When I lived in rural Ireland years ago, a favorite joke started with an American tourist stopping a local farmer and asking for directions to Cork. The farmer pondered a moment before answering, “Well, if I was you, I wouldn’t be going there from here.” Anyone advising Washington on where to go in Syria has little choice but to admit that he’s as bewildered as that tourist in the Emerald Isle.One place to start, though, is Lebanon. For the past week, Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah has been fighting to remove jihadists belonging to the Islamic State and the former Jabhat al-Nusra from the Syrian side of the border. Within Lebanon, the army, with British assistance, has sealed the border against incursions of the kind witnessed in 2014 when the Islamic State captured the largely Sunni village of Arsal and kidnapped more than 20 Lebanese soldiers and policemen. This month, the Lebanese army and, over the border, the allied forces of Hezbollah and the Syrian military have caught the jihadists in a pincer. Whether or not the Lebanese and Syrian armies colluded in the venture, it appears to be removing the jihadists from the region.Hezbollah, which for years controlled Lebanon’s border with Syria, has in the past year ceded one base after another to the Lebanese army. The army, in turn, has built fortresses and watchtowers to prevent jihadist infiltration from Syria while permitting Hezbollah free access back and forth to assist Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s troops. The strategy has been working for Lebanon, which has not, as many feared, become a second theater of the Syrian civil war. Now, however, the United States has declared its intention to slash the Foreign Military Financing budget for Lebanon from last year’s $85.9 million to nothing at all.
Source: Syria: The Road to Nowhere – Charles Glass