2Hizbullah’s rhetorical and physical assault on the Syrian opposition invited threats from theFree Syrian Army to bring the battle inside Lebanon. The cross-border attacks from Syria onHizbullah’s areas in northern Beqaa moved the battle lines for the party that prided itself onfighting Israel in the south to the most northern Lebanese border with Syria. This was not loston the Lebanese who raised questions about not only the legitimacy of Hizbullah’s resistancebut also the party leadership’s judgment in dragging the country into a Syrian quagmire.
Many see Hizbullah’s adventure in Syria as their Vietnam, a war that will sap their energy anddrown them in sectarian conflict in Syria and Lebanon alike. But it is only like Vietnam if theylose in Syria. Winning the battle for Syria will “make them unbearable inside Lebanon,” aLebanese politician lamented.The tension between the Sunnis and the Shi’a in Lebanon is razor thin, and the Syrian refugeescould be drawn into this. These refugees are now in 1,200 Lebanese towns and villagesincluding in the south, Hizbullah’s heartland. As of May 2013, there were over 66,000 Syrianrefugees registered in southern villages, according to the UN refugee agency. They are watchedvery closely by Hizbullah’s security. A minister in the Lebanese caretaker government told methe refugees have started arming and getting organized. They are afraid of revenge killingsagainst them from Hizbullah and its supporters when the funerals of Hizbullah members killedin Syria mount.
Hizbullah’s Lebanese opponents are afraid of a victory for Hizbullah and the regime in Syriabecause of the implications on Lebanese political life. A victorious Hizbullah will redraw theLebanese political map to its liking and that of its allies in Syria and Iran. Hizbullah’ssupporters in the media are already prophesying a “new role for Hizbullah in the whole East,”to change the political, economic, and even social map of the region. This could be hubris, butwhile it is succeeding in intimidating some, it is drawing strong opposition from LebanesePresident Michel Suleiman and the March 14
Coalition. They are both challenging Hizbullahand calling for it to pull its fighters from Syria and for Lebanon to maintain its dissociationpolicy. However, these calls are falling on deaf ears, and sectarian fires are roving the country.
The second threat to Lebanese national security is the Syrian refugee crisis. It is described as anexistential threat—a time bomb—by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) andLebanese officials. The problem is casting its shadow over all aspects of Lebanon’s political,economic, security, social, and even cultural life. The Lebanese will tell you the current refugeepresence is overwhelming the country. It has exceeded the capacity of the state to handle theinflux of refugees, for the infrastructure is not equipped to deal with a load of this magnitude.Their number is swelling by the day and with each new battle in Syria. The latest is al–Qusayr,which made the number quoted by UN officials at the beginning of June a moving target. Theregistered Syrian refugees are now approaching 600,000 according to UN officials who predictthat Lebanon will have one million registered refugees by the end of the year. But Lebaneseofficials already put the number of refugees at 1.2 million, prompting one official who ishandling the refugee file in the government to quip, “Our Syrian refugee brothers are achievingwhat Bashar al-Assad could not achieve during the presence of his army in Lebanon. Theycould annex areas to Damascus.”
Instability is becoming the number-one problem in Lebanon, in addition to shelter. UN officialspointed to the number of young men among the refugees, around 25 percent of the total