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Lebanon Table of Contents


The Military Cabinet

During the first months of intermittent combat between Muslims and Christians, Franjiyah refused to commit the army to separate the combatants. On May 23, however, he took the unorthodox and unprecedented step of appointing a military cabinet. Muslim Brigadier Nur ad Din Rifai, retired commander of the Internal Security Force, was named prime minister. Rifai selected the controversial Ghanim as his minister of defense; all other cabinet ministers except one were also military officers.

Franjiyah's motives were difficult to discern. Some believed his move was part of a plot to cement Maronite dominance of the government. Others believed he was attempting to force the recalcitrant army to intervene in the fighting. Perhaps Franjiyah sincerely thought that a strong interconfessional military government with unquestionable authority over the army could avert widespread conflict, although Lebanon's democracy would be sacrificed. Indeed, Syrian foreign minister Abdal Halim Khaddam reportedly warned Lebanese politicians that the Lebanese Army was capable of uniting its ranks, staging a coup d'état, and imposing a military dictatorship.

Nevertheless, Lebanon's first and last military government was short lived, resigning two days after its inception. Even when installed in the government, the army proved unwilling or incapable of exerting authority in Lebanon. The resignation of the military government demonstrated the power vacuum in Lebanese politics and served as the catalyst to conflict. The rival military factions intensified their fighting, and full-fledged civil war began in earnest.

Data as of December 1987