News / Middle East

Syria Spillover Adds to Lebanon's Paralysis

Lebanese citizens gather at the site of a car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 21, 2014 (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese citizens gather at the site of a car bombing in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Jan. 21, 2014 (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
— The Lebanese have much to preoccupy them—from a string of deadly sectarian car-bombings sparked by the civil war raging next-door in Syria to the flood of nearly a million Syrian refugees that has increased Lebanon’s population by a quarter, staining the country’s resources and adding to sectarian tensions. But above all they are worried by political paralysis gripping their country.
 
The symbol of that for many residents of Beirut is the odorous trash starting to pile up on their streets following a dispute over a landfill site outside the city that is meant to handle the Lebanese capital’s waste. A private firm contracted to ship the trash has had to suspend operations because locals fed up with overflow from the landfill site at Naameh are blockading it.
 
For weeks the problem has been brewing but the country’s fragile caretaker government did nothing to preempt a showdown or seek out another dumpsite.
 
In an editorial the English-language Daily Star warned the country’s divided politicians of the dangers of political drift. “The formation of a new government is the top priority during this critical stage, while all of the political bickering and armchair analyses are luxuries that the country can simply no longer afford.”
 
The Lebanese were buoyed a few days ago when onetime Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, announced he was prepared to enter a national unity government along with Hezbollah, despite the fact that he blames the Shi’ite movement, along with its longtime patron Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, for the 2005 assassination of his father Rafiq Hariri.
 
That assassination nearly plunged Lebanon into a resumption of the country’s devastating 1975-1990 civil war. But speaking in Paris on Monday Hariri told a French radio station “the interests of Lebanon are more important than my own.”
 
But since Hariri’s olive branch not much has moved politically. Forming a government that could replace the weak 10-month-old caretaker government is easier said than done in a country divided so sharply between the three main sectarian communities of Shia and Sunni Muslims and Christians. The divisions have become poisonous thanks to the Syrian war that everyday spills into Lebanon and has triggered numerous clashes in the north of the country between Lebanese Shi’ite Muslims supporting Syrian President al-Assad and Sunnis backing the rebels trying to oust him.

Tuesday’s car bomb that ripped through Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut is sure to add to the tensions.  
 
“Poor Lebanon, the Syrian civil war is killing the country,” laments U.S. business consultant Robert MacGregor, who teaches at the Lebanese American University.
 
Syria is one of the main obstacles to an agreement between the Hezbollah-controlled March 8 alliance of parties and the Sunni-dominated March 14 coalition over a new government.
 
Hezbollah leaders are refusing to agree a government policy statement demanded by the Sunnis that would reiterate the formal position of the previous administration of neutrality and non-involvement in the Syrian civil war.
 
In a public statement issued Monday, the Shi’ite movement, whose militiamen have been fighting for Assad in Syria, announced: “We do not want to discuss now the contents and details of the policy statement because our convictions cannot be shaken by thunder.”
 
Hezbollah’s military role in Syria is aggravating historical divisions between Lebanese Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, according to author and commentator Michael Young. “The fact that today Hezbollah is intervening on the side of the Syrian regime has really only exacerbated a problem that has been there for several years,” he says. But it is an exacerbation that is one of the biggest impediments to the formation of a new government.
 
Another obstacle to agreement is over the division of cabinet positions. Broadly the three main sects have agreed ministerial positions should be shared equally between them on an 8-8-8 basis but the problem comes with which group gets which ministries.
 
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has remained upbeat that a government will be formed by the end of the week, saying the path is clear for agreement. But he has also warned that come what may, there will be a new government, even if it has to be yet another caretaker administration.
 
Caretaker or not, at this point, Beirut residents can only hope that any new government will move quickly to clean the trash from their city’s streets.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Michel M. from: Lebanon
January 21, 2014 11:42 PM
what "paralysis"?? since Jordan ousted the "philistines" and we tried to accommodate them here, gave them sanctuary, they have destroyed our country completely. the philistines are the source of the stink in Lebanon. we no longer have a State, but a collection of warring tribes, and Iranian scumbags - how sad.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid