Russia Arming the Lebanese? UPDATED

Blackstar has posted several times on US attempts to arm the Lebanese army.   The gist is that the  US is willing to arm the Lebanese, but not  give them the heavy stuff they really want.  But what about the Russians?   According to this story from the Times of London

Russia gave Lebanon ten MiG fighter jets yesterday in a deal to boost defence cooperation.

The MiG29 Fulcrum fighters would be provided free to Lebanon under an agreement on military-technical assistance, the head of Russia’s defence cooperation service said. Mikhail Dmitryev said that the jets would come from Russia’s existing stock.

He said that Moscow was also in talks to supply Beirut with heavy armour, adding that supplies of such weaponry were “now possible after the situation in this nation has stabilised”.

He said: “We view the Lebanese army as the main guarantor of this nation’s stability, therefore the armed forces of this country must be strengthened.” The deal followed a meeting in Moscow between Anatoly Serdyukov, the Defence Minister, and Elias Murrhis, his Lebanese counterpart. Mr Serdyukov said that Russia had received a detailed list of armaments sought by Lebanon.

I’m no expert in military technology but this seems significant.  And there have been numerous stories in the Arabic press calling for the Russians to play an increased role in the Middle East to counter-balance the US.  If the Lebanese Army can’t get what they want from the US, why shouldn’t they go to the Russians?  So this is also a golden opportunity for Russia to get back in the game.

UPDATE:  Borzou at the LA TIMES writers in_greater_depth on the same topic.

All roads lead through ….Tehran?

The Arabist has an interesting analysis  of  President Obama’s foreign policy, or at least what we know of it to date.   He flags an article which brings up some potentially very important signs of the future of USFP:

Jerusalem has received various reports in recent weeks indicating that American foreign policy in the Middle East and in Southeast Asia after president-elect Barack Obama takes office will operate on the basis of special envoys who will report directly to Obama and his designated secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

Obama and Clinton’s transition teams are maintaining secrecy and minimal ties with Israeli diplomats. Obama and Clinton also directed their people not to take part in the policy debates of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center forum, attended by Israeli politicians and officials, which took place earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

However, senior government sources in Jerusalem said that the information they have received indicates that the new administration is planning a hierarchy of about five special envoys to various regions, overseen by a kind of “super coordinator,” who would answer directly to the president and the secretary of state.

The sources said that the new policy is part of Obama’s and Clinton’s understanding that all the conflicts in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are to some extent connected to the Iranian nuclear program and withdrawal from Iraq. Therefore, it is important to operate in a number of parallel but coordinated channels to attain achievements on all fronts.