One million Syrians take refuge in Lebanon

Can anyone imagine the ramifications of one million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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Will the Lebanese public feel safe if the Syrian opposition is crushed? Will Lebanon be in a better situation if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is toppled? Could the Syrian coastline on the Mediterranean, a melting pot of races and sects, become a neutral region in order to contain the religious turmoil between Sunnis, Alawites and Christians, and could this stop the spread of such turmoil?

We are talking here about the effects of the problem, and not the sickness itself. The heart of the disease is in Damascus and if no political or military solution is reached, the circle of fire will expand. The war is spreading in all directions, to Kassab the Armenian town, to mountains inhabited by the ethnic Turkmen people, to the Alawite suburbs of Lattakia and the borders with Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The war is not limted to Aleppo or Deir Ezzor any more.

The war in Syria is the source of pain for 20 million Syrians and is responsible for all the nightmares of its neighbors. This systemic internal and external collapse will not stop unless the international community becomes convinced that the policy of neglect (the ostrich-like attitude of sticking one’s head in the ground) is more dangerous than direct intervention.

The ramifications

Can anyone imagine the ramifications of one million Syrians seeking refuge in Lebanon? According to the U.N., this is how many refugees have fled the crisis for Lebanon. Has the Syrian crisis been reduced to an issue only dealt with by relief agencies and welfare associations?

Has the Syrian crisis been reduced to an issue only dealt with by relief agencies and welfare associations?

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Some consider the refugee issue to be a recurrent byproduct of all wars, and that it is primarily an economic and humanitarian issue. This could be right to a certain extent, but it’s much bigger than that. Lebanon is at the doors of hell, and is very likely to be devastated by its fire. One million Syrian refugees is a problem in itself. However, the security and political repercussions are prone to become larger with time.

The main difference between the Afghan refugees in Pakistan, for example, and the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, is the ratio when compared to the indigenous population. There are 1.5 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, but they hardly represent a small fraction compared to the 180 million Pakistanis. However, one million Syrians in a small country of five million, such as Lebanon, is more worrisome as it is difficult to deal with them politically, even if the economic problems are fixed.

The only solution is in Damascus, by imposing the peaceful solution which was initiated at the Geneva I conference.

That solution includes the present leadership stepping down, the formation of a governing entity and gathering different Syrian factions under an international umbrella. The other alternative is to support the moderate opposition, represented by the Free Syrian Army, as it gathers all the Syrian groups - from all religions and ethnicities - until it marches forward and conquers the capital.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on March 5, 2014.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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