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Protests Heat Up in Lebanon

2:00 PM, Mar 16, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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Beirut

Protests Heat Up in Lebanon

If the Saudis and other Gulf Cooperation Council members thought that sending more than a 1,000 additional troops to quell the uprising in Bahrain would prevent it from influencing the rest of the region, they miscalculated. The repercussions are already being felt here in Lebanon. After today's confrontations in Bahrain, pitting the Sunni regime's security forces against mostly Shia demonstrators, Shia here in Beirut aligned with Hezbollah and Amal have responded by burning tires and closing down roads. These actions add to an already tense sectarian atmosphere here after one Hezbollah-allied former minister Wiam Wahhab trashed Saudi Arabia, including Saudi women who he said looked like black garbage bags. This compelled the Sunnis to take to the streets in Tripoli and other Sunni regions.

In other words, the region is becoming hotter. It's true that not all of the Shia out in the streets of Manama are Iranian assets, but Tehran certainly perceives Bahrain to be a strategic interest – not least because it's home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet. Accordingly, if the Saudis push hard in Manama, then the Iranians will push back, in Beirut for the time being and maybe eventually in Bahrain as well, which may turn into a real shooting war. The big question is, if U.S. allies are getting rolled up in Beirut and other allies like the Saudis are escalating by sending troops into Bahrain, does the Obama administration understand the gravity of the situation?

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