A further escalation of the confrontation, now in its sixth month, between the Syrian government and opposition groups seeking democratic change in Syria, will spill over to Lebanon and put the country's security and stability in jeopardy, political analysts warned Monday.
They also said that Western calls issued by President Obama and European leaders for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down are not serious, but are aimed at extracting political concessions from the regime.
"The Big Powers' provocation against the Syrian regime is aimed more at gaining political concessions from the regime than at toppling it," Professor Fadia Kiwan, head of the political sciences department at the Saint Joseph University, told The Daily Star.
She said the United States and other Western countries have for long been urging Syria to sever its links with Iran and Hezbollah and change its hard line stance on the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace process.
Syria has rejected these demands made by the Obama administration and previous U.S. administrations.
"The Western pressure on Syria is not aimed at introducing reforms and freedoms in the country. Rather, it is aimed at serving the Western interests in the region. After all, the West has maintained relations with the Syrian regime for 40 years," Kiwan added.
Talal Atrissi, an expert on Iran and Middle East affairs, ruled out the possibility of the regime's collapse in Syria despite a growing movement of discontent at home and Arab, regional and international pressures on Assad.
"I am not convinced that the Western states are serious in their demand for Assad to step down because the alternative to the Assad regime is not reassuring for them," Atrissi told The Daily Star.
Assad is facing Western calls to step down over his harsh crackdown on more than five months of protests in which the U.N. says around 2,000 civilians have died, but he said Syria would not accept outside interference.
In a defiant interview broadcast on Syria's state TV Sunday night, Assad scoffed at the Western calls to quit.
Atrissi said Assad's TV appearance showed that the beleaguered president was confident about his position despite the confrontation with protesters at home and external pressure.
Bordering Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Turkey and Jordan, Syria is a key player, wielding influence because of its alliance with Iran and its role in Lebanon, despite ending a 29-year military presence there in 2005. It also has sway in Iraq and supports groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
Both Kiwan and Atrissi voiced fears that if the confrontation between the government and opposition groups dragged on in Syria, it would have a direct negative impact on the security situation in Lebanon. They also warned that Hezbollah would take a tougher stance if Assad's government collapsed.
"The security situation will not wait for the breakdown of the regime in Syria to deteriorate. There are three security spots that can be ignited in the event of a military escalation in Syria: The Israel-Hezbollah front in the south; the Palestinian refugee camps' and Tripoli," Kiwan said.
Israeli officials have warned that Hezbollah might seek to explode the tense situation on the Lebanese-Israeli border in the south in order to divert attention from the uprising in Syria.
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