The main beneficiary of Russian arms supplies, meanwhile, appears to be Hezbollah in Lebanon. The terrorist organization controlling the south of Lebanon is supported by Syria and Iran, who are willing to supply it with any kind of weapons. With both Hezbollah sponsors being customers of the Russian weapons industry, a large part of Hezbollah’s ample arsenal is Russian-made. In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Syria of supplying Hezbollah with Russian-made Scud missiles. Those type of missiles were used by Saddam Hussein against the US-led coalition forces in 1991, and they are ever since considered not very effective because of their low accuracy. But while they may be ineffective against an advancing army, they would be very dangerous against densely populated areas in Israel — and that is how Hezbollah is certainly planning to use them. The missiles have a longer range than any other rocket Hezbollah has used before and they can reach any location in the Jewish state. Hezbollah officials have readily confirmed that they are in possession of new types of weapons and will continue their rearmament. They have stressed that Hezbollah’s arsenals “do not compare” with those of the U.S. and Israel, but they emphasize their right to buy whatever they find necessary to “protect” Lebanon and they stress they will be able to hit Tel Aviv in the case of war.
Although Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned that Hezbollah has more rockets and missiles than most governments, American officials have avoided mentioning Syria during any war of words — and nobody ever mentions Russia.
While Syria denies arming Hezbollah with Scuds, the history of Syria supplying Hezbollah with Russian-made weapons is well-documented. Israeli tanks were shelled with Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles during the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah militants also used Russian-made RPG-29 rocket launchers. Israeli troops seized terrorists’ armory, where they found cases with missiles and launchers with invoices identifying the sender as the Defense Ministry of Russia and the receiver as the Defense Ministry of Syria. At that time, Russian media openly boasted about the Russian military hardware used in Lebanon, and gloated over Israeli losses — 54 Merkava tanks.
Although the invoices provided real “smoking gun” evidence, Syria still made a usual attempt of a whitewash. Syrian Ambassador to Moscow Hassan Rishah claimed Hezbollah had never used Russian weapons supplied to Syria and that Damascus had never sponsored Hezbollah. The blame was placed on the free market and globalization, which allowed Hezbollah to purchase any arms.
The war in Southern Lebanon ended in August 2006 by UN Security Council resolution #1701, which included an arms embargo on Lebanon, except for transfers authorized by the Lebanese government or the U.N. In 2008, Russia, with no requests from Beirut, offered Lebanon 15 MiG-29 supersonic fighters as a gift. Lebanese authorities, although grateful, seemed confused as they couldn’t find an airfield where they could put the present. They never found a place to place the fighter and finally asked Moscow to choose a different gift. In March 2010, Russia decided that the gift would be a dozen of Mi-24 (Hind) battle helicopters, all heavily armed and armored. With Hezbollah representatives acting in the Lebanese government, and Lebanon’s President hailing Hezbollah as a “stronghold of Lebanon’s security,” there is little doubt that Hezbollah will have access to those helicopters in the next war. The helicopters have serious ground-attack capabilities and will pose a serious threat to Israel.
It is high time to hold Russia to account for its steady efforts to stir up trouble in the Middle East by arming terrorist organizations.
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