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To the east lies Iraq, where the recent escalation of sectarian warfare is believed linked to the Syrian revolt: insurgents on both sides of the border, which doesn't follow tribal lines, are Sunni, and both Baghdad and Damascus are aligned with Tehran, though Assad's ties are closer.
The implications for Lebanon are almost dizzying. The militant Shi'ite organization Hizballah is deeply tied to the Assad regime, but Israeli officials question the notion that the two would fall together. A successor Syrian regime may still align with Iran, Hizballah's patron, if only to maintain its footing. Lebanon's spiral of political and ideological plotlines may find a way to take advantage of chaos.
Meanwhile, Israel frets about the Golan Heights, high ground seized in the Six-Day War of 1967. A change of government in Egypt forced the Jewish state to reinforce its frontier with a costly fence. The sound of mortar fire in the Golan in July (a shell landed 500 feet from the line of Israeli control) has officials concerned about more trouble and expense, including the possibility of Druze and Christian refugees arriving at the frontier.
4. CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS ARE USED
As a practical matter, the weapons may be less of a threat than is widely feared. Chemical weapons require regular attention even in storage, careful mixing before use and sophisticated means of delivery. Syria keeps its stores, including nerve gas, in depots separate from the missile warheads that would deliver them. An Israeli intelligence official recently told Time that they had not been moved from a handful of known bases, which remain under constant surveillance by governments with the means to monitor them.
Biological weapons--Syria likely has anthrax, at least--are more problematic. And the international preoccupation with the WMD stocks has given Damascus a desperate leverage. On July 23, amid fighting in the capital and in Syria's largest city, Aleppo, a Syrian government spokesman confirmed for the first time that the weapons exist but vowed that they would be used only against foreign forces. In Israel, demand for gas masks spiked. The Jewish state has repeatedly warned that it will intercede at any sign that the weapons are making their way to Hizballah, which has an arsenal of 40,000 missiles capable of reaching Israel.
5. THE MILITANTS WAIT IN THE WINGS