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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

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