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Jihadists set to stoke sectarian violence in Lebanon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Significance

The conflict has had an increasing impact on Lebanon since it began in 2011, in the form of sectarian political violence, massive refugee inflows, a deepening government crisis and cross-border movements of fighters. The spillover has destabilised Lebanon's delicate sectarian balance and created an institutional vacuum, with the country lacking an elected government since April 2013, and a president since May 2014. In particular, the emergence of Islamic State group (ISG) as a major force in Syria, and its brief occupation of Lebanese territory, has highlighted the threat of an escalated sectarian conflict on Lebanese soil.

Impacts

  • If jihadists capture towns or villages in the Bekaa Valley, they could carry out massacres, and spark fighting in other parts of Lebanon.
  • Fragmentation of the army on Sunni-Shia lines would undermine security and create a vacuum for ISG to step into.
  • ISG could coordinate a campaign inside Lebanon with al-Qaida's Jabhat al-Nusra (JN).
  • Sectarian tensions could help radicalise the Syrian refugee population, strengthening ISG's presence.
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