BEIRUT, Lebanon — Ahead of a much-anticipated meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman in Washington later this month, the Pentagon announced today that a major arms deal had been reached with Lebanon and that several millions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment would be delivered within weeks.
This marks the latest in a series of military aid packages from the United States to the troubled Middle Eastern nation, which are part of a long-term effort to bolster the capabilities of the Lebanese Armed Forces.
Pentagon spokesman Don Sheriff said that the United States was confident that this equipment would play a positive role in “securing Lebanon from various destabilizing forces,” adding that it was also a firm U.S. policy “to ensure that no weapons obtained from us end up in the wrong hands, to be used against our allies in the region.”
Mr. Sheriff reported that that the aid package “includes supplies for all of the armed forces. In addition to the Army, we’re committed to ramping up the capabilities of the Lebanese Navy and Air Force.”
Among the equipment destined for the Lebanese Navy, said Mr. Sheriff, was a decommissioned WWII vessel, the U.S.S. Tadpole, which had until recently been used for target practice by U.S. Navy gunners at NS Norfolk. The Tadpole will be rechristened the “Barracuda” when it takes its place as the flagship of the Lebanese Navy next month.
Mr. Sheriff said that the Navy’s aid package also included 300,000 life jackets, 55,000 kick boards, and 218,000 pairs of goggles.
The Lebanese Air Force — which is due to receive ten Russian MiG-29 jets early next year — will also be the beneficiary of American largesse. In a game of one upmanship reminiscent of the Cold War, the U.S. has promised to supply Lebanon with ten RC Firefly X2R’s. The Firefly, Mr. Sheriff explained, is a remote control aircraft with a range of 200 meters that can fly continuously for four minutes on a single charge. It was originally developed to be used for target practice by U.S. Special Forces sharpshooters.
Lebanon’s soldiers are slated to receive the bulk of the aid shipment. In a move that will surely raise eyebrows in Tel Aviv, the U.S. has decided to supply Lebanon — for the first time in history — with an armored vehicle, a single ASPSCQ (Armored Self-Propelled Single-Cannon Quadracycle, known affectionately as “the Quad”). Built in Great Britain and dating back to the First World War, the Quad has spent the last seventy years in a military museum.
“We know that that we might catch some heat from some of our friends in the region, but we think that it’s the right thing to do,” said Mr. Sheriff, in response to a query from a reporter.
In addition to the Quad, the Army’s aid package includes 250,000 crates of camouflage-print bandaids and 60,000 Super Soaker water guns.
Reporting by Qifa Nabki