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The Next Iraq?

While a recent deal in Lebanon between Hezbollah and the Western-backed government of Fouad Siniora may have averted the outbreak of all-out, Iraq-style sectarian conflict in the tiny Arab state, an article today on the Lebanese news-service Now Lebanon makes it clear how, in many ways, the current political conditions of Lebanon are disconcertingly similar to those of Iraq circa 2006: Its government is fractured and dysfunctional, simmering Sunni-Shia tensions threaten to boil over into widespread violence, and al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups operate freely within the country's lawless zones (such as the massive Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in southern Lebanon). To make matters worse, the article points out, the newly-emboldened Hezbollah may be gearing up for a show-down with the country's Sunni Jihadist groups in Ain al-Hilweh, in a move that would bring Lebanon even closer to its boiling point:

"Hezbollah is seriously thinking about [the Ain al-Hilweh] camp as an entity that jeopardizes its influence.... They call it the Sunni army," [says Al Hayat columnist Hazem al-Amin]. Such speculation, in addition to various developments throughout the country ... has perpetuated fears that future tensions involving Hezbollah could descend into a violent Sunni-Shia conflict far more devastating than the clashes in May.

--James Martin