"Many fear it’s only a matter of time before Iraq will return to full-scale civil war, and some say Lebanon could swiftly collapse into widespread violence."
-- Alex Whiting, Thomson Reuters Foundation correspondent
Syria’s civil war is threatening to become a regional conflict. It’s increasingly pitching Sunnis against Shi’ites across the region, with many Sunnis supporting the rebels and Shi’ites supporting President Bashar al-Assad.
It’s not just happening at the government level, with Shi’ite Iran expanding its support for Assad, and Sunni Gulf states – including Saudi Arabia – their support for Syria’s rebels. There are also fighters from the region piling into Syria to help.
In Lebanon and Iraq, tensions have significantly grown as a result of the conflict. Both countries have people fighting on opposite sides in Syria. Many fear it’s only a matter of time before Iraq will return to full-scale civil war, and some say Lebanon could swiftly collapse into widespread violence.
Lebanon’s Shi’ite militant group Hezbollah has played a significant role in boosting Assad’s forces, and towns in Lebanon loyal to Hezbollah have been attacked by suspected Syrian rebels. Some fear the fighting will move deeper into Lebanon’s territory.
[Lebanon] The country as a whole is divided over Syria. There have been clashes in the streets of several cities, and political divisions have deepened over the crisis. It’s one reason why elections have been postponed until late next year.
Iraq is also under severe strain, and sectarian attacks there are on the rise. Sunni al Qaeda fighters from Iraq have joined rebels in Syria, where they are growing in power. At the same time, more and more Iraqi Shi'ite militias are helping President Assad’s forces.
When and how will the region’s crisis end? And how many more people will have to die or have their lives torn apart before it does?