We Just Got a Glimpse of the Next Phase of the Syrian War

How It Works
Nov. 19 2013 1:21 PM

Iranian Embassy in Lebanon Bombed

450549351
Forensic experts work on the site of a double suicide bombing outside Iran's embassy in the Bir Hassan neighbourhood of southern Beirut on Nov. 19, 2013.

Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images

Syria-related violence has been spreading into Lebanon and other neighboring countries for months now, but for the first time, Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian allies were directly targeted today with a double bombing that hit the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing at least 22 people including the embassy's cultural attache.

The Iranian ambassador’s quick attempt to blame this on Israel aside, attention is likely to focus on anti-Assad Sunni militant groups. The al-Qaida-linked Abudllah Azzam Brigades have claimed credit for the bombing, though that probably shouldn’t be viewed as definitive.

Advertisement

The bombings comes as Assad’s forces, back in Syria, have been making major gains outside Damascus and Aleppo. Government forces recently captured the strategically important town of Qara on the Lebanese border in an effort to cut off one of the rebels’ primary supply groups.

With rebel forces increasingly fractured and ideologically divided, and seeming to be losing the ability to hold large areas of territory at the same time that money and weapons continue to flow into the country, it seems likely that at least some groups will turn to a greater extent toward attacking Assad’s supporters outside Syria rather than battling his troops for control of towns within it.

As Rania Abouzeid writes, “The physical fight for Syria will likely not be contained within Syria’s borders. Ideologically, it never was.” As Assad seems to be winning the fight on the ground, we may be getting a look at the next phase of this increasingly complex war.

Of course, another way of looking at it is that this is the continuation of a much longer cycle of violence. As the BBC’s Kim Ghattas notes, this year marks the 30th anniversary of the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut, an act claimed by a pro-Iranian militant group

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

Even by Russian Standards, Moscow’s Anti-War March Was Surprisingly Grim

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

The Best Thing About the People’s Climate March in NYC

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

Trending News Channel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 22 2014 12:30 PM Turkey Just Got Forty-Six Hostages Back From ISIS. How Did That Happen?
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 12:07 PM Divestment Isn’t the Answer To destroy demand for fossil fuels, universities can do a lot better than just selling some stocks.
  Life
The Shortcut
Sept. 22 2014 12:31 PM Down With Loose Laces A simple trick to tighten your running shoes for good.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of "Quiverfull"
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 12:22 PM The Age of the Streaming TV Auteur
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 12:14 PM Family Court Rules That You Can Serve Someone With Legal Papers Over Facebook
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 22 2014 12:15 PM The Changing Face of Climate Change Will the leaders of the People’s Climate March now lead the movement?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.