Syria has called on its citizens to leave Lebanon ahead of an expected "eruption" in that country, Arab and Iranian press reports have said.
The media reports were translated and made available by MEMRI
in a special dispatch on Sunday.
"In the past few days, Arab and Iranian media reports have pointed to the possibility that Lebanon's current political crisis may become a violent conflict after July 15, 2007," the MEMRI dispatch said.
July 15 comes one day before a special UN Security Council meeting which is expected to discuss the possibility of stationing international experts on the Syria-Lebanon border, in order monitor the ongoing illegal cross border arms traffic to Hizbullah, thought to be originating from Iran and Syria.
The UN Security Council is also expected to meet next week to discuss a key report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a development which may bode badly for Syria.
"On July 5, 2007, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported that Syrian authorities had instructed all Syrian citizens residing in Lebanon to return to their country by July 15, 2007. The next day, the Israeli Arab daily Al-Sinara similarly reported, on the authority of a Lebanese source close to Damascus, that Syria was planning to remove its citizens from Lebanon. Also on July 5, the Lebanese daily Al-Liwa reported rumors that Syrian workers were leaving Lebanon at the request of the Syrian authorities. In addition, the Syrian government daily Al-Thawra reported that Syrian universities would accept Syrian students who were leaving Lebanon due to the instability there," MEMRI said in its report.
Within Lebanon itself, the Hizbullah-led opposition threatened to establish a "second government" through "historical steps" in mid July, according to senior Hizbullah officials quoted in the Lebanese media, MEMRI added.
A violent clash next week in Lebanon is a real possibility, but would not be aimed at Israel, General (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former senior officer in the IDF's Military Intelligence Directorate, told Ynetnews. He added, however, that such an internal conflict could "deteriorate" to the point where Israel is targeted by rocket fire.
"This is a warning and a threat, directed not towards not us, but towards the Lebanese government, and against activities by the UN, the US, and the Europeans in Lebanon," Amidror said. "Can this deteriorate to the point of firing on Israel? It doesn't look like it now, but it can get there," he said.
"This signals distress more than power," Amidror said. "If they (Iran, Syria and Hizbullah) were confident, they wouldn't go for such extreme maneuver that would expose them to the fury of Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon. Few in Lebanon want Nasrallah to take power. Shiites are the largest sect, but they make up 40 percent of the population. There are 60 percent who don't like the idea of a Shiite takeover at all," Amidror explained. He added that tensions could erupt into a full scale civil war in Lebanon, with Shiites on one side and Sunnis, Christians, and Druze on the other. "Civil war occurred in Lebanon in the past, there is no reason to think it can't happen again," he warned.
Amidror added that Shiites were determined to take power in Lebanon out of an ideological motivation, and a wish to mimic events in Iraq.
"What's happening in Lebanon is part of a wider Middle Eastern conflict in which Shiites are trying to push Sunnis out of power. This is part of a conflict against Israel in a wider context, but it is primarily a Shiite-Sunni struggle. This is more proof that Israel is not the source of strife in the Middle East, but rather it is the Sunni-Shiite conflict," he added.