World Citizen: Syrian Conflict Puts Lebanon in Play

World Citizen: Syrian Conflict Puts Lebanon in Play

It is impossible to predict with certainty what the future, even in the short or medium term, holds for the countries of the Middle East. But there is no question that the future of Lebanon is closely linked to that of its neighbor, Syria. With the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad under growing pressure from the domestic opposition, the fragile status quo in Lebanon is also in play. If and when the Assad regime is toppled in Damascus, his fall will unleash fierce political winds in Beirut.

Assad has played a key role in the emergence of Hezbollah as the dominant power in Lebanon. His collapse would cause Hezbollah, the heavily armed Shiite militia and muscular political party, to contend in short order with a series of significant setbacks. First and most obviously, Hezbollah would experience the loss of one of its two principal state supporters, the other being Iran. Second, Assad's fall would most likely remove Syria as the principal conduit of armaments sent by Hezbollah's top patron, Tehran. In addition, Hezbollah would find itself weakened as a regional player, because the fall of Assad would crack the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis that has been at the center of the group’s power.

Most importantly, Hezbollah's rivals inside Lebanon would almost certainly become emboldened and might even contemplate the possibility of wresting power from the Shiite militia.

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