BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lebanon is dispatching its army to its northern border with Syria – to halt the shelling into the northern edge of the country and to slow down a surging flow of arms and personnel in support of the Syrian rebels, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
But many observers say the effort targeting the area that includes the Sunni-dominated city of Tripoli, which has been the scene of increasing violence between Sunnis and Shi’a, is doomed to fail.
In addition to the Sunni majority, there also is a significant minority of Alawites, an offshoot of Shi’ism, to which the ruling family of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
In turn, the Alawites are assisted not only by the Syrian military but also by Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah, known formally as the Party of the Resistance, which also is Shi’a.
Divisions between the Shi’a-Alawite minority and the more conservative Sunnis have been creating conflict since the beginning of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975.
These Sunni and Shi’ite tensions as seen in Tripoli are a reflection of the larger struggle under way between the Iranian backed and Alawite-led Syrian regime of al-Assad and Sunni-backed Saudi Arabia, aided by the United States.
The Saudis and the U.S. want al-Assad out, with the hope that Iran’s growing influence in the area also will vanish.
But that isn’t likely, given the longstanding history of Iran in the region and the fact that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah remains a strong force in Lebanon.
Regional observers are very concerned that with al-Assad gone, it will mean a more Sunni-dominated region, perhaps with Salafist influence backed by the Saudis. In turn, this will have yet another spillover effect into the sectarian environment between Sunnis and Shi’a in Iraq.
It is a pitched battle – a proxy war between Shi’a/Alawite al-Assad backed by Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia with the help of the U.S.
Each side seeks to control the northern supply lines. For al-Assad, destabilizing northern Lebanon, analysts say, will help disrupt those supply lines.
At the same time, the Saudis and the U.S. are attempting to channel money and weapons through northern Lebanon to assist the Syrian opposition.
This type of instability also is having the effect of creating conditions ripe for Sunni Salafist militants who are tied to al-Qaida to cast their influence in Syria.
While all of this disruption is taking place, thousands of Syrian refugees who are predominantly Sunni are streaming into the area. They are being joined by Lebanese Sunnis, a situation which is prompting increasing Sunni-Shi’a violence that is just beginning to make its way into Lebanon’s capital, Beirut.
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