Saturday, November 12, 2016

from sykes-picot to civil war

From Sykes–Picot to civil war: the delusions of American power

There are various ways of doing a history of the present, or a history that follows the tracks of a theme of relevance to the present. In the short time that I have I want to trace the genealogy/archeology of the theme of the middle eastern nation-state, as it has emerged in the space of a century in US domestic and foreign policy since the dismemberment/demise of the Ottoman Empire, up to the present. I want to argue that the nation-state has become the forgotten concept, having been replaced by national security and the constant threat of terrorism and the fear of terrorist groups in particular in Islamic societies. Defeating so-called terrorist groups has given precedence over concerns as to what stands as a modern nation-state in those disturbing and disturbed times. But what if defeating jihadic groups is the biggest fallacy of all times? I want to narrow down that line of reasoning to specifically presidential campaigns in particular in the aftermath of September 11.

The failure of the middle eastern nation-state and the rise of jihadic groups represent a case of historical and material restrictions on what is said and in their relations with the exercise of power, which goes beyond the classical divisions of left versus right, democrat versus republican. I am interested in what is said, how what is said is framed within a discursive reality at a specific historical juncture. We want to examine things that are said, how they were said, and the occasion that made such statements possible. There were rules or “regularities” in what is said at a given time and place, and that these rules govern not just the kind of things that are talked about, but also the roles and positions of those talking about them.

This summer we’ve celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Sykes–Picot agreement which divided what is now the East of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan between British and French zones of influence, versus zones of direct control, colored on the map as zones A and B respectively. Sykes–Picot is usually read in terms of the borders that were imposed, not so much the borders of the 1916 agreement, but the actual borders of the 1920s, which turned out very different from those anticipated barely a decade earlier. There has been so much in the century since Sykes–Picot on the “fairness” of the borders, and whether they made sense, or whether they were justified at all.

What I want to propose in my brief intervention is that it is not so much how the borders were mapped, but to question the genealogy of the nation-state. I want to argue that various administrations, in particular in the aftermath of WWII, have erred from placing a priority on the nation-state, and the difficulty of such requirement. What has replaced the nation-state are concerns regarding security and US or NATO interests, where the fight against terrorist jihadic groups took precedence.

The American response to Sykes–Picot came rather rapidly within the framework of the King–Crane Commission in 1919, in the aftermath of WWI and the Paris Versailles peace conference attended by Woodrow Wilson.

In his fourteen-point address to Congress in January 1918 Wilson promoted self-determination. The twelfth point concerned the Ottoman Empire:

The Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire should be assured a secure sovereignty, but the other nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development, and the Dardanelles should be permanently opened as a free passage to the ships and commerce of all nations under international guarantees.

What matters in such statement, notwithstanding “secure sovereignty,” is the concept of “nationality.” What does this mean?

When it comes to “Syria” and the “Syrian people” the King–Crane Commission spoke of a Mandatory Administration that would take hold of the newly formed territory for the sake of a “democratic state,” and “the development of a sound national spirit.” And the text adds: “This systematic cultivation of national spirit is particularly required in a country like Syria, which has only recently come to self-consciousness.” Self-consciousness is what would ultimately lead to self-government (p. 21 in The Israel–Arab Reader, fifth edition).

What we can retain thus far from the awareness of the Commission apropos the uniqueness of a historical situation of the formation of “nationalisms” that have only recently come to self-consciousness is that the newly formed nation-states are fragile and always in danger. The process of their coming into being could be aborted for the simple reason that they are “imagined communities,” as Benedict Anderson would say, which implies the formation of a vernacular culture in support of nationalism.

What happened in the decades following the demise of the Ottoman Empire and the end of colonial rule is the establishment of nation-states that for the most part are autocratic at best. How to deal with troubled nation-states—or the existence of states with “nations” divided among many ethnic lines and loyalties—is what has preoccupied US foreign policy since WWII and without much success. The problem has only gotten worse with “states” and “nations” falling apart since the Arab revolts in 2011–12. Not only the nation-state has become an impossibility, but the hyphen between “nation” and “state” seems irreversibly lost. The situation is new, but also as old as the problems that have emerged with the fall of the Ottomans and colonialism.

There are several chapters that are worth exploring in this regard, beginning with Israel’s declaration of independence in May 1948; the Free Officers’ revolution in Egypt in 1952; the overthrow of Moṣaddegh in 1953; the nationalization of the Suez canal and the tripartite war against Egypt in 1956; the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979–1980. One could add other episodes, in particular the coming of the Baath in Syria and Iraq in 1963.

In the 1950s as the United Kingdom was reluctantly acknowledging the end of empire, the US was filling the vacuum in the Middle East. But while the British had an 80,000-man garrison in Suez, the American method of influence was no troops on the ground. More importantly, the US supported any ruler that could bring order at home, leaders as diverse as the Shah of Iran, Nasser, Saddam Hussein, or Syria’s Asad. There was that attitude of accommodating oneself to such leaders, as long as they were not overtly hostile to US interests, in an era when terrorism was not there yet. There was no concern at the time, nor is there any concern in the present, as to what kind of nation-state was in the process of formation. As the concept of Realpolitik became fashionable in the 1970s, dictatorships could be “authorized” as long as they kept order and civil peace inside. Nor was the existence of the Israeli “model” of nation-state, which stood side-by-side to other hostile state formations, scrutinized in terms of its originally western political roots: it was rather a fait accompli that could be useful for the stability of the region. The US became distracted by the issue of the “fairness” and legitimacy of Israeli existence, and the parallel issue of Palestinian rights, both of which were projections from neighboring Arab states. With the stability of the region perceived in relation to “full” Palestinian rights for an autonomous state, if not the right of full return, the US took it for granted that a stable peace means overall stability.

But now, with the excitement of the Arab Spring behind us, such concerns seem not only out of hand, but we’re back to where we had originated with the fall of the Ottomans, namely, the question of the nation-state. It is impossible to understand the “success” of the Israeli state since its inception without looking at how the ideology of “Jewish labor” was formulated in the 1880s and later at the turn of the century.

In the last century, since Sykes–Picot and the King–Crane Commission, we can detect the following discursive formations in US foreign policy towards the middle east. I understand discursive formation in relation of what things could be stated under specific circumstances. Discourse is a space that organizes language at a historical juncture. It tells us how things are linguistically structured, and how such structures have been historically shifting.

In US middle eastern foreign policy several topoi have emerged since WWI:

Self-determination and the emerging nationalisms have become prominent with the dismemberment and demise of the Ottomans. The coming of nationalisms assumes autonomous nationhood and statehood, jointly understood as the formation of an autonomous nation-state. Autonomous in the aftermath of WWI means that the nascent nation-state should be free of western (or other) “tutelage” or colonialism or imperialism. The King–Crane Commission for one forcefully argued that in the transition from Ottoman rule to autonomous nationalism there should be a Mandate and a Mandatory power that would ease the process of self-determination (which should be taken in relation to an international right of national existence). What remains uncertain was the concept of “nationalism,” used in the context of “Syria” in its plurality as “nationalisms,” without any further elaboration as to what stands as “nationalism” in a context of multiple ethno–nationalisms, as we refer to them today. Should the Kurds, Armenians, Christians, Druze, Alawis, etc., be considered different brands of “nationalisms” that should “melt” into some kind of political “Syrian” entity? [Careful examination of the text of the King–Crane Commission versus Arab texts: the Syrian delegation in Paris.] Self-determination is the discourse espoused by Woodrow Wilson and his administration: it simply states the melting-pot of empires has ceased to exist and that nationhood has emerged all over the world and is not anymore the privilege of the rich and the powerful. Beyond that, self-determination is remarkably deficient at elaborating on transitions—from empire to nation-state—and even more so on the melting of “nationalisms”—or ethno-nationalisms—into one coherent nation-state. This was a question that was a left-over, and over which British and French had to struggle with in their respective Mandates over Iraq, Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

That was the kind of discourse maintained by the US until WWII. By that time, the above countries had gained their independence, and new problems began to emerge. When the Truman administration recognized the state of Israel in 1948, as the former Soviet Union did, US foreign-policy discourse was still operating under the banner of self-determination, but with a twist: the western and eastern Jews which constituted the bulk of the population of the newly formed Jewish state were not for the most part an outcome of the demise of the Ottoman political framework. As they “competed” for nationhood with the “native” “Palestinians,” they were able to formulate their own Jewish nation-state. With the Truman administration, therefore, the novelty consisted at giving “privileges” to a particular nation-state: one that was to be democratic and prosperous, and western friendly. [cf. Balfour declaration]

The real challenge, however, was not placed in the Israel’s declaration of independence, nor in the Israeli–Palestinian–Arab conflict for that matter. What in the Woodrow Wilson era was aptly labeled “national self-determination” became more of a reality in the 1950s with post-colonialism and the end of the British empire. Neither Eisenhower nor his fervently anti-communist secretary of state, John Foster Dulles, understood this transition from British to American hegemony in strictly geopolitical terms. However, national self-determination was the beginning of a long and confusing line of biased politics. It took several decades, with the Camp David agreements, to finally acknowledge some form of national self-determination for the Palestinians. The US successfully plotted in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected Muhammad Moṣaddegh in Iran who was undermining the shah’s authority; yet at the same time it saw credibility in Nasser’s emerging pan-Arab nationalism.

The roots of America’s Mideast delusion are not so much in having taken sides by recognizing the existence of Israel under the Truman administration, but at an inability to see what the likes of Nasser were fermenting across the region. Nasser’s politics consisted at capitalizing on the logic of civil war in countries that were weak on the rule of law and civil society, and where social networks, which were kin based, were meant to protect “society” from an obtrusive state. It was not the logic of pan-Arabism that Nasser was asserting as norm, but rather a hegemonic rule where weak states were held hostage to more assertive ones. In the ill-fated Union with Syria, for example, what became the “northern province” under the Union saw its political and military infrastructures undermined in favor of the “southern Egyptian province.” By bargaining on civil war and weak states, Nasser created the practice of ruling by weakening the adversary. The real opponent wasn’t so much the state of Israel as the other Arab states, in their failed attempts to create normative post-Ottoman and post-colonial polities.

At first sight, it seems incomprehensible that the US would undermine the authority of Moṣaddegh in Iran, while favoring Nasser as a hero of self-determination. The truth dawned—but slowly. When Nasser executed his master stroke, nationalizing the Suez Canal in July 1956—Egypt’s declaration of independence—Britain demanded that Washington join it and France in what became the tripartite Suez war against Egypt. Eisenhower demurred, thinking that he would alienate Arab public “street” opinion, only to realize that Nasser was the big beneficiary of the war, and began purchasing weapons from the Russians.

The Nasser episode, his so-called pan-Arabism, nationalism, and self-determination, the fiasco of the Suez war, not to mention the “restitution” of the shah’s authority over that of Moṣaddegh, would in toto point to the imbroglio that American foreign policy would find itself into up to presidents Bush and Obama. With nationalism and self-determination waning in the background, the US would stand with the “strong man,” even if that implies inconsistent policies.

Other episodes come to light here: the six-day war; the Iranian revolution; Lebanon’s civil war and Israel’s intervention in 1982; the Camp–David agreements and Sadat’s assassination; etc. Perhaps it is too easy to speak of inconsistencies. In all those chapters (failed or successful) US intervention, whatever its merits or failures, was done off-hand from a distance. That is the major change with Afghanistan and Iraq.

I want to explore such inconsistencies in the chapter on Afghanistan, which is the forgotten episode of the current presidential election.

Let us divide US foreign policy into four periods based on the economic performance of the US.

1.     from Sykes–Picot and King–Krane to WWII and the recognition of the state of Israel in 1948.
2.     from WWII to 1973 and the Yom Kippur war. This is the 30-year period which for the US and Europe and probably the world at large has witnessed the ultimate economic prosperity fuelled by rebuilding economies after the massive war destruction. The changes were infrastructural due to a redirecting to the war industries to civilian ones.
3.     from 1973 and the Iranian revolution up to 9/11.
4.     from 9/11 and the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab uprisings, and the coming of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

What are the advantages of a periodization that looks at US foreign policy in the middle east (and the world at large) in relation to US internal growth (development) and economic performance?

The first period witnessed a collapse of the financial and monetary system and the recession of the 1930s which saw the coming of the new-deal. It was WWII that finally turned the economy over. This was the aftermath of Sykes–Picot, when British and French created the borders of the middle east and the emerging economies of the nation-states. Like all emerging economies it was a period of robust growth in spite of the recession in the US and Europe, which was propelled by urbanization and the growth of public services. Middle Eastern societies would remain however by and large overwhelmingly agrarian, with all kind of industrial plans that will have a hard time to take off. With British and French colonization, the US had little to propose politically and economically. The recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 should not be overestimated and looked upon as ushering a new era in foreign policy. It rather comes as an attempt to fill out the vacuum left over by the British in the aftermath of their withdrawal in 1947.

The second period is more interesting politically and the most prosperous economically, but it also marks all the impasses and accusations of American-centrism, racism, and colonialism that US foreign policy has stepped into. That’s when the US finally takes over from British and French colonialism and establishes itself as a world power in the cold war era. Unprecedented productivity growth around the world made the Golden Age possible. In the 25 years that ended in 1973, the amount produced in an hour of work roughly doubled in the US and Canada, tripled in Europe and quintupled in Japan. Unemployment in industrial countries was unknown.

It was in this period of prosperity that confronted middle eastern countries in their postcolonial experience. Postcolonialism is more than a time frame denoting national independence, as the national élites were still operating within the framework of colonialism, of societies that were hostile to the emerging states, of economies that were subdued to the world order, and of stumbling industrialization plans. The stability and prosperity of the industrialized world is faced with turmoil on the eastern Mediterranean and the middle east. This is the era where the colonial national élites were to be run over by military dictatorships, beginning with the free officers in Egypt in 1953; Iraq in 1958; Syria in 1963; Libya in 1969; and the Iran in the aftermath of the revolution of 1978–79. Not to mention the Yom Kippur in 1973 which marks the end of three decades of western prosperity. Both the Iranian revolution and Yom Kippur went “unforeseen” by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.

The US took side with the shah of Iran against the democratically elected Moṣaddegh. It then forced its hand on the shah in 1963 in what became known as the “white revolution,” whereby the long awaited agrarian reforms meant distributing land to lower classes and peasants from the small group of large landowners. Such reforms were already under way since the late 1950s in Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. The militarization of the régimes in such societies did not seem to have much troubled the US. Indeed, there are many that the US “encouraged,” if not fully supported, the first military coup in Syria in 1949; that it saw in Nasser a populist “national” much better rooted than the defunct monarchy that he overthrew; that even the pro-British Hashemite monarchy in Iraq did not merit much praise. What has emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, the first two decades of American power, is probably not much different from the kind of discourse that became predominant in Latin America in the same period and later: namely, there was that submission to right-wing military “populist” dictatorships, on the basis that they would stop any possible communist threat; maintain a neoliberal economy; and fully open up to the industrial west. More specifically, in the case of Arab countries bordering Israel, populist military régimes would also accept the existence of the Jewish state. Such beliefs, however, would not stand for a long time. Nasser for one was staunchly anti-communist (even in his brief tenure on Syria under the Union), but this did not prevent him to buy arms from the former Soviet bloc and become one of their many allies. From Nasser to Saddam Hussein the US has learned how to be disillusioned: those were dictators that were neither popular nor western friendly, nor did they implement liberal strategies. They were simply good survivors, who locked all communists and other activists at home, but nevertheless bought all their weapons from the former Soviet Bloc. Needless to say, it is the collapse of such order, which the US did not create, but which it de facto accepted, that sits at the heart of the current uprisings.

Nasser had duped Eisenhower. “Nasser proved to be a complete stumbling block,” Eisenhower confided to his diary as his Arab–Israeli peace efforts failed. “He is apparently seeking to be acknowledged as the political leader of the Arab world.” He has concluded “he should just make speeches, all of which breathe defiance of Israel.”

Herein lies one of the biggest misplaced fallacies of American politics, namely, the thought, which comes from Arab leaders and their militarized régimes in the first place, that the Arab–Palestinian–Israeli problem constitutes the prime conundrum in middle eastern politics; finding a solution to the “Palestinian state” would undermine all kinds of hurdles in the Arab world, perhaps bring social welfare and equity at a larger scale on the long run. By the time the second Bush was president, and in the wake of 9/11, such “optimism” gave way to something much more radical. The problem is not the absence of a Palestinian state (its very existence could pose more problems), nor is it Islam, but nation-building, failed economies, and the radicalization of Islam for specific purposes. Nations have to be built from the bottom up, with their social institutions carefully monitored for the sake of more egalitarian political institutions. The financing of the new wars, in their military and civil portfolios, is an offshoot of the transformation of the international financial system in 1971 when overseas military spending forced the US dollar off gold. US Treasury bonds had become a proxy for gold, which were supplied by the US economy running a balance-of-payments deficit.

The 1973 oil crisis meant more than just gasoline lines and lower thermostats. It shocked the world economy. But it wasn’t the price of gasoline that brought the long run of global prosperity to an end. It just diverted attention from a more fundamental problem: Productivity growth had slowed sharply. The economic crisis of the industrial world has opened up national frontiers to globalization. The cultured financial and industrial élites would seek projects beyond their national and nationalistic borders in favor of capital accumulation worldwide. This non-commitment at the national level would institute an inside rift between a populist streak at home and successful international business. Right-wing movements (some of which are plainly xenophobic) which have become more common in Europe in the last decade and in the US as well, are hangovers from the 1980s decline. Neither Carter’s pessimism not Reagan’s optimistic supply-side tax cuts will bring post-war productivity levels. It is such atmosphere of great depression that the US will live the Iranian debacle, Lebanon’s civil war, the unpopularity of the Camp David agreements, and, last but not least, September 11.

In spite of the boom of the 1990s, George W. Bush became president at a time when neoliberalism was experimenting in various ways to catch up with post-war productivity, while deregulation, privatization, lower tax rates, balanced budgets and rigid rules for monetary policy, have become normative for the industrialized nations and the world at large, imposed by the likes of the IMF and the World Bank as the sine qua non for international loans and to indebted nations.

It was in such atmosphere of strained productivity and growth that president Bush would risk two major wars abroad. Even though Bush Sr. had already broken the golden rule of a hands-off approach towards the middle east in the liberation of Kuwait, it was indeed the younger Bush that will usher a new ground with the full occupation of two sovereign countries.

Obama’s failed legacy in Afghanistan

With the emergence of ISIS and the battle of Mosul (and possibly Raqqa) in the foreground, not to mention the Syrian wars, Afghanistan is hardly mentioned these days—not even in the presidential campaign. Even “smaller wars” like Yemen and Libya have eclipsed the American involvement in Afghanistan to the point that what is going on over there, after over a decade of investment, hardly matters at all.

The legacy in Afghanistan, like Obama’s foreign policy record as a whole, is troubled at best. At points he had the elements of the right approach—more troops, more reconstruction assistance, and a counterinsurgency strategy—but he never gave them the time and resources to succeed. Obama came into office rightly arguing that the war was important but had been sidelined, and promised to set it aright. Yet Obama’s choices since 2009 reflect a more conflicted stance, and it is not clear he ever settled on a coherent strategy. He deployed more troops than needed for a narrow counterterrorism operation, but not enough for a broader counterinsurgency campaign. He initially increased reconstruction funding because he believed, rightly, that effective Afghan governance was an essential condition for victory, but quickly second-guessed himself and subsequently reduced civilian aid every year thereafter. Most damagingly, Obama insisted on the public issuance of a withdrawal deadline for US troops, undermining his own surge—which eventually became so obvious that he finally reversed himself. Obama’s belated decision to sustain a small force of some 5,500 troops in Afghanistan beyond his term in office is likely to keep the Afghan army in the field and the Taliban from outright victory—but this is at low bar compared to what Obama once hoped to achieve there.

The good war: 2007–09

Before leaving office president Bush argued in a favor of a report for a more counterinsurgency effort, including more troops and civilian resources.

The report found a receptive audience because Obama had been making the same case from the earliest days of his campaign. He wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2007, “We must refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and Pakistan—the central front in our war against al Qaeda—so that we are confronting terrorists where their roots run deepest.” In July 2008, in a major speech on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he rightly noted the situation in Afghanistan as “deteriorating” and “unacceptable.” He promised, “As president, I will make the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban the top priority that it should be. This is a war that we have to win.” He pledged to deploy at least two additional brigades and spend an additional $1 billion in civilian assistance every year.

It is no surprise therefore than when he took office Obama pledged in March 2009 “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.” His policy explicitly committed the US to “promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan,” which required “executing and resourcing an integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.” In light of this, he ordered 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, quadrupled the number of US diplomats and aid workers, and increased civilian assistance by an impressive $2 billion from 2009 to 2010.

The turn: 2009

In summer 2009 violence worsened dramatically, as insurgent attacks increased by a staggering 65 percent compared to the previous summer, and that year 355 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, more than double the previous year. Add to this the mistrust and disrespect that the Obama administration nurtured towards Afghani president Hamid Karzai.

But the event that had the most dramatic impact on the new Administration’s view of the war was the initial assessment of the new Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General Stanley McChrystal, in August 2009. He warned that the current situation will undermine US credibility and embolden the insurgents. He called for 80,000 more troops to maximize chances of success; or 40,000, with medium risk. He also developed a third option: deploying just 20,000 more troops and abandoning counterinsurgency in favor of a leaner counterterrorism mission with high risk.

McChrystal’s report, his request for more troops, and the cost of the war appalled the Obama Administration and triggered a major reassessment. But it is unclear why Obama reacted the way he did. The crises of 2009 would not have unsettled a more experienced Administration.

Obama’s attempt was only to compromise, which only led to strategic incoherence. First, he ordered another surge, this time of 30,000 troops, bringing the total to more than 100,000 by mid-2010—far more than required for a narrow counterterrorism operation. Afghanistan, the third-largest military operation since Vietnam, had definitely become Obama’s war. But Obama deployed far fewer troops than McChrystal recommended for a counterinsurgency campaign. In contrast to his campaign rhetoric, Obama spent the rest of his presidency carefully avoiding saying that the US aimed to “defeat” the Taliban or “win” the war. The aim was narrower than resourced counterinsurgency or nation building. It wasn’t until May 2014 that Obama finally set a deadline—by the end of 2016—to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan. According to an account by Bob Woodward, Obama stated in an internal deliberation that “I can’t lose all the Democratic Party… And people at home don’t want to hear we’re going to be there for ten years… We can’t sustain support at home and with allies without having some explanation that involves timelines.” Obama was right about one thing: The Democratic Party solidly opposed the surge and supported the deadline. By 2011 Obama decided to exit even if the job was far from complete, even if there was no guarantee that gains made in the past decade could last.

The surge worked. Fatalities of US troops began to decline in 2011, and the number of Afghan civilians killed in the war declined in 2012 for the first time. Poppy cultivation appeared to be holding steady well below its 2007, while opium production plummeted in 2012. However, by the be beginning of 2013, the withdrawal was well underway: There were 65,000 US troops in Afghanistan at the start of 2013; 40,000 in 2014; and just 9,800 in 2015.

We will take out ISIS

Iraq represents another one of those missed opportunities, even more aggravating than that of Afghanistan. This is a country with more resources than Afghanistan, with an oil wealth and an urban and educated population. Women are an important part of the labor force, and have more freedom in public. Yet, it is very much divided along sectarian and religious and regional lines. American occupation, like that of Afghanistan, involved the ambitious operation of nation-building. But to keep up with his campaign promises, and in order not to alienate the Democratic Party any further, Obama withdrew all US troops by December 2011. With the surge of ISIS in 2014–15 and its control of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, American special operation forces are back as “partners” to the Iraqi army, police, and security forces. The number could be around 5,000.

There is a reason why the Afghani war, and the advances of the Taliban, have no place in the current presidential campaign. We’ve seen Obama avoiding in his two-term as president the language of “winning” a war against the Taliban, not to mention nation building, which has dropped from usage in the Obama administration. Instead we have a more diffuse language of a status quo ante, of simply letting the survival of the Afghani régime, its army, police, and security apparatuses as they are. Nothing more, nothing less.

When it comes to Iraq in the grammars of the current presidential campaign, the language now is to “win” the war against ISIS, but nonetheless without much deployment of US troops there.

Watch Hillary Clinton discuss her plan for Iraq in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015.
Mrs. Clinton said that “to be successful, airstrikes will have to be combined with ground forces actually taking back more territory from ISIS.” But, mindful that her 2002 vote to authorize force in Iraq largely contributed to her loss in the 2008 Democratic primary, she was quick to say these should be local Sunni troops, and “we cannot substitute for them.”
“Like President Obama, I do not believe that we should again have 100,000 American troops in combat in the Middle East,” she said.
Similarly, she called for more air power, but only in cooperation with Persian Gulf allies. And she acknowledged in a question-and-answer session that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had halted their air attacks on the Islamic State to focus instead in Yemen.
The 100,000 figure seems revealing: that was the number in troops in Afghanistan by mid-2010, and Obama began their withdrawal in 2013. Clinton not only seems to be in line with Obama on possible troop deployment, but she also consolidates a dogma of the DP on the mission of Americans abroad. There is a war to be “won”—a vocabulary that was dropped regarding the Taliban—and this could be done through “partnership” with the Iraqi, Iranians, Russians, and whoever wants to join in—as long as there is this common enemy called ISIS. The unsaid has more importance than what is actually said: no one knows for sure how the “liberated” territories will be “governed” once the war is “won.” How can a “coalition” of “partners” with different agendas and economies form a system of “governance” in the aftermath of ISIS. But a more intriguing question is, Will there be an aftermath to ISIS? There could be a linguistic rollover from the Taliban to ISIS: sooner rather than later we could witness a wavering to the claim of “winning” over ISIS. If ISIS is not simply an organization of terror, but a dense nexus of social relations, can ISIS be “defeated”?

Does the expression “defeating ISIS” means anything?

The debate we are not having in the campaign, we will continue not to have, how to foster a modern state that doesn’t metastasize corruption, cronyism, élites helping themselves? That would bring us away from defeating presumed “enemies.”

The debate on the Iraqi disaster usually lingers on that other disaster—Syria. Iraq and Syria now look “connected” for no other reason but their common Islamic State rule. But here the Obama’s presidency is total passivity. Since the early years of the war, particularly in 2012–13 when the Asad régime began using an air-technology known as explosive barrels, various opposition groups and humanitarian agencies have requested that the US and NATO begin implementing a no-fly zone at least in the north, in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Clinton in November 2015, based on the NYT
Expanding on her previous call for a no-fly zone, Mrs. Clinton said it should be limited to northern Syria, where Turkey has proposed a buffer zone to protect civilians, and enforced by many countries. That, she said, “will confront a lot of our partners in the region and beyond about what they are going to do.”
She took a particularly hard line against Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations who she said had been complicit in the rise of the Islamic State. “Once and for all, the Saudis, the Qataris and others need to stop their citizens from directly funding extremist organizations,” Mrs. Clinton said.
The core of Mrs. Clinton’s argument for a faster, more aggressive military operation was her contention that it would reinforce Secretary of State John Kerry’s diplomatic effort to negotiate a cease-fire, and ultimately a political solution, in Syria. Administration officials said it closely resembled the arguments Mr. Kerry has made to Mr. Obama — but Mr. Kerry has not yet persuaded the president, who remains hesitant about the risk of being sucked into a ground war.
Asked whether Mr. Obama had underestimated the Islamic State when he referred to the group as the “J.V. team,” Mrs. Clinton said, “I don’t think it’s useful to go back and replow old ground.”
But in a new break with the administration’s stated policy, Mrs. Clinton declared what some White House officials have privately said for months: that the fight in Syria is no longer about ousting President Bashar al-Assad.
“We had an opportunity, perhaps,” for a regime change, Mrs. Clinton said. But given the current circumstances, she added, “We need to get people to turn against the common enemy of ISIS.”
In saying so, Mrs. Clinton seemed to align her strategic approach more closely with those of Russia and Iran, who are backing Mr. Assad, though she criticized both nations in her speech Thursday.
Let us note a couple of things in this regard. First of all, in what seemed back then in November 2015, in the wake of the Paris attacks, like a campaign promise to get tougher on Syria, is already obsolete. Back then the Russian involvement was only a few months old and aimed at “maintaining the Asad régime,” as the reference to the “Syrian state” goes. But since then the Russian (not to mention Iranian) involvement has gotten much deeper to the point that eastern Aleppo has been annihilated, and the small Russian naval base in the Mediterranean city of Tarṭūs is being expanded into a permanent base. So, ironically, for the Russians too it is not longer a question of ousting Asad or maintaining him—that’s the common ground with the Americans—but it’s about Russian power in Syria and the middle east at large. US passiveness was a conduit to Russian expansiveness. The fact that ISIS is our common enemy and that Russians and Iranians are with us on this one is pure nonsense. What is never enunciated is what kind of state and society are at work in those civil war countries.

In the second presidential debate Clinton reiterated her position.

We’re making progress. Our military is assisting in Iraq. And we’re hoping that within the year we’ll be able to push ISIS out of Iraq and then, you know, really squeeze them in Syria.
But we have to be cognizant of the fact that they’ve had foreign fighters coming to volunteer for them, foreign money, foreign weapons, so we have to make this the top priority.
And I would also do everything possible to take out their leadership. I was involved in a number of efforts to take out Al Qaida leadership when I was secretary of state, including, of course, taking out bin Laden. And I think we need to go after Baghdadi, as well, make that one of our organizing principles. Because we’ve got to defeat ISIS, and we’ve got to do everything we can to disrupt their propaganda efforts online.

The entire logic when it comes to ISIS and al-Qaʿida, and previously the Taliban, is that they’re presented as a cancer that metastases “outside” society, so that we can killed them and kill their leadership too. But that’s the kind of language that was adopted for the Taliban and then was dropped under Obama. Will ISIS follow?

In the same debate Trump responded the following.

Well, first I have to say one thing, very important. Secretary Clinton is talking about taking out ISIS. “We will take out ISIS.” Well, President Obama and Secretary Clinton created a vacuum the way they got out of Iraq, because they got out — what, they shouldn’t have been in, but once they got in, the way they got out was a disaster. And ISIS was formed.
So she talks about taking them out. She’s been doing it a long time. She’s been trying to take them out for a long time. But they wouldn’t have even been formed if they left some troops behind, like 10,000 or maybe something more than that. And then you wouldn’t have had them.
Or, as I’ve been saying for a long time, and I think you’ll agree, because I said it to you once, had we taken the oil — and we should have taken the oil — ISIS would not have been able to form either, because the oil was their primary source of income. And now they have the oil all over the place, including the oil — a lot of the oil in Libya, which was another one of her disasters.

Trump’s strength is on the “getting out” of Iraq, but to do this, he’ll have to constantly deny that he ever requested any US involvement in Iraq, in spite to contrary evidence. But the whole debate on whether either candidate endorsed the occupation in 2002–03 or later is a misplaced argument. What matters is that the withdrawal in December 2011 should not have happened at all, in spite of the fact that staying in Iraq would have been unpopular for both Democrats and Republicans.

Notice here for both candidates the “taking out” of ISIS and their leadership (and also the Qaʿida and Taliban). The logic of the bipartisan discourse of “taking out” so-called terrorist groups, be it the Islamic State, the Qaʿida, and the Taliban (in their distinct metamorphoses between Afghanistan and Pakistan), which has the power image of a surgical operation which can separate cancerous cells from their healthy background, does in fact suggest that terrorist groups can be indeed separated from their background. Such discourse tends to isolate, in the case of ISIS, for example, how the group came into being in Iraq (before expanding to Syria) in the middle of a failed and struggling US occupation of the country, when the Iraqi army and its intelligence services have been totally disbanded in order to reshape all security apparatuses into something more robust and cohesive, something that would make more sense for a modern state. In short, is it possible to understand the likes of the Islamic State without going over the troubled history of Iraq from the end of Ottoman rule, to the Hashemite dynasty, and the various military coups from 1958 and on that undid whatever the monarchy attended to do. What is crucial for our purposes here is the suppression of Shiʿa politics and political parties under the Baath, and then the coming of the groups from their exiles once the Americans occupied the country. It is not enough to claim, however, that the coming of the likes of Zarqāwī and Baghdādī was an “outcome” of the disbandment of the Iraqi army and its intelligence apparatuses. The claim that “the Americans made the Islamic State possible” comes with own pretensions and fallacies. What needs to be examined is the infrastructure of the Iraqi state under the Baath in relation to the (predominantly) Sunni groups that it had fostered and others it had suppressed, Sunni opposition, Kurds, Shiʿa, or otherwise.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

the real in montage

We want for our purposes to distinguish between three periods in the evolution of cinema as art in relation to what constitutes the “real” in the process of montage.

The first period is that of silent (speechless) cinema, when sound was not there yet: the 1920s and 1930s. Germans and Russians and Americans had made great contributions before the addition of sound effects. The Russian Sergei Eisenstein and the American Griffith come to mind here. In the case of Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein (1898–1948), he became known for his montage techniques in The Battleship Potemkin (1925), a commemoration of the Russian Revolution of 1905, which is celebrated for its pioneering use of montage. To think of montage is to think of cinema in relation to images and imagery. In silent movies language is introduced through frame-captions which carries dialogue, monologue, descriptions, or the ruminations of a chorus-narrator.

The second period—the 1940s—when sound cinema becomes the norm. Montage is not enough; narrative becomes predominant; but such predominance is only achieved through the work of the camera: reality appears as such in the way it is framed. Hence rather than pure imagery we’re into realism, or the absorption of reality into the work of the camera. This is the period that stretches from Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, and the adoption of the depth-of-field, to that of Italian neorealism. The 1940s and 1950s witness a rapid maturation of the realist style.

Claims of various New Waves in particular among the French (nouvelle vague) and the Germans has proven a bit premature, as there is no radical break between what the 1960s have achieved and the previous decades when sound was introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. We’ll therefore contextualize the new waves in terms of continuities rather discontinuities.

The third period has to be postponed to the 1970s. The irreversible death of Italian neorealism (marked by the premature death of Pasolini in 1975) which comes hand-in-hand with the predominance of a Hollywood revamped style of narration in the likes of Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation), Martin Scorsese, and George Lukas (the Star Wars series). This comes in conjunction with the eclosion of artistic filmmaking beyond its traditional niches in Europe (Italy, France, Germany), Russia, and the United States of America. Filmmaking would expand to developing countries like Iran, Romania, Thailand, Turkey, Argentina, Korea, China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and Portugal. There is therefore a universalization of film-as-art far beyond its traditional restricted European and American frontiers. Indeed, as European cinema has become provincialized, the American cinema has maintained its world hegemony, only to be challenged by marginal styles of resistance from Korea to Iran and beyond.

Since its inception, cinema works with images. An image represents things—a reality—in a two-dimensional pane (in the last decade a three-dimensional perspective has been added). But the image itself is not a representation per se: the image is the representation that has been added to the represented thing. The represented object (being) is represented in a particular manner through framing, depth of field (or lack thereof), the distribution of light, color (or lack thereof: black-and-white photography), the décor and the makeup and dress outfits of the actors (whether professional or not). We’ll refer to all this as the plasticity of the image, by which is meant the power of the image to represent things through a system of representations that holds representation in relation to the represented being.

Besides the image, the second element that makes a film possible is the montage. By this we mean the organization of the imagery, as defined above, within time-space sequences. It is such time-space organization that creates meaning for the spectator: the spectator reads a film through its montage; whereby she would discover meaning in montage itself. In the same way that the novel as a literary device is organized around plots, characters, and one or more narrators that would shape its general narrative and sub-narratives, the narrative of film (a film’s narrative) comes to light through montage.

A film typically consists of frame-sequences, which could be short (just few seconds long), or long (long takes that could last for minutes without a single forced cut), and the montage is precisely the very organization of those frame-sequences into something meaningful. It is such organization that creates meaning for the spectator. The spectator-as-subject discovers his subjectivity in the very act of creating meaning from the process of montage. What is at stake here is the subjectivity of the spectator: how such subjectivity affirms itself through the process of montage. How the spectator reads certain scenes individually, assembles them into a bigger meaning: a process of power-knowledge unfolds; knowledge consists of discourses that document how things are done, and the subjects who do them. The film-montage assumes a place (space) for the subject; the subject whose capacity is to read the montage and find meaning. The ability to read, to discover and create meaning, is like other artworks (the closest of which is undeniably the novel), an infinite process which is rooted in the subjectivity of the spectator. The spectator, however, is enmeshed in power-knowledge relations; relations that are mediated by discourses and discursive formations. The spectator finds himself as subject through such discursive formations. The latter do not necessarily emanate from a subject, but create a space (location) for the subject-as-spectator.

How does the spectator read? In the fragmentation of time-sequences, the only purpose is to create meaning from the materiality of the image, its logic, and dramatis personae of the characters. The image does not show the event; it is only pointed at, or at best alluded to. Meaning is not created from an objective content (assuming such a thing does exist), but from the organization of the elements-events, which are only alluded to in the first place. The meaning is not inside (within) the image, but in what is done to the image, that is to say, the process of montage. What is important in the image is not what it adds to reality, but what is revealed through montage. Each frame is constructed through a narrative-discursive hub: from the basic framing, the depth-of-field, the light, the actors, to elaborate narratives. The key point is to understand the construction of imagery and montage through the narrative-discursive complex and the place of the subject in interpretation (hermeneutics of the self).

In sum, we want to explore montage as a discursive and non-discursive practice. There are several practices at stake here, all of which constituted within the political web of power and knowledge. To look at montage as practice means that we are looking at montage as politically constructed: how montage is made in the process of working with images. It is how the work of images is concretely practiced that reveals the political edge of montage as a web of power and knowledge relations and as a mode of subjectivation and form of governmentality.

By the time sound comes into the picture silent cinema had already matured into an nascent young art, as it had already mastered the combination of working with imagery and montage. The period between 1930 and 1940 will for its part witness the first wave of mature sound movies in particular in the USA, France, and Germany, followed by a second wave in the 1940s and 1950s. What is of interest to us in this regard is a new look at reality, in particular in Italian neorealism as pioneered by the likes of Vittorio de Sica and Roberto Rossellini.

The 1940s and 50s have undeniably witnessed another age of maturity in filmmaking, not only in relation to the silent era but also from the perspective of the 1930s. We want to examine one style in particular which evolved in postwar Italy known as “neo-realism.” What is the “real” in neo-realism, and how does that real introduce new elements of construction in the art of montage and imagery?

The real in Middle Eastern Cinéma

Documentary vs. fiction. The Iranian films have blurred the classical distinction between “documentary” and “fiction.” The post-Fascist era of Italian neorealism, beginning with Rossellini’s Rome Open City, has famously introduced “documentary”-style shooting in scenes incorporated within larger fictional narratives. The so-called “documentary” style consisted on a reliance on non-professional actors, genuine locations (e.g. street scenes), and long takes with fixed or hand-held cameras. It also implied, albeit very partially, the non-existence of a fully developed scripted narrative. Either narratives would be very sketchy, or else “action” per se and the chronology of events would be relegated to a secondary role. But by the time neorealism had matured, it had everything into it but the “documentary” claim. Thus, both Antonioni’s “existential” ennui style, and Pasolini’s thematic abstractionism, had foregone much of the documentary aspect of neorealism. It is well known that Antonioni, who had in the past filmed documentaries, repeatedly stated his sense of the inadequacy of such formal structure in its neorealistic vision, which in Italy had found in Rossellini its most inventive representative. The reason why I bring the dilemmas of Italian neorealism in relation to contemporary Iranian cinema is because of similarities in the documentary versus fiction paradigm. On one hand, Iranian cinema introduced long shots (often with digital hand-held cameras) that look like mini-documentaries within broader fictional accounts. The street-based long-camera takes are in particular notoriously hard to embrace, as they cannot be cut and edited—they have to be repeated rather than edited (e.g. Panahi’s opening in the Circle). Herein lies their force: because they cannot be the subject of a traditional cut-and-paste editing, they place the spectator in an uncomfortable position of different expectations, while they breathe a fresh air into film. On the other hand, those mini-documentaries are not as “improvised” as it might first appear. As Kiarostami’s 10 shows, they could be as well crafted as films within traditional narratives and could even require more off-stage lengthy preparations with actors and camera equipment. In the final analysis, the major breakthrough might not be the “documentary” versus “fiction” dilemma, as much as a new way to practice montage. As the French critic André Bazin had already noted, the failure of montage lies in its decision to pre-interpret, through the syntagmatic order it elaborates, every narrative fiction. In other words, the essence lies in changing the rules of montage, and providing a fresh alternative to classical editing, while forcing the viewer to look differently (e.g. a long uninterrupted take, or when two people talk, the camera would hesitate to directly frame them, but frame something else—hors champs).

At a deeper level, some of these films (Kiarostami’s ABC Africa and The Wind Will Carry Us) recapitulate aspects of questioning the relationships that the filmmaker nurtures with his material, in particular the portrayed characters or the issues at stake (AIDS, suicide, the status of women). There is a moral, if not ethical and political, tension in some of these films between what ought to be shown, and what is expected to be depicted within the frame. For example, The Wind Will Carry Us portrays media people from the city arriving in a remote and impoverished village to wait for villagers to die. The moral dilemma, if any, of the main protagonist-cum-engineer in terms of what to show, what to conceal, what we can or cannot understand of the Other, are simultaneously those of the filmmaker himself who nurtures similar doubts as to the “viability” of his own enterprise—the very possibility of making a film about people he knows nothing about, and whose life style is so different from his own. Indeed, such questioning is not portrayed abstractly, as if could be read within the boundaries of each frame: what is inside the frame, and what remains excluded, concealed, hors-champs. There is that nagging feeling that it’s pornographic to show too much of whatever does not need to be shown, namely, that showing “too much” human suffering for the sake of it could imply gratuitous voyeurism. What is therefore at stake here is that the narrative process incessantly questions itself, and its own right of existence as narrative, from the inside. To elaborate, at times it is the very breakdown of the narrative into a non-narrative which provides a fresh opportunity for the viewer to question the possibility of narration as a linear coexistence of incompatible elements—to question what we see, and how we see. Says Kiarostami in relation to his minimalist approach in 10: “There are basically two kinds of storytelling. One’s direct, very eventful, like a serial. The other’s about looking at something and finding something in it for yourself…not a story, but something more…” (quoted in Geoff Andrew, 10, London: BFI, 2005, 57). Ultimately, the aim would be to think this film through the image—how the image works; how the film writes itself through the image—rather than through narrative and discourse. The critical tools, whereby the filmmaker distances himself from his work, are set within that work through the image, rather than in the narration itself. What is more than the story line, except for the writing of the image?

Narratives and micro-histories. The issue of “narratives” (or lack thereof) hence turns into a crucial topoi in conjunction with the documentary/fiction issue: Do Iranian films, as pioneered for instance by the likes of Kiarostami and Panahi, have any “narratives,” or are they constructed on other types of narratives? (The same questions could be raised in relation to the Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan, in particular Distant [Uzak, 2002].) I think that the issue of narrative may be as misleading as that of the documentary-style montage. In effect, the strength of Iranian films lies less in the structure of their narratives, or their presumed documentary style, than in the montage itself. It is, indeed, the montage that would promote particular scenes within a syntactic arrangement. For example, Jafar Panahi’s White Balloon is entirely constructed from the time framework of a small girl who is completely focused on recovering the object that she had lost that same day. In this case, the novelty is that the time of the movie coincides with the action’s real time—a couple of hours within the consciousness of a small girl. As everything is constructed from the eyes of a single protagonist, the spectator is left with no other perspective but that of the girl herself, which requires perhaps a different level of concentration and focus. Reliance on non-professional actors, in conjunction with a quasi-documentary style, improvisation and hand-held (digital) camera techniques, all give that whimsical impression that there is no constructed narrative. But that’s, I think, an illusion of montage. Actually, as witnessed in Kiarostami’s And the Wind Will Carry Us, and 10, there’s a great deal of formalisms deployed in the combination of narrative structure, acting, framing, and editing, all of which point to more premeditated than improvised techniques.

Political and social prohibitions. It is well known that since the 1978 revolution the Iranian cinema has operated within all sorts of constraints: women must wear a scarf or chador (“veil”), intimate/sexual scenes are forbidden, and the heritage of the Islamic revolution cannot be critiqued. Yet, in spite of all such political and social constraints, there is a great deal of freedom and experimentation in Iranian films. What is more paradoxical is that, by all accounts, the Iranian cinema has witnessed a golden era in comparison to the 1950s and 1960s first New Wave when Iran was under the “secular” régime of the Pahlavis. It seems therefore that Iranian cinema managed to operate even better—if not more freely—within its more “natural” setting of Shi‘i Islam. In other words, it is precisely the prohibitions imposed by an authoritarian Islamic régime that transformed Iranian cinema into a critical apparatus, far more trenchant in its observations than its more liberal Turkish or Israeli counterparts.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

lebanon's new 2014 law on low rents

Low rents in Lebanon, in light of the new 2014 law

Zouhair Ghazzal
Loyola University Chicago

Concepts of property and contractual obligations in contemporary Lebanon, as for the rest of eastern Mediterranean societies, have been marked by a paradigmatic shift whose time framework coincided with the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of new nation-states by the French and British colonial powers. Even though the land law of 1858 required the registration in newly designed ṭāpū registers of all agrarian properties that were taxed, there were no cadastral registers per se in the Ottoman Empire, nor did the law admit “ownership” to the concerned parties. The prime reason for such a lack was indeed the non-existence of proper modern cadastral methods for delineating the space of a property. In effect, in Ottoman times, as witnessed in sharia court records, properties were delineated through their adjacent properties, in their north, south, east and west directions, hence the system lacked proper measurements and modern topographic tools. It was only in 1926, when Syria and Lebanon were under the French mandate, that a cadastral register, known as the sijill ᶜaqārī, was finally institutionalized. From now on each property would have a cadastral “record” of its own, known as ṣaḥīfa ᶜaqāriyya, and which consists of the totality of documents that would mark the property as unique in terms of location, topography, modifications, clearances, sale or tenancy contracts, lawsuits and so on, as set within a specific region, be it a village or town or city.[1] The prime purpose behind such renovation was obviously to delimit properties and register them based on a scientific method to make visible the surface area, value, and ownership of land for legal and taxation purposes, or else to receive a permit of construction. But the other aspect of such rationalization was to render such knowledge “public” (ᶜalanī), that is, not simply to the state and tax authorities, but also to common individuals.[2] Thus, if I decide to sell one of my properties to an unknown individual, and if I feel uncertain as to whether he or she would be able to deliver, one way to solve such dilemma would be to request their ṣaḥīfa ᶜaqāriyya, which is available for public viewing to private individuals like myself. The latter behaves like a U.S. “credit report,” which would mark a borrower as legible for further borrowing. The main difference, however, between a ṣaḥīfa ᶜaqāriyya and a credit report is that the former is solely based on the property as ᶜayn, that is, as the tangible object ready for exchange as commodity (res in commercio), while the latter is based on the performance of the debtor and his or her success at servicing their debt (bank accounts, mortgages, loans, credit cards, and bills). Perceiving an individual owner solely in terms of his or her ownership of tangible properties rather than debt points to a worldview where what matters is what the individual fully possesses (māl), which in itself acts as a source for capital. As we will see in the second section below, things have not changed much since the mandate, considering that it is still the tangible object as ʿayn that matters: to win a lawsuit of property recuperation, I must prove against my opponent-tenant that I do not own anything in full but the leased property; hence the necessity (ḍarūra) for recuperating the property for my personal (family) use is a must from a legal perspective; the only other necessity in the eyes of the law is that of demolition (hadm) either for safety reasons, or else for the purpose of a new project.

Unsurprisingly, the law that organizes property as such came four years later in 1930; that is to say: first the properties had to be demarcated in a cadastral register, then the law at defining property was promulgated. Besides distinguishing between movable and immovable properties, another category is that of “incorporeal properties,” that is, all the rights, obligations, insurances, and lawsuits concerning a tangible property. But the surprising element in these new regulations was that when it came to the categories of properties the mandate did not differ much from its Ottoman predecessor in acknowledging the three broad categories of mīrī, milk, and waqf. Acknowledging the mīrī was indeed a bit of an anachronism, considering that mīrī state-owned lands historically served as tax prebends for an urban élite serving an imperial state. Now that they are defined as “those properties whose raqaba (“neck”) is for the state, but whose usufruct (taṣarruf) goes for individuals,”[3] what purpose does the mīrī has still to offer in a world devoid of sultanic power? In a country like Syria, where large ownership was and still is predominant, and where the Ottoman ex-élite “old classes,” which survived out of state prebends, de facto “inherited” their prebends, the mīrī–milk opposition only created a gross confusion which still survives until this day (but more so in Syria than in Lebanon, where the mīrī category proves superfluous at best). Suffice it to say for our purposes here that the Ottoman mīrī became de facto (private or public state-owned) milk under the mandate, even though still legally inscribed as mīrī, which nonetheless enjoyed inheritance rules different from sharia law: men and women would in this instance inherit equally. Therein lies the true aim of the new 1930 law: to demarcate mīrī lands as a category that would not follow the precepts of sharia law of unequal inheritance. By contrast neighboring Lebanon, which since late Ottoman times had a more aggressive mercantile and liberal culture than Syria, the mīrī–milk distinction did not matter that much, as properties were either de jure private, or else they were state-owned and public.

By the time the Second World War was nearing its end and the French had granted Lebanon and Syria their independence in 1943, the economies of both countries were, by eastern Mediterranean standards, quite good, which led to an abundance of a much needed cheap labor for the cities. That was probably even more so in Lebanon than Syria, considering how much the potential for agriculture was reduced. By 1943–46 the surplus of agrarian labor migrated to the coastal cities in flocks (the second such wave, following the great migration from the mountains to the cities in the late Ottoman period), creating a need for leased apartments at affordable prices, in particular for the capital Beirut. In an attempt to create a local industry, new manufacturing plants were established in the suburbs of the capital, thus areas like Dekwāneh and Shuwayfāt which were traditionally satellite villages with large property holdings became epicenters of manufacturing plants which were serviced by labor migrating from the north, east and south of the country. When the new tenancy laws were therefore promulgated in the post-mandate period, it was precisely this new labor force, seeking affordable rents over long periods, that jurists and lawmakers had in mind. (In the U.S. similar laws were enacted by the Supreme Court during World War II, what ultimately became known as “rent control,” to serve the state bureaucracy contributing in the nascent war effort and its massive industrial and military projects; and in spite of lawsuits initiated until this day by private individuals arguing that “rent control” is nothing but a “seizure of private property under a different name,” the low rents still survive in certain crowded and expensive areas, such as the San Francisco Bay Area and Manhattan in New York.)

The majority of tenancy contracts in the world are normally set for a specific time period, usually for one year, with a clause permitting the tenant for a renewal for an additional year, but only if the landlord wishes to do so. That is to say, the landlord would not need to provide any excuse, personal or otherwise, to reject the one-year renewal offer by his or her tenant. Such limited renewals share many benefits, irrespective of the society or the time period in question. First of all, the market would not get clogged with old rents, which would have to be renewed on special terms, forcing for new legislation every once and a while to fix the rent value and update it on inflation. Second, the lease market would remain competitive, as landlords would not live in fear of having their properties occupied on long terms, if not permanently, creating a shadow-landlord in the name of a quasi-permanent tenant. Third, rents would receive an automatic yearly update that would mark them in par with the current inflation rate. One could add that when the lease market does not get clogged with old rents, the parallel sale of properties would not get artificially inflated either; nor would there be pressures on landlords to pay monetary “compensations” for tenants who decided to leave on their own amid a prolonged lease.

The Lebanese market would have been in that category of open competitive leases were it not for the tenancy law of 1944 which institutionalized the distinction between leases that were “renewed” (tajdīd) amid an explicit joint willingness from both landlord and tenant, on the one hand, and others that were “prolonged” (tamdīd) beyond what the contract had originally stipulated, which is usually one year, on the other.[4] It is indeed that kind of opening towards a legalized “prolongation” that would ultimately spell the well known crisis of low rents, but only at the beginning of the 1980s, once the lira fell apart, amid the Israeli occupation of Lebanon in 1982 and the expulsion of the Palestine Liberation Organization to Tunis; hence even in the early stages of the civil war in 1975–76 “prolongation” of contractual leases did not seem to have created the much anticipated widespread shortages on the market. What Lebanese legislation harnessed on in three decades, in the 1944–74 interim, was precisely the kind of link between “renewal” and “prolongation,” providing ample reasons to go for the latter. In those prosperous decades, up to the early 1980s, the economy was doing reasonably well with acceptable inflation, low unemployment, cheap and abundant local labor, affordable housing, and a strong lira in respect to the dollar and other robust currencies. So why not opt for yearly tenancy contracts? Why legalize “prolongation”? It is usually assumed that with the end of the French mandate, a larger than expected rural or mountainous population moved to the cities, in particular Beirut, which formed the backbone of manufacturing and industries. Being unfamiliar with city life and its risks, the law sought to mitigate that uncertainty by legalizing the prolongation of contracts whenever the tenant felt legible to do so. At the time neither landlords nor tenants had much to complain about, considering the economy’s good standing.

To see what had happened in the interim, one need go no further than the tenancy law of 1974, which was the outcome of small incremental modifications and amendments to the original 1944 text, and which unwittingly served as the adopted blueprint text for the yet to come 15-year civil war (1975–1990). The broad rule established invariably in the texts of 1944–1974 is that “the end of the period of the lease contract would not ipso facto imply that the tenancy is over and done with,” which means that the tenant has every right to renew, if he or she wishes to do so. A corollary rule which was also a norm on the eve of the civil war was that prolongation was not solely the tenant’s right, but also, in case of his or her death, that of the spouse and their children. Moreover, even “relatives” who were “associated” with the deceased and were occupying the property had their rights maintained in case they opted for prolongation. Hence the “family” spectrum was fairly broad as to who enjoyed that right of prolongation: what legislators had in mind was not to reduce tenants to the one person who signed the lease, but expand it to all family members who were simultaneously occupying the property; hence to protect them in their totality from the risks of the market. Prolongation prompted legislators to regularly update the tenancy laws every few years, as they had to adjust old rents to inflation. The other side effect of prolongation is that the law stipulated that proprietors have the right to “recuperate” (istirdād) their leased properties whenever there is an urgent need to do so, and in such instances the tenant would have to be “compensated” (taᶜwīḍ) for having all of a sudden lost his or her contract. Lawsuits became therefore normative whenever the proprietor would demand his property back from his tenant on the basis of an absolute necessity, and if successful thanks to a judge’s ruling, as was the case in the recent litigation that we’ll document below, then the court would summon the landlord-plaintiff to “indemnify” his tenant for a cash payment in installments agreed upon in court. (Over the years, different methods of calculation were adopted to assess the value of the property, its rent, and the compensation itself, which we need not get into here, but which will be addressed shortly in relation to the recuperation-compensation scheme below.) Lawyers tend to agree that it is indeed such lawsuits, whose numbers have dramatically sprawled since the sudden end of the civil war in the early 1990s, which have contributed to the overall decline of old rents from their 50 percent highs in the 1980s to their current 25–30 percent rate.[5]

What is of interest to us is the notion of recuperation (istirdād) and the lawsuit that would be needed to recuperate a property from the tenant. In effect, even though the property-owner and tenant may amiably settle without court action, the majority of proprietors would only settle in court. Post-mandate tenancy laws have regularly appended stipulations that would render recuperation approved by a judge with the proviso that a compensation would be paid to the tenant. Chief among such conditions is the notion of “family necessity” (ḍarūra ᶜāᵓiliyya). The landlord must successfully argue that he needs his property back because he has no other place to go, that is, he possesses no other property but the one under litigation as his own place of residency. For example, he may argue that he has been for years living in a rented apartment, paid hefty rents, and that it’s now time to recuperate his own apartment, considering that its rent is running low, much lower than the cost of his rented apartment; or that he has been living with his parents since he graduated from college, and now that he got his first full-time job he needs to be on his own; or that as an outcome of the civil war he has lived abroad for many years, and he badly needs to get back home; or that he is now a married man with a family, and his apartment fits better with his current needs. Several factors could be at play here: anything from the respective ages of the proprietor and tenant; their employment status; whether they have families; whether they live in Lebanon or abroad; and if they do, how often do they come back to Lebanon. As is fairly obvious, a lot is left to the judge’s discretionary powers, beginning with that ability to discern individual situations, favoring one variable against another. For example, it could be hard for a landlord who is young, single, and a college graduate who just landed on his first job, and lives with his parents to save money, to displace a tenant who is much older and a father of four. Considering how much kinship is important in such societies, it is customary for young men and women to live with their parents even after graduating from college; since a bachelor is not considered someone responsible of a family, there is no urgency for single people to live on their own. As all such family matters are factored by the judge in his verdict, what remains in the final analysis is that notion of “necessity”: is it that indispensable for the landlord to evict his tenant, even in the aftermath of an equitable indemnification? What presumably plays a preponderant role in such litigations is nothing else but the “cadastral record” (ṣaḥīfa ᶜaqāriyya) which respectively lists all the properties owned by landlord and tenant. Considering that the “cadastral record” plays the role of a U.S. “credit report”—even though the two are essentially dissimilar (the former is rooted in tangible properties, while the latter is into credit and debt)—what would tilt the verdict in favor of either proprietor or tenant is whether any of them has a single property owned in toto. The cadastral report is open for inspection and made public for any person who wishes to do so: if I need to inquire about my tenant’s properties, all I have to do is request his personal report at the General Directorate of Cadastral Affairs for a minimal fee. The report would list all my tenant’s properties (at times the confusion of names and birth dates brings more properties than needed which are later corrected and dropped), their number, location, and the percentage of the owned shares (ashum; s. sahm). The latter would prove the crucial denominator in a lawsuit: as the totality of a property constitutes 2,400 shares, if either landlord or tenant possess any property in toto, they may lose the verdict. Obviously, the nature of the property is of prime importance: if I am suing to recuperate an apartment that I own, and my cadastral report indicates that I also own a 100 percent share in a land in the same city which is used as a parking lot and out of which I am generating profit, the two properties that I own in toto are so dissimilar that one would not compensate for the other. Put simply, I won’t be able to live in a parking lot, and that’s enough evidence that I badly need my apartment, assuming that other prerequisites set by the court are met. In sum, a lot is at stake regarding both the landlord and tenant “needs,” “necessities,” and “familial obligations,” in conjunction with what they fully or partially own on the market. The partiality of ownership is a common trait in middle eastern and Islamicate societies, considering how much the Islamic rules of inheritance are adamant at dividing properties among male and female heirs (wills that would favor an heir over another are not permitted). Hence it is not that uncommon to find proprietors and tenants with dozens of properties listed in their records but without a single one fully owned. Obviously, in preparation for the lawsuit, both sides might artificially work out a reshuffling of their properties among family members: I register part of a property that I fully own under my wife’s or daughter’s name to avoid a negative verdict. As such practices are fairly common, councils and judges tend to look closely at the cadastral report in search of faked fragmentations, potential inconsistencies, or last-moment shuffles, even though such tasks are no easy matter.

Besides “familial obligations” which remains the most lucrative feature in the recuperation lawsuits, owners could bring other matters to the court: the right to recuperate a property that is adjacent to another owned by the same owner; the owner’s desire to tear down the property in question for the sake of a new construction project; the tenant has failed to pay his rent for at least two months; and so on. Once the court approves the recuperation, the tenant is given a grace period of 2 to 6 months to vacate the property; but the owner has no right, once the vacation is complete either to sell or sell the property for a three-year period, during which he must only use it for his personal matters, as he indicated in his lawsuit (if he does not follow the court order, the tenant may come back to him and request more compensations).

For those familiar with Beirut’s topography, the sight of dilapidated buildings, elevators that don’t work, tenants at war with one another, and building committees that only make decisions on paper without any follow up, have become all too familiar, all of which are the outcome of low rent policies which have accumulated and been protected by law since the 1940s, only to reach their climax in the 1980s. It was indeed the sudden fall of the lira in 1982, amid the Israeli occupation of the South, the Sabra–Shatila massacres, and the bombing of the Marines compound and the building housing the U.S. embassy in Beirut, which made all of a sudden the old rents look really low in value, with losses exceeding the 100 percent margin for the owners. Needless to say, such scenarios have become so common that the press devotes weekly interviews with disenchanted proprietors and tenants, while the parliament has for more than a decade attempted to draft a new law that would be generally consensual, to no avail. The only breakthrough came in 1992 with the Free Contract Law.[6] Article 1 of the new Law revokes art. 543 of the Law of Contracts and Obligations (which stands as the Civil Code in Lebanon) which stipulated that “if the period of lease is more than 3 years, it cannot be beneficial for a third person unless the lease contract has been registered in the cadastral register. The renewal would assume the same rule.”[7] The ability to renew beyond the initial 3 years, which became normative since 1944, has been withdrawn in favor of “open contracts,” albeit still assuming 3 years of lease (at least at the signing of the new lease) rather than one or two only, hence the law is not that far from the one-year leases common in many countries.[8] The 1992 law constitutes therefore a bold attempt to regain the confidence of owners which in the 1980s have shied away from either investing in residential or commercial properties (unless the intention is forthrightly to sell), or else have sought for their residential properties non-Lebanese tenants, or tenants that are known “not to last that long.” That said, the Law would not solve the problem of leased properties prior to 1992, whose “real rents,” once inflation and the value of the lira have been factored off, are at dismal lows. (A Law approved by parliament in 2014, which we’ll discuss below, forcefully addresses the issue of low rents.) Moreover, there seems to be a contradiction between “the freedom to contract” (ḥurriyat al-taᶜāqud) and forcing landlords to de facto approve 3 years for any lease, residential or otherwise, stipulating that even if contracts were initially set for one year only, they must nonetheless be approved for up to 3 years, if the tenant wishes to go that long; there is even no requirement that the value of the rent should be readjusted in those 3 years, or that the landlord has any right to recuperate his or her property, whatever the “necessity” may be.[9] The law has nonetheless been extolled, in particular by landowners and venture capitalists, for limiting post-1992 leases to 3 years.

We are now ready to proceed with a prototype of a recuperation lawsuit. The four-bedroom apartment, located in an upper middle class neighborhood in west Beirut, was originally leased in 1971 upon the completion of the building for L.P.11,860 ($4,000) a year.[10] By 2007, on the eve of the lawsuit, the lease amounted to no more than L.P.1,929,585 ($1,282),[11] which besides the obvious loss vis-à-vis the dollar does not account for inflation and for how much valuable $4,000-a-year could do at the time in the 1970s. When the 2011 verdict came through, denying the defendant-tenant any right to renew the contract, the latter received as indemnity a large cash sum (more on that later), but he also privately settled with the proprietor for a one-year extension of his lease as an “open contract,” that is to say, based indirectly on the 1992 Law discussed above. Strictly speaking, the old pre-1992 laws require that if the verdict summons the tenant to vacate the premises within 2–3 months, he may request, at the landlord’s discretion, an extension, which remains undefined by the law. Moreover, the landlord has no right to make use of the property except for his own personal use for 3 years, after which he may lease or sell it or continue using it. Nonetheless, legalities aside, with the excuse that “I need some time to settle in my new apartment,” which the tenant alleged he had already purchased but still needed a lot of work (even though he provided no evidence of that), the tenant went for the price of $32,000-a-year, which is fair to say represents the “real price” as evidenced by the apartment right below his which carried the same new price tag. In other words, the proprietor was with the “old rent” renting his property at a price 25 times below its “real” current market value. It is indeed such discrepancies between old and new that make owners eager for a new law that would accommodate their wishes, to say the least.

The special arrangement between owner (lessor) and tenant (lessee) is now (summer 2014) in its third year. Initially based on the court ruling in 2011, the tenant was supposed to vacate the property in February 2012, once the compensation payment would have been fully completed. The special arrangement gave him an additional two years of lease, which he indirectly paid through the indemnity: that is to say, the new $32,000 annual rent was deducted on two counts from the compensation that the owner owed him. It was, indeed, only in the third year of the specially extended rent, since February 2014, that the tenant began monthly payments (rent and assessments) outside the compensation. He even requested that, starting 2014, all leases be subjected to the 1992 law of “open contracts.”

In the first year of the extension, 2012–13, the ruling of 11 February 2011 was acknowledged by both parties, on the proviso that the owner would pay his tenant an indemnity worth $355,250, which roughly amounts to one-third of the apartment’s value, as estimated by the court’s expert.

2011 original compensation
2011 adjusted compensation
18 July 2011 signature of the agreement
$200,000 paid
18 August 2011
remaining sum to be paid upon the delivery of the apartment on 28 February 2012
$32,000 deducted as “new special lease” for one year only, ending effectively on February 2013
$32,000 deducted for a second special lease, until February 2014

Originally the compensation, as required by the judge’s ruling, was set at $355,250. However, the landlord, acting on his own behalf in order to avoid the routinized process of appeals and counter-appeals, proposed to his tenant a minimal “raise” in the compensation, up to $375,000. The agreement between the two, signed in Beirut at the tenant’s office on 18 July 2011, admitted that kind of quid pro quo: “The two parties have agreed that the leased property should be vacated on time and given to the owner without going through the specialized tribunals in order to present an appeal to the judge’s ruling, and without vacating the property through the auspices of Bureau of Execution in Beirut (Dāʾirat al-Tanfīdh).”

As the date of delivery was set for 28 February 2012, extra late days would be penalized for $300 each. The tenant agreed not to request for renewal anymore.

The following document was signed on 27 February 2012, just when the lease was over, amid the tenant’s demand for a “special extension.” The owner still owed his tenant $75,000 as the final installment of the compensation package, as required by the July 2011 agreement. Obviously, in order to avoid legal hassles that would look in violation of the July 2011 agreement, the new agreement was signed as “a modification of a previous contract.” The new arrangement stipulates that considering that the tenant had encountered difficulties at vacating his apartment at the requested time, a special one-year extension was accorded by the owner until the 3rd of March 2013. The amount would be deducted from the remaining $75,000 that the owner owes his tenant as part of the settlement-compensation. Interestingly, no specific sum was mentioned as value for the “new rent”—the document even avoids all such overt language. Instead, a close notes that what is left of the indemnity—$43,000—would be delivered by the owner once the tenant vacates on March 2013. A second special agreement was signed then, claiming this time that the final installment of $11,000 would be delivered on March 2014. Since then the two parties have opted for an official lease, in conformity with Law 160/1992.

Strictly speaking, from a legal point of view, and in light of the court ruling in 2011, what owner and tenant indulged into in the last couple of years, is “illegal.” What does that mean? The whole court proceedings, initiated by the owner in 2007, when the lawsuit was filed, were conducted on the basis that the owner urgently needed his apartment for the “family reasons” that he pleaded for (more on that below). Suffice it to say that, in light of the special arrangements between owner and tenant, such pleas de facto, if not de jure, become “bogus,” as they lose all their rationale, with a tenant that still occupies the same apartment but with a much higher rent at the established competitive street price. However, the “illegality” in this instance proves meaningless as owner and tenant are indulging into a consensual arrangement that fits them both. Moreover, such arrangement would not need stricto sensu any court endorsement. To wit, the court may declare it “illegal” only if it becomes “informed” of the modalities of the special arrangement. But who is going to “inform” the court, and on which basis exactly? Certainly not the owner–lessor: there is nothing to gain on his part through another court action. The only party that may indulge at informing the court of the “illegality” of the special arrangement is certainly the tenant. He may, for instance, argue that he “tricked” his landlord into that kind of arrangement to “prove” to the court that there was no “family necessity,” as was initially claimed by the owner.

Here comes the rub. Both owner and tenant take the risk regarding the “illegal” side of things simply because it is worth taking, and, more importantly, the special arrangement fits them both. On the side of the tenant, it is true that he is given a new lease with a price tag much higher than the old one he had been accustomed to, but then, price notwithstanding, he likes where he is, and he seems to find the arrangement “fair” enough for his purposes; and obviously he can afford the new revamped rent; he probably looked for other alternatives, but found the new modern apartments out of reach. On the owner’s side, had he requested the immediate vacation of the property in February 2012, as required by the ruling, he would have had—a basic law requirement—to occupy it himself for at least three years. That would have constituted in itself the “proof” that he “badly” needed it for the most urgent “family necessity” that he claimed for when he filed for the lawsuit. So, in short, what were the benefits for going “illegal”? Without indulging into much unwarranted speculation, the owner, as he informed me in summer 2014, had not much interest in occupying his own apartment back in 2012. First of all, he would have incurred the price of renovating an apartment that had been occupied since the early 1970s, a price that he estimated at nearly $50,000. Second of all, he would have had lost two years of rent, at $32,000 each. In sum, the three-year court requirement, in addition to the renovation, would have amounted to a hefty $150,000. He therefore opted for the “risk” of going “illegal” by granting his tenant a special treatment, on the near-certainty that he would not betray him through another round of court action. To be sure, the tenant could have tricked his landlord into another court procedure. He could, for instance, claim that, contrary to what the owner had argued for in his initial suit, he only renovated and furnished the apartment, but, otherwise, he was still living abroad for most of the year. But why would he do so, considering that he “benefited,” as his landowner did, from the two-year-plus extension?

It goes without saying that the arrangement between the landowner and his tenant is based on a mutual risk: either one knows damn well that they could be harmed by the other party going to court and risking a lawsuit that would place the opponent in an uncomfortable situation, where more claims for compensation would be at stake. What is really at stake in such situation are indeed the transaction costs, whether landowner and tenant accept their new mutual arrangement for the years to come, or whether one of them decides that it time to break up the entente. Herein lies the “successes” of such ententes: the court system is used in phase one, whereby landowner and tenant ferociously fought in court their respective viewpoints. Pre-trial negotiations did not work all too well at this stage, as both parties surmised that the court ruling would be beneficial to them. It was only once the court ruling finally materialized in 2011 that owner and tenant negotiated at the margins of the law, and, one should add, by bypassing what the law explicitly states. Once the verdict was enunciated, the tenant took note of the fact that vacating a property that he has been occupying for decades became all of a sudden a certainty, to be reckoned with. He realized that it would be perhaps more affordable, and more realistic, to indulge into an extension of the same rent, albeit at a more competitive price, than shopping for a new apartment. He therefore approached his landlord for a solution to their problems in that direction: let’s renew the lease, but with a price tag that you determine. The owner could have refused the offer, but refrained from doing so: it was for him, like for his tenant, a question of transaction costs. Sure, the court verdict was what he exactly expected and wanted, but it was also costly: it required him to occupy the vacated apartment for three years, before deciding on any further action. On both sides, therefore, there are incurring costs for breaking the current status quo, which has been at works since the early 1970s. They’ve both opted to persevere with the status quo, with all the legal risks that such measure would entail, in order to minimize all transaction costs.

When in 2008 the counsel of the plaintiff-owner pleaded in court on behalf of his client, he wrote to the district judge that “even though the plaintiff currently resides in the United States, he nonetheless has plans to return permanently to Lebanon and find work in his home country. Moreover, whenever he returns home he is forced to stay with his parents, which are kind enough to accommodate him with all his belongings; not to mention his personal library, composed of thousands of books, since my client is a professional writer and academic with many published books and articles on record. In spite of his parents’ generosity, my client does not feel anymore at home in such constrained space. Considering that my client needs a space of his own, so that he can create and produce by his own standards, we accordingly request the full recuperation of the apartment that is solely his.” The counsel quotes a section of Law 160/1992, which even though is restricted to “free contracts,” nonetheless reiterates the same rules as previous pre-1992 laws on recuperation: “The proprietor has the right to recuperate his property either for his own use or the use of one of his children for a family necessity, on the proviso that he does not own anything else that would be valid for residential occupation…We therefore demand that the apartment be recuperated due to a family necessity…”

The defense obviously rebuffed such claims, alleging that “the plaintiff only expressed his desire to return to Lebanon from the United States, where he currently holds a full-time position at an institution of higher learning, which is different from actually settling here. The mere desire to return is thus no evidence of a family necessity…” The counsel’s second target were the plaintiff’s properties. He argued that the proprietor did own three other apartments in the same building, albeit as the judge would later point out in his ruling, none of which were fully owned; none even had a 50 percent ownership. In his verdict in mid-2011 the judge noted that the crux of the matter from a legal standpoint is the notion of “family necessity,” which is not “hooked to everlasting notions,” “but it rather gives privilege for someone to use his rights in a natural and customary way without harming anyone else…” He thus rebuffed the defense claims of differences between the desire to return versus the act of returning to Lebanon from the U.S., adding that the plaintiff has every right to return, having expressed his desire to do so, but considering that none of the properties listed by the defense represent more than a 50-percent share, the plaintiff has no other option under such conditions but to stay with his parents. At this point, having been in favor of the plaintiff, the judge proceeded with an estimation of the value of the property in consideration for the indemnity to be paid to the tenant. The court expert had placed the value at $3,500 per square-meter in conformity with the prices in the neighborhood which he had examined in 2010, in disagreement with what the plaintiff’s counsel had estimated, namely $2,000 per square-meter. The judge, demanding the immediate evacuation of the property, once the lease is over, thus calculated that the property’s price tag was $1,015,000 (for 290 square-meters), placing the compensation at 35 percent of the total value for a price tag of $355,250.[12] Even though not a law requirement per se, but more of a practice than an official theory, the indexing of the compensation as one-third of the property’s value seems to be the adopted rule of thumb.

Even though it took three more years for the verdict to materialize, the structure of the case is fairly simple, and is representative of such lawsuits. It consists of the two counsels’ reports; the court expert who investigated the property, building, and neighborhood, setting a price based on the municipality’s estimates (which it routinely does for taxation purposes), and on interviews with neighbors and proprietors in the neighborhood; and the verdict, which took Law 160/92 as reference. The crux of the matter amounted at dissecting where “family necessity” lies: was there an absolute necessity for the owner to reclaim his property? And if so, on which grounds exactly? Did the owner own at least one other property that would have been suitable for his living conditions? The two conditions are fairly flexible, in particular the notion of “family necessity,” which evolves in time. In this case, the plaintiff was a mid-aged bachelor, a fact that was not even mentioned by the two counsels, and for good reason: not a long time ago, the defense counsel would have made a fuss about it; but the post-civil war mores of Lebanese society are moving slowly toward recognizing individual over family rights, hence everyone has a right to settle in his or her own property, assuming that the plaintiff only fully owns the one property under litigation. For that very reason owners tend to spread the ownership of properties among family members, at least until they settle through court action. With this in mind, Law 160/1992 proves a great breakthrough, albeit it left unresolved a 25–30 margin of low-rented properties, which the newly passed 2014 law may finally put at rest (see the following section); but it played favorably at encouraging proprietors to reclaim their properties through court action, even if that entails paying hefty compensations to tenants, which some have judged totally unjustified and uncompetitive for a liberal economy. Notwithstanding such grievances, coming from owners and their tenants, the Law has managed to reduce by a wide margin the crippling effects of low rents, first by opening the clause of “free” three-year non-renewable leases, and second, by promptly processing suits in favor of owners who wish to recuperate their properties.

What the new 2014 revamped law would bring, if approved

The text of the new rental law that was passed in parliament only recently, in April 2014, and which in principle should put permanently at rest the episode of old rents by 2025 at the latest, has been under the hood for many years, receiving many revisions prior to its publication in the Official Journal in early May 2014. But even though there is a constitutional probation period of six months, prior to the enactment of the law, which makes it eligible to be revoked by parliamentarians and Cabinet ministers, or the house speaker and president of the republic, the published text is worth our attention for its own sake, considering how much controversy it has already stirred.[13] For one thing, it highlights the problems that we have been addressing thus far regarding the differences in value between the old rents and their current street value. For another, even if the law would not make it to its final ultimate test, the text itself is serious enough in addressing the compelling issue of those old tenants who would not be able to afford the new competitive rents. Already the mixed reaction of the media points to the difficulties of such legal endeavor: on one side, the argument is that this is too little, too late; that the property owners, having been subjected to years of losses from rents far below their street value, have now to willy-nilly accommodate their tenants for nine more years, prior to breaking free the lease, if they wish to do so. On the other side, however, the alternative argument is that many of the old tenants would not afford the new rents, in particular past the nine-year period; to which some have already responded that such tenants have become over the years a tiny minority, whose issues need to be addressed separately (for instance through special funds) rather than to be limited to legal procedural matters. Well-to-do tenants, those same sources argue, represent another hefty minority, at least as important as struggling tenants from the lower classes. What is certain, however, is that assuming the rental law passes the “constitutional” (and political) test, rent control would finally become a thing of the past.[14]

What is new in the new law approved by parliament in April 2014 is article 15 which gives the possibility for the landowner to “win back” his property within a 9-year period, a strategy that would prove an alternate scenario from the one that we have explored above, in particular for owners who would be unable to afford the hefty compensation on behalf of their tenants. Each strategy comes with its own risks, perils, and costs. To wit, the strategy explored above, which generally requires court action, unless owner and tenant consensually agree on a compensation scheme, would normally take four years, from the filing of the suit to the verdict, but, due to the required compensation, the cost could be higher for the owner than what the new 2014 law would propose in this regard. For the tenants, however, the 2014 law is definitely a much better endeavor, as it gives them nine years to work out a new lease, either with the same owner or a different one, albeit the tenant would experience a progressive, but significant, rent increase in those 9 years. A special state-managed fund, with all kinds of demanding stipulations, is meant to assist tenants with low income. No accurate data on the number of needy tenants, nor on the size of the fund or how it will be funded are provided.

The tenant would pay the new full rent’s value, known as qīmat badal al-mithl, gradually over a six-year period; but only by the sixth year would the rent become complete, as a new rent which has been adjusted to the current configuration of rents, taking into consideration inflation and the competitiveness of the market. The legislation thus progressively increases pre-1992 rents over six years and eventually gives free access to property owners by the ninth year. Moreover, the value of the new rent should not exceed 5 percent of the value of the property itself “in its current condition,” once vacated. Needless to say, the badal al-mithl is the key component of the new law, as everything else gravitates around the value of this new rent, from the gradual yearly increase, to the indemnity to be accorded to the tenant in case the owner wishes to reclaim his or her property for a “family necessity.”

How is the “new rent value” to be addressed? Article 18 states that the “new rent” must be bargained either consensually or in court, raḍāʾ-an aw qaḍāʾ-an: that is to say, either tenant and landlord consensually agree on the new rent, or else they would seek court arbitration. Once the new rent has been agreed upon, it would be instated only gradually, within a six-year tenancy period, when it should reach its full value. In the sixth, seventh, and eighth years, therefore, the tenant would pay the new rent in full, which would have been agreed upon in year 1 (consensually or otherwise), and by the ninth year the contract would become “open” for the first time, as it would become subject to an open “free” negotiation for a new value, or else the owner may request from his tenant to vacate the premises, on the basis that he or she has opted for a non-renewal (no need to provide for any formal reason or excuse, familial necessity, demolition, new project, or otherwise). By the ninth year, the owner has a right not to renew the lease which had been imposed on him or her for decades.

Considering that the tenant has been sitting for decades—at the very least prior to 1992—on an old rent system, protected by the law, which is far below the current market value, how would then tenant and proprietor come to agree on the new rent? Suppose a tenant who is renting for $2,000 a year for a three-bedroom apartment in an upscale middle-class residential area of Beirut, which if it were to be competitively open would be worth no less than $30,000, based, say, on a new rent in the same residential complex. How would then the two agree on a new price in order to proceed with a lease based on the new law?

Article 15 makes possible the extension (renewal) of the old pre-1992 lease contracts for another 9 years on the proviso that the tenant would pay the so-called badal al-mithl with an incremental increase so as to reach no more than five percent of the property’s value, considered as the fair lease price, as follows:

15 percent for the first year;
30 percent for the second;
45 percent for the third;
60 percent for the fourth;
80 percent for the fifth;
100 percent—fair price—for the sixth;
100 percent for the seventh;
100 percent for the eighth.

The lease would then be open to negotiation in the ninth year, with the possibility of a closure or non-renewal. Only poor households would be able to extend their stay for 12 years.[15] So, suppose I am a tenant in an old pre-1992 lease which is worth $2,000 annually, what would the new law do to my lease, and in what way would it benefit me and my landlord? Either the “new updated rent” is assessed on the old existing one—$,2000—which means that six years from now it would reach its full “street value”—$4,000—a 100 percent increase; or else, the new value has nothing to do with the old one, hence must be assessed independently, and only then, the above percentages would become operative.

The first possibility seems a bit absurd, at least for the owners, considering that many of the old rents are now well worth above the $10,000 mark. In all likelihood, therefore, the second solution seems a bit more realistic: the value of the new rent is unrelated to the old, as its value would be marked on the most recent street price, to be jointly decided by landlord and tenant.

In this instance, a question begs itself: how would tenant and landlord “agree” on a new price? What if they disagree? What has the new law to say on this matter? Who is going to arbitrate in case of conflict, which would seem very much likely, considering the circumstances? What would the procedures of arbitration look like considering the circumstances?

If as an owner I have an apartment that is available, I would freely negotiate the rent with any potential tenant. The law would not impose any “market price” on us. The same would apply if the apartment is under a new post-1992 rent, which gives me the right either to not renew or else to negotiate for a new price past an initial three-year tenancy contract. A disagreement on price or on other matters would simply entail that the tenant would have to shop elsewhere.

If that scenario proves correct, and assuming that both owner and tenant agree on the new price (it remains to be seen what happens if they don’t), then proprietors, in addition to all the “losses” they would have incurred over the years, would still “subsidize” their tenants for six more years, until a “market price” becomes a reality. They would only be able to totally “free” their property—either for their own private use, or for a new tenant, or a new project—only in three more years—nine years after the new law of 2014 would have passed, assuming it would receive the final legal (and legalized) approval, which it partially did on August 6, 2014, when the Constitutional Council approved the law, safe for the articles that address the issue of the committee that would handle the value of the “new rent.” The parliament should therefore revise those articles, prior to the law becoming effective on 28 December 2014. Otherwise, the law would become inoperative, and proprietors and their tenants would have to litigate based on the more “general” law of contracts and obligations, which stands as Lebanon’s civil code.

At present, in summer 2014, the law has been published as a “special appendix” to the Journal Officiel on 8 May 2014, and then for a second time, because the Constitutional Council deemed the first publication unconstitutional. The then-president of the republic, Michel Suleiman, had opted for his constitutional rights in not appending his signature to the law, but also in not sending it back to parliament for review. There is nevertheless a period of appeal that in principle is 15 days from the date of publication: the president himself, the house speaker, ministers, and at least 10 parliamentarians could pose a challenge to the new law within the 15-day probation period from the date of publication. Otherwise the law would become operative six months as of its publication. There are, however, conflicting legal opinions as to what the Constitutional Council would consider as “probation period,” with some interpretations stretching it up to six months.[16] However, whatever the fate of the law, the preparatory work itself, not to mention the proposed text of the law, and the reverberations across the media (we’re turning old needy tenants into homeless people!) point towards a common no-nonsense mindset of issues regarding property.[17]

Article 18, whose section B–4 has been revoked by the Constitutional Council,[18] solves the mystery as to how the new rent (badal al-mithl) would be negotiated. It would be in principle “consensually” settled between tenant and landowner. In case of conflict, within three months of the law’s publication, the lessor should seek the expertise of two professionals accredited by the courts, which would help in determining the new rent. Once notified, if the lessee is unsatisfied of the proposal, he or she may in turn seek the appointment of two legal experts. If the two reports, the one initiated by the landowner and the other by the tenant, prove to be incompatible, then landlord and tenant could seek the expertise of the committee appointed for the muḥāfaẓa where the lease is at stake. Article 19 details how expertise reports should be drafted and the kind of information that ought to be detailed. (Notice that the expenses of the expertise reports are on the owner and/or tenant, whoever triggers the demand first.) The lease would be in the 5 percent of the value of the property in its current state, if empty (article 20). This article therefore plainly throws all evaluations on the value of the property itself in its current condition, that is, in light of having been used for many years, if not decades, without much renovation or repairs. This could be looked upon as a clause of unfairness for the landlord, considering that he could easily invest in the property, once empty, adding both to its value and to its rent.

Article 22 states that in case the owner would like to recollect his or her property for a family necessity (ḍarūra ʿāʾiliyya) or demolition (other excuses could also be valid, if appropriate) in the first year of the special nine-year extension period, then the tenant would receive a compensation valued at a four-year rent for the family necessity excuse, based on the new street-based value of the tenancy contract; if, however, the property is reclaimed within the nine-year period for the purpose of demolition or whatever other reason, the indemnity should be calculated on the basis of a six-year rent (as calculated in article 15). However, whatever the case, if the tenants wish to leave after the seventh year, they will not be entitled to any indemnity. In our case history above, we’ve noted that the compensation was estimated at roughly one-third of the property’s value, as determined by the court’s expert. If the value of the new lease, in the 2014 law, is estimated at 5 percent of the value of the property in its current state, if empty, then a compensation worth a four-year rent would be at best in the range of 20 percent, while a six-year rent would be close to 30 percent, which is roughly similar to what the old law unofficially stipulates. That said, our landlord above would have probably saved 10 to 15 percent or more to reclaim his property under the family necessity rubric, assuming he sues immediately from the first year once the law became applicable, in order to avoid another five-year “loss” as outlined below. The law assumes that the reclaim could either happen consensually, or else through the court channels; as this possibility remains open in every settlement, it is difficult to assess whether the settlement outlined above in our large-compensation case history would in all certainty be better off in the new system.

In effect, once the new rent is set, the subvention plan, on behalf’s of the property’s owner, which translates as another five years of low payments, would run as follows, in reverse order than the tenant’s new mode of payment:

85 percent for the first year;
70 percent for the second year;
55 percent for the third year;
40 percent for the fourth year;
20 percent for the fifth year;
zero percent in the sixth year.

At the end of the sixth year the rent would become free, meaning open for negotiation at a new price, based on law 160 in 1992. Moreover, the owner would have to wait nine years to free the lease. In the meantime, he or she would be responsible for the maintenance and safety of the property (building, apartment, shop, or otherwise).

Article 3 claims that a credit fund (referred to as the ṣundūq)[19] that manages rents for disfavored lessees would be set to help the tenants whose income is less than three times the minimum monthly salary (currently $450, based on a decree from 2012 that regulates salary scales for public institutions and minimum wages in general). In case the tenants’ income is less than two times the minimum wage, the fund will pay on their behalf the difference between old and new rent. If the income is between two and three times the minimum wage ($900 to $1,350), the fund will cover the difference between the new rent and 30 percent of the income. But then nothing is envisaged to help property owners which have suffered from low rents for decades, as if they’re “wealthy” by definition. Moreover, article 8 gives the tenant the right to request a special aid from the account set for that purpose, which means that the rent increase is “frozen” until the committee decides on the request. No time framework is given as to how long that would take, although the tenant must pursue his request in the first year (out of nine) of the special “extension” within two months after a decision has been made on the badal al-mithl. Thus as soon as the value of the new rent has been agreed upon, either consensually or through court action, the tenant, if he wishes to do so, and assuming he is eligible, should apply to the credit fund within two months. He should pursue the same application, if he wishes, for every year of the nine years of “extension.” If approved, the fund would then subsidize the yearly increase that the tenant has been subjected to as detailed in the above table. To wit, the fund would pay the rent hike, recommended by the law, so that the tenant would still occupy the property with the same price. That could go on for nine years, after which he’ll have to debate a new rent with the landlord, without, however, any state assistance.

Article 10 states that the owner cannot use what is due from the credit fund as part of the rent that is due from his tenant. Since the fund would have to deliver the subsidy directly to the lessor, the latter has no right to claim the subsidy as an “unpaid due” on the part of the lessee. In short, the lessor would receive the “new rent” from two sources: the “original” rent would be delivered by his tenant as usual, as if nothing happened (say, on a monthly or bi-monthly basis), while the 15 to 20 percent yearly increase would be delivered by the fund. Besides the fact that the lessor would have to deal from now on with two different sources, delays created by state bureaucratic routine are another matter altogether.

Article 29 states that if the tenant dies, or leaves the leased property, the spouse or other relatives that may have lived with him may take over within the nine-year extension period, then negotiate a new lease after that, if both landowner and tenant desire so.

Some have argued that the whole “crisis” of low rents, which has preoccupied parliament since the end of the civil war in the 1990s, is overblown, hence does not merit the attention that is normally accorded to it. On the one hand, the argument goes, the 1992 Law of open contracts has de facto encouraged negotiations between landlords and tenants, whereby compensations were consensually agreed upon. For others, the road was open for court action, as was the case for our landlord above. On the other hand, and with the end of the civil war, between the sprawling of newly built apartment complexes, and the demolition of old ones that were too old or defective, the portion of old rents has been considerably marginalized, considering that new leases would be subject to the 1992 Law. Moreover, as the unofficial figures below from 2011 point out, even within the already marginalized sector of old rents, the tenants in dire conditions would not exceed an estimated 13,000 out of a total of 81,500:

13,000 of which are foreigners;
3,000 are considered wealthy;
5,000 are tenants are landowners at the same time;
18,000 are in the hostelries and tourist businesses;
6,000 are independent professionals;
13,000 are workers from the lower classes, the only category that needs to be subsidized under a new law.

It has been further estimated that by the end of 2011 Lebanon had a grand total of at least 422,000 built properties,[20] based on a work published by the Central Bureau of Statistics, and funded by the European Union. This is an increase of 13,485 units from 2004, when the built properties totaled 408,515. It is also estimated that 20,000 new apartments are completed each year, with an average of 10 apartments per building, which means on average 2,000 new buildings a year. That said, 21 percent of the buildings were completed after 1990, when the civil war was technically over; while 57 percent go back to the 1955–1989 period; and 22 percent are pre-1955. More specifically, in Beirut, 45 percent of the buildings are pre-1954; 38 percent were constructed between 1955 and 1987; 17 percent are post-1987; 11 percent in the 1990s, and only 6 percent are post-2000. There are therefore lots of old buildings in Beirut which the so-called “landed lobby” attempts to “systematically” erase by various legal or illegal means (the “protection” of “historical” buildings is practically non-existent).

For Joseph Zougheib, Chairman of the Syndicate of Owners of Leased Property, once the new law is approved, “There will be a cash flow injected into the economic cycle. The State will also make more money out of the taxes it will acquire from transactions, new rents, registrations for more residential units that were blocked before.” Some buildings will be demolished and replaced by new ones. “Many of the tenants who cash in their compensations might pay them as a down payment for owning a new apartment.” This would activate demand on residential units which is ailing nowadays. One of the advantages of this new law is that it liberates thousands of blocked properties. Owners can rehabilitate the property, if they have the means to do so. The Syndicate of Owners has based its numbers on a study conducted by the Ministry of Social Affairs, which showed that pre-1992 owners total 80,000, but with no further breakdown as to income.[21] Moreover, with the old rents becoming inoperative since 2012, and yet no new law in operation, some proprietors have initiated lawsuits based on the more general law of contracts and obligations, which stands as the country’s civil code. However, to my knowledge, such suits are still pending, probably with the hope that the new law would become operative by August 2014.

Moreover, in the confusion that reigned in summer 2014, amid the law’s approval by parliament and its publication twice on purely procedural matters, and in the long wait for the Constitutional Council to say its final word by August 11, it became clear that a “confessional” division is at works. First of all, Christian parliamentarians from the Phalanges Party, the Free Nationals (Dory Chamoun), and the National Free Movement (Michel Aoun) were at best hesitant about the law, if not totally opposed. By contrast, the Hezbollah, Amal, and Mustaqbal Movement have adopted a hands-off approach (in spite of all their political divergences), supportive for the most part, leaving it open for individual decisions, with a tiny minority voting against the law. Which undeniably points to the fact that Christian constituencies in Beirut and elsewhere have benefited more than others from old rent practices, while in other neighborhoods this has been less the case. Surely, however, this is no indication that Christian neighborhoods and towns are poorer; quite the contrary. There is undeniably a tenaciousness, or a sense of solidarity and community, among the upper and lower Christian middle classes which makes it harder to vacate a tenant for the usual excuses (family necessity or demolition). It does seem, however, that in the other neighborhoods and towns where Christians do not form an absolute majority there is that tendency to act against “unprotected” tenants, hence many of the old rents in such areas have dissipated in the last 20 years either consensually or through lawsuits that would require indemnities. In the absence of detailed statistics, however, once can surmise that in such neighborhoods and towns, the number of old-rent tenants may still be high, but the relation of “solidarity” with their landlords may be absent here.

Ottoman and post-Ottoman societies are known for their suspicion towards a “culture of the self” when it comes to the possession of property under individual holdings. Thus, with the importance of kinship, and communal property in small localities in its various forms, known invariably as shuyūʿ or mushāʿ; not to mention the most venerable “family” institution of all, the waqf; the primacy was—and still is in many regards—of the group over the individual. To wit, Ottoman, colonial, and postwar systems, gave precedence to the “survival” of the group over the individual, which, when it came to property, it was not the “individual inalienable right” that mattered. This was fairly clear, for example, in the Syrian legislation of the mandate, the bulk of which was inherited from the Ottomans of the Tanzimat, and which, in particular since the takeover of the Baath in the mid-1960s, has, by and large, disfavored private ownership.[22] Strangely, however, Syria “solved” the issue of low rents, at least for residential properties, at least a decade before Lebanon did, while at the same time disfavoring private property ownership, at least the landed ones, for instance, by strongly limiting the purchase of land and property transfers, and through cheap confiscation of land for the purpose of the public good.

Lebanon’s laissez-faire liberalism implies that all properties, urban or rural, would be treated on an equal footing. Moreover, as agriculture does not constitute a prime sector of the economy, much less important than tourism, banking, and services in general, there is therefore no urgency to limit landowners, farmers and tenants with special legislation and regulations. When it comes to rent control, our sketch of its history points to the fact that there was no deliberate policy at harming either owners or tenants. As an unexpected outcome of the fifteen-year old civil war, the sudden and sharp decline of the lira in the early to mid 1980s has rendered the value of rents nearly worthless, creating that category of “old rents” which was more an outcome of unfortunate circumstances than of legislation. With the end of the civil war in the early 1990s, the state, overburdened by political and economic pressures, was unable to catch up. Ultimately, the “old rents” as a category, amid the freeing of rents thanks to the 1992 law, became gradually marginalized, once attempts of owners to “redeem” their properties through court action became more and more promising; not to mention the construction of new buildings and apartments and the demolition of units that were seen unworthy or unfit for safety reasons. It remains to be seen whether the new 2014 law would pass the final constitutional test by the end of the summer, and whether it would permanently close the chapter of rent control.

[1] Wasīm Ḥasan Wehbeh, Qawānīn al-ᶜaqārāt wa-l-mabānī, Beirut: Manshūrāt Zayn al-Ḥuqūqiyya, 2011, 59–99.
[2] Qawānīn, 61ff.
[3] Qawānīn, 170.
[4] Farid Joseph Ḥaddād, Majmūᶜat qawānīn al-ījārāt, 1944–1982, Beirut, 1982.
[5] My special thanks to judge ʿAfif Shamsuddin, in our numerous conversations in Beirut in July 2012, in helping me sort out such complex social, economic, and legal issues, which by and large have remained undocumented, even though Lebanese newspapers are regularly filled with accounts of dissatisfied tenants and landlords, amid the new tenancy laws which are routinely discussed in parliament. As usual, however, there is no convincing narrative that would historically account for the gross failure of the system.
[6] ʿAfif Shamsuddin, Qānūn al-ījārāt bayna al-aṣl wa-l-taᶜdīl, Beirut, 1994, which thoroughly documents Law 160/92.
[7] Shamsuddin, Qānūn, 265.
[8] It goes without saying that a tenant may opt for 1–2 years only.
[9] Shamsuddin, Qānūn, 267–8.
[10] In the 1970s the dollar was three liras, a rate that would be maintained until 1982.
[11] For a rate of 1,505 liras to the dollar, which is still the current rate.
[12] All amounts were in dollars in the original, in spite of the fact that the lira has been pretty much stable since the 1990s.
[13] “Qānūn al-ʾījārāt fi Lubnān,” Al-Shahriyya, Beirut, 127 (May 2014), 4–7: “the rental law is a new gate to waste public money.”
[14] The association of “Lebanese Landlords” has expressed fears and concerns on its website at A letter to Kofi Anan was addressed to him on behalf of the association when he was secretary general of the United Nations, urging for the “freedom of contract” in Lebanon, which is protected by the more general law of “contracts and obligations,” which stands as the civil code of the country.
[15] Yassmine Alieh, “New rental law passed by Parliament,” Lebanon Opportunities, May 2014, 74–77.
[16] An-Nahār, Beirut, 10 May 2014.
[17] As Michel Suleiman’s presidency was in its final week (May 25, 2014), with no successor in sight yet, the sitting president decided, based on article 19 of the constitution, to summon the Constitutional Court regarding the constitutionality of the new rental law approved by parliament and published on May 8th. For its part, the union of leased properties summoned all officials not to revoke the text of the new law, so as not to further extend the plight they’ve been going through for forty years: “We’ve been informed that 6 members of parliament have signed a petition on a memo that pretends to represent the interests of the tenants in order to revoke the new law… Such names would be for ever in the consciousness of the old landlords, and the memory of their sons and families, simply because such revocation, if applied, would constitute a serious attempt at confirming the illegalities of the illegitimate takeover of the old tenants of the properties of their landowners, so that they would be inherited by their grandsons and granddaughters…” (An-Nahār, Beirut, 20 May 2014).
[18] In its August 1st, 2014 meeting, in a 7 to 3 majority vote, as well as articles 7 and 13, which address the constitutionality of the committee that should revise the “new rent” in case of conflict between owner and tenant, see, An-Nahār, Beirut, August 7, 2014.
[19] The fund intended to assist the tenants with “limited income.”
[20] Al-Akhbār, Beirut, 16 May 2012.
[21] “New rental law,” 77; some of the figures come from the Central Administration of Statistics.
[22] Zouhair Ghazzal, “Droit et société,” in Baudouin Dupret and Zouhair Ghazzal, eds., La Syrie au présent, Paris: Actes Sud, 2007, 625–660.