Key Points

  • Lebanon’s stability is threatened by extremist Sunni jihadist groups deployed along its eastern border with Syria, making it the western flank of the broader regional campaign against the Islamic State.
  • The United States is expediting the transfer of weapons and ammunition to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which are manning a defensive line along Lebanon’s border with Syria to prevent incursions by Sunni jihadists.
  • Lebanon has tentatively endorsed the US-led anti-Islamic State coalition, but political dynamics in Beirut and Hizbullah’s opposition to aligning with Washington will prevent Lebanon from becoming a full partner.

The first rains of the winter season have struck the desolate and rugged mountains along Lebanon’s eastern border with Syria, opening the possibility that several thousand Syrian militants, including fighters with extremist group the Islamic State, could attempt to break out of their mountain redoubt into populated areas of Lebanon.