3Center or American Progress | Next Steps in Syria: A Look at U.S. Priorities and Interests
Te size o he reugee populaions in Syria’s neighbors poses dauning logisical andresource problems. Te U.N. High Commissioner or Reugees repors 135,640 reg-isered Syrian reugees, including 50,227 in urkey, 39,600 in Jordan, and 36,040 inLebanon as o Augus 13.
Tis number, however, vasly underesimaes he numbero acual reugees in Syria’s neighbors since so many reugees are no regisered wihhe commission. Unocial esimaes place he number o reugees closer o 140,000 in Jordan and 90,000 in Lebanon,
a dauning ask or any naion o handle. Despie hechallenge o accommodaing so many reugees, Syria’s neighbors have kep heir bordersopen o reugees.More resources are needed o serve he humaniarian needs o hese reugee communi-ies and o preven heir presence rom desabilizing he ragile economies o heir hoscounries. Te Unied Saes should encourage wealhier, acively engaged counriessuch as Qaar and Saudi Arabia o help und he reugee commission’s eors. Te U.N.High Commissioner or Reugees and oher major reugee organizaions should in urnprovide direc cash assisance o Syrian reugees, which limis he nancial srain on hoscommuniies and avoids he requen logisical diculies o delivering ood, bedding,medical supplies, and oher aid producs o reugee communiies. Te leadership rolehe Unied Saes can play in mobilizing aid money rom he Persian Gul and Europeand in pressuring counries o coninue heir humaniarian eors or Syrian reugeesshould no be underesimaed.Te inux o 90,000 predominanly Sunni Syrian reugees has also reignied many o hesecarian divisions in neighboring Lebanon. While he rebellion in Syria is no inher-enly secarian, he reliance o he Assad regime on Alawie suppor creaes percepionso secarian conic. Alawies, he Shia Muslim sec rom which he Assad amily hails,comprise roughly 13 percen o Syria’s oal populaion.
Sunni Arabs, who comprise 74percen o Syria’s populaion,
are believed o suppor he ani-Assad rebellion. Oherminoriy groups such as he Druze, Chrisians, and Kurds remain divided in heir sup-por or he regime or he rebellion.Gun batles along hese secarian lines have eruped hroughou Lebanon, paricularly inripoli, which is home o large Sunni and Alawi communiies.
Te secarian divide inLebanon maches he counry’s long, complex relaionship wih he Assad governmenin Syria. Assad is one o Shiie poliical pary and miliia Hezbollah’s mos imporansupporers; he Syrian miliary mainained a 14,000-roop presence in Lebanon or 30 years;
and Damascus is considered by many o be complici in he assassinaion o ormer Lebanese Prime Miniser Rak Hariri (a Sunni) in 2005.
I is unclear wha eec, i any, he inux o Syrian reugees will have on Lebanon’sdomesic poliics. One cauionary ale, however, may be he inux o Palesinian reu-gees ollowing he 1948 Arab-Israeli War, which upse he delicae secarian balance o Lebanon and conribued heavily o he counry’s 25-year civil war.