Violence in Lebanon sparks concerns of Syrian spillover

At least three people have been killed and up to 45 wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Fighting began Monday night and continued into Tuesday on Syria Street, the symbolic "dividing line" between the Sunni Muslim district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

At least three people have been killed and up to 45 wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Fighting began Monday night and continued into Tuesday on Syria Street, the symbolic "dividing line" between the Sunni Muslim district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen in the predominantly Sunni city. An estimated 10 Lebanese soldiers were injured in the fighting. Violence has periodically occured in Lebanon over the Syrian conflict, and concerns that the war will spillover into neighboring countries are heightened. The fighting has come less than a week after a series of abductions of Syrians and Turkish nationals in Lebanon by the Meqdad clan. The Megdad clan kidnapped the group to exchange them with 12 Lebanese citizens held hostage by opposition forces in Syria.

Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama has warned Syria on the use of chemical weapons. He said that he had not yet ordered military engagement, but "There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons." Syria possesses the fourth-largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world. While the United States has been providing humanitarian assistance and communications equipment to the Syrian opposition, this was Obama's first direct threat of military intervention. Russia and China responded to Obama's statement, warning the West against unilateral action on Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the U.N. Charter." Meanwhile, Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto was reported killed by crossfire in Aleppo. Yamamoto was a veteran war reporter working with the Japan Press. Violence continued Monday across Syria, particularly in Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus. In the suburb of Qaboun, ten bodies were reported found in the street with the markings of torture.

At least three people have been killed and up to 45 wounded in clashes between supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli. Fighting began Monday night and continued into Tuesday on Syria Street, the symbolic "dividing line" between the Sunni Muslim district of Bab al-Tabbaneh and the Alawite neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen in the predominantly Sunni city. An estimated 10 Lebanese soldiers were injured in the fighting. Violence has periodically occured in Lebanon over the Syrian conflict, and concerns that the war will spillover into neighboring countries are heightened. The fighting has come less than a week after a series of abductions of Syrians and Turkish nationals in Lebanon by the Meqdad clan. The Megdad clan kidnapped the group to exchange them with 12 Lebanese citizens held hostage by opposition forces in Syria.

Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama has warned Syria on the use of chemical weapons. He said that he had not yet ordered military engagement, but "There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons." Syria possesses the fourth-largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world. While the United States has been providing humanitarian assistance and communications equipment to the Syrian opposition, this was Obama’s first direct threat of military intervention. Russia and China responded to Obama’s statement, warning the West against unilateral action on Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the U.N. Charter." Meanwhile, Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto was reported killed by crossfire in Aleppo. Yamamoto was a veteran war reporter working with the Japan Press. Violence continued Monday across Syria, particularly in Aleppo and the suburbs of Damascus. In the suburb of Qaboun, ten bodies were reported found in the street with the markings of torture.

Headlines  

  • Iran announced upgrades to six weapons on Tuesday, which it insists are solely for defensive purposes, to "stand up to bullying."
  • Libya will put Saif al-Islam, son of Muammar al-Qaddafi, on trial next month despite the demands from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which wants to try him on war crimes. 
  • The United States has seized $150 million in connection with an alleged money laundering scheme for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group.
  • Up to nine people were killed in a car bombing in southeastern Turkey, for which Kurdish militants have denied responsibility.

Arguments & Analysis 

Not So Great Expectations‘ (Nancy Birdsall, Milan Vaishnav, and Danny Cutherell, Foreign Affairs)

"The United States has considerable resources and expertise upon which it can draw to help the leaders of the Middle East and North Africa’s transitional democracies. Yet to do so effectively requires U.S. policymakers to recognize both the strengths and weaknesses of the United States’ development machinery. The United States can and should exploit its expertise across its public and private sectors, but it should not always pair that expertise with massive bilateral aid packages. Even when aid does begin to flow, it need not flow only — or primarily — through U.S.-managed programs. Other donors and institutions are often better placed to deliver assistance, and pooling resources with them reduces the burden on recipient country officials. Finally, instead of obsessing about getting credit for American largesse, U.S. policymakers should ensure that they support good ideas — even when pioneered by others."

Egyptian Politics Upended‘ (Mona El-Ghobashy, Middle East Report)

"When he took office on June 30, President Muhammad Mursi of Egypt looked to have been handed a poisoned chalice. The ruling generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had tolerated a clean presidential election but then had hollowed out the presidency, saddling Mursi with an executive’s accountability but little of the corresponding authority. The country resigned itself to the grim reality of dual government, with an elected civilian underdog toiling in the shadow of mighty military overlords. Then, just over a month later, Mursi turned the tables, dismissing Egypt’s top generals and taking back the powers they had usurped. The power play crystallizes the new dynamic of Egyptian politics: the onset of open contestation for the Egyptian state."

The War Within‘ (Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker)

"For months, policymakers and pundits have debated whether Syria was in a state of civil war. Today, it undeniably is, but not in the schoolbook sense of the phrase, with its connotation of two tidily opposed sides–Yanks and Rebs squaring off at Antietam. Instead, the war comprises a bewildering assortment of factions. Most of the rebels, like seventy-five per cent of Syria’s citizens, are Sunni Arabs, while the Assad regime is dominated by Alawites, members of a Shiite offshoot that makes up about eleven per cent of the population. But the country also has Christians of several sects, Kurds, non-Alawite Shiites, and Turkomans, along with Palestinians, Armenians, Druze, Bedouin nomads, and even some Gypsies. Each group has its own political and economic interests and traditional alliances, some of which overlap and some of which conflict. There are Kurds who are close to the regime and others who are opposed. Around the cities of Hama and Homs, the regime’s paramilitary thugs are Alawite; in Aleppo, hired Sunnis often do the dirty work."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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