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.