Exporting crisis

Smoke, caused by mortar bombs and gunfire during clashes between the Syrian Army and rebels, rises from the Syrian border town of Azmarin as seen from the Turkish-Syrian border near the village of Hacipasa in Hatay province October 11, 2012. (REUTERS/Osman Orsal)

Early on in the conflict in Syria the tycoon and cousin of the president, Rami Makhlouf, gave a frank interview to the New York Times in which he made it clear that the Syrian regime would extend the conflict beyond its borders if the uprising there continued.

Just over a year later, Makhlouf and the regime have proved true to their word.

The regime has unleashed the Kurds to create more pressure on Turkey. They have shot down a Turkish plane and the shelling of Turkish territory has become routine, and is no coincidence.

In Jordan violence has spilled over the borders, with a Jordanian soldier recently being killed by Islamists.

The Iranians, who are also under pressure as the conflict rages in Syria, are also doing their share of trying to involve the rest of the region in unrest.

The escalation of the Shiite opposition in Bahrain can be seen in that vein, as can the discovery of spy networks with links to Iran and Syria in Yemen.

Meanwhile Iraq moves closer to Russia by buying weapons, a move that cannot be seen without the context of Iran and Syria.

Last but not least is the territory where Syria and Iran have the most influence: Lebanon, of course.

This is manifested in shelling into the country in the border areas or, as the anti-regime forces allege has occurred, the killing of the police’s Information Branch chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan. Some even believe that the Ayoub drone sent by Hezbollah over Israel was part of a wider plan intended to invite an Israeli reaction.

These moves are meant to ease the pressure on Syria and to create unrest surrounding the country, to bog down the international community which in trying to solve all such the problems will likely have bitten off more than they can chew.

It is a card that the Syrian regime is using to try to play to direct attention from the violence and destruction they are wreaking on their country.

As a tactic, it could work in the short term, but sooner or later it will exhaust its usefulness. Eventually it will cause the world not only to blame the regime for the atrocities inside Syria but also for the havoc they have wrought around them.

International animosity will pile on to such an extent that even if the regime survives it will do so surrounded by a hostile environment that will make its continuation unviable.

What is important for the Lebanese is to be able to ward off the unrest Syria is trying to create for it by making clear to all people of all sects the damaging plot the country is being drawn into.

If Lebanon wants to really dissociate and survive these hard times it must work hard not to be a pawn in Syria’s conflict.

If Lebanon does not actively combat what the Syrians are trying to do, they are likely to succeed in their quest. It is imperative that the country and its politicians, if they are sincere, work hand in hand to reject this plot.

The Syrian regime currently has little to lose in trying to upset Lebanon’s delicate balance. It is happy to watch Lebanon burn down as it does.

It is vital that the Lebanese unite in refusing to let that happen.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 23, 2012, on page 7.




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