News / Middle East

Analysts: Fallout of Syrian Violence Ripples in Lebanon

Protesters with pieces of bread shout slogans during a demonstration to show their solidarity with the protesters in Daraa, in the Syrian port city of Banias, May 3, 2011
Protesters with pieces of bread shout slogans during a demonstration to show their solidarity with the protesters in Daraa, in the Syrian port city of Banias, May 3, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +

For seven weeks, protesters have taken to the streets across Syria, demanding reform and calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad. The government has reacted harshly, opening fire on protesters - allegedly killing dozens of them - and arresting hundreds of people. Analysts say the challenge to the Syrian regime could have a serious ripple effect in the region, particularly in Lebanon and Iran.

Syria's influence is perhaps felt the strongest in Lebanon, where the two countries have had a sometimes rocky relationship. But Beirut has been notably silent since Damascus started cracking down on protesters.

Recently, Lebanon, with support from Russia and China, led the way at the United Nations in blocking a response from the U.N. Security Council that would have condemned the violence and called for an investigation.

Human Rights Watch Beirut director Nadim Houry said that was a disappointment. "When Lebanon, because they have a seat at the Security Council, played a key role on the Libya resolution, and yet, sort of completely neutralized and mum on what is going on Syria. So it is very disappointing. At the same time, it is not surprising when you know the level of influence the Syrians still have in Lebanon. This is why it is important other Arab countries as well speak up," Houry states.

But Lebanon has its own problems. It has been without a government since January, and there is no sign the stalemate to form a new one will break soon. The group tasked with forming the cabinet is loyal to Syria, while the new opposition is pro-Western.

Syria has accused these pro-Western elements, specifically the Future Movement of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, of having funded and armed anti-government protesters in Syria. Senior Hariri adviser Mohammad Chattah says those accusations are ridiculous.

"Frankly, this accusation does not stand either the test of logic or evidence. Of course, we denied that flat out. I don't believe many people bought this," Chattah said. He adds that Lebanon has been careful not to be drawn into Syria's internal problems or to be seen as meddling. "Admittedly, the Syrian regime has difficult choices before it. We try to, as much as we can, distance ourselves from what is happening. Not because we are not interested - we are very interested - but because we want to avoid any hint of Lebanon meddling in Syria's affairs," he said.

One cannot explore Lebanon's relationship with Syria without touching on Hezbollah, the militant group and political movement based there. Hezbollah and its allies are now the majority in parliament and were the kingmakers in choosing the new prime minister.

American University in Beirut political science professor Hilal Khashan says Hezbollah is watching events in Syria very closely. "Hezbollah's heart and mind are in Iran. Hezbollah's lung is in Syria. Because Syria is Hezbollah's lifeline. Ideologically the Syrian regime and Hezbollah are incompatible. This is a wedding of necessity, not choice. The two sides need each other. Hezbollah needs the Syrian regime to survive," Khashan said.

Since 2006, Lebanon's southern coast has been patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers and the country's airspace is closely monitored by neighboring Israel, so Professor Khashan says it is only over land through Syria that Hezbollah is able to smuggle arms and ammunition. If that lifeline is cut, it will be a big blow to the organization.

Hezbollah's other patron, Iran, could also be negatively impacted by events in Syria. Lebanese American University Political Science Professor Imad Salamey says if Syria is weakened, then Iran will be too.

"Syria is of very important strategic significance to Iran, whether in exerting pressure on Israel and making any Israeli move against Iran a significant retaliation impact, or whether the Iranian-Syrian alliance has been impacting the political map in Iraq and in Lebanon. So the Syrian-Iranian alliance has many significant strategic importances in the region and that reflects on the relative power position of Iran. If Syria is weakened, that means Iran's position in the region will be weakened as well," Salamey states.

While Lebanon, Hezbollah and Iran stand to be most directly affected by events in Syria, Rami Khoury, who chairs the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy at AUB, warns that regime change or extended internal problems in Syria could spill across the broader Middle East.

"The fact that Syria is politically and strategically and diplomatically linked with, and operationally active with, every single major player in this region - means that if something big happens in Syria then it ripples all across the region. Because they have ties with Iran, with Hezbollah, with the Lebanese government, with Hamas, Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, on-and-off with Israel. The linkages are so enormous that the ripple effect would be just huge," Khoury said.

Khoury and others says many governments are afraid to find out what exactly that effect might be and are hoping the situation in Syria will simply calm down.

You May Like

Analysts Warn of Regional Proxy Conflict in Afghanistan

Analysts warn if Kabul’s neighbors do not start to cooperate, competing desires for influence could deteriorate into a bloody proxy war in the country More

Saudi Intelligence Chief Replaced

Bandar bin Sultan came under criticism for supporting al Qaida, prompting King Abdallah to wrest Syria operations away from him in February, handing them to Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef More

Poetry Magazine editor Don Share talks what makes a good poem with VOA's David Byrd

What makes a good poem? And is poetry as viable an art form as it once was? To find out, VOA's David Byrd spoke to Don Share, the editor of Poetry Magazine. More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid