Lebanon Power Struggle: Sunni and Shia tensions blow up in Beirut

NEW YORK - May 9 2008 (Arabisto.com): Lebanon has been on a standstill for over 18 months --A country with no president since last November. Something was bound to happen. The Sunni/Shia tensions that have been escalating all over the region in the last few years are now catching up in the streets of Beirut. And for the Lebanese, a glimpse of a civil war they thought was over and done with.
I was there in 2005, when Lebanese Christians and Muslims stood side by side, holding crosses and crescents in the same hand, holding the Cora'n and the Bible in proof that we had come a long way --that Christians and Muslims would never take arms against each other in our country.
What we didn't see coming --at least not then-- was that the new rise of tension would between Muslims themselves. Maybe this isn't confessional, like Hizbollah Secretary General suggests. Maybe this is political. But politically, Sunnis and Shiaas have been increasingly competing, especially since the Iraq war and the Iranian uprise.
The Americans waged a war in Iraq without realizing just how bad this would be for the region. They weakened Iran's biggest enemy, giving the Iranian regime a new hope for power. Syria's regime, the Baath party, a minority in a country where the majority is Sunni, ally themselves with the rising Iranian power. All fund Hizbollah. And as usual, Lebanon takes the fall for every tension created in the Arab world. Lebanon fights the Israeli war. Now Lebanon fights the sunni/shia war. The problem is, we know who is stronger.
Once again, Hassan Nasrallah wanted to show us that he and his party can do whatever they want whenever they want it, whether the rest of the country agrees to it or not. When he wanted to provoke Israel in 2006, he did it, and no one could stop him. I wonder who will stop him now. If others take the streets, if the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb, the PLO, and every other political party in Lebanon go to the streets with their weapons, then what?


The limits are ill-defined, we don't really know who is fighting who. It's not West Beirut against East Beirut anymore. It's neighbors fighting each other in their own streets.

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About Yasmina Hatem

Yasmina Hatem was born in Beirut, Lebanon where she spent most of her life. She started writing for a French weekly newspaper for teenagers when she was 15 years old and has been active in journalism ever since. She attended Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and obtained her Masters of Science in May 2007. She currently lives in New York City and works for Al Arabiya News Channel at the United Nations.

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