Lebanon undecided on Iranian military aid

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Lebanese government did not vote yet on the Iranian military aid, Iranian media quoted Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghani as saying on Tuesday.

Dehghani said that Iran prepared all the weapons and military equipment it planned to send to Lebanon, but it is still waiting for a decision from the Lebanese government.

According to Dehghani, Iran is ready to export military aid to countries wanting to benefit from the Iranian military technological advances, on the condition that these countries are not enemies of the Islamic Republic.

He added that the forms of battle have changed in the present time, where virtual clashes in the cyberspace are more common.

“In the present world, cyberspace is the new and most important battlefield,” Islamic Republic news agency quoted the minister as saying.

He emphasized that all strategic and operational military bodies in the country should be equipped with advanced technology.

In September, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council announced that Iran will offer equipment to the Lebanese army to bolster its battle against jihadists, after Lebanese troops fought deadly clashes in August with jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front in the border town of Ersal.

The Ersal violence left 16 soldiers dead and 85 wounded, while dozens of jihadists are said to have been killed, along with three civilians.

Islamist militants withdrew from the town to its outskirts, taking with them 25 captive Lebanese soldiers and policemen, four of whom they have since executed.

In October, Lebanese troops fought deadly clashes with ISIS and Nusra jihadists in the northern city of Tripoli.

The fighting left 42 people dead, including 11 soldiers and eight civilians.

Meanwhile, the United States sent a stern warning to Lebanese officials immediately after the announcement of the Iranian aid.

A source told Al-Akhbar in November that the US government threatened, directly and indirectly, to withhold all aid from the Lebanese army and to stop security cooperation if Lebanon breaches the sanctions against Iran and accepts the Iranian grant.

The US’ message was crystal clear: accepting this “gift” could end all US aid to the Lebanese army.

In exchange for the continuous support of the US, Lebanon should commit to the US sanctions imposed on Iran which include not accepting any arms donations.

The last time the US objected to a donation to the Lebanese army was a few years ago when former Minister of Defense Elias Murr and the March 14 alliance blocked a donation from the Russian government.

In October, Iranian ambassador to Lebanon, Mohammed Fathali said “any country that objects to the aid offered by Iran to Lebanon does not serve the Lebanese national interest. Lebanon is going through difficult circumstances and the army needs military support from everybody to be able to confront the terrorists and counter the attacks targeting it.”

In 2013, Saudi Arabia announced it would give the Lebanese army $3 billion (2.4 billion euros) to purchase weapons and equipment from France, but that deal has yet to be fully implemented.

In August, the kingdom offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately.

Washington has also sought to bolster Lebanon's military, and in September announced it had delivered a new shipment of Hellfire missiles and would also supply light aircraft.

Announcing the supplies, US ambassador David Hale said the aircraft would be paid for out of the additional Saudi funding.

(Al-Akhbar)

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