France reportedly is to start shipping its planned sale of $3 billion worth of Saudi-purchased arms to Lebanon in April. The announcement appears to have taken many media organs by surprise, given the already volatile military situation in the country. Different reports ascribe various Saudi motives for the pressing of the weapons into Lebanese Army hands, ranging from expressing pique at the U.S. (UPI)
- whose arms were not purchased - to a direct effort to fund a force to take on Hezbollah (MintPress)
. It took the French two years to get to this point of readiness. Had the Saudis sought U.S. arms, the approvals would certainly have been much longer in coming, if they ever came. That the Lebanese Army would take on Hezbollah remains unlikely, as precedent shows a long inability to deny Hezbollah anything in Lebanon the group wishes to take.
A number of countries are stepping up to fill those gaps, left in a military ravaged by foreign occupation, a long and losing civil war, and the presence of Hizb’Allah – a foreign-backed private army in Lebanon, with superior firepower. The battle for influence in that country is multi-polar, with countries including the USA, France, and Saudi Arabia moving to counter Syria and Iran’s proxies, and countries like Russia working with independent agendas. The USA has been supplying a wide range of equipment from ammunition to armored vehicles, and is adding tanks, mini-UAVs, and even patrol boats to that list. Belgium has worked to sell some of its own tanks and APCs, France has offered help with Lebanon’s existing French equipment; and in April 2009, Russia went so far as to offer MiG-29 fighters, for free, from its own stocks.
What capabilities would these systems bring? How are those sales going? And how is Lebanon itself changing, in the wake of both Hezbollah’s takeover and Syria’s civil war?
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