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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
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 Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
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.

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