Is The US Undermining Lebanon?

[tweetmeme] A while back I wrote about US military aid to Lebanon.  I concluded that there was no real policy or clearly defined goal of American aid; the US wants the achieve the incompatible goals of building up the LAF (compared to Hezbollah) and keeping the Lebanese forces weak against Israel.  Thus, the US sends striped down or out of date weapon systems to Beirut.  Ironically, the more or less useless military equipment coming from Washington has the LAF turning to Russia and the Lebanese population turning to Hezbollah.

The US is prevented from providing modern military equipment to Lebanon while the Russians are able to provide effective equipment

Qifa Nabki reports that Lebanese President Michael Suleiman has changed the Lebanese request for MIG-29s (jets) to Mi-24s (similar to the US UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter).  The Mi-24 helicopter that Russia is to sell to Lebanon is pictured above on the left.  The US was planning on selling the  Hawker-Beechcraft AT-6 (above left) to Lebanon.

With American aid having conflicting aims, it is no surprise that the Lebanese are turning to the Russians, who will actually provide useful military equipment.  Qifa Nabki also give a link to Mitch Prothero’s piece in the National that describes how the LAF is overshadowed by the technologically superior Hezbollah (the piece is actually on miscommunication between the LAF and Hezbollah, but it speaks to the weaknesses of the LAF):

The army officer also blamed the army’s lack of proper communications equipment.

“We aren’t sophisticated enough on the subtle things, like secure communications lines. Hizbollah has a secure fibre optic network connecting all its major bases. We have telephones. During the [2008] siege of Nahr Bared [refugee camp], we realised that most of our guys were using mobile phones to plan military operations.”

Mr Goksel agrees, arguing that even if given the proper information, a Lebanese soldier might face a choice between relaying the important information over an unsecure line, almost certainly monitored by the Israelis, and doing nothing at all.

“Imagine a young officer learns that Hizbollah says to stay away from a field because they have intelligence that Israel might attack it,” he said. “If that officer only has a telephone that everyone knows the Israelis closely monitor, he’d be committing treason to call his headquarters in Beirut to warn them that Hizbollah thinks an Israeli attack could be coming and to get rid of the choppers. Imagine that choice?”

Is there any surprise that the LAF is turning away from the inefficient US aid and to Russia?  Moreover, if you read Prothero’s piece, it is understandable that most Lebanese believe that Hezbollah is Lebanon’s best defense.

Babylon and Beyond has a great piece on how confidence in Hezbollah transcends the typically rigid sectarian lines.  While support for the Shi’a group is found almost exclusively among the Lebanese Shi’a population, a poll from the Beirut Center for Research and Information has found that 84% of Lebanese trust Hezbollah’s ability to defend Lebanon against an Israeli attack.

The results of the survey revealed that the Lebanese Sunni, Druze and Maronite populations all strongly believed that Hezbollah was Lebanon's best defense against Israel

So what is US military aid to Lebanon achieving?  The LAF is getting stronger by turning to the Russians (although the military certainly needs an internal review to strengthen its infrastructure) and the Lebanese population sees the weak LAF as reason to trust Hezbollah.  Of course, believe in Hezbollah’s defensive capabilities is a far cry from support for the group; support for Hezbollah still lies mainly with he Shi’ites of Lebanon.

It needs to be noted, though, that the poll did not mention Hezbollah by name, but rather referred to the group as ‘the resistance.’  However, in Lebanon, Hezbollah is officially called the resistance in order to bypass the UN resolution calling for the dismantling of militias.

Though there is not much connection between the Russian offer of helicopters and the poll results, it does reveal the Lebanese opinion of America’s convoluted Middle East policy.  Currently, America’s Lebanon policy is achieving exactly what it aimed to avoid.

Photos from Qifa Nabki and Al Akhbar

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