News / Middle East

Lebanon Tries To Contain Spillover of Syria’s Civil War

Residents and Lebanese army soldiers inspect damage following days of clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in the port-city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, December 10, 2012.
Residents and Lebanese army soldiers inspect damage following days of clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in the port-city of Tripoli, northern Lebanon, December 10, 2012.
James Brooke
The Lebanese Army tried Monday to impose martial law in Tripoli, Lebanon's second largest city, after a spillover of Syria’s sectarian violence claimed 17 lives.

The violence in the northern city came after about 20 Lebanese volunteers crossed into Syria to join the rebels, but were killed by Syrian government forces in an ambush.

Lebanese Islamist gunmen fire their weapons as three bodies of other members of their group arrive from Syria, in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, December 9, 2012.Lebanese Islamist gunmen fire their weapons as three bodies of other members of their group arrive from Syria, in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, December 9, 2012.
x
Lebanese Islamist gunmen fire their weapons as three bodies of other members of their group arrive from Syria, in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, December 9, 2012.
Lebanese Islamist gunmen fire their weapons as three bodies of other members of their group arrive from Syria, in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, December 9, 2012.
As the bodies came home to Tripoli, Lebanese Sunnis attacked Lebanese Alawites, accusing them of collaborating with Syrian Alawites, who control Syria’s army.

Kamel Wazne, a political analyst in Beirut, worries that Lebanese are lining up for and against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

“As the situation in Syria deteriorates further, the situation in Lebanon will follow,” he predicted. “As we see tension escalate in Syria, we see more tensions here.”

But Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, believes the fighting in Tripoli reflects the besieged position of Lebanon’s only major community of Alawites, cousins of the Alawites who have run Syria for decades. He traces the tensions to Syria’s 30-year occupation of Lebanon, which ended in 2005.

“There’s a lot of bad blood since the days of the Syrian presence in Lebanon,” Salem said. “Obviously now that the Sunni in a sense in Syria are trying to topple the Alawite-dominated Assad regime, and the fact that unfortunately the main party in the Tripoli enclave is very connected to Syrian intelligence.”

Some streets of Tripoli now resemble the battle-scarred urban landscapes in neighboring Syria and scores of people have been wounded in the exchanges of gun and rocket fire by the feuding sides.

But Salem and other analysts believe that memories of Lebanon’s 15-year civil war are too fresh to allow Lebanon to pulled into Syria’s civil war.

"The Alawites are surrounded and certainly there’s a great potential or risk for wider massacres, wider killings,” Salem said Monday. “It is very serious in itself, but it doesn’t translate into directly into Sunni-Shia fighting in other places.”

Inside Syria, fighting continued for Damascus, the nation’s capital. Rebels tried to cut off the international airport. Heavy righting also raged in two northern suburbs.

Outside Aleppo, Syria's most populous city, a major government base fell to the rebels. A video posted online showed them seizing military vehicles, including a tank.

Slim hopes for a political solution dimmed when Russia, Syria’s principal supporter, said it would not support calls for Syria's President Assad to step down. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated Russia’s longstanding position that Syria’s political future should be decided by Syrians.

Suspected Syrian Chemical Weapons

Sarin
  • Man-made highly toxic odorless, tasteless, colorless nerve agent
  • Possibly used during Iraq-Iran war
  • Exposure can be by inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption; people can recover with treatment form mild or moderate exposure

VX
  • Odorless, tasteless man-made nerve agent; most potent of all nerve agents
  • Slow to evaporate, can last for days on objects
  • Exposure can be through skin contact or inhalation; people can recover with treatment for mild or moderate exposure

Mustard Gas
  • Chemical warfare agent that causes skin blisters and mucous membranes
  • Sometimes odorless, sometimes smells like garlic, onions or mustard
  • Exposure can be by inhalation, ingestion or skin contact
  • Vapor released in the air can be carried long distances; exposure not usually fatal

Source: CDC
Chemical weapons

Last week, the United States and Western powers warned that satellite photographs had recorded unusual activity at Syrian military installations known to store chemical weapons.

In response, Syria’s government sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warning that radical rebel units could seize and use the weapons.

Salem of Carnegie believes that Western warnings were strong enough to dissuade Syrian leaders from using chemical weapons.

"I doubt that the Syrian regime would use chemical weapons because they are quite aware that that is a trigger point for Western intervention, or at least it has been presented as such,” Salem said."And they have been very careful in the last two years to stop just below Western trigger points. I also think their allies -Russia, China, and Iran - would certainly be leaning on them enormously not to use chemical weapons."

While the Syrian government’s military hold on the country seems to be weakening, its economic hold appears to be also weakening.

A global association of financial institutions, the Institute for International Finance, estimated Monday that Syria’s economy will shrink by one-fifth this year. Looking ahead, the institute predicted all of Syria's foreign reserves will be spent by the end of next year.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid