NATO: War between Iran, Gulf states spreading from Syria to Lebanon
LONDON — NATO has determined that Lebanon was part of the civil war in neighboring Syria.
The Western alliance has been meeting to draft a strategy to prevent the fall of Lebanon to a civil war similar to that in Syria.
Officials said the Lebanese conflict was pitting Alawites and Shi'ites supported by Iran and Syria against Sunnis backed by Gulf Arab states.
"Lebanon has become an integral part of the geography of the Syrian civil war," former UN special coordinator Michael Williams said.
In an address to Britain's House of Commons, Williams said Lebanon's government and military were eroding and unable to stop sectarian clashes throughout the country. He said a fullscale civil war could erupt imminently.
"I am concerned that Lebanon could — I pray it will not — descend into widespread civil strife in a matter of hours," Williams said.
Officials said the NATO consultations have included an imminent evacuation of embassies and consulates from Lebanon. They said alliance members agreed that with the exception of central Beirut, Western staffers could come under rocket and machine gun fire from either Sunnis or Shi'ites aligned with Hizbullah.
The United Nations has drafted plans to handle what could amount to 500,000 refugess from Syria into Lebanon. The UN expects many of these refugees to include armed Sunni rebels fleeing the current offensive by the Syrian military.