For the past 18 months Syria has been going through an uprising with rebel forces trying to overthrow the controlling government. These fights have gone one for so long not only because they are not only political; the issues fueling these rebellions are both regional and religious. President al-Assad of Syria is an Alawite and the revolution has turned into Alawite against Sunni . The conflicts have escalated to such a scale that the International Committee of the Red Cross declared it a civil war in Syria. Lebanon is now getting drawn into the war and could suffer severe consequences because of their neighbor.
Lebanon went through a civil war from 1985 to 1991 and is still in a fragile state both politically and religiously. The war pitted Shi’ite and Sunni Muslim populations against each other; today the balance between the two is still on delicate terms. Also, because of the war, Syrian troops invaded Lebanon and were present until 2006. This cause Syria to have a great influence on not only the government but the people, especially since Syria and Lebanon share a border. Since the two countries are so close and many of the people have the same beliefs, the conflicts are moving into Lebanon. With the fragile state that Lebanon is in many worry that the battle between the Alawites and Shi’ites against the Sunni will reopen that scars still left from the civil war in Lebanon.
One factor bringing Lebanese into the war is the Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a Lebanese militia group; in many previous revolutions the Hezbollah has sided with the rebels. However, they support the Alawites and al-Assad’s government regime which has caused more turbulence between the Sunnis. The Sunni see this as an inconsistency and gives them one more reason to side with the rebels.
Another reason Lebanon is being drawn into the uprising is the people who still hold resentment against the Syrian government. Many Sunni still resent the fact that Syria occupied their country for so many year; these feelings, along with the religious and political war going on, fuel the spread into Lebanon.
Gunfights are one of the ongoing problems that have started in Lebanon. Many different factors have been causing the outbreaks of violence. The biggest one to date started by the bombing of a pro-Syrian factory in Lebanon. The Lebanese who support the Syrian government have been fighting against those who support the rebels. The Sunni population of Lebanon has been hiding Syrian refugees in the country. recently about 30 of those refugees were kidnapped from Lebanon and taken back to Syria. This was said to be in retaliation to a member from a family of Shi’ite’s that was kidnapped in Syria.
When Syria withdrew from Lebanon the US decided to increase the amount of assistance they gave to Lebanon. They have worked towards unifying the country, improve the military, improving the economy, and helping with international relations. The United States is concerned that the leak into Lebanon will destabilize the country and take away the peace that was just recently achieved. The US has many goals they feel will help strengthen Lebanon and cannot achieve these if there is another war. Currently Lebanon does not have a strong democratic government in place; the US wants to help Lebanon strengthen their democracy. One of the issues Congress predicts for the future is that the Lebanese will begin to doubt their government. Another goal of the United States is to make Lebanon more independent; they want to take away some of the impact of Iran and Syria. The aid that the US has given Syria may all be ruined if there is another war. The United States has put in a lot of time and money in order to help Lebanon get back on their feet and ultimately want to country to be able to thrive and be successful.
Knowing the impact Syria has on Lebanon it is hard to tell what the full effect will be. Since Syria occupied Lebanon for so long, many of the businesses are in Syrian control or pro-Syrian. The fact that Syria is at war and they have many businesses in Lebanon could have a dire consequence on the Lebanese economy. Many banks in Lebanon are Pro-Syrian; if the banks have used their money to help Syria or cannot receive financial aid from Syria, the economy in Lebanon will lower severely. Lebanon also does a lot of trade with Syria. With the gun and refugee smuggling going on across the borders a lot of the trade will not happen. A decrease in trade will lead to a decrease in the Lebanese economy.
While the war in Syria that has begun to spread to Lebanon is not completely religious, many choose sides with ties to their religion. The Lebanese government was smart to not choose sides, such a decision could further stir up the sectarian battles. While it is unpredictable when the war in Syria will end, Lebanese should be able to keep what sectarian balance they have until the war is over.