February 11, 2019
The military attachés of embassies of Western countries in Beirut are inquiring about the Lebanese position on the expected offer by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to provide the Lebanese army with Iranian air defense systems, during his visit to Beirut that begins on Sunday.
Zarif will meet on Monday with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Speaker Nabih Berri, in addition to Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Zarif will hold talks with senior Lebanese officials on bilateral relations and the regional situation, Fars news agency reported.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad-Jalal Firouznia voiced ahead Zarif’s visit Tehran’s readiness to “support the Lebanese army as we support the resistance.”
He made his remarks days after Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah expressed his readiness to mediate with Tehran to provide an Iranian air defense system to the Lebanese army.
This is an offer that Lebanon cannot accept, based on many considerations, the most important of which is that Iran is subject to international sanctions, which will have significant repercussions on Lebanon. Moreover, the army’s training and armament are mainly provided by the United States.
The statements prompted the military attachés in foreign embassies in Lebanon to inquire about the issue, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, pointing out that these embassies were interested in the subject, but Lebanon was hesitant to provide answers, as it was not sure whether this file would be raised during Zarif’s visit.
Lebanese ministerial sources, however, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian offer would be likely rejected, given the sanctions against Tehran.
Accepting the offer “may isolate the country, because the international community will consider Beirut as part of Tehran’s axis,” they explained.