- - Monday, January 11, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

According to Hezbollah commanders, Russia is directly arming the terrorist organization that bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and killed 241 Americans. In exchange for intelligence and targeting information for Russian air strikes, Hezbollah has direct access to formidable Russian arms depots in Syria which include long-range tactical missiles, laser-guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons. Hezbollah commanders say they are free to use the weapons against Israel if they so desire. Coordination between the Syrian Assad regime, Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah is said to be complete.

“We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now—the Russians are our allies and give us weapons,” said one of the Hezbollah officers who chose to call himself Cmdr. Bakr. He is in charge of five units in Syria, around 200 troops, reported The Daily Beast.

“Around Latakia was very difficult for us,” he said, but when Moscow’s bombing campaign started in September, “the intervention of the Russians made it much easier.” Cmdr. Bakr said that the Russians rely on Hezbollah for intelligence and target selection. “Without their air force we can’t advance and they couldn’t give us air support without our information from the ground,” he said with evident pride. The Russians had also put Special Forces on the ground in the Latakia district, he said, especially around the airport used by Russian planes.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov recently issued a statement saying Moscow does not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. “We maintain contacts and relations with them because we do not consider them a terrorist organization,” Mr. Bogdanov said at the time, according to the Interfax news agency.

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