Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri confirmed Tuesday that Russia has agreed to supply the Lebanese army with advanced weapons. The new weaponry will include 31 tanks, 130 mm caliber cannon shells, six attack helicopters and various munitions.
The new helicopters are expected to significantly boost Lebanon’s air force, which currently has around 30 helicopters, all unarmed, and several jets.
Hariri visited Moscow and met with Prime Minister Vladamir Putin. Following that meeting he called on Israel to agree to the Saudi Initiative, and credited Russia for its involvement with the “Palestinian cause.”
Putin told Hariri that Russian firms plan to bid on Lebanese contracts, including electric, transport, telecommunications and weapons tenders, and asked him to support Russian participation in bidding.
Russia is one of Lebanon’s top military suppliers. The Lebanese army also receives much of its support from the United States.
The U.S. congress had blocked military aid to Lebanon over concerns that weapons could end up in the hands of Hizbullah. However, Representative Howard Berman – who is soon to lose his chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – announced Sunday that he would lift the hold on $100 million in aid. Berman said he had received classified briefings from the Obama administration that convinced him the aid would boost security and would not be used by terrorists.
State Department officials said after the hold was lifted that the U.S. will work “aggressively” with the Lebanese government to deal with problems.
IDF officials have cautioned that weapons given to Lebanon are likely to end up with Hizbullah, just as much of the aid given to Fatah fell into Hamas hands during the 2007 takeover of Gaza. Outgoing IDF intelligence chief Major General Amos Yadlin recently warned that Hizbullah’s terrorist army has partially merged with the Lebanese army, and is planning a coup. “If it wanted to, Hizbullah could take over Lebanon in a matter of hours,” he said.