Lebanese troops deployed Tuesday in tense areas of the northern city of Tripoli after three days of sectarian clashes killed at least six people in a spillover of the 14-month-long conflict in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries, which are easily inflamed. Tripoli — Lebanon’s second largest city — has seen bouts of sectarian violence in the past, but the fighting has become more frequent as the conflict in Syria worsens.
Like Walking On Egg Shells
“Inevitably what happens in Syria has a huge impact in Lebanon. It’s like walking on egg shells and everyone expects those egg shells to crack at some stage,” the BBC’s Jonathan Head told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.
“But in some ways Tripoli is a special case. It’s a largely Sunni city with very strong emotional ties to the largely Sunni very strongly Muslim opposition inside Syria, with a long history among the Sunni population there of real antagonism toward the Syrian regime. So there’s a history there,” he said.
The conflict in Syria is more than a year old now and Head says there’s not any optimism about what’s going to happen because the United Nations peace plan isn’t working.
“It’s such a cliche to say this isn’t Libya but it isn’t,” he said. “If you want a comparison, one of the best and most dismaying to make is that currently Syria is a bit like Bosnia in the 1990s or maybe Iraq in the middle of the last decade, a really bitter, almost insoluble civil war. And everybody on either side is preparing for a war even though there are huge number of Syrians in the middle who wish it wouldn’t happen. But they seem to be powerless.”
- Jonathan Head, BBC reporter