Rami G Khouri writes: The conflict in Syria has assumed more dangerous dimensions with the latest developments along the Syrian-Lebanese border, where forces with and against both the Syrian government and Hezbollah have engaged in cross-border shelling. This builds on a recent spate of tit-for-tat kidnappings in northeastern Lebanon’s own frontier region that captures all the modern Arab world’s vagaries of nationalism, statehood, identity, sectarianism and citizenship.
The easiest way to describe the events in that region has been to speak of Sunni-Shiite fighting, or antagonisms between pro- and anti-Syrian government elements. The involvement of Hezbollah adds a significant new element to the mix, and also helps to clarify what the fighting in and near Syria is all about. It is much more than “spillover” of the Syrian war into Lebanon. I have previously described the war in Syria as the greatest proxy battle of our age, and that is now clearer than ever as we see how Syria comprises a rich and expansive web of other conflicts playing out on a local, regional and global scale.
The war in Syria is so enduring and vexing precisely because it is such a multilayered conflict, comprising at least six separate battles taking place at the same time:
First, it is a domestic citizen revolt against the Assad family regime that has ruled Syria for 43 years. This aspect of the conflict reflects a widespread spirit of citizen activism for freedom, rights and dignity that continues to define much of the Arab world today. After the nonviolent demonstrations that erupted across the country in spring 2011 elicited a violent military response from the regime, this political conflict quickly became a militarized war. [Continue reading…]