Since the weekend, Lebanon's been plunged into its worst internal fighting since the end of the civil war nearly two decades ago. Well-armed members of a militant Islamist group, holed up in a refugee camp near Tripoli in the north of the country, have been fighting Lebanese troops since a few of their number were arrested over a bank robbery the other day.
Bank robberies don't have much to do with this, but Syria has everything to do with it. This Islamist group appears to be operating with at least the tacit support of Syria, and possibly firmer backing in the form of guns and so on. Ever since the death of Syria's Ba'athist strongman Hafez al-Assad back in 2000, their traditional hold over Lebanese affairs has been loosened. In 2003, as US forced stormed through Baghdad, there appeared to be genuine concern in Damascus and everywhere else that Syria might be next unless it stopped supporting Palestinian militant groups. The Syrians were on their uppers.
But since then, as Iraq has fallen apart, so Syria has felt able to act with impunity once again, as the elder Assad's old mates pull the strings in the shadows of his son's regime. This fighting is the latest in a series of attempts by Syria to meddle in Lebanon's affairs - the most significant being the assassination of Lebanon's former PM (and anti-Syrian) Rafik Hariri.
Just as one side-effect of the invasion of Iraq has been to produce a far stronger Iran, it also seems to be leading to a stronger Syria. If Damascus continues to feel it can do whatever it likes in Lebanon, that's not a good thing at all, least of all for the Lebanese people.