The conflict in Syria has exacerbated traditional communal tensions in Lebanon, with violent clashes becoming increasingly widespread in parts of the country.
On the heels of its success in al-Qusayr, the Syrian government launched a new offensive against rebel-held areas in Aleppo province, marked by the deployment of thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah militants on June 2.
With the help of thousands of fighters from Hezbollah, Iran, and Iraq, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has achieved one of his most important military victories in the past two years by forcing the withdrawal of opposition forces from the town of al-Qusayr. Al-Qusayr now also cuts off access to cross-border weapons supplies to the rebels from Lebanon and provides an important staging ground for future efforts by the regime to retake the north and east.
Recent violence against Sunni communities in Syria’s coastal region raises new concern over sectarianism in Syria. It also suggests to some that Assad will move to form an Alawi state.
On April 25, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that the United States had evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian regime, albeit with “varying degrees of confidence”
The United States must embrace the Syrian opposition fully in order to strengthen its moderate elements, convert the networks of opposition groups into a functioning hierarchy that can govern the country, and ensure that a moderate, representative state friendly to the United States emerges in the wake of Assad.
On April 14, 2013, regime forces broke the 6-month siege of the Wadi al-Deif and Hamidiya military compounds outside of Maarat al-Numan, putting the rebel opposition in the area on the defensive and reestablishing overland supply lines to the bases.
Jabhat Nusra officially pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri in a recent statement. Despite Jabhat Nusra's attempts to reaffirm their Syrian identity, the announcement will likely enhance existing fractures between Jabhat Nusra and other opposition groups.