Lebanon Sucked in Syria Crisis
Nowhere is the stress exerted on Lebanon by the Syrian crisis more apparent than in Tripoli, the country’s second city.
Like Syria’s other neighbours - Turkey, Iraq and Jordan - Lebanon has absorbed thousands of refugees fleeing from the conflict now raging on the other side of the border.
But unlike the other countries, Lebanon risks being plunged into sectarian strife, possibly even civil war, by the strains inflicted on its own delicate internal situation by the Syrian crisis.
If there is a spark that sets off a wider conflagration in the country, it is most likely to come from Tripoli, where blood has already been spilled.
The majority of the city’s 500,000 or so inhabitants are Sunnis, most of whom naturally side with the uprising across the border in Syria, which has taken root mainly in the country’s Sunni areas.
But there is a small but tough minority of Alawites, perhaps 35,000 strong, mainly concentrated in the hilltop Jebel Mohsen quarter.
They share the same obscure faith as the ruling clan of Bashar al-Assad in Syria - an occult offshoot of Shia Islam - and most of them strongly support the Syrian regime.