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Don’t Even Try Defecting to Lebanon

Three Syrian soldiers tried to defect to Lebanon after shielding fleeing refugees from Bashar al-Assad’s violent Shahiba miltia, but they were promptly arrested by Lebanese army officers and will most likely be sent back to Damascus. “Defecting” from Syria to Lebanon in 2011 is as useless as fleeing Moscow to East Berlin during the Soviet era. Anyone who tries is all but guaranteed to be arrested, will most likely be tortured, and faces the real possibility of being executed.

It’s sad, really. Lebanon, when left to its own devices, is a fairly open place and has acted as a refuge of sorts for writers and dissidents who can’t survive in the Arab world’s closed societies and despotic political systems. The country very nearly recovered its sovereignty and reverted to its old sectarian-democratic self after the Cedar Revolution in 2005, but today it’s firmly back in the Syrian- and Iranian-led Resistance Bloc.

No one rules Lebanon in the usual way Middle Eastern countries are ruled. Those who live in, say, the Christian city of Jounieh aren’t affected at all by Syrian, Iranian, or Hezbollah politics as they go about their daily lives. They can say whatever they want, and they can do whatever they want.

Syria and Iran, though, via Hezbollah and their bribed and bullied proxies in the government and armed forces, are firmly in charge of Lebanon’s foreign and internal security policies. The three decent Syrian soldiers seeking refuge are probably doomed.


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