The US threatened to cut off all aid to Lebanon should Beirut accept an Iranian offer of military aid, a Lebanese newspaper reported Friday.
Citing an anonymous official, Al Akhbar reported that Washington warned Lebanon against accepting a small arms shipment from Tehran, which the US said would breach sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Iran says the arms are meant to help Beirut combat Sunni extremists.
According to Al Akhbar, Iran offered to send the Lebanese army TOW (anti-tank) missiles and launchers, night goggles, 120mm and 60mm mortar shells, ammunition for T55 and T62 tanks, and Doshka machine-guns and ammunition.
In the past several months, the US has provided the Lebanese Armed Forces with $19 million in military aid to help it combat Islamic State forces along the Syrian border, and an additional $103.8 million to help cope with refugees from Syria. Lebanese Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk recently told The Wall Street Journal that Washington would give Beirut almost $150 million in military and security gear.
In 2013, the US provided Lebanon with roughly $80 million in military aid, including much of the arms Iran recently offered. According to the White House, the US provides approximately 75% of Lebanon’s international security assistance.
Part of the US’s reluctance to allow Iran to provide the Lebanese Army with arms may stem from Washington’s concern that the weapons could pass into the hands of Hezbollah. Until recently Iran has provided the Shiite militia in Lebanon with arms through Syria, but the three year civil war has largely prevented Tehran from transferring military equipment through that route.
Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy operating in Lebanon, praised the Islamic Republic’s offer to provide Lebanon with aid to combat the Islamic State, which both the Lebanese army and the Shiite militia are fighting.
“If we want to speak realistically and sincerely, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s gift to the Lebanese army in this sensitive stage of fight against the terrorists is timely,” Iran’s Fars news agency quoted the head of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Seyed Hashem Safiaddin saying last week.