Lebanon and the Syrian Crisis

Article Summary
Some Lebanese think that a decisive victory for either the Syrian regime or the opposition will have radical consequences for Lebanese politics; but time and again, history has proven otherwise. However, a protracted civil war in Syria could indeed seep over the border and threaten Lebanon’s delicate peace, warns Wassef Awada.

It is no secret that the Lebanese, regardless of which [sect] they belong to, are paying close attention to the developments in Syria and to [analysis on] that country's future. Syria is the country that holds the most influence on Lebanese political life for reasons too numerous to list. In the midst of a sharp rift between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, the Lebanese are following Syrian developments with many questions on their minds, and with greater interest than in their own internal economic and political issues. The uncertain future of Syria is worrying to most Lebanese.

It is also no secret that the vast majority of Lebanese firmly believe that Lebanon's fate will be determined by the [nature of the Syrian crisis’] resolution. But they are mistaken in feeling that way. Some are even deluding themselves that there will be a radical shift in the Lebanese political scene if the Syrian regime either collapses or emerges from the crisis stronger than before.

Since Lebanon declared its independence nearly seven decades ago, Lebanese-Syrian relations have gone through many highs and lows. Numerous regime and ideological changes in Syria have directly impacted Lebanon. However, the Lebanese order has not faltered and Lebanon's fate has never radically changed [directly because of Syrian developments]. The Lebanese have proven that they can adapt to Syrian upheavals. Not a single political group - political, sectarian, or tribal - has ever been able to eliminate the other, in spite of certain injustices that some groups committed against each other for a period of time.

To link the fate of Lebanon to that of the Syrian regime is therefore to exageratte [the two countries interrelations]. At most, the Syrian regime's opponents in Lebanon are today aiming for a return to power through the conversion of the [parliamentary] majority into a minority, and vice-versa. This has been a traditional Lebanese game since before independence. The Lebanese are not worried about the effects of the Arab Spring on their country's system. The Arab Spring is about obtaining [a certain level of] freedom and democracy which has long been available in Lebanon to the point [that it has caused] chaos. Therefore, in that area the Lebanese are way ahead of their Arab brothers. On the other hand, Lebanon [faces conditions] similar to the other Arab [countries] when it comes to [its peoples] demands for social justice and an adequate livelihood.

An end to the Syrian crisis would benefit Lebanon in that the latter won't remain in limbo as it awaits developments in Syria. [In Syria], systemic stagnation is manifesting itself more every day through the authorities' inability to manage the country. The real danger to Lebanon is continued indecisiveness on the Syrian crisis. [This indecisiveness] would open the country to more violence and would increase the likelihood of a civil war in Syria. And that would reflect itself in Lebanon, which lives in a climate of [civil war] anyway.

In sum, those who think that a decisive end to the Syrian crisis will turn the situation upside down in Lebanon are deluding themselves. In Lebanon, no one has ever been able to eliminate the other, regardless of the nature of the Syrian regime - and no one ever will. All this talk about radical change coming to the region after the fall of the Syrian regime is premature, and this will become clear in the coming days.

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