Lebanon accepts Russian military aid

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri refuted a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese paper, which reported that Beirut declined the aid over US concerns.

A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border. (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Hezbollah fighter stands in front of anti-tank artillery at Juroud Arsal, the Syria-Lebanon border.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has announced that his country will accept a Russian military deal involving millions of rounds of ammunition for its military forces, despite a report by the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar asserting that the Russian deal had been rejected due to “pressure from the United States.”
 Hariri’s press office reacted to the newspaper’s account in a printed statement, calling the report “disgraceful, shameful,” and “devoid of truth.” The prime minister’s office contended “The Russian side was informed of Beirut’s acceptance of the aid, which would be geared toward empowering the internal security forces.”
Asaad Bishara, a Lebanese writer and analyst, told The Media Line “the [Russian] offer wasn’t denied; the newspaper [al-Akhbar], which is sympathetic to Hezbollah, published incorrect news.”
The report, Bishara added, intended to show that the Lebanese army is dependent on the American administration, “which is not true.”
“Hariri visited Moscow three times already. He discussed in particular the subject of Russian aid and ways to enhance the Lebanese military’s ability to fight terrorism and secure the country’s borders.”
Moreover, Bishara explained, Beirut receives aid from many different countries except Israel and Iran. “The first is an enemy and the second is recognized as a terrorist-supporting country.” If Lebanon accepts any kind of aid from Tehran, he explained, the army would be subject to US sanctions, which would detract from its power.
“Previously, before the US re-imposed sanctions on Iran in recent months, Beirut asked the latter for price quotes on its weapons. Iran’s prices, however, were much higher than what the Europeans were offering. Therefore, Iran is only interested in supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and not any other side or party,” Bishara contended.   
Mohammed Afef, Hezbollah’s spokesperson, told The Media Line that the Shi’ite Islamic-group has nothing to do with the report in question. “Yes, the newspaper [al-Akhbar] is a friend of Hezbollah, but we have no say over its published materials.”
When asked about the Russian ammunition offer, Afef explained that the Lebanese government had formerly denied Russian and Iranian military aid. Before Hariri issued his statement refuting the al-Akhbar report, Reuters quoted a Lebanese military source who said the army rejected it because of “technical reasons related to the quality of weapons used by the army, which has nothing to do with politics.”
Earlier this year, the Russian government directed its Ministry of Defense to conclude an agreement with Lebanon on increased military cooperation between the two countries. Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian prime minister, signed the draft agreement, which proposed the use of Lebanese facilities by the Russian military, a broader exchange of military information along with deepening bilateral cooperation on international security issues, such as combating terrorism and piracy.
To date, the US provides more aid to the Lebanese army than any other country – more than $1.5 billion since 2006.
For more stories from The Media Line, visit www.themedialine.org.