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.