Syrian Civil War Exacerbates Divisions In Lebanon
Does Beirut Bombing Serve As A Sign Of A Renewed Civil War?
Karl Vick raises the question Time magazine whether the recent bombing in Beirut is a sign of a renewed civil war or partly a consequence of spillover from the Syrian War. The bombing killed former minister Mohamad Chatah, who opposed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“The regional fire rages most fiercely in Syria, where Hizballah has sent its formidable fighting force to support President Bashar Assad, a key ally. That increasingly sectarian conflict has spilled into Lebanon repeatedly – in street fighting in Tripoli, and terrorist strikes such as the Nov. 19 suicide bombing of Iran’s Beirut embassy, which killed 23 people. The borders between the nations are porous and Lebanon’s governing institutions notoriously feeble, easing the flow of arms, fighters, and blame,” says Vick.
“This comes in the context of the Sunni-Shiite conflict triggered by the war in Syria,” Sami Nader, a professor of international relations at Beirut’s St. Joseph University. This blast was a “direct message to the moderate Sunnis in Lebanon and their Saudi supporters,” Nader told Bloomberg News.
Meanwhile, Rami Khouri of Lebanon’s Daily Star argues, “The attack immediately sent shivers throughout Lebanon, which again lives in fear of serial retaliations. The symbolism of the bombing location means that the gloves are off, and any part of the country is now a fair target for the many killers out there.”
Al-Jazeera‘s Lina Khatib says it is natural that Lebanon would serve as a proxy in the Syrian conflict and is an ominous sign not only for the nation but for the region as a whole.
“Lebanon stands – not for the first time – as an example of the tug of war that is redefining power relations in the region. Saudi Arabia’s allies in the country, March 14 Alliance, have been fragmented and weak, and the targets of a series of political assassinations that began with the killing of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005. Their anticipation of a “victory” against the Assad regime in the summer of 2013, was thwarted by a change of direction in US foreign policy regarding military intervention in the conflict,” writes Khatib, director of Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.
2013: The Year Violence Became Normalized In Syria
Michael Young of NOW Lebanon argues that 2013 marks the year that violence and death became normalized in Syria.
“In much the same way, the mass of humanity that has fled Syria has also become banal. So omnipresent are the beggars and peddlers in neighboring countries, that one looks not at their misery but at the inconveniences they have created. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the center of hell is distinguished not by fire but ice. So, too, the inferno faced by Syrians – one of absolute, frigid, unalterable immobility,” he laments.
Young also believes the year also witnessed the war become “hijacked by al-Qaeda jihadis, changing the entire narrative of the conflict.”
US Humanitarian Presence In Asia Is A Sign Of A Robust Use Of Smart Power
Robert Farley says maintaining a humanitarian presence in Asia “do not guarantee that the recipients will support the geopolitical aims of the United States in a high diplomatic sense,” but they serve America’s goals and interests and exemplify the wisdom of “smart power.”
“There’s surely a trade off between disaster preparedness and external defense, but a professional force with modern equipment can, for a time, become better at both. This goes beyond “soft power;” it fits better with Joseph Nye’s conception of “smart power,” which involves utilizing the military and diplomatic tools of the United States to achieve national objectives. In this case, the United States is leveraging the “pointiest” part of its national security toolkit to achieve objectives normally associated with soft, diplomatic power. Not incidentally, increased interaction with the officers and personnel of Southeast Asian nations, and with the social and economic geography of the region, nearly guarantees that the United States will have a more full intelligence picture of the Southeast Asian littoral,” notes Farley.