Misguided assistance

Too often, what is provided as well-intentioned foreign aid can set off explosive consequences – especially when military hardware is poured in.

November 17, 2010 23:52
3 minute read.
Hizbullah rockets

Hizbullah Rockets 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Some countries are notorious hotbeds of volatility, if not outright powder kegs of trouble. Investing in them is at best a questionable proposition. Too often, what is provided as well-intentioned foreign aid can set off explosive consequences – especially when military hardware is poured in. Recent history is rife with examples of weaponry misguidedly sent in to bolster unstable regimes, which then ends up in the wrong hands, making an already bad situation incalculably worse.

Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq are only a few such cases. Our neighbor to the north, Lebanon, is poised to become another.

Russia has just announced a generous “gift” of helicopters, tanks and munitions to Beirut. This follows hard on the heels of the US Congress removing impediments to funneling $100 million to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

On paper, the Russians and Americans – engaged in a mini-remake of Cold War competition for Arab hearts – can claim the worthiest of aims: strengthening the LAF, to enable it to curtail the massive gunrunning that has grotesquely rehabilitated Hizbullah (which reportedly possesses 40,000 rockets capable of wreaking havoc far inside Israel’s heartland).

The problem with these ostensibly moral motives is that they are disingenuous, to put it mildly. Anyone who was truly motivated to effectively combat Hizbullah’s rearmament would and should have done so, vigorously, right after the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Moreover, Russia and America know that the prime gunrunning culprit is Syria, which inter alia also controls the Beirut regime and its army. Hence reinforcing Lebanon carries, if not the certainty, then at least a significant risk of delivering indirect military aid to Syria. And President Bashar Assad’s regime, in turn, is in the closest cahoots with the hub of the regional axis of evil, Iran.

The grim bottom line, therefore, is that American and Russian armaments will more than likely end up boosting and emboldening the Middle East’s darkest and most dangerous forces.

That’s only one facet of the Lebanese muddle. Syria, which doubles as Iran’s partner and as one of Hizbullah’s patrons, only pulls Beirut’s strings behind the scenes. Hizbullah itself, under the guidance of its prime facilitator Iran, threatens overtly to take over the Lebanese government. The international community would do well to pay heed to comments made on Monday by the usually understated IDF chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, who warned that Hizbullah could mount a violent seizure of power in Lebanon should the UN probe into the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, as is expected, name top Hizbullah operatives as having been behind the killing.

ALL THIS renders Lebanon a far from stable and sound recipient of military bounty from abroad.

The goal of empowering a moderate regime to resist forces committed to its destruction is laudable. But arming a crumbling regime, which unfortunately lacks the capacity and/or the will to resist those forces, is utterly counterproductive. Much of the LAF, moreover, with Shi’ite recruits and officers as its backbone, has far too much affinity for Hizbullah to be regarded as a remotely credible adversary.

It is exceedingly difficult to imagine that none of this is readily apparent in Washington and Moscow. Evidently, they decided to forge ahead with arming the unreliable LAF just the same.

This approach stands in striking contrast to the ongoing Israeli-American contacts, swirling around the issue of a second settlement freeze, which have seen the Israeli government plunged into arduous negotiations for the military means, and the security guarantees, it deems necessary for its survival.

How bizarre that Israel, the Middle East’s sole democracy and the only reliable bulwark against the extremists that are gradually taking over countries such as Lebanon, is having to negotiate for this assistance, while the great powers fall over themselves to ship weaponry to Beirut – to a regime which threatens to become an Iranian-Syrian vassal and which already is far from being in full control of its own fate.

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