Beirut • Syria has a long and tumultuous history of meddling into Lebanese affairs. For much of the past 30 years, the seven-times-smaller Lebanon has lived under Syrian military and political domination. Damascus has often stirred tensions within Lebanon's explosive sectarian mix of Christians and Muslims to advance its regional interests, including during the country's 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. Syria's powerful allies in Lebanon include the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah. Important milestones affecting the Syria-Lebanon relationship:
Syria's civil war • Since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in February 2011, Lebanon has been steadily drawn into the unrest a troubling sign for the country with political parties rooted in various Christian and Muslim sects, many of which are armed. While Syria's revolt has intensified between predominantly Sunni rebels and Assad's regime dominated by Alawites, an offshoot Shiite group Lebanon has seen a steady flow of refugees from Syria, with frequent street clashes along its northern border. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who heads a government dominated by Hezbollah and other pro-Syrian groups, has led a policy of "disassociation" from its influential neighbor. Damascus has accused Sunni groups in Lebanon of supporting rebels by trying to establish a supply line to anti-regime fighters across Lebanon's northern border.
Tensions between Beirut and Damascus deepened in August, after an arrest of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha, one of Syria's most loyal allies in Lebanon. Some media reports indicated that Samaha confessed to transporting explosives in his car from Syria to kill Lebanese public personalities at Syria's behest. A military court indicted Samaha; Syrian Brig. Gen. Ali Mamlouk, a close aide of Assad, was indicted in absentia on charges of furnishing the explosives.