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“Privatized Violence:” Pro-Regime Militias and the State in Syria

Going into its 6th year with no end in sight, the Syrian civil war has dramatically impacted state institutions, as well as the army. High casualty and desertion rates with a concomitant growth in the geographic scale and intensity of the fighting have seriously weakened the army. This untenable situation compelled the Syrian regime to[…]

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Is Lebanon Prepared to Repel the Islamic State?

On June 9th, Hezbollah met the “Islamic State” on the battlefield and for the first time ever the clash took place on Lebanese soil. Both Dae’sh and Jabhat al-Nusra (al-Qaeda in Syria) have a presence in the Qalamoun region along the Lebanon-Syria border—and have long aspired to make inroads into Lebanon in order to attack[…]

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Middle East Trench Warfare: Saudi Foreign Policy in Lebanon and Beyond

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman hailed the recent Saudi pledge to donate $3 billion directly to the Lebanese military for the purchasing of advanced weapons and equipment as a positive development in a time of rising sectarian tensions and escalating attacks across Lebanon. Indeed, the acquisition of new arms is framed in the public domain as[…]

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SISMEC Presents Jonathan Randal: Journalism, War and History

    Veteran war correspondent Jonathan Randal speaks to SISMEC Research Associate ST McNeil about reporting in the Middle East, minorities, the value of history to journalists, the 1982 Siege of Beirut, his many books and the evolution of American foreign news gathering since 1945.

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Syria in the Lebanese Context

When the fighting began in Syria, Bashar al-Assad’s life span was measured in weeks rather than years. The war then appeared localized.  Since, the scope of the conflict has grown and prospects for a mediated solution appear naive. But as the war continues to ravage Syria, it is destabilizing Lebanon and making Hezbollah’s position more[…]

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From Diyala to Dahiya and Beyond: The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria

After the deadly bombing in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiya in southern Beirut, Lebanon that killed close to 30 people and injured up to 400, jihadi media outlets were inundated with posts by members of the al-Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) praising the attack. In the rebel-held provincial capital of al-Raqqa[…]

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Heritage and the Syrian Civil War

Weapons of Cultural Destruction As the civil war rages across Syria, its rich cultural heritage is often caught in the crossfire between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government’s army.  As in previous conflicts in Lebanon and Iraq, many historical sites in Syria have been damaged sometimes quite severely by the fighting.  Historical artifacts[…]

Your Sweet Days Have Ended

Beirut’s future at the mercy of the Syrian conflict This past Wednesday, “Executive Magazine” reported that the Lebanese government intends to pursue legal action against the producers of the hit TV series “Homeland” for its inaccurate portrayal of Beirut, particularly its depiction of Hamra street. While Hamra is known to Lebanese as an exuberant, pub-littered[…]

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And to the Victor Goes the Ruins

The next phase of the Syrian Civil War As the Syrian conflict has dragged on, growing in intensity with no sign of resolution or international intervention, the regime may seem incredibly resilient: they have been able to push the rebels out of Damascus, to protect the majority-Alawite territories, to hold Aleppo, and to keep pressure[…]

A model for stability? No, seriously.

An Unlikely Lesson from Lebanon For those longtime observers of Lebanon, this might seem like a terrible joke.  But honestly, why won’t the current regime in Lebanon be the next to go?  Unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, institutionalized confessionalism and recent political history have created an odd model for stability.  Popular support is truly split[…]