August 23, 2012
Turmoil and violence in Syria are getting transformed into an extinction run. The forces of President Assad and the opposite units are still fighting in every street of Syria giving the field for other radical and fundamentalist militia groups to get in and spread the war in the neighbouring countries.
Lebanon, an inherently volatile and conflict-suffering state, is now the scene of atrocities and turmoil with a patchwork of groups supporting Assad and the Sunni rebels getting entangled in local clashes. In other words, the unrest against Assad in Syria while being started as a literally anti-regime combat in order to throw him down from power, not only turned out to be a bloodshed but lately it seems to take wider dimensions melting the very meaning of the conflict and transform it into a religious struggle.
Assad comes from an inner circle of Shiite Islam, the Alawites, which are also found in many parts of Lebanon. Back in the mid-1970s a 15-year long religious clash between Shiite, Sunni and Christians outburst in Lebanon with thousands of casualties and people being fled to adjacent countries. This clash despite being ceased down in 1990, seems to re-ignite now that Sunni rebels and Alawites are getting struggled for power in Syria. Lebanon has always been a vulnerable state, allegedly fostering Islamist groups linked with Hezbollah in the recent past -an accusation initially stemmed from Israel and an assumption that is hard to either prove or override it.
The major issue occuring is that the battles over control in Syria are now threatening to reopen rivalries in Lebanon, with the city of Tripoli being in the center of strife. Alongside, there is also a wave of abductions stemming both from outside and inside Syria. Only in August 11 Lebanon Shiites were captured by Syria rebels, whereas 48 Iranians were abducted near the capital Damascus, including a Turkish businessman allegedly visiting Lebanon for a job affair.
It is fair enough to say that after this major shift in the essence of the anti-Assad struggle, predictions in what will follow in Syria can be hardly pondered. Neither the Olympics in London and the truce during the games could not cease down the fight, nor the Ramadan could not step down the spread of the war; it is apparent that the current situation is much more perplexed to solve it now that it is taking a religious character.
A worst case scenario could be the prolongation of the fight and the inclusion of Iran and Turkey in the conflict, as it seems they are getting directly affected both by the hostage-taking practice and the role Kurdish communities can play in the next months. This scenario seems timely possible, given also that the UN Security Council is observing rather than acting to press for cease-fire.Dimitris Rapidis