Wartime makes the strangest bedfellows. Iran and the United States are both equipping the Lebanese army so its soldiers can protect the nation from encroaching cross-border attacks by terrorists from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Iran announced Tuesday that it has decided to boost Beirut’s coffers with an extra gift of cash for the Lebanese Army, which will also strengthen Tehran’s ties with the country as well.
Ali Shamkhani, director of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, made the announcement during a visit to meet with Lebanese officials in Beirut.
“The Islamic Republic has decided to give a military grant to the Lebanese Army,” Shamkhani told reporters at a news conference, Associated Press reported. This is the first time Iran has announced an offer of military assistance to Lebanon, although it has generously supported the country’s Hezbollah terrorist organization for many years.
Tehran will supply the country with military equipment to be used in fighting radical Islamist factions, according to Shamkhani. “The state of Lebanon welcomed this grant,” he told reporters, but did not reveal which equipment Iran was planning to supply.
At least 20 Lebanese soldiers and a police officer were kidnapped by members of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist organization in a cross-border raid from Syria in early August. ISIS has since beheaded two of the soldiers, and another was murdered separately, also while in captivity. Of the group, eighteen are still being held hostage in Syria.
Lebanon’s military and other security forces are also supported by funding from the United States and Saudi Arabia, and have been for some time.
Recently the United States also sent several shipments of arms to the country’s army in order to help Israel’s northern neighbor protect itself from ISIS, which has just formed a new alliance with the Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra (Al Nusra Front) terrorist organization.
Jabhat al-Nusra currently controls the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing — the sole border crossing between Israel and Syria. ISIS controls the Iraqi side of two border crossings between Iraq and Syria, and that belonging to the sole crossing between Iraq and Jordan.