US President Barack Obama is signalling that he may not continue his push for an American-led military strike on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad agrees to give up his stockpile of chemical weapons. His administration alleges that Assad's forces used chemical weapons on an August 21 attack in the Ghouta neighborhood of Damascus which left 1,300 Syrian civilians, many of them women and children, dead. While the world awaits a final decision, fears in Lebanon are on the rise over the potential repercussions of a US intervention.


(Photo via abc news)

Lebanon has already seen its share of crisis over the last few months with kidnappings, rocket attacks and outbreaks of violence. On August 24, at least 42 people were killed and more than 500 wounded when twin car bombs went off in the northern city of Tripoli. Earlier that month, on August 16, at least 20 people were killed when a car bomb went off in the Beirut southern suburbs of Dahiyeh. That attack followed a July 9 car bombing in Dahiyeh's Bir al-Abed neighborhood which left 53 people wounded.

Regardless of whether the people want it, it's clear Lebanon is deeply entrenched in the war next door. Here are five things that could happen if the US strikes Syria.

1. Another wave of Syrian refugees will cross the border.
With an estimated 700,000 refugees in the country, Lebanon already holds the brunt of the Syrian refugee crisis among neighboring countries. An air assault on Syria would likely send another huge wave of civilians fleeing across the border, further straining the country's already-weak economy and infrastructure.

2. Protests will break out.
This one's a given. Lebanese groups have already started protesting in anticipation of an American military strike. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) held a protest in front of the UN's ESCWA headquarters over the weekend. Meanwhile, activists affiliated with the March 8 alliance rallied in front of the US Embassy following the evacuation Friday of all non-emergency personnel from its compound in Awkar. There's also the potential for demonstrations in front of other embassies, such as the French Embassy, should those countries join in a US intervention.

3. Hezbollah could launch an attack on Israel.
Hezbollah sees the war in Syria “as an existential threat to their position in Lebanon and therefore their position vis-à-vis Israel,” Faysal Itani, a fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Middle East Center, told the Global Post news outlet. But how Hezbollah reacts “depends on the scale, the duration and the aim of any potential US military action,” he added. Meanwhile, according to Al-Akhbar newspaper sources, Syria and Hezbollah plan to retaliate against Israel in the event of an American-led military attack on the Assad regime.

4. Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport could shut down.
Some airlines have already adjusted their schedules to avoid night flights to Beirut. When asked if he was ready to shut down the airport, caretaker Public Works Minister Ghazi Aridi told the Daily Star newspaper: “Let’s see first if the [military] strike will be carried out through Lebanon’s airspace or not, what is the size of this strike and where it could lead to.” With the strong possibility that a missile strike could run directly through Lebanon's airspace, the country's government may not have much of a choice when it comes to closing down the airport.

5. An all-out regional war, with Lebanon caught in the middle, could break out.
The country's leaders remain fiercely divided on Lebanon's intervention in the Syrian conflict. In May, Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said members of his party were fighting alongside Syrian regime forces, an admission which angered pro-March 14 coalition members who support the rebels. The past few months have already been plagued by intense fighting between political players who back different sides in Syria. If the US were to launch a strike on Assad's forces, it could plunge Lebanon even further into a regional crisis with the potential to become an all-out war.

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