The increasingly contentious issue of complicity of some Lebanese banks in terrorist financing and money laundering tied to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah was the topic of discussion at a panel hosted at the Aspen Institute on Wednesday, September 19.
As violence in neighboring Syria escalates, many observers are left wondering whether Syria will put to effect its threat to use chemical weapons, and further to that, whether those weapons will find their ways to its allies. This week, the Syrian rebels reported that chemical weapons had in fact been moved to the Syrian borders in an effort to threaten the international community.
In a flurry of diplomatic activity, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman stopped in Beirut this week on a visit that coincided with an Iranian delegation arriving from Tehran.
The Syrian uprising has severely undermined the triad of Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah, threatening the movement of weapons between Iran and its Lebanese protégé. While Iran originally praised the Arab uprisings as an Islamic awakening against the Western-backed dictators, the Syrian crisis is threatening this strategic alliance and changing the power dynamics in the region.
Lebanese militant Shiite group Hezbollah's policy towards the Syrian uprising has been clear: a steadfast commitment to the Syrian regime and a dismissal of the recent protests as an Israeli-American conspiracy. Its stance has been so disappointing for the group's Syrian fans that many protestors carried banners criticizing the Shiite group.
Six months into the Syrian uprising, more and more countries have distanced themselves from the Syrian regime - but most have yet to call on President Bashar Assad to step down. Gulf countries are leading an Arab League initiative aimed at ending violence in Syria, while Turkey and Iran continue to tread carefully, voicing support for the people's free will without abandoning Assad.
A heated debate on Lebanon's power sector revealed huge cracks in the new cabinet, raising questions about its stability in the face of upcoming political challenges.
Last Sunday's commemoration of the Day of the Nakba, denoting the uprooting of Palestinians from Israel, turned bloody in South Lebanon.
"If there is no stability here [in Syria], there's no way there will be stability in Israel", Rami Makhlouf, President Assad's cousin, the regime's businessman and a lightning rod for Syrian protestors, told the New York Times this week. He did not try to embellish or deny this seeming threat.
The uprising sweeping Syria continues to grow despite the brutal crackdown against peaceful protests. With the killing of Osama Bin Laden momentarily eclipsing the turmoil there, the protesters seem, at present, to be standing alone in their fight for democracy and liberty.