The structure of the state security sector

Lebanon has four officia state security agencies, each maintaining their own intelligence units and reporting to different constitutional bodies. The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF, founded in 1945) supervised by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is de jure responsible for external security and defence, but also plays an important de facto role in internal security. This role originates in the 1989 Taef Agreement, the political settlement which put an end to the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1989). Even though the agreement foresaw the Internal Security Forces (ISF) to assume full responsibility in internal security matters (Part 2, Sections A to D), the Taef Agreement also mandated the LAF to assist the ISF until the latter could independently fulfil this role or for as long as the Lebanese government deemed it necessary (Part 2, Section C). Akin to the ISF. the LAF maintains its own intelligence branch. The ISF was created in 1959 and is Lebanon’s paramilitary police force and the second largest state security agency, reporting to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities (MOIM). It is de jure the leading agency in internal security matters - including law enforcement, maintaining public order and communal peace, and protecting public institutions and foreign diplomatic missions.16 Even though it has continued to grow in size since its creation, the ISF has had to accommodate and submit to the LAF’s de facto dominant role in internal security matters, which had already been established in the early 1950s and is also due to its more advanced operational structures, equipment, and training.17 The General Security Directorate (GS, established in 1945) is an intelligence agency under the oversight of the MOIM dedicated to countering "subversive” activities, exercising media censorship, and monitoring and supervising immigration. The State Security Directorate (SSD) reports to the Supreme Defence Council and is tasked with intelligence and counter-intelligence, as well as close protection for public figures. Ostensibly founded in 1984 in order to allocate one security agency to the Shia community, it continues to fulfil sectarian quotas in the public service, despite its rather unclear mandate and plans to dismantle it.18 In the remainder of this chapter, I limit my analysis to the LAF and ISF.

As stipulated in the Taef Agreement (Part 1. II, Section D) and the Lebanese constitution (Article 65), the political authority of each security agency formally lies with the Council of Ministers. Accordingly. Lebanon’s state seciuity agencies have legal structures, chains of command and stand under formalised civilian oversight. In practice, however, state security agencies have barely recovered from years of civil war and Syrian domination, and instead continue to display deficie -cies in their command structures and organisation, as well as often erring civilian oversight.19 Theoretically, existing legal frameworks empower state security forces to enforce the law, but in practice state seciuity forces are constrained by the sectarian-consociational political context. This is mainly due to the primacy of sectarian and political loyalties, originating in the sectarian-consociational system of the post-war political settlement, which often eclipses allegiances to the state and questions the authority of the Council of Ministers.

The sectarian-consociational logic of the political settlement is further reflecte hi the sheer number of security agencies and their overlapping mandates, ensuring enough positions to fulfil sectarian quotas and maintaining balance of power and sectarian representation between agencies. This element of the political settlement hi tiun creates ample opportunities for clientelism. Security agencies are often perceived as having clear political allegiances.20 This image is most probably, as I argue hi the next section, informed by the sectarian formation of each agency’s leadership and ranks rooted in clientelism. However, as one political party offici rightly claimed, this view is distorted as each political force has loyalists in each security institution.21 Ironically, the lack of oversight and national security consensus requires such as to enable political elites to “keep a finger on the pulse”.22 This also makes the hill impact of the political settlement on state security institutions more apparent: the Taef Agreement designed Lebanese post-war state institutions more generally hi ways as to create opportunities for grand corruption by blurring the lines between political elites’ private interests and the public good, consequently rendering the state to serve the narrow private interests of clientelistic networks. The resulting image of the Lebanese state as incapacitated, or in fact a limited state, further served political elites as an argument to side-line the state whenever possible.23

In other words, the political settlement of Taef not only causes limited statehood in Lebanon but also forms the basis on which the legitimacy of governance in the mediated state rests.24 hi fact, it is arguably doubtful that the mediated state is at all able to draw on popular legitimacy, as overall popular expectations project on the state rather than subnational level expectations of security provision. According to survey data from 2013, namely, the broad majority (92%) of Lebanese consider the state to be responsible for the country’s security. Most respondents (74.6%) also claim that they would resort to state security services in the case of a crime.25 Moreover, focus group participants in one study explained that their desire for “strong state institutions” to provide security in then- communities rarely conforms with the daily lived experience of political parties actually in charge of security on a local level.26 Still, political parties are not necessarily prioritised over or seen as more trustworthy than state agencies.27 When juxtaposing this popular, yet idealistic, preference for state actors with the intentionality behind limiting state security agencies through clientelism and empowering non-state actors, the Lebanese case comes close to a “paradox of state”:28 i.e. a state faced with increasing demands and expectations towards its institutions and performance, while its authority and capacities are simultaneously and constantly challenged and undermined. More importantly, however, this Lebanese “paradox of state” canvasses the “mediated state” as only legitimate among the country's ruling elites.

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