Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sunni-Shiite Conflict Explodes in Lebanon

Demographic Map of Lebanon
I have long argued that much of the strife in the Middle East can be seen through the lenses of the longtime Sunni-Shiite split in the region. At this point, I think it's very clear that what are seeing in Syria is a battle between Sunni rebels (unfortunately increasingly dominated by hardline Jihadists) and the Alawite/Shia regime - see background here.

Now, it appears that Lebanon is on the brink of a Sunni-Shiite civil war itself. Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites in Lebanon have been on the rise since Hassan Nasrallah decided to go all in on support for the Assad regime and sent thousands of his fighters to Syria to support Assad. In the last couple of weeks, unfortunately, tensions between the two sects in Lebanon have exploded.

It started with a car bomb back in July exploding in in the Shiite South Beirut suburbs dominated by Hezbollah which injured 53 people. Things got much worse on August 16 when another car bomb exploded in Hezbollah-dominated territory, this time killing 22 Shiites and injuring hundreds. Responsibility for the blast was claimed in a You Tube video by a Sunni Jihadist group calling itself the Brigade of Aisha.

Not surprisingly, a few days later two bomb blasts ripped through Sunni areas of the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon, including one at the Taqwa Mosque, many of whose members are hardline Sunnis. Although Hezbollah did not explicitly claim responsibility for the blasts, a branch of Al-Qaida quickly announced that it blamed Hezbollah and vowed vengeance.

As people familiar with Lebanon know, the country endured a horrible civil war between 1975 - 1990, in which over 100,000 people died, a huge number for a country of only four million people. As the map above shows, the country is a complex stew of various ethnic groups, and it has always been balanced on a knife's edge and frequently been the playground of larger conflicts playing out in the Middle East. Lebanon is a beautiful country, but I fear that it is on the edge of being dragged into the nightmare playing out in Syria.

No comments:

Post a Comment