Controversial Iranian Military Aid Delayed as U.S. Urges its Postponementإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Discussions over a controversial Iranian grant to the Lebanese army have been “frozen” to avoid any rift between cabinet members as the United States pressed to “delay” the matter until other arming pledges are met.
According to the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Prime Minister Tammam Salam is stalling all discussions at cabinet meetings over the matter to prevent any crisis between its two main components Hizbullah and al-Mustaqbal movement.
Sources told the newspaper that Salam is “trying to avert a sharp governmental debate.”
Last month, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, who made a one-day visit to Beirut, said that Tehran will provide military assistance to Lebanon.
The sources said that the U.S. also asked Lebanese officials “not to swiftly accept the Iranian grant until all other arming pledges are met.”
“The U.S. didn't reject the Iranian military assistance but pressed its postponement,” the sources pointed out.
Iran's offer of support follows aid packages for the Lebanese army from both its regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United States.
It comes as the Lebanese army is battling jihadists from al-Qaida-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State group, who are entrenched on the outskirts of the northeastern border town of Arsal on the porous Syrian-Lebanese border.
The newspaper reported that Lebanon and Iran haven't received any official objection on the deal, noting that any progress in the matter is linked to Defense Minister Samir Moqbel's visit to Tehran on October 17.
Hizbullah's sources told Asharq al-Awsat that the party will discuss the matter with the cabinet members at the right time.
Saudi Arabia last year announced it would give the Lebanese army $3 billion to purchase weapons and equipment from France, but that deal has yet to be fully implemented.
In August, the kingdom offered another $1 billion in funds to allow the army to purchase supplies immediately.
Washington has also sought to bolster Lebanon's military, and recently announced it had delivered a new shipment of Hellfire missiles and would also supply light aircraft.