Syrian Uprising Polarising Lebanon
It was only a matter of time. Since the start of the Syrian uprising, the Lebanese have been asking when and how their giant neighbour’s woes would reach them.
That trouble would find its way to the shores of the Levant was a given. So too was the fact that whatever happened would stir the coals of the country’s sectarianism.
Throughout the past 15 months Lebanon, a patchwork quilt of 18 sects - and almost as many external patrons - has been increasingly polarised by the revolt in Syria, with residents split roughly in half between those who support the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, and those who want him gone.
The numbers on each side have barely shifted as the violence in Syria has steadily worsened. And they were never going too. The pro-Assad bloc, led by the Shia Islamic parties Hezbollah and Amal, a splinter of the Druze sect, and roughly half the country’s Christians see the uprising as a plot led by Sunni jihadists who want to change the regional order with the silent backing of the west.
In the other corner are the Sunnis, the other half of the Christians and most of the Druze who believe that the revolutionary events taking place in Syria are another phase of the Arab spring revolts, which have ousted entrenched old orders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya (with a little help) and Yemen.
Both sides shape facts to fit their narratives; both have influence inside the country’s deeply politicised security agencies; and both have considerably hardened their positions - with the encouragement of their regional patrons - as the Syrian crisis has worn on.