Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 41


The day before Lebanese President Michel Suleiman began his visit to Iran, a pan-Arab daily reported that Tehran was preparing to offer the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) heavy weapons, including missiles (al-Hayat, November 23). Tehran believes the LAF can operate in a complimentary fashion with Hezbollah in organizing the defense of the country, though many Lebanese parliamentarians insist that Hezbollah must turn over its weapons to the LAF. Reports from Tehran state that Suleiman requested only medium arms from Tehran for national defense and the fight against terrorism and was not seeking heavy weaponry like missiles or jet fighters (Al-Nahar [Beirut], November 26; Tehran Times, November 26). Suleiman is a former commander of the LAF.

The security agreement signed at the end of Suleiman’s Tehran visit, calls for Iran to supply Lebanon with arms and equipment for the next five years. The exact arms to be supplied will be determined in accord with a new national defense strategy (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, November 27; Naharnet, November 27). Lebanon’s ongoing efforts to hammer out this new strategy were discussed at the talks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran has supplied the Shiite Hezbollah movement with arms since the 1980s, but previous offers to supply the LAF have been rejected on national security grounds (Al-Ahram Weekly, November 27 – December 3). As part of Suleiman’s visit, Supreme Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a declaration that; “The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the power of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of the country’s national unity in order to counter the danger of the Zionist regime” (al-Bawaba, November 25).

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told parliament last week that Hezbollah now had 42,000 missiles, three-times the number it had at the beginning of the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war (BBC, November 24). Barak warned Lebanon that integrating Hezbollah into the Lebanese state, politically or militarily, will lead to Israel targeting Lebanon’s infrastructure with “in-depth attacks in the event of a new conflict” (BBC, November 24).

Hezbollah leader Shaykh Hassan Nasrallah has urged the government to equip the LAF with anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons as part of the national defense strategy. Hezbollah made good use of the latter in the 2006 war with Israel (see Terrorism Focus, August 15, 2006). Nasrallah added that an army without anti-tank missiles was only a body “that deals with national security,” adding; “Our army must be strong, and therefore must be well-trained and well-equipped, and not only with assault rifles and grenades” (Naharnet, November 12; Ynet, November 27).

At a recent meeting of the March 14 ruling coalition, Phalange Party leader and former president Amin Gemayel called for all weapons in the hands of Hezbollah or militant groups within the Palestinian refugee camps to be turned over to the state (Daily Star [Beirut], November 24). Other March 14 politicians have also opposed a deal for Iranian arms, which National Liberal Party leader Dori Chamoun described as “not sophisticated” (al-Manar, November 25). Shaykh Nasrallah and the Hezbollah leadership reject the idea of turning their weapons over to the LAF, claiming that to do so would weaken Lebanon’s ability to protect itself against attacks from Israel in the absence of a national defense strategy.

The United States has been heavily involved in reforming the LAF with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of arms supplied in the last few years. In mid-November, Lebanese authorities announced that the U.S. would supply the LAF with dozens of M60 “Patton” main battle tanks beginning in early 2009 (al-Nahar, November 21).  Israel operates over 700 upgraded versions of the M-60. Though Israeli officials expressed concerns that the M-60 might eventually end up in the hands of Hezbollah, it is important to note that the tanks would be easy prey for Israeli aircraft or even Israel’s upgraded armor. Hezbollah has more interest in anti-tank weapons than tanks.

March 14 coalition leader Sa’ad Hariri told reporters that Moscow was willing to sell heavy weapons to Lebanon at “advantageous prices,” following an early November visit to Moscow. Hariri criticized US supplies of light arms, saying that the LAF also need tanks and artillery (Vremya Novostey: November 9; Interfax, November 9). In turn, Lebanon will send a delegation of Lebanese businessmen to the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and North Ossetia, possibly as the first step in recognizing Russian-backed independence (Interfax, November 9).

Beirut may yet reverse its decision to accept Iranian arms supplies. Mixing arms from different sources would create many difficulties and cannot be viewed as a step forward in creating a national defense policy. If, however, Beirut proceeds, having Iran supply arms for both the LAF and Hezbollah may be an important step in their eventual integration.


Spain’s National Intelligence Center (Centro Nacional de Inteligencia – CNI) is monitoring a group of about ten ex-Spanish servicemen who are currently undergoing training at a number of unspecified jihadi training camps (La Razon [Madrid], November 24). The CNI insists that the would-be jihadis did not hold positions of responsibility in the Spanish military and had no access to sensitive information.

The CNI investigation also described the role of Spain’s military in integrating Muslims into Spanish society. In the modern all-volunteer Spanish armed forces, accommodation is made for dietary restrictions and Friday prayers. In units with a significant number of Muslims, “supervisors” have emerged who discreetly encourage the observance of Muslim rituals and lifestyles. CNI detected one source of dissatisfaction – the appointment of female Muslim corporals has not been well received by Muslim troops who are not used to taking orders from women. The agency did note that this problem did not exist with women of senior NCO or officer status, but only with those female NCOs who were required to issue direct orders to Muslim servicemen. Overall, the CNI was satisfied that daily interaction with comrades of other faiths or no faith at all was contributing to the successful integration of Spain’s Muslims into the greater Spanish society (La Razon, November 24).

The CNI handles both internal and external intelligence needs and has been headed by Alberto Saiz Cortés since 2004. Its mandate requires the CNI to provide the Spanish government “with information, analyses, studies or proposals that allow for the prevention and avoidance of any danger, threat or aggression against the independence or territorial integrity of Spain, its national interests and the stability of its institutions and the rule of law” ( Most CNI operations are in North Africa and Central and South America. The CNI is not a law enforcement agency – intelligence collected by it is submitted to governmental authorities who then decide what action should be taken, including turning the files over to Spanish law enforcement agencies for action.
780 Spanish troops are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Two Spanish soldiers were killed in a Herat suicide attack on November 9, bringing the total number of Spanish troops killed in Afghanistan to 25. A November 14 Taliban video warned Spain to withdraw its troops from the country.
Since ending conscription in 2000, Spain has struggled to maintain its military strength at approximately 80,000 troops. To do so, Spain has begun recruiting heavily in Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America and Africa. Beside Afghanistan, Spanish troops are currently deployed in peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, Kosovo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Troops of the Spanish Legion (formerly the Spanish Foreign Legion) are used overseas almost continually, having seen service in recent years in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.