U.S., France Anxious as Syria-Lebanon Tension Builds

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A series of bombings in northern Lebanon and Damascus, followed by mutual accusations, are a matter of concern to world powers, including the United States and France. Both the U.S. and France warned Syria against any intervention in Lebanon in the wake of the deteriorating security situation on both sides of the Syrian-Lebanese border.

At least 20 people, including soldiers and civilians, were killed in two separate bomb attacks in Tripoli, near the border with Syria, in the past two months. The most recent attack took place last Monday, when a military bus carrying dozens of soldiers exploded, leaving at least five dead.

Last Saturday a massive explosion in Damascus left 17 people dead, including Brig.-Gen. ‘Abd Al-Karim ‘Abbas, a top official in the Syrian Military Intelligence. ‘Abbas was under probe by the United Nations’ tribunal investigating former Lebanese President Rafiq Al-Hariri’s assassination in 2005, the opposition Reform Party of Syria reported.

Lebanon, as well as the U.S. and France, is worried Syria will exploit the recent attacks to intervene in Lebanon using a false pretext. This concern was intensified after Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad’s recent accusation, according to which northern Lebanon had become “a real base for extremism and constitutes a threat to Syria.” The claim was made in an interview Al-Asad gave earlier this week to head of Lebanon’s Journalists Union, Milhem Karam.

Al-Asad’s remarks coincide with reports that more than 10,000 Syrian soldiers have deployed near the northern Lebanese border. “This deployment is an internal matter, aimed at thwarting smuggling from Lebanon,” Col. (ret.) Ahmad Munir Muhammad, a member of the Syrian parliament’s National Security Committee, told The Media Line.

But Lebanon was not reassured by similar statements made by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu’alim. Some elements are smuggling extremist armed men over the Syrian border “in order to spread chaos and commit terrorist acts that target army officers and civilians,” MP Sa’ad A-Din Al-Hariri, leader of Lebanon’s Al-Mustaqbal Party, said following the Monday attack.

Al-Asad’s actions, Al-Hariri added, constituted a direct threat to Lebanon’s sovereignty.

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