Volatility is rising across the Middle East as local, regional and international conflicts increasingly intertwine and amplify each other. Four Crisis Group analysts give a 360-degree view of the new risks of overlapping conflicts that involve Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon and Israel.
President Aoun 16 Oct said Syrian refugees in Lebanon should return to “stable and low-tension areas” in Syria, because Lebanon could no longer cope with strain of hosting them. Parliament 19 Oct passed 2017 budget, first since 2005. As part of effort to undermine Iran’s influence in region, U.S. 25 Oct imposed new sanctions on Iran-backed Lebanese Shiite political and military movement Hizbollah, including for allegedly using civilians as human shields in 2006 conflict with Israel.
Four years after plunging into Syria’s civil war, Hizbollah has achieved its core aim of preserving the Assad regime. Yet with no clear exit strategy, the Lebanese “Party of God” faces ever greater costs unless it can lower the sectarian flames, open dialogue with non-jihadist rebel groups and help pave the way for a negotiated settlement.
The fate of the border town Arsal mirrors Lebanon’s many policy failures. The government applies heavy-handed security at the expense of basic services and fair economic opportunities. It should change its policies to become more flexible, accountable and supportive of Syrian refugees – and receive more international help in return.
Lebanon is surviving internal and regional strains remarkably well, but this resilience has become an excuse for tolerating political dysfunction. If the Lebanese political class does not take immediate steps like holding long-overdue elections, fighting corruption and promoting the rule of law, its complacency will only make an eventual fall harder and costlier.
Hizbollah’s intervention in Syria strengthens the Assad regime but transforms the Shiite movement as it redefines the enemy and itself within the confines of an increasingly sectarian struggle.
As the Syrian conflict increasingly implicates and spills over into Lebanon, a priority for its government and international partners must be to tackle the refugee crisis, lest it ignite domestic conflict that a weak state and volatile region can ill afford.
Syria’s civil war is spilling beyond its borders and threatening Lebanon’s stability. More than ever, it is crucial that Lebanon’s leaders address the fundamental shortfalls of their governing structure, which exacerbate factionalism and leave the country vulnerable to the chaos next door.
Hariri as [Lebanon's] Prime Minister created the impression that coexistence with Hezbollah and by extension with Iran was possible; his departure is designed to erase any doubt.
For months now, [Israel] has been sounding alarm bells about Hezbollah’s and Iran’s growing footprint in Syria, and about the Lebanese capacity to produce precision-guided missiles.
[It is not] plausible to assume [Lebanese Prime Minister] Hariri’s resignation would compel Hezbollah to change its ways. No government can be formed without its consent.
There are so many fuses, so little communication, so many risks of something exploding [between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon], that there’s little chance of something not going wrong.
Between [Lebanese Prime Minister] Hariri’s resignation and the missile launch on Riyadh, the prospect of some strike either against Hezbollah or against Iran is more likely than it was a few days ago.
[The Saudis] concluded that [Lebanese Prime Minister] Hariri was serving as more of a cover for Iranian and Hezbollah influence than as a counterweight to them.
Lebanon hosts some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, more refugees per capita than anywhere in the world. International support is needed to keep this fragile country from reaching the breaking point.
Originally published in Al Araby
In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Senior Lebanon Analyst Sahar Atrache explains the background and significance of the attack.
Crisis Group’s Lebanon Senior Analyst Sahar Atrache examines the underlying causes of the crisis and the possible scenarios that Lebanon faces.
Originally published in Middle East Eye