Sectarian Violence in Lebanon

Sectarian Violence in Lebanon

Increased sectarian violence and political instability in Lebanon due to spillover from the Syrian civil war

 

The intensification of the Syrian civil war is putting increased stress on Lebanon’s political system and security infrastructure. Lebanon has absorbed more than one million Syrian refugees since the start of the conflict in 2011—compromise nearly one-fourth of Lebanon’s population and more refugees than any other country bordering Syria. However, in October 2014, Lebanon announced that it would not accept any more Syrian refugees.

The World Bank predicts that the Lebanese economy will spend close to $7.5 billion on refugees, as it struggles to adjust its economy to meet the demands of a growing population. Beyond the economic effects, the spillover from Syria has also heightened sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Historic differences between Hezbollah—a Shia terrorist militant group backed by Iran—and other Sunni groups in Lebanon have escalated. Particularly in Tripoli, just thirty miles from the Syrian border, the predominant Sunni population—led by the March 14 alliance—combats Shia supporters of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, as well as Hezbollah militants who conduct terrorist attacks on Sunni mosques.

The influx of Syrian refugees, coupled with Hezbollah’s involvement in fighting Syrian rebels, has resulted in cross-border skirmishes and increased weapons smuggling. In early August 2014, militants from Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacked the Sunni border town of Arsal, highlighting Lebanon's vulnerability to violence emanating from Syria.

These security risks have alarmed U.S. policymakers, as well as members of European and Gulf states, who are interested in stabilizing Lebanon and finding a diplomatic solution to the Syrian civil war.

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