Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lebanon Close to the Edge of Chaos as Syrian Civil War Rages On

by Rick Moran

This was inevitable given the factionalization of Lebanon, divided as it is between Sunnis and Shias, with a large Christian population that is itself divided.

What divides them is Syria and the civil war that continues to rage. Riots have broken out in Beirut as well as along the Lebanese Syrian border. And the Hezb'allah dominated government is powerless to stop it.

Wall Street Journal:

Rival extremist Shiite and Sunni groups kidnapped Syrians and staged violent riots near the Syria-Lebanon border on Thursday, as the bloodiest Arab Spring crisis pushed neighboring Lebanon into deeper unrest.

The Mukhtar al-Thaqfi Brigade, an obscure Shiite armed group, said it had captured 10 members of the rebel Free Syrian Army operating in Lebanon on Thursday.

Separately, the Meqdad family, a powerful Shiite clan that had taken 40 Syrians and a Turkish citizen hostage on Wednesday, vowed to continue to target Syrians perceived to sympathize with the country's rebels until they released a Meqdad family member currently held as a hostage. The group said it had released 18 people it said had no connection to Syria's opposition.

With violence continuing inside Syria as well, the United Nations Security Council said Thursday it would let the mandate expire for the unarmed U.N. monitors who have been in the country since April. The mandate will be allowed to expire at midnight on Sunday, said U.N. assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping Edmund Mullet.

In Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, violent protests erupted near the Masnaa border crossing when Sunni Islamists-supporters of the Syrian opposition rebels-burned tires, blocked the main highway and attacked a car of a Lebanese journalist, according to Lebanese media reports and television footage. The group was apparently seeking to retaliate against Shiites and family members of the Meqdad clan, and their allies in the area.

"We are now entangled in the Syrian conflict. The sectarian spillover is officially here and I'm afraid it won't go away until the situation in Syria is resolved," said Bassem Shabb, a parliament member with the March 14 political bloc, known for being pro-Western and supporters of Syria's opposition.

Officially, Hezb'allah opposes the crackdown by President Assad, but in reality, members of the terrorist militia have been assisting Assad's forces from the start. And the spillover into Lebanon becomes a great matter of concern for Israel and other neighbors who would see their own borders threatened by the chaos of a sectarian conflict in Lebanon.

Unless the violence and sectarian strife can be halted sometime soon -- a remote possibility -- tensions are sure to rise across the region and the prospect of more sectarian strife in other countries becomes a danger.

Rick Moran


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