News / Middle East

Lebanon Tense as Syria Strikes Loom

Spanish U.N. peacekeepers patrol the Lebanese Israeli border in the southern village of Odaisa, Lebanon, Aug. 29, 2013.
Spanish U.N. peacekeepers patrol the Lebanese Israeli border in the southern village of Odaisa, Lebanon, Aug. 29, 2013.
Heather Murdock
Lebanon is tense as Western-backed strikes against neighboring Syria loom.

With the U.S. intervention in Iraq a decade ago still on many Lebanese minds, the thought of an American-orchestrated military attack on Syria has many in Beirut on edge.

On a windy side street in the Lebanese capital, Samira Srour sat with her teenage daughter outside the building where she worked.

There have been so many victims in Syria, she said of that civil war, so many dead children. She said something must be done, even though it was not clear, in every case, exactly who was at fault.

Up the hill, at a popular outdoor café, two local architects drank coffee and orange juice.

Elias Faouz said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may - as the U.S. maintained - be guilty of ordering the attack last week that killed hundreds of Syrians in a Damascus suburb.

But U.S. strikes on Syrian targets, he said, would not help rebels take over Syria, and the consequences for the region could be disastrous.

“We are afraid that bombing Syria will cause a flow of new refugees in Lebanon, for example, as one," said Faouz. Two, what if someone strikes back from Syria or the allies of Syria? Will it stay on the Syrian scale, or will it expand to the regional scale?”

Lebanon has suffered greatly from the fallout of Syria's war. Sectarian violence and bombings have rocked Beirut and other cities the length of the country.

The U.N. refugee agency said more than 700,000 Syrians fleeing their war were now in Lebanon - a big addition for a country of fewer than 5 million people.

While Elias talks, an argument broke out in the street over a minor traffic accident.  His colleague, Roye Dagher, said a U.S. attack on Syria, would make divisions worse in an already deeply polarized country.

“Let the Syrian people choose what they want and let the powerful win," said Dagher. "Why should they [the Americans] interfere?”

But not everyone in Beirut agreed.

Down the street, Ahmed Sheikh, a 60-year-old chauffeur, said a lack of action by the international community could be even more dangerous than a strike against the Assad government.

Sheikh said he feared the U.S. would not keep its word and take direct action to stop use of chemical weapons, and that this would result in the war in Syria spiraling into Lebanon and beyond.

Some Beirutis just do not want to talk about the war in Syria at all - not because they are afraid that voicing their opinions will cause trouble. They said they were simply tired of always being afraid.

Gallery of recent images of Syrian refugees

  • Syrian refugee children look at their Korean taekwondo instructor at Zaatari refugee camp near Mafraq, Jordan, Sept. 17, 2013.
  • Migrants arrive by rescue boat with a group that includes Syrian refugees, Pozzallo harbor, Sicily, Sept. 17, 2013.
  • A Syrian refugee shows her immigration papers before boarding a flight to Germany for temporary relocation, at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 11, 2013.
  • Mustafa Abu Bekir is carried on the shoulder of a relative as he arrives at the Turkish Cilvegozu gate border, Sept. 9, 2013.
  • A Syrian man carries his belongings as he enters Turkey from the Turkish Cilvegozu border gate, Sept. 9, 2013.
  • Syrian refugees gather at the the Turkish border gate at Cilvegozu, Sept. 4, 2013.
  • A young Syrian refugee stands beside water containers at Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Sept. 1, 2013.
  • Jordanian workers prepare materials to build the Azraq Syrian Refugee Camp, the third of its kind, near Al Azraq, east of Amman, Sept. 1, 2013.
  • Syrian refugee children stand outside their tent, at a temporary refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Faour near the border with Syria, August 28, 2013.
  • A Syrian refugee girl walks at a temporary refugee camp in the eastern Lebanese town of Marj near the border with Syria, August 28, 2013.
  • Young Syrian refugees watch a news broadcast on the Syria crisis with their father (unseen) at their temporary home at the Al Hussein refugees camp in Amman, Jordan, August 29, 2013.
  • A view of the new refugee camp in the outskirts of the city of Arbil in Iraq's Kurdistan region, August 26, 2013.

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Comment Sorting
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 31, 2013 2:00 PM
'Tired of always being afraid', that is what the gambit is. Being afraid it will spill into Lebanon? Why have the peoples of Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. not started shooting at each other since the war began two years ago? Someone plays a mind game here, understanding USA itself has squabbles over who supports who in the Middle East and for what benefits. If USA is striking based on what violation is on the ground - crossing the red line of using Chemical Weapons on civilians in Syria - let's move on with it and mop up the mistakes later. We are afraid Hezbollah will strike Israel, we should also be tired of being afraid of that, move forward and perhaps find an opportunity to silence Hezbollah forever, to stop being afraid of Hezbollah indefinitely. The best form of defense is attack. Ronald Regan once said, 'if you want peace, prepare for war'. Since Hezbollah understands how much afraid of it the US is, it becomes the ace whenever issues surrounding the Middle East is to be considered. Like the Beirutis, let us be tired of being afraid, go in to do what we want to do, and count cost later. But if we must strike, it must not be on hit-and-run basis. Leaving the scene more disorganized than how you meet it becomes chaotic. Assad is out of the question, the Opposition group has so much infiltration of extremist, fanatical, islamist terrorists that cannot be be trusted with a democracy. Therefore Assad being dislodged must be replaced with a credible administration, in the interim, until an election is held to provide the right cadre of politicians to lead the country.

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