Lebanon's security situation is rapidly deteriorating as at least 18 Lebanese soldiers have been killed over the last few days. Earlier today, gunmen again opened fire on a Lebanese army post. These attacks are undercutting Lebanon's political stability.
Although there are a number of factors motivating this upsurge in violence, the primary cause is a growing hostility between Lebanese government forces and militants allied to the Sunni cleric, Ahmad al-Assir.
Assir, an avowed enemy of Hezbollah and a man known for his willingness to stoke controversy, is seeking to exert pressure against the group he sees as his main adversary: the Lebanese Hezbollah. Last Tuesday, , al-Assir'ssupporters attacked apartment blocks after Assir claimed they were being used by Hezbollah spies. Chaos has followed.
According to Lebanon experts like Mona Yacoubian from The Stimson Center think tank, many Lebanese, especially Lebanese Sunnis, see the Assad-Hezbollah alliance as a sectarian enemy committed to war against them. From their perspective, attacks by Hezbollah against Syrian towns like Qusair, are seen as part of a conflict within Lebanon – the notion of boarders is diluted in the face of sectarian emotion.
The effect is clear: Each act of violence by Hezbollah in Syria fuels a deep and increasingly expressive sectarian anger in Lebanon.
It's in this context that the Lebanese army, and by extension the Lebanese government, now find themselves in an exceptionally difficult position. For Yacoubian, current events "marks a dangerous turn, in which the Lebanese army is increasingly drawn into Lebanon's sectarian tensions. This development portends deepening instability in Lebanon." Yacoubian adds that, "without strong leadership to help assuage mounting Sunni anger, emotions are increasingly leading to violent outbursts with no ostensible leadership to control it."
This dynamic is further complicated by Hezbollah's political role as a major actor inside the Lebanese government; a reality that means many Sunnis simply do not trust the government that supposedly exists to serve them.
It isn't just Lebanon and Syria; in Iraq, violence is increasing. In Egypt, protest movements continue to challenge the new order of the Muslim Brotherhood. Across the region, varied political movements are in a contest for the future of their societies.
With the Syrian civil war grinding on, it's highly possible that Lebanon's tensions will continue to grow. In the run up to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, the primary leader of Lebanon's Druze political community, Walid Jumblatt, stated that the country would soon be "engulfed again in a huge power game that will last quite a long time. This is the tragic destiny of Lebanon."