Lebanon / Politics /
Arabic: mishāl ¢awun
(1935- ) Lebanese military leader and politician, prime minister of a military government from September 22, 1988 to October 13, 1990 (since November 1989 without the support of the elected president) during the Lebanese Civil War.
Aoun was a Maronite Christian, but he was always able to cooperate with Muslim representatives, and considered as impartial in sectarian issues.
Throughout his years in the political arena, Aoun managed to make many enemies as well as friends. He can be characterized as hard-hearted and uncompromising, but also as a man of great integrity.
During his few years in politics he became popular among ordinary Muslims, much helped by his military campaign against fellow Christians in 1989. But the political elite of Lebanon saw him as a uncontrollable rebel, while Hafez al-Assad of Syria came to hate him for working against all his plans of taking over control of Lebanon.
He faithfully maintained Lebanese sovreignty despite Syrian pressure to surrender it. From his exile in France he criticized the growing presence of Syria in Lebanon. Aoun still has many supporters in Lebanon, and he is one of the most popular politicians among Muslims. They have formed a movement called Free National Current, which among other things, provides a critique for the presence of 1 million Syrian workers in Lebanon.
1935: Born in the Beirut suburb of Haret Hraik, as son of poor Maronite parents.
1941: His family has to move out of their house, as British/Australian forces occupy it.
1955: He finishes his secondary education, and becomes a cadet officer at the Military Academy.
1958: Graduates as an artillery officer in the army.
Goes to France, to receive further military training at Chalons-sur-Marnes. He graduates the following year.
1966: Gets military training at Fort Seale, USA.
1978: Goes to France for more military training at Ecole Superieure de Guerre.
1980: Returns to Lebanon, where he soon is appointed head of the Defence Brigade, which is stationed along the Green Line that separated West and East Beirut.
1982: Aoun gets command over the new 8th Brigade, a multi-confessional army unit.
1984: Is promoted to brigadier-general, and military chief of staff. Among his most important task was to preserve the unity of the army.
1988 September 22: Is appointed by outgoing president Amin Gemayel (15 minutes before his resignation, and behind the back of the Syrians who wanted a pro-Syrian candidate or a weak one) to head a temporary military government. The area under his control at this point is very small: East Beirut and surrounding suburbs.
1989 February: Has his army take control over the harbour of Beirut, which came to involve military actions against fellow Maronite Christians.
March: As prime minister, Aoun declares a war of liberation against Syria.
September: Aoun agrees to a cease-fire, as he realizes that he would not get the international aid he needed.
October: Even though the National Reconciliation Charter (details here) gets support from most Muslims and Christians parliamentarians, Aoun rejects it.
November 5: Aoun ignores the power of newly elected president Rene Muawad.
November 24: As had been the case with Muawad (assassinated on November 22), Aoun ignores the new president Elias Hrawi. Hrawi responds by dismissing Aoun, but Aoun continues to stay in the presidential palace and call himself prime minister.
1990 January: Heavy fighting between Aoun's troops and the Lebanese Forces, who, like Aoun were also Christian, and his supporters. Still, Aoun is able to control 35% of the Christian parts of Beirut, together with surrounding areas, about 750 km² altogether.
October: Following an air and ground campaign, Lebanese and Syrian troops are able to defeat Aoun and his soldiers. Aoun takes refuge in the French embassy, from which he conducted the negotiations for a cease-fire.
1991 August: Aoun leaves for France after the Lebanese government had granted him conditional amnesty, and the French president, asylum.
1999 January: Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri says that Aoun can return to Lebanon with the guarantee that he will not be arrested. He was uncertain on how Syria will act, and stayed abroad.
2005 May 7: Aoun returns to Lebanon, and settles.
Late May: Participates in the parliamentary elections. He is elected to the National Assembly, and his party, Free Patriotic Movement, wins 21 seats.