Lebanon's Hezbollah is surreptitiously being armed by Russia, the Daily Beast reported Sunday, with no conditions being placed on the acceptable use of the traded arms.
According to two Hezbollah field commanders who spoke to the online publication, Russia and Hezbollah's direct interdependence and coordination is increasing by day.
While the United States and the European Union have proceeded to support Israel's recognition of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization serving Iranian interests, Russia has refrained. A statement issued by its Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in November said that Russia "maintains contacts and relations with them [Hezbollah] because we do not consider them a terrorist organization.”
As part of the ongoing cooperation between the two, Russia has supplied Hezbollah with long-range tactical missiles, laser guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons, its commanders said.
"We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now," said Commander Bakr - speaking to the Daily Beast under an alias so as not to overstep a ban to speak to media.
Bakr said that Russia's support of Hezbollah has been increasing since 2012, taking a sharp turn with the launch of Russia's air campaigns in Syria in September 2015. He said Russia relies on Hezbollah operatives for intelligence and assistance in target selection for its air strikes, strengthening the interdependence between the two.
With Hezbollah forces on the ground and Russian jets in the air, Hezbollah has made advances that would be impossible sans support.
“The intervention of the Russians made it much easier,” Bakr said of his organization's fight in Syria. “Without their air force we can’t advance and they couldn’t give us air support without our information from the ground,” he said.
He also told the Daily Beast that Special Forces of the Russian army were operating on the ground in Syria's Latakia district.
Russian and Hezbollah officials did not comment on the Daily Beast's report.
Assir (also an alias), a Hezbollah recruiter and Special Forces commander, told the Daily Beast that the Russians rely on Hezbollah, rather than Syrian military forces, to guard its arm depots in Syria - giving them extensive access to its contents.
Russia is not placing restrictions on how these weapons may be used, Assir said, giving rise to the possibility that advanced Russian weapons be used against Israel by Hezbollah.
“When it comes to Israel, Hezbollah doesn’t take directions from anyone,” Assir told the Daily Beast.
Both Hezbollah commanders maintained that, despite free access to the arsenals, Hezbollah would not rely on Russian weapons in a confrontation with Israel. The Iranian arms in their possession will make do.