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

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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers 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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid