Myra Abdallah

March 14: A decade of
continuous struggle

Eighth conference of the March 14 alliance, on March 14, 2015 (Image via nna-leb.gov.lb)

The March 14 alliance was established in 2005 during the Cedar Revolution, a chain of anti-Syrian demonstrations triggered by the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, that rocked the streets of Beirut. Tens of thousands of Lebanese protesters took to the streets calling for the end of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and blaming Syria and the pro-Syrian Lebanese government for the assassination of Hariri. In 2005, March 14 was a dream come true for the Lebanese people who wanted to take matters of their country into their hands. The primary goals of the revolution were: the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon, to unite all Lebanese in their fight for freedom and independence, to unmask the killers of Hariri and the organization of free parliamentary elections free from Syrian intervention.

In the beginning, March 14 was a successful alliance that kept its promise to fight for the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon. Its first success came when Omar Karami’s government collapsed under pressure from protesters who demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. However, March 14 was met with opposition from Syria and pro-Syrian Lebanese parties. The assassinations continued and several March 14 leaders were assassinated, threatened or pushed to change their political stances. The use of violence was a key feature that led to the weakening of the March 14 alliance over the years— several March 14 figures were assassinated— and it was also effective because it achieved one of its main goals: many of the March 14 leaders changed their political stances and left the alliance, others were weakened politically and sometimes lost. Consequently, after 10 years, a large number of March 14 supporters have stopped believing in the initial dream they had in 2005, and the alliance no longer represented what they believe in, despite the continuous attempts by March 14 political leaders to revive the alliance and push the Lebanese people to keep believing in it.



The bombings and assassinations in Lebanon began after September 2004, when Syria pressured Lebanon’s parliament to amend the constitution to extend the term of former President Emile Lahoud. Consequently, late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated on February 14, 2005. Beginning of March 2005, directly after the assassination of Hariri, a series of bombings and assassinations struck Lebanon, specifically targeting politicians and areas—Christian areas in particular— that supported the March 14 alliance. Several political and intellectual leaders were killed, others were regularly threatened.

“Power dynamics that were not in March 14 coalition’s favor contributed in weakening the movement, especially the opposite side’s weapons; in addition to the incapability of March 14 to face this power and receive the needed external support,” said Dr. Imad Salamey, associate professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Lebanese American University. “These unequal power dynamics resulted in continuous assassinations that targeted March 14 politicians, and the ability of one side to use weapons against the other side pushed March 14 to become a hostage of the security situation.”

The violent attacks carried out against March 14 had a clear mission: to weaken and repress the alliance. According to analyst Hazem Saghiyeh, as a result of the violence and bombings March 14 politicians became paranoid. “March 14 coalition could have developed more sophisticated and more mature ideas and practices if its politicians were living in a better security situation. Unfortunately, security threats were a component that pushed forward the worst of March 14,” he told NOW.

The security threats have not stopped. March 14 politicians might still be in danger, especially after Michel Samaha was released on bail, although the alliance has been accused by a number of politicians to have been part of the “deal” that got Samaha out of jail. Samaha was arrested in 2012 on charges of plotting terrorist attacks and endangering public safety, and was listed as a global terrorist by the United States for helping Syrian president Bashar al-Assad launch attacks in Lebanon, mainly against March 14 figures. “Judge Sakr Sakr, who is known for being affiliated with the Future Movement, did not accuse Samaha of terrorism,” said Tripoli MP Mosbah al-Ahdab. “However, he accused a young man from Tripoli who was carrying a gun of terrorism. This can raise a lot of doubts about the intentions and involvement of the March 14 alliance. This might be one the results of the dialogue between the Future Movement and Hezbollah.”



For the past ten years, the March 14 alliance did not always make the best decisions. In fact, influenced by security threats and regional relationships, March 14, who was expected to maintain a minimum of coordination and make good decisions by their supporters, had to take decisions that were sometimes inexplicable.

“The quadrilateral alliance during the parliamentary elections in 2005 was one of the biggest mistakes,” said lawyer Marwan Sakr. “Following the quadrilateral alliance and after the elections, Siniora’s cabinet did not take strict decisions in order to restructure the main security forces. This issue was neglected leaving behind Syria-related officers who were members of the security forces before the liberation.”

March 14 started as a popular movement led by political leaders who the Lebanese people considered to be independent powers not subject to external powers—particularly Syria. Therefore, it represented a revolutionary movement. However, the leadership of March 14 was unable to translate the popular movement into an organized movement led by a modern group. The group was therefore led by traditional leaders which later resulted in its weakening. “Between 2007 and 2009, March 14 stopped being a big national and popular movement that included representatives from every Lebanese group and became an alliance between 3 main political parties, after all independents and civil society activists were alienated by the main parties because of internal administrative issues,” Sakr told NOW.



Unstable relations

March 14’s relations were unstable, internally and externally. From one side, respective politicians who constitute the alliance did not communicate all the time, which led to decisions being taken without any negotiations or consent from the various parties in the alliance. In addition, analysts who spoke to NOW said that the problem of March 14 goes back to 2005, when it was created. March 14 always had a fragile nature, since it was always affected by internal and external events. The alliance was unable to eliminate the sectarian differences between its supporters.

“Before speaking about the events [that led to the weakening of March 14], we have to speak about the nature of the alliance,” said Saghieh. “March 14 was a federalism of sects and no an alliance that united the different sects. Even during the peak of March 14’s success, we could always differentiate between the Sunni, Christian and Druze blocs and their respective slogans. Even later on, the distinction remained between the different sects. Serious friendships between people from different sects did not happen.”

Moreover, the absurdity of the March 14 leadership also contributed to its declining power. The leaders of the alliance were absurd and did not succeed in establishing good communication with Lebanon’s Shiite citizens. They could have tried to convince the Shiites of the righteousness of their decisions and distance them from Hezbollah and Amal Movement; and that could have been possible since numerous Shiites participated in the protest on March 14, 2005, and they were the only group to protest against leader of their sect. “Hezbollah and Amal Movement leaderships were able to repress any movement or activity organized by a Shiite group that might help in the success of March 14. They used all possible means to do it,” Salamey told NOW.

The external relations also played a big role in the swinging positions of March 14, specifically the relationships with Saudi Arabia and Iran. “Saudi Arabia’s different positions affected March 14 more than Iran, since the relationship with Iran was either non-durable or non-existent,” said Sakr. In fact, a lot of changes happened in Saudi Arabia in the last few years and this had repercussions on Lebanon especially that the external relations policies of March 14 were not very clear.



The future of March 14

The latest events related to the presidential vacuum might have been the last nail in the coffin of the March 14 alliance. From one side, Saad Hariri nominated Suleiman Frangieh for presidency, and from the other side, Samir Geagea nominated Michel Aoun. March 14 made the same mistake after the Doha agreement when Michel Suleiman was nominated, knowing that, back then, Suleiman was March 8 alliance’s number one candidate. The outcome of Frangieh and Aoun’s nominations on March 14 is not yet clear, but, the situation does not look promising for March 14.

“If March 14 still plans to build the Lebanese state and improve its institutions, it can offer compromises,” Salamey told NOW. “This will weaken the alliance in the short term; but in the longer term they will achieve their goal of making Lebanon a consensual system.”

“I don’t think that March 14 still has a future. March 14 politicians might agree on a few topics, such as their position on Hezbollah’s weapons. However, this can’t possibly revive the movement of March 14 as a national movement,” said Saghieh.

Myra Abdallah tweets @myraabdallah

Eighth conference of the March 14 alliance, on March 14, 2015 (Image via nna-leb.gov.lb)

The violent attacks carried out against March 14 had a clear mission: to weaken and repress the alliance.

  • Petrossou

    A revolution that doesn't sweep out the leaders that were ruling when it took place, is bound to fail. Two mistakes the 14 March movement did was not to get Lahoud out of the Presidency on the spot and their alliance with Hezbollah during 2005 elections. After that the assassinations destroyed the movements momentum. Yet, even if the movement seems slowed down, it will come back at longer terms as Lebanese of all communities are fed up of teh situation.

    February 4, 2016

  • Hanibaal-Atheos

    Like in all the Arab Spring revolutions, Lebanon's fake 2005 Cedars Revolution was snuffed out by the political establishment (warlords, feudal lords, etc.) and all those who collaborated with the Syrian occupation. While the primary impulse of the Lebanese people in descending to the streets in 2005 was a reaction to the Hariri assassination, its subtext was a need for change, and while the Lebanese people managed to evict the Syrian army, they were fooled by, and succumbed to, the sectarian re-alignment of the same cunning political establishment that had collaborated for decades with the Syrians. All the pro-Syrian traitors and lackeys, and even those who begrudged the Syrian occupation but continually found justifications for it, became anti-Syrian overnight. War criminals, thieves, warlords, militias bosses, traitors who fought the State with Palestinian terrorists became defenders of a "state of institutions". Those who violated the Taif Agreement and supported Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to its ever growing arming and threat to the state between 1989 and 2005, suddenly became anti-Hezbollah, and are today still government leaders in this tormented country, instead of standing trial for their war crimes and treason. The genuine Cedars Revolution has started today with the Civil Society activist movements and groups. These are the real agents of change toward a modern state built on the rule of law, not the beks, effendis, sheikhs, generals, and other murderous dinosaurs who burned the country, decimated an entire generation, then declared amnesty to themselves. The Lebanese people can only blame themselves: They deserve their leadership because they keep electing them.

    January 21, 2016

  • MazenFC

    I completely agree.

    January 28, 2016