Ever since the Syrian sponsored attack on the U.S. military camps in Beirut in October 1983, killing 241 marines, the Reagan administration has come under massive Congressional pressure to withdraw the marines from Beirut. President Reagan resisted initially the demands, fearing that U.S. withdrawal would be "the end of Lebanon" and a major victory for Syria. But in early February he relented and in the following statement he asked the. Secretary of Defense to present him with a plan for the redeployment of the marines from land to ships anchored off shore. The redeployment was completed by the end of February. Syria now exerted greater pressure on the Lebanese President to abrogate the Agreement with Israel.
The bloodshed we have witnessed in Lebanon over the last several days only demonstrates once again the length to which the forces of violence and intimidation are prepared to go to prevent a peaceful reconcilliation process from taking place. If a moderate government is overthrown because it had the courage to turn in the direction of peace, what hope can there be that other moderates in the region will risk committing themselves to a similar course?
Yielding to violence and terrorism today may seem to provide temporary relief, but such a course is sure to lead to a more dangerous and less manageable future crisis. Even before the latest outbreak of violence we had been considering ways of reconcentrating our forces and the nature of our support in order to take the initiative away from the terrorists.
Far from deterring us from this course, recent events only confirm the importance of the decisive new steps I want to outline for you now.
Thus, after consultation with our M.N.F. partners and President Gemayel and at his request, we are prepared to do the following:
First to enhance the safety of American and other M.N.F. personnel in Lebanon, I have authorized U.S. naval forces, under the existing mandate of the M.N.F., to provide naval gunfire and air support against any units firing into greater Beirut from parts of Lebanon controlled by Syria as well as against any units directly attacking American or M.N.F. personnel and facilities. Those who conduct these attacks will no longer have sanctuary from which to bombard Beirut at will. We will stand firm to deter those who seek to influence Lebanon's future by intimidation.
Second, when the Government of Lebanon is able to reconstitute itself into a broadly based representative government, we will vigorously accelerate the training, equipping and support of the Lebanese armed forces on whom the primary responsibility rests for maintaining stability in Lebanon. We will speed up delivery of equipment, we will improve the flow of information to help counter hostile bombardments and we will intensify training in counterterrorism to help the Lebanese confront the terrorist threat that poses such danger to Lebanon, to Americans in Lebanon and, indeed, to peace in the Middle East.
Third, in conjunction with these steps, I have asked Secretary of Defense Weinberger to present to me a plan for redeployment of the Marines from Beirut airport to their ships offshore. This redeployment will begin shortly and proceed in stages. U.S. military personnel will remain on the ground in Lebanon for training and equipping the Lebanese Army and protecting the remaining personnel. These are traditional functions that U.S. personnel perform in many friendly countries. Our naval and Marine forces offshore will stand ready, as before, to provide support for the protection of American and other M.N.F. personnel in Lebanon and thereby help assure security in the Beirut area as I have described.
These measures, I believe, will strengthen our ability to do the job we set out to do and to sustain our efforts over the long term. They are consistent with the compromise joint resolution worked out last October with the Congress with respect to our participation in the multinational force.
Sources: Public Papers of the President