Lebanon at Risk: Conflict in Bekaa Valley

Report
from NATO Civil-Military Fusion Centre
Published on 16 Mar 2013

Introduction

Within Lebanese society, deep divisions still linger from a violent and protracted civil war that extended from 1975 to 1990. Today these divisions continue to strain social cohesion within the country. Many experts have expressed concern over the on-going violence in Syria, increasingly sectarian, which is likely to disrupt the fragile peace in Lebanon. Syria and Lebanon share a long, conflicted, military and political history and Lebanese citizens are deeply divided over the neighbouring conflict. Northern Lebanon, in particular, is a potential time bomb for violence and conflict. The North is a predominantly Sunni population, and firmly supports the Sunni rebels in their aim to overthrow President Bashar al Assad. To further complicate matters, the North is composed of small communities of Shi’ite Alawites1 allied with the Syrian government.

A similar sectarian rift exists in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, located along the Syrian border. The two-year-old Syrian conflict is an encroachment on the Lebanese border and has been for months, according to StratRisks, a security risk publication. Rival Lebanese Shi’ite and Sunni clans and factions have seemingly cast their lot with the Assad regime and rebel opposition respectively. “Lebanon is a minefield of potential flashpoints”, asserts StratRisks, but few hold as much potential for serious violence as the northern Bekaa Valley. This report will provide background on the complex Lebanon-Syria-Hezbollah alliance, briefly address the history of the Bekaa Valley and then discuss the current humanitarian, social, political and security issues within the valley that foster insecurity and risk destabilising the entire country of Lebanon.