Russia is providing major supplies of arms to the Lebanese-based Hezbollah group in the course of military support that both the Russians and Hezbollah are providing the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Daily Beast reported.
The arms include precision ground-to-ground missiles, the Daily Beast said, citing accounts it had received from Hezbollah field commanders.
In a report based on conversations with Hezbollah commanders in Beirut in late December and early January, Daily Beast Beirut correspondent Jesse Rosenfeld said he was told the cooperation and mutual dependence between the Russians and Hezbollah in Syria was growing and that the Russian equipment that Hezbollah has been receiving includes laser-guided rockets and anti-tank missiles “with no strings attached.”
“We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now—the Russians are our allies and give us weapons,” Rosenfeld quoted one commander, who identified himself as Commander Bakr as saying.
The aerial assaults that the Russians have been carrying out in Syria have changed the course of the ground war, “where Hezbollah, supported by Iran, has taken the lead,” Rosenfeld reported, citing Bakr.
Hezbollah is also providing the Russians with intelligence and information about which targets to hit, the commander reportedly said.
A Hezbollah recruiter and trainer in Lebanon identified as Assir, who is said to command a commando unit, told the Daily Beast the Russians are more reliant on Hezbollah in Syria than they are on the Syrian army. The Russians, he reportedly said, have sought to have Hezbollah guard Russian arms depots in Syria, meaning that Hezbollah also has access to the weaponry stored there.
Russia has not imposed any limitations on Hezbollah’s use of the weapons, Assir claimed, including its use against Israel.
But the commanders told the Daily Beast that Hezbollah will not need to use Russian equipment if war breaks out with Israel, explaining that the militia group would be capable of dealing with an Israeli invasion into southern Lebanon using Iranian weaponry at the group’s disposal.
In the past, Russia has assured Israel that it is not transferring weapons to Hezbollah.
During the second Lebanon war in 2006, Israel Defense Force soldiers found large quantities of Russian weaponry at Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon including anti-tank missiles.
At the time, Israel approached Russia on several occasions, but the Russians insisted that the weapons had been supplied to the Syrian army, which in turn provided it to Hezbollah without Russian permission.