Three billion dollars, plus another billion. Yes, that’s now the total amount in unprecedented financial endowments promised to the Republic of Lebanon’s armed forces (LAF) by the reigning supreme of Saudi Arabia’s House of Saud: King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
Although the bulk of this amount was first promised to Lebanon’s former President in the latter part of 2013, it was only earlier this month that it was endeared with an additional gob to be trustily slathered at the behest of not the country’s Defense or Prime Minister but the Saudi’s man in the country; namely former premier and Saudi-born Saad Hariri.
He in turn craftily used the succor on a tongue sprinkled with paeans of protecting the country, but eyes fixed on the Grand Serail, to return to his homeland after a three-year self-imposed exile.
In any case, the dollars are, at least officially, designed to support the LAF in their quest to bolster the country’s security services against the backdrop of worsening Islamist militancy fanning out across the region.
Now, if the tired platitude of wanting to strengthen the fragile LAF was genuinely the only reason this injection of money was promised by the so-called custodian of Islam’s two holiest Mosques, it might not have lifted the many eyebrows of disingenuousness that it did.
This is because there is good reason to believe that there’s more than brotherly generosity behind the pledge to boost the LAF with ammunition, armored vehicles, and other military-related equipment – on a scale that dwarfs both Lebanon’s annual $1.7 billion defense budget and the millions of dollars of American military aid that it has become a recipient of in recent times.
In the last three years alone, it very much happens to be this unconstitutional, unopposed and absolute-ruling monarchy that’s been up to its eyeballs in supporting elements of Syria’s rebellious armed opposition – a corollary of which has been the terrorists that targeted Lebanese civilians with car bombs and rockets as well as running roughshod over regional borders and mercilessly liquidating anything that opposes their sway.
So what then would account for this sudden change of heart?
It was perhaps because they were having sudden reverberations between the ears about Sheikh Nasrallah’s comments a few months earlier when he stated, in reference to the House of Saud, that ‘those who spread poison (in the supporting of the Syrian rebellion) might one day have to eat it’.
On that premise, maybe it really was ISIL’s bopping advance from Syria into parts of northern Iraq, tiptoeing belligerence on the Saudi border and even unsuccessful strides into capturing Lebanese border towns, that finally rang alarm bells for the ruling family – which in turn decided to rectify their prior blunder of supporting the Syrian rebellion by nipping in the bud its potential expansion.
However, the newfound generosity for the LAF — not the people of Lebanon’s welfare per se — not the plight of the country’s homeless or orphaned – not the appalling conditions of Palestinian and now Syrian refugees living in squalidness — but the LAF as an institution; is more likely designed to counter the Hezbollah movements influence in the country than anything else.
In fact, any rationally-minded analyst would have ended his/her speculation when the managing editor of one of the ruling family’s litany of blind mouth pieces, Al Arabiya Television, happened to spell-out the truth in some reckless act of faith, via a recent article.
When Abdulrahman Al-Rashad wrote that the Saudi pledge was “not a gift but a political act…(and) strengthening the Lebanese army means weakening Hezbollah’s scheme to dominate Lebanon…(who) will either weaken the militia’s justification that they should have a presence in the country or restrict their activity”, the far from thinly veiled reference stripped away any veneers of mystery to the real purpose of the promised aid.
Now, let’s forget the fact that most sensible editors of an absolute-ruling monarchy would rather stick a fork in their hand than narrate secretive foreign policy intentions to the wearily watching eyes of their adversaries.
But since he has, against obvious decorum’s, communicated what appears to be segments of a Saudi plan to create splits and fissures in the relative cordiality and military balance between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army, it goes to show that far from the lavish praise on the Saudi pledge by the likes of the Hariri-led march 14th alliance, the money may in reality pose a threat to the sensitive national equilibrium that the heavily sectarianized country exists on.
Hezbollah, which last year went as far as accusing the Saudi regime of being behind the attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut, is feared by them as now gaining the upper hand in both its influence in the country as well as the power it, and Iran, are projecting after a string of successes in Syria – all of which are diametrically opposed to their strategic endeavors.
This growing reality has probably rendered the House of Saud to feelings of panic, dispiritedness and dejectedness for some time.
But for all the House of Saud’s billion-dollar pledging intentions, whether hidden or those exposed by sycophantic mouthpieces like Al-Rashed, this latest scheme really is pushing the envelope as far as Lebanon’s relative stability is concerned.
Yet, no matter how much money through Saad Hariri that it throws at the LAF to try and push for a rebalance of the prevailing military and political order, it must know that Hezbollah cadres won’t be quibbling.
For one, its perhaps slipped their mind that not only are the overwhelming makeup of the army’s rank-and-file Shiite Muslims like those in Hezbollah’s ranks, but most of its top officer class — including Christian generals — are close to the movement and couldn’t conceivably buckle under any government pressure to challenge it.
In addition, and perhaps due to another mental imprecision, it hasn’t occurred to them that even after furnishing the LAF with billions in armaments, they still wouldn’t be in a position to confront the overwhelmingly and technically superior firepower of Hezbollah’s hybrid guerilla forces. If they dared, God forbid, they would surely be blown into oblivion.
One thing that’s now become clear is that Hezbollah’s enemies, in particular those sitting fat, dumb and lazy from the safety of their glassed houses in the Gulf, would want nothing more than to see segments of the Lebanese makeup, whether the army or angry mobs from disgruntled confessions, singling out Hezbollah leaders for a public tarring, feathering or trampling in the middle of the street.
But for all their crossing of fingers, slathering of money and shuffling of prayer beads whilst inhaling from flavored-tobacco shishas, their daydreams for dealing with Hezbollah at the expense of the Lebanese state and military institution will never see the light of day.