoun, but not now he's with Hezbollah." A pro-government supporter, Hammad describes the coalition between Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah as just 'a marriage of convenience.' 
  13. ^ NowLebanon.com 2009 General Elections Results
  14. ^ AFP: Lebanon in shock after ex-general's arrest on spy charges
  15. ^ Daily Star Lebanon: Karam spy missions jeopardized state security
  16. ^ "Lebanese Government Collapses After Hezbollah Ministers Resign". Fox News. 12 January 2011. 
  • Jean-Marc Aractingi (2006). "Lebanon". La Politique à mes trousses (Politics at my heels). Paris: Editions l'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-296-00469-6. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Ibrahim Tannous
Armed Forces Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces
1984-1990
Succeeded by
Emile Lahoud
Political offices
Preceded by
Amine Gemayel
President of Lebanon
Acting

1988–1990
Succeeded by
Elias Hrawi
Preceded by
Selim al-Hoss
Prime Minister of Lebanon
1988–1990
Succeeded by
Selim al-Hoss
Party political offices
Preceded by
New Party
Leader of Free Patriotic Movement
2003 – present
Succeeded by
Incumbent