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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Syrian troops massed on Lebanese border

You just knew this would happen again sooner or later. The Times of London reported on Wednesday that Syrian troops are massed on the Lebanese border and the Lebanese - at least those of them who are not in Syria's pocket already - fear yet another takeover of their country by the Syrians.

Although Damascus insists that its forces are conducting an antismuggling operation, the Lebanese Government is eyeing the moves with unease, believing that the unusual scale of the deployment has more to do with tensions between the two countries over recent sectarian clashes in northern Lebanon.

“People around here are worried. We don’t know why the Syrians have arrived like this,” said Ali, 18, a farmer in the tiny hillside hamlet of Hekr Janin overlooking the border.

Much of Lebanon’s northern border with Syria follows the Kabir, or Great river, which despite its name, is little more than a trickle after the hot summer months. Lined by trees and bamboo thickets, the river meanders through a narrow floodplain of meadows and crop fields flanked by steep hills of black basalt.

The Lebanese media report that between 8,000 and 10,000 Syrian special forces have taken up positions along some of the hills overlooking the Kabir.

Their surprise deployment comes after several months of clashes in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, pitting the majority Sunnis against the minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

The small Alawite community in Lebanon is a close ally of the Syrian regime. President Assad of Syria is an Alawite and most top positions in the Syrian security and military apparatus are filled by them

Much of northern Lebanon is populated by Sunnis, the majority of whom are supporters of the Future Movement, which is headed by Saad Hariri, the son and political heir of Rafik Hariri, whose 2005 assassination is widely blamed on Syria.
But the world remains convinced that all the Middle East's problems would be solved if only there were a 'Palestinian' state reichlet.


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