mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Violence Spikes in Lebanon as Syria War Leaks Out

Syria’s civil war is bleeding over the border into its fragile neighbor to the west. As many as six people were killed in Tripoli, and dozens more were wounded. Reports suggest that snipers in the city center were to blame for some of the casualties. A dozen people were killed in fighting between Hezbollah guerrillas and Syrian rebels in Lebanon. In the southern city of Sidon, assassins tried to kill a pro-Hezbollah Sunni cleric, and another pro-Hezbollah Sunni leader’s car came under machine-gun fire in the Bekaa Valley.

Many Lebanese are fighting on one side or the other in the war next door, and, as this weekend’s spike in violence suggests, the violence isn’t confined just to Syria. Conflicts in Lebanon follow similar patterns: Sunni versus Shia, Hezbollah versus Sunni militias. With Lebanon’s government and national army divided and weak, the situation may deteriorate.

These are the consequences of not intervening earlier in the Syrian civil war. At any point in the conflict, acting to stop the violence would have been difficult and messy, but as time goes on, the options grow worse and worse.

With a thousand people dead in Iraq’s bloodiest month in five years, and Turkey also now dealing with what seems to be serious domestic unrest, and Egypt still broke and unstable, the Middle East doesn’t seem ready to let the Obama administration pursue its “pivot” toward Asia. Over the weekend, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US was “pushing forward” with the pivot and committed to maintaining security in Asia. That’s going to get harder and harder to achieve as the Middle East from Basra to Beirut continues to burn.

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    About that pivot to Asia that the Obama Administration keeps bragging about; as we pivot to Asia to insure that China’s rise is balanced by a partnership between the U.S. and other Asian nations, isn’t China pivoting to the Middle East? Is a strategy of balancing China’s ascendency in Asia likely to be successful if U.S. influence in the Middle East wanes while Chinese influence in the Middle East escalates?

    China is already showing signs of increasing interest in countries like Iran, Iraq, Egypt and the Palestinian territories. If the U.S abandons its roll

  • Luke Lea

    So how do we identify the good guys? Listen to the Saudis? I think we should at least protect the Christians in that part of the world if we can. Is there anything to be said for letting the Middle East disintegrate into a lot of little emirates like the ones along the shores of the Persian Gulf? I have no idea.

  • ljgude

    Pro Hezbollah Sunnis…oh boy, I have the wrong scorecard. Things are getting all mixed up. It may be a war of all against all. Intervene? My inner neocon is Bushed, Obamaed out.

  • rheddles

    All these Middle East posts assume that there is some policy course the United States could pursue that would prevent all this violence from erupting. That is probably a faulty assumption, regardless of who is in charge of US policy.

    In the MENA in particular, populations have far outstripped their ability to provide for themselves. Egypt is staring famine in the face and the stop gap measures may soon run out. If that happens, the effects will dwarf the internecine warfare in Syria. The seeds of this situation were literally sown 20 years ago in beds throughout the area.

    I say, let China have the Middle East. They are probably more willing to take the steps necessary to contain the situation. And it would be fun to watch them try. If China becomes the responsible adult, they will have to assure the rest of the Far East and Europe that their energy supplies are secure or risk driving them closer to the US.

    The pivot is one of Obama’s better ideas, though the execution and strategy leave something to be desired. But that is because aq successful policy would require addressing domestic problems 0 would rather kick down the road to the next administration.

  • Andrew Allison

    I agree with Prof. Mead that the results of this civil war will be ugly and widespread, but I’m not convinced that it won’t be even worse if we intervene. It’s possible that by not making it clear from day one that we would not intervene gave the rebels false hope. Have we leaned nothing from the sorry history of our interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq? Won’t intervening in what has now become open warfare between Sunnis and Shiites simply further inflame radical Islam?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service