By Barry Rubin
The French news agency AFP is reporting that France is giving the Lebanese army 100 anti-tank HOT missiles in February to be used by the military’s Gazelle helicopters. There are no conditions attached to their use.
Israel is concerned about the deal. In November, the U.S. government lifted a freeze on $100 million in aid to Lebanon when that government—which is basically though not completely controlled by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah—promised that it would not give arms to Hizballah and would try to keep that group from controlling the border and attacking Israel.
Of course, the Lebanese government and army will do nothing of the kind, both because much of it sides with Hizballah and the rest is afraid of Hizballah. Hizballah has accumulated an arsenal estimated at about 40,000 rockets with no interference at all by the Lebanese government, Western countries, or the UNIFIL force that was set up in 2006 to…stop the import of such weapons.
Now let’s see, what country has tanks and might use them against somebody in Lebanon during a future war? Turkey? No. Iran? No. Syria? No. Jordan? No. Al-Qaida? No. See if you can guess.
If you guessed Hizballah, remember, they don’t have tanks.
Of course, the positive side here is that Hizballah doesn’t want the French anti-tank missiles because it has better Soviet-made ones supplied by Syria and paid for by Iran. Moreover, the Gazelle helicopters wouldn’t be effective against Israel since they would easily and quickly be shot down.
This is what comes, however, of pretending that Lebanon is still an independent country opposed to being taken over by Iran, Syria, and Hizballah. That used to be true but since the United States and France didn’t help Lebanon back then, the country is now close to being a possession of the Iran-Syria bloc.
Unless Western countries face the reality of the situation in the Middle East they will continue to do things that are (or should be), in strategic terms, certifiably insane.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).