Aug 11, 2010

Iran Ready to Support Lebanese Army

Aaron KleinBy Aaron Klein

Iran yesterday offered support to Lebanon's army a week after Beirut forces engaged in a deadly cross-border clash with Israel that prompted U.S. lawmakers to block funding to the Lebanese military.

Last week, WND quoted Egyptian and other Middle Eastern security officials stating Western, Israeli and Arab intelligence services have identified a growing penetration of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Units into the Lebanese army.

Iran's ambassador to Lebanon met yesterday with Lebanese army chief Jean Kahwaji, stating Tehran was ready to "cooperate with the Lebanese army in any area that would help the military in performing its national role in defending Lebanon."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is expected to visit Beirut next month.

Earlier this week, two U.S. Democratic lawmakers said they were holding up a $100 million aid package that was approved for Lebanon's army but not yet spent. A senior House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, said future funding should be stopped, too, pending an inquiry into the clash.

Cantor said the lines between Hezbollah, the Lebanese military and the government had become "blurred."

But U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said President Obama was not planning to re-evaluate its military cooperation with Lebanon.

"It allows the government of Lebanon to expand its sovereignty. We think that is in the interest of both of our countries and regional stability as a whole," he said Monday.

Last week, WND quoted Egyptian and other Middle Eastern security officials who pointed specifically to the Division 9 Lebanese army border patrol as being heavily infiltrated by Iran and Hezbollah. That unit is suspected of carrying out last week's attack on Israeli troop positions that resulted in the deaths of three Lebanese soldiers, one Lebanese reporter and an Israeli soldier.

The security officials said Iran has penetrated Lebanese army positions along the Israeli border, replacing Hezbollah inside the first lines of the Lebanese army.

The security officials said a committee of the Arab League that publicly asked Lebanon to inspect its army for Israeli agents was really mostly concerned about the growing role of Iran in the Lebanese army.

Egyptian security officials, meanwhile, have told WND they suspect last week's rocket attacks on Eilat and the Jordanian port city of Aqaba were coordinated by Iranian agents, in particular an axis of the Iranian-backed Hamas and Hezbollah that works from the Egyptian Sinai desert.

The attack itself may have been carried out by cutouts, specifically Islamist organizations that operate under the umbrella of al-Qaida ideology, the officials said.

In the last two weeks, a series of border attacks have struck Israel. Two weeks ago rockets were launched from Gaza into nearby Jewish communities. One of the rockets smashed into a children's hydrotherapy center in the populated town of Sderot. The center, normally bustling with more than 100 workers and children during working hours, was closed at the time of the strike.

One week ago, Grad-style rockets hit the Sinai, Aqaba and Eilat in coordinated attacks.

Last week also saw a series of deadly clashes along Israel's northern border.

"Iran is sending a message that they are able also to bring any war into the Israeli land and not only in the Iranian field," said a Middle Eastern security official. "The message is also intended for Egypt and Jordan, which is accused of helping Israel train for a war with Iran."

"Iran is leading a huge campaign in the Middle East to counter military signs that Israel may strike. Iran is worried about what they view as an agreement that the Arab countries will remain silent if Israel attacks Iran," the security official said.

Related Links

USS Truman posted opposite Hormuz as Iranian threats spiral - DEBKAfile
Iran Offers to Help Lebanese Army After U.S. Suspends Military Aid Amid Concerns About Hezbollah’s Role - CNS News
ISRAEL: IDF takes new approach to Lebanese army, calls it "treacherous" - Los Angeles Times
'More than 50% chance of attack on Iran' - Jerusalem Post
Lebanon says aid to army must be unconditional - Reuters