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Is Direct Syrian Intervention In Lebanon Inevitable?

The danger of the Syria crisis spilling over Lebanese borders is increasing by the day, writes Yezid Sayigh, of the Carnegie Middle East Center. If that happens, Lebanon will edge closer to the tipping point of its own delicate internal balance. 
Syrian and Lebanese protesters chant slogans against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a protest organized by Sunni Muslim Salafist group in solidarity with Syria's anti-government protesters, in Wadi Khaled village, north Lebanon April 1, 2012.             REUTERS/Roula Naeimeh    (LEBANON - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS RELIGION)

The clashes that left several people dead and others wounded in Lebanon over the past few weeks have, for the moment, been brought under control; but the risks of the Syrian crisis spilling across the Lebanese border are set to grow, not diminish. The emergence of a de facto sanctuary in northern Lebanon for the Free Syrian Army poses a particular challenge for the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. Instructing the Lebanese army to seal off the border would be bitterly divisive domestically, but failure to act decisively could lead, sooner or later, to direct Syrian intervention.

The signs are there. The Lebanese authorities have already received several warnings from Syria demanding an end to the flow of rebels and weapons across their common border. Journalists with access to decision-makers in Damascus relay the message that the Mikati government’s policy of “warding off evil” — i.e. formal neutrality — is no longer tolerable, since it is not preventing northern Lebanon from being used as a support base for the Free Syrian Army.

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