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Lebanese politicians say al-Hassan’s opposition to Syria cost him his life.

“I think the Syrians are trying to tell to the world: ‘If the Syrian regime is toppled, or if the Syrian regime is in danger, the whole region will be in danger,’” said Boutros Harb, a leader in the March 14 Alliance, a coalition of Lebanese political parties and independent candidates that opposes the Assad regime.

“The developments in Syria are so dangerous [they] cannot happen without having any consequences on the Lebanese situation,” Mr. Harb said Monday at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C.

“What’s happening in Syria is a period of change. This change, unfortunately, is not helping things,” he added.

Hisham Melhem, a Lebanese journalist and Washington bureau chief of Al-Arabiya, a Dubai-based news channel, said Gen. al-Hassan’s assassination “is another reminder that it is naive, maybe dangerously naive, to believe that Lebanon can ‘disassociate’ itself from the storm that is engulfing Syria.”

“From the beginning, everybody who knew anything about Lebanon, Syria would have told policymakers in Washington that unless the uprising succeeds or [is] defeated quickly, three things are inevitable: that the regime will make violence worse; that the regime will use sectarianism, and that sectarianism will draw the jihadists; and it is inevitable that the conflict in Syria, if it is allowed to drag on for months, will spill over to the neighboring countries,” said Mr. Melhem, who also spoke at the Aspen Institute.

Sunni-Shiite divide

The sectarian issue has been a factor in the response of Syria’s neighbors to the crisis.

“One of the reasons why [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki is not supporting the rebels in Syria, despite the fact that he has no affection for Assad, is because he is really worried about western Iraq and the implications a substantial presence of Sunni extremists will have in that part of Iraq,” said Ms. Pletka. Mr. al-Maliki is Shiite.

Earlier this month, the conflict threatened to draw in Turkey when a Syrian shell landed on a Turkish village, killing five civilians. Turkey’s parliament authorized a military response, and its military bombed targets inside Syria.

The incident prompted a frantic scramble to calm tensions by officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Lakhdar Brahimi, the U.N. and Arab League’s envoy to Syria. Turkey is a member of NATO, and under the military alliance’s Washington Treaty, an attack against one member is considered an attack against all members.

The Turkish newspaper Milliyet reported over the weekend that Turkey’s military had, in recent weeks, fired 87 times on Syria in retaliation for Syrian shells landing inside Turkey. Twelve Syrian soldiers had been killed and several tanks destroyed, it said.

In June, Syrian forces shot down a Turkish military jet, killing two pilots.

International concerns

Syria’s crisis could have long-lasting repercussions in the region. Besides Lebanon, Jordan also risks being destabilized.

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