Lebanon, Syria

Podcast on Lebanon and Syria

I recorded a podcast about Lebanon and Syria with Karl Morand of Middle East Week a couple days ago. You can listen to it here.

In other news, the Daily Beast is reporting that the U.N. has reversed its decision not to build camps for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and is now proposing a dozen large camps housing 100,000 refugees each, to the tune of $1.2 billion. The analysts quoted in the piece suggest that Hizbullah is against the move because it fears demographic shifts that would favor the Sunnis. I personally think this is a cartoonish idea that has no basis in reality. The Palestinian refugees who have been in Lebanon since 1948 have never figured in the demographic debate because the Lebanese have  prevented them from doing so. Why would it be different with Syrian refugees? Demography seems to matter very little in Lebanon’s consociational framework, as we’ve recently been reminded by the debate over the Orthodox law.

The real reasons to be wary of the situation have more to do with the reality underlying the need to build camps, rather than building the camps themselves. There are 1.2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a quarter of the country’s population. Imagine if the drug wars and violence in Mexico sent 75 million Mexicans into the US (which was already housing 30 million Canadian refugees as well).The infrastructure of Lebanon simply cannot sustain an influx of this magnitude on a long-term basis.


17 thoughts on “Podcast on Lebanon and Syria

  1. Are you sure about the numbers you give?
    UNHCR counts 1,7 m as Syrian refugees in the region at the moment, of which about 500000 are in Lebanon now. Of course these are only provisional data (sadly bound to increase), but your count above seems a bit too high for Lebanon unless you are counting also Syrian workers and other syrians non-registered as refugees… (which is a bit confusing, at least for me…)
    By this I don’t mean to play down the enormous importance of the issue, of course!


    Posted by Filippo Dionigi | June 13, 2013, 9:02 am
  2. In the short run building the camps will be a stimulus for the Lebanese economy, so there is good news there. As for the longer term, I think you are a little pessimistic. As long as money from outside comes in to support the refugees, Lebanon will be ok. Growth in population usually leads to growth in GDP and if managed well also to growth of GDP per capita. Gaza is an example of how outside aid can sustain a large refugee population long term. And Lebanon has much more potential than Gaza.

    I will leave you with one of my favorite British quotes about Palestine. In 1929 Lord Passfield said that in Palestine “there is no room to swing a cat”.

    Posted by AIG | June 13, 2013, 9:30 am
  3. The UN have always been in favor of building camps in Lebanon, camps make easier to offer services to refugees and make housing for them (instead of having to pay for the rents). It was the government of Lebanon wary of authorizing this move, so in fact it’s been the government to reverse its decision. It did so because it took into account that infrastructure might be crumbling under the influx of refugees.

    Posted by Fiorenzo | June 13, 2013, 9:41 am
  4. Filippo,

    The numbers I am quoting are in the article, and other reports in the press. I have no idea what the reality is.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | June 13, 2013, 10:18 am
  5. How abt the refugees were moved to GCC countries where its safer for them. These countries can afford having them and they have no security threats or fear of demographic changes. Y is it that always Lebanon has to pay the price. Instead qatar and saudi r banning syrians and refusing to issue visas. They are not renewing the residencies of many syrians in the GCC. U believe the UN will pay . R they still paying the electricity for the palestinian camps. A 150 M$ yearly bill. It is not a humanitarian issue at all. A lot of these refugees have their own agenda whether they are FSA or Assad supporters. And keep in mind even if the war ends today they will not leave anytime soon

    Posted by Red | June 13, 2013, 10:40 am
  6. Well, Obama is now saying Syria has crossed the chemical weapons “red line”. About a month or two after our allies said the same thing.

    What will Barry do? Once upon a time, Barry was concerned about Libyan lives. Now we have over 93,000 Syrian dead and Barry is still sucking his thumb and sitting on his potty.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 13, 2013, 7:44 pm
  7. Daily Beast Author Jammie Dettmer rather smugly focuses on the swift reversal of the satus quo in Lebanon’s approach to the refugee problems:

    “Just this month, Ninette Kelley, the UNHCR chief of mission here, insisted that not building refugee camps was the right strategy and argued Lebanon was “a model for dealing with refugees.”

    But that two-year-long approach is about to be abandoned for a 180-degree reversal….”

    I believe the UNHCR Syrian Refugee count is around 1/2 ml. Could the plans as just revealed suggest preparations for a torrent of refugees? How likely is the dream scenario of giant refugee camps scattered around HA turf? Reads like a recipe for endless bloodletting…..oh. There had better be a GOL established soon…. isn’t another official stamp of approval is required for” UN” purposes or will el Presidente Suleiman’s do?

    Could somebody be expecting a surge? Perhaps the slow build up to arming/enhancing HA-hater Moderate General Idriss’ forces is coalescing with other related developments in regional force build up and geopolitical maneuverings. Team eager beaver interventionistas are beside themselves with glee: claims of prescient tea leaf reading vie with unseemly virtual hand-rubbing eagerness for action at last. They pre-regret the collaterals, of course.

    Posted by lally | June 13, 2013, 11:35 pm
  8. Why do we pretend that Obama (or anyone else in power in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow, or Tehran) really cares about “Syrian lives”? Get real, people.

    Posted by Jim Reilly | June 14, 2013, 7:09 am
  9. Because Obama and others in power in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow, or Tehran think the world is flat.

    Posted by Whatever | June 14, 2013, 9:22 am
  10. Just like Sikes and Picot.

    Cheers, Akbar.

    Posted by Whatever | June 14, 2013, 9:25 am
  11. Jim, Whatever,

    Why do we pretend that the participants HERE really care about Syrian lives?

    But we know one thing, Obama was APPALLED at the killing in Libya, and quickly supported a no-fly zone there with virtually no cost in human life to the US.


    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 14, 2013, 10:17 am
  12. That is an enormous number of people!

    Posted by nc | June 14, 2013, 11:00 am
  13. Good job! on the podcast. Given the “bzyantine” subject matter, it was thoughtful, informative, well-laid out and best of all, balanced. It should be a required must hear for any foreigner claiming interest in and especially expertise on, Lebanon. Complexity made very palatable and entertaining. You weave your tales well.

    Thanks. You should write a book. Really.

    [Curious about the empty 14 sec around (43:11) of the talk. I’m quite sure there’s a very good reason.]

    Posted by lally | June 14, 2013, 11:43 pm
  14. Great podcast! I agree that the comments section on this site is great, it’s actually the main reason why I’ve been reading it for so many years (sorry Elias). I’ve only ever commented once or twice because everyone seems to know so much more than I do!

    Posted by Will | June 15, 2013, 8:44 pm
  15. Will,

    There’s not much to know. Iran is trying to destroy Israel and the rest of the Middle East and they’re doing a great job despite the infinite use of “Hot Air” and sanctions.

    I bet you know more than most of participants here.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | June 15, 2013, 9:31 pm
  16. Lally,
    Thank you for listening to the podcast. The 14 seconds that were missing was a question I asked about Sunni support/involvement coming from Lebanon. When I edit the shows I cut out the audio from my mic while the guest is talking (so you don’t hear me taking notes, drinking coffee, etc.) and I somehow cut out that question without noticing it. I’ve updated the file on the site as well as in the iTunes feed. No part of Elias’ comments were edited, it was just my question that was accidentally deleted. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.


    Posted by Karl Morand | June 16, 2013, 1:57 am
  17. Karl, thanks for correcting the record AND for your professional non-interventionist approach to interviewing. It was a pleasure to realize that you would not be interrupting QN’s explanations of complex material.

    Posted by lally | June 16, 2013, 11:49 am

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