Iran’s officials and media testified on Friday to another priority for Tehran, linked to the Syrian crisis — support for the Government and military in neighboring Lebanon.
Iran announced last week that it was providing military aid to Beirut, two months after Saudi Arabia announced $1 billion for the Lebanon to “bolster security”.
France also announced $3 billion for the Lebanese during a visit by French President Francois Hollande to Saudi Arabia in January. However, in a sign of Saudi discomfort with Iran’s intervention, Lebanese officials said last week that the deal had not been completed because of Riyadh’s questions about the arrangements.
Lebanon’s coalition Government included Iran’s ally Hezbollah.
On Tuesday, the head of Iran’s National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, visited Beirut to promote Tehran’s support — just before he went to Damascus for a discussion with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Now Iran’s Press TV headlines a Friday meeting between the head of Lebanon’s armed forces, Jean Kahwaji, and Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Fat’hali:
The commander said the Lebanese army is ready to accept any military donation or assistance from friendly countries and use the military hardware to safeguard Lebanon’s territorial integrity and security.
He expressed hope that the upcoming visit by Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan to Lebanon would open a new chapter in military cooperation between Beirut and Tehran.
A senior Iranian official has lashed out at the US for its double standards on terrorism in the Middle East, stressing that Iran pursues no economic gain in providing Lebanon with military aid to combat terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, Shamkhani hit back at the the US State Department’s criticism of the Iranian military assistance, “Aid to the Lebanese army to battle terrorism takes place within the framework of regional cooperation and there is no economic motivation behind this issue.”
Lebanon’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Samir Moqbel, backed up Shamkhani.
Moqbel, who is visiting Tehran in about 10 days, said Iranian officials were not asking for anything in return for the military assistance.
Hezbollah called on the Government to accept Tehran’s offer. MP Nawaf Musawi said:
We should not listen to the conditions placed on us by some countries including the United States.
We call on the Lebanese and the Lebanese government to work seriously and in a responsible manner with the proposal from the Islamic Republic of Iran to assist the Lebanese Army.