The Making of Lebanese Foreign Policy

The Making of Lebanese Foreign Policy:
Understanding the 2006 Hezbollah–Israeli War
by Henrietta Wilkins
(London: Routledge, 2013), 180 pages
Reviewed by Nir Boms for the Israeli Journal of Foreign Affairs
In August 2013, seven years after the end of the Second Lebanon War, air raid sirens were again sounded in northern  Israel. Four missiles fired from Lebanese territory struck residential areas. This time, it was not Hizbullah that was behind the attacks, but the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, an al-Qa’ida-linked group that took “credit” for similar missile strikes on Israel in 2009 and 2011. Lebanese President Michel Sleiman condemned the incident as a violation of UN  Security Council Resolution 1701 and Lebanon’s sovereignty. Hizbullah  did not comment. Israel retaliated and launched an attack in Na’ameh, targeting a base of a Palestinian militant group. This incident can be seen as a microcosm of the Lebanese reality in which a president can only complain about the violation of national sovereignty by militias and terror groups that operate on his territory but are beyond his control. These recent events tie in with the volume under review.
Henrietta  Wilkins’ book, an adaptation of her PhD thesis at Durham  University, seeks to explain Lebanon’s behavior in the international  arena during the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel and, in so doing, to highlight the limitation of systemic theories in explaining foreign policy. On the one hand, this book is about Lebanon with a focus on the 2006 war and its ramifications for Lebanon’s foreign policy. On  the other  hand,  it is also a treatise  on International  Relations  (IR) theory and, even more so, about the limitation of systematic IR theories that often attempt  to synthesize (and  simplify) foreign policy principles but, at the same time, fail the “deduction” test. View full post…
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Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East


by David Hirst

(New York: Nation Books, 2010), 489 pages

Reviewed by Nir Boms


In choosing the title of his book Beware of Small States, David Hirst harks back to the words of Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian anarchist who in 1870 wrote to a friend about the European wars. Small states, Bakunin wrote, are “particularly vulnerable to the machinations of greater ones,” but “they are also a source of trouble to their tormentors” (p. 2). This is, in a nutshell, the tragic story of Lebanon, the “small state of the Middle East” that is described elsewhere as “other people’s battle ground” (p. 117).

This is an impressive work that showcases its author’s well-honed journalistic skills. Hirst, a former Middle East Correspondent for The Guardian, lived in Lebanon for almost fifty years and reported extensively on the region. He was kidnapped twice, and expelled from half a dozen Arab countries because of his work. In this thick and thorough account—that he boldly calls a “definitive history of Lebanon”—Hirst offers a detailed narrative of this battleground that is arranged in chronological order and supported by copious footnotes. It is both a good read for the general public as well as a sourcebook for serious students of the Middle East. View full post…

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Syrian Peace Overtures: Timing is Everything


Nir Boms and Elliot Chodoff

Since he abruptly returned from Britain to Syria five years ago to inherit the regime from his ailing father, thirty-six year old Syrian strongman Basher al-Assad has rarely smiled in public. After all – running Syria is a serious business. But lately, it seems that Assad is showing the world a different face. While visiting Cairo last week to discuss the situation in the Middle East he actually cracked a half-smile.

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Deceptive Damascus

By Elliot Chodoff and Nir Boms
June 15, 2007

The Syrian regime, which brooks no opposition at home, supports terrorists of all varieties abroad and eliminates foreign political leaders who have the temerity to oppose the subjugation of their country, continues to attempt to paint the face of democracy on its strongman dictatorial system. 

Three events over the past two weeks provided a clear view of the nature of the Syrian regime: the publication of official election results, the response to the U.N. decision to establish a tribunal on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the assassination of Walid Eido, an anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker and prominent supporter of the tribunal.

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