Saudi-Financed French Weapons to Be Delivered to Lebanese Army in April

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Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, February 25, 2015

France said it would begin shipping $3 billion worth of weapons paid for by Saudi Arabia to the Lebanese army in April, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Lebanese Defense Ministry said in a statement that the deal, first announced in 2013 and finalized in November, will supply French armored vehicles, warships, attack helicopters, munitions and communications gear.

According to a source from the Defense Ministry in November, the deliveries will last around three years. The French military will train their Lebanese counterparts in using the equipment over a 10-year period.

The news comes after the Lebanese army announced Monday that it had received a military gift from Jordan, including 30 M113 armored personnel carriers and 12 artillery carriers.

In addition to the $3 billion, Saudi Arabia had also pledged another $1 billion to strengthen the Lebanese army in the wake of its battle against militants in Ersal.

Washington had also announced in October that it had delivered a new shipment of Hellfire missiles and would also supply light aircraft. US ambassador David Hale said the aircraft would be paid for out of the additional Saudi funding.

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani had offered in September for Iran to give military equipment to Lebanon for its battle against jihadists.

The US government retaliated by threatening to withhold all aid from the Lebanese army and to stop security cooperation if Lebanon were to accept such offers and breach the sanctions imposed on Iran.

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 recent months, Lebanon's army has fought several battles against jihadists passing through the border with Syria.

The deadliest battle took place last August in the border town of Ersal with jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group and al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, al-Nusra Front.

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.

ISIS has captured large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, declaring what it calls a cross-border Islamic ‘caliphate,’ killing thousands and displacing millions in the two countries.

The United States, backed by some Western and Arab allies, launched airstrikes against the group in Iraq in August, expanding operations to targets in Syria a month later.

However, the air campaign, which Washington claims is aimed at degrading ISIS' military capabilities, remains controversial, with critics pointing to ISIS advances and battlefield successes despite the raids.

The so-called anti-ISIS campaign has cost the Iraqi government more than $260 million, and the total cost of operations related to ISIS in Iraq and Syria reached $1.3 billion as of January 9. The average daily cost of US-led anti-ISIS coalition efforts is $8.3 million according to the Department of Defense’s website, or more than $330,000 an hour.

Critics opposing US-led anti-ISIS campaign have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering rebels in Syria and Libya. Moreover, neighboring countries, namely Jordan and Turkey, have been accused of turning a blind eye on jihadists’ free movement on its borders with Iraq and Syria.

(Al-Akhbar)

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