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Iran / Syria backed groups stoke conflict in Lebanon

For a number of years now, Lebanon has been suffering the impact of civil war. In the 80’s, there was a wide-spread war that had turned Beirut into a shell town, although the current war is a different war. This is a fight for power between the various neighboring powers seeking to get their influence and power into a better position in this strategically important nation. Lebanon is suffering from a fight between the 2 divisions within Islam – the Shia and the Sunni. Iran has been the leader in terms of a large nation with Shia control (and projects major influence in the other majority Shia nation – Iraq). Iran supplies the Hezbollah movement with financial and armed support and in turn the movement helps project Iranian & Syrian influence in the region. On the other side is the US backed forces of Saad Hariri who have more international support and support from the Sunni powers in the region, including Saudi Arabia. This battle for influence is now manifesting itself in bitter armed fight in Lebanon and in the capital city of Beirut:

Iranian- and Syrian-backed Shiite opposition gunmen seized control of several Beirut neighborhoods from Sunni foes loyal to the U.S.-backed government on Friday. In a sign of the collapse of the pro-government forces in the face of the onslaught by the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal groups in the Lebanese capital’s Muslim sector, the TV station of top Sunni politician Saad Hariri’s Future Movement went off the air and the offices of its affiliated al-Mustaqbal newspaper on the edge of the city was set afire by opposition gunmen, according to TV footage and Hezbollah.

The scenes were a grim reminder of Lebanon’s devastating 1975-90 civil war in which 150,000 were killed and parts of the city wrecked. Factions threw up roadblocks and checkpoints dividing Beirut into sectarian enclaves. “We entered Karakol Druse. There is no Jumblatt and no Hariri here,” a Shiite gunman told Associated Press Television News, referring to the top Sunni leader and his ally, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt. The military has sought to stay out of the feuding, fearing a repeat of its breakup in the long civil war that wracked this country — home to rival communities of Sunni and Shiite Muslims, various Christian sects and Druse.

The problem with this conflict is that there are so many influences that it is difficult to tamp things down, and things could swiftly go from bad to worse. Syria has never backed away from trying to project its influence in Lebanon, and has carried out clandestine bombings and killings of figures opposed to its influence in Lebanon, including the former Primer Minister who was killed in 2005.

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