For most nations, shared borders pose a myriad of threats and problems ranging from illegal immigration to weapon smuggling. The United States and Lebanon are no different when it comes to these sorts of issues. The primary threat for the United States on its shared border with Mexico is drug smuggling. The United States has experienced an increase in drug related crime along the border which corresponds to the expanding and evolving drug war in Mexico. The primary threat for Lebanon along its Syrian border is the ever increasing weapons smuggling operations. There are many actors that are involved either implicitly or explicitly in the operations ranging from Hezbollah, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, the Baath Party, to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. The drug smuggling across the United States-Mexico border and the weapons smuggling across the Lebanon-Syria border are major areas of concern for both countries.
The illegal smuggling across the Lebanon-Syria border is a major operation that appears unlikely to be stopped anytime in the near future. A Lebanese diplomat in Beirut bleakly explained that “for 50 years, the border between Lebanon and Syria hasn’t really kept anyone out” (Lebanon-Syria Borders, 2009). The majority of the border is under absolutely no Lebanese surveillance. In May of 2007, a survey was commissioned by the New Opinion Workshop and they found there to be smuggling routes on 60% of the Lebanon-Syria border (Lebanon-Syria Borders, 2009). One can only imagine how many more routes there are that were not discovered by the survey. The most threatening smuggling routes are located in the highlands of Beit Mbarak, Massa, Yanta, Yahfoufa, and al-Nabi Sheet (Lebanon-Syria Borders, 2009). This region is home to Hezbollah operatives and military training facilities. Weapons are also being smuggled to other militant groups “that operate in Lebanon under Syria’s approval” (Lebanon-Syria Borders, 2009). The porosity of the border also allows for easy smuggling of weapons across the Lebanese border into Syria. In April of 2012, Lebanese officials seized a weapons stash that included rocket-propelled grenades that were located on a ship in the Mediterranean headed for a Lebanese port (Arms flowing, 2012). The larger effect of these weapon smuggling routes is that it threatens the very stability of the state of Lebanon. It is vital that Lebanon begin to secure its borders so that is can prosper as a viable and stable political actor in the region.
The United States faces many of its own border-related security threats. The most current threat stems from drug smuggling and the related drug violence. In the Department of Justice’s 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment, they predicted “that Mexican drug traffickers will maintain dominance of the U.S. illicit drug market for years to come in part because of their ‘control of the smuggling routes across” the United States border (Mora, 2011). The Mexican cartels’ complete control of the smuggling routes into the United States has allowed them to establish drug operations in more than one thousand United States cities (Mora, 2011). Their dominance over the smuggling routes has even led to the development of highly sophisticated tunnels. The United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration discovered a 775-foot tunnel, complete with lights, fans, and a ventilation system, that ran from a site in Mexico to a small warehouse on the United States side of the border (Rempel, 2012). This demonstrates the drug cartel’s dedication to maintaining their precious drug smuggling routes into the United States. It also highlights the major threat that these groups pose to the United States.
Overall, the United States and Lebanon face serious security challenges along their borders. While the weapons smuggling occurring in and out of Lebanon seems to be the greater security threat, the government of Lebanon is doing relatively little to secure their borders and solve the problem. On the other hand, the United States is remaining vigilant in their ongoing fight with Mexican drug cartels. The United States recognizes the gravity of the drug cartel situation and is continuing to increase enforcement along the ever-evolving United States-Mexico border. Do you believe that Lebanon has the political will and military strength to secure its borders? Do you belive that the United States will ever be able to wield near-complete control over the United States-Mexico border?