Interview with LAU’s Dr. Imad Salamey: The Government and Politics of Lebanon

Dr. Imad Salamey

Interview with LAU’s Dr. Imad Salamey

The Government and Politics of Lebanon*


Interviewed by Ihsan Alkhatib, PhD

Dr. Imad Salamey, a professor at the Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon has written a textbook on the politics of Lebanon, The Government and Politics of Lebanon. Dr. Salamey is a former resident of the Detroit area. The Forum and Link (F & L) interviewed Dr. Salamey via email regarding his book and the political situation in Lebanon. Below are excerpts.

-F & L: Thank you Dr. Salamey for doing the interview and congratulations on your new book. Tell the reader a little bit about yourself.

Salamey: I am an associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Lebanese American University (LAU), President of the Center for Arab Research and Development (CARD), and Executive Board Member of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Security and Development (CSDS) at Richmond American International University in London. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from Wayne State University. I am the author of The Government and Politics of Lebanon (Routledge) as well as many journal articles, most recent is “The collapse of Middle Eastern authoritarianism” in Third World Quarterly and “US-French collaboration on Lebanon” in Middle East Journal. My research d writing includes studies, editorials, assessments, and reports that provide strategic examination and analysis of Lebanese and Middle Eastern politics. I am a consultant for various International Organizations on issues related to Middle Eastern public policy, elections, rule of law, human rights, power sharing, security, and defense.

F & L: How is it like to be living in Lebanon today?

Because Lebanon is confronting political turmoil and instabilities, living in the country has been a challenge.  It is difficult to remain in a continuous state of alert as the situation is fragile and sectarian- charged rhetoric often stirs street fights.  The conflict in Syria, the influx of refugees, and the divisions among Lebanese on Hezbollah military intervention in Syria have only added to the already fragmented and deeply divided communities. The daily return of fighters killed or injured from Syria along heightened sectarian charged polarization are reasons for deepening hatred among Lebanese sectarian communities: Sunni and Shia in particular.  The spillover of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon is already being materialized by threats for revenge and counter revenge and car bombs exploding in Sunni and Shia populated areas. The Iraqinization of Lebanon is becoming a greater reality day by day as Sunni and Shia Islamist groups are increasingly resorting to violence against one another to attain what are political objectives.

F & L: This is very serious. We hope that you and your family stay safe. Tell me about your textbook?

The Government and Politics of Lebanon attempts to examine the origin of sectarianism and traces its development at various historic junctures. It admits to the fact that Lebanese politics is strongly rooted in sectarian mobilizations that have shaped the Lebanese government and institutions.  State consociationalism, a term coined by political scientist Arend Lijphart, has been the manifestation of sectarian politics where power is divided and shared.  Sectarian consociationalism is asserted in the book as both a blessing and a curse.  Such a governance structure has provided the various groups   decentralized communal autonomies and prevented a strong state, possibly oppressive, from emerging.  The result is a relative sectarian balance of power, political freedom, and the prevention of a dictatorship or a monarchy.  On the other hand, a weak state and fragmented polity prone to external meddling and interventions have produced a chronic state of instability and repeated collapses.  The current Sunni-Shia standoff is only the expression of the latest trend in foreign interventions and sectarian struggle for power after  being Maronite vs. Druze (mid 19th Century) and Muslim vs. Christian (throughout the 20th Century) and now it is Sunni-Shia with the Christians divided between the two camps.

The book is the culmination of four years of research and investigation during which I engaged in different assessments to government institutions, public opinion polls, and interviews with policy makers and civil society leaders.  The book provides international students, diplomats, general readers, and researchers with an intensive and comprehensive read about Lebanon and its political dynamic.  Students of Middle Eastern politics and comparative politics will find an in-depth analysis of power sharing dilemma in a deeply divided and transitional societies as exemplified by the Lebanese consociational model.  The book is currently/in the process of being utilized at many universities.

For those who might be in Beirut I will be having a book signing ceremony at the International Beirut Arab Book Conference, on 11 December, 2013 at 7:30 pm.  The book is available in most libraries and book stores and can be ordered online through Rutledge or Amazon:

F & L: Thank you doing the interview. We hope the situation improves in Lebanon. Stay safe.

Salamey: Thank you to the Forum and Link, its staff and its publisher Dr. Assad Dandashli for this interview. I wish you many more years of success.

*Interview will appear in the Forum and Link next week.



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