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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid