Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Is Syria Going to Invade Lebanon?

Syria has massed thousands of troops on its borders with Lebanon. In response, the United States has signed a high profile arms deal with the Western-facing Lebanese government.

To recap the latest developments, not exactly in chronological order:

After a painfully unsuccessful Israeli attempt to eradicate Hezbollah in Lebanon after two soldiers were kidnapped, Beirut is torn by over a year of political conflict, ending in gun battles between Sunni and Shiite militias resulting in Shiite victories. This allows Hezbollah to stake out significant territory for itself. A prisoner exchange demanded by the radicals solidifies the gains. The Western-backed government is more isolated and weaker than ever.

Israel destroys a likely nuclear weapons development facility in far eastern Syria. Syria is strangely silent on the matter.

The United States reveals publicly that Israel hit a likely nuclear weapons development facility. There is some confusion and skepticism, mainly from Europe. France accelerates efforts to bring Syria into its sphere of diplomatic influence. The United Nation's Anti-Nuclear Proliferation Agency, the IAEA, is very critical of the preemptive strike: verifying the development program will now be almost impossible.

The IAEA takes samples from the site, which has been largely built over, finding nothing conclusive. Any information about the site will have to come from people who worked there.

The main contact the IAEA has for information on Syria's weapons program is assassinated.

A car bomb is detonated in Damascus, Syria. This is highly unusual. The repressive regime is one of the most secure in the Middle East.

A day later a car bomb is detonated in Tripoli, Lebanon. Many news agencies ask if the two are related.

The next moves have been two rather low-key deployments of thousands of troops to the border. With Hezbollah inside, and Syrian troops outside, the deck is stacked against the moderate Lebanese government, even with our recent pledge of arms and aid.

Will Syria invade?

UPDATE: Excellent story on Russian involvement in Syria here.