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Will Lebanon descend into a new civil war?

By Missing Peace
Lebanese Islamist Sunni cleric Ahmad al-AssirLebanese Islamist Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir

The civil war in Syria, which has already claimed the lives of more than 100.000 Syrians, has now definitely spilled over into Lebanon.

At the beginning of this week intense fighting between the Lebanese army and militant Islamists killed at least 40 gunmen and 18 soldiers in the southern city of Sidon.

In Beirut At least 10 people, mostly Syrians, were injured Wednesday when assailants wielding knives attacked a bus carrying hired extras for an Iranian-produced television program, security sources said.

At the same time the northern city of Tripoli was once again the scene of armed battle between Sunni Islamists and the Lebanese army. The Islamists tried to provoke the army when they put up a huge poster of Sunny Islamist cleric Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir near an army checkpoint. No casualties were reported.

Lebanon Armed Forces commander Samir Geagea has warned that Lebanon is falling apart into mini-states

In an interview with Free Lebanon radio station on Monday Geagea said that the “phenomenon” of Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir was a reaction to Hezbollah’s activities in Lebanon, calling on all Lebanese to support the army and state given the clashes in the southern city of Sidon.

“The phenomenon of Hezbollah produced several other phenomenon’s, including that of Assir.” It is not about [the proliferation of] weapons, but rather mini-states leading to more mini-states,” Geagea said

“Assir is a big problem, but Hezbollah is the one that is taking [Lebanon] as hostage.”

“We are all citizens who enjoy the same rights and duties, but when one citizen sees that another enjoys superiority over him regarding these rights, then he is bound to react against this reality,” he said in reference to Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah has violated all laws and state institutions seeing as it revolts against any political issue that it opposes, which was demonstrated during the May 7, 2008, clashes,” Geagea said.

EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who visited Lebanon this week, called upon all parties to show restraint, while UN’s Ban Ki Moon on Monday appealed to Lebanon’s armed forces to remain loyal to President Michel Sleiman as sectarian tensions  mounted.

The UN envoy to Syria, Lahdar Brahimi, has blamed the West for the spillover of the Syrian violence into Lebanon. The envoy condemned the flow of weapons into the conflict from feuding international powers.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly said that the flow of arms from foreign nations only exacerbates the conflict, which has claimed roughly 100,000 lives over more than two years.

But calls for those weapons shipments to stop have fallen on deaf ears. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled on Tuesday to Saudi Arabia to discuss the conflict, after the US announced plans to arm rebel forces with light weaponry and the Saudis continued to increase the size of their shipments of anti-tank and anti-aircraft arms to Sunni opposition groups.

Indeed the Western decision to support the rebels in Syria with weapon shipments seems only to have exacerbated the conflict