Conversations about alleged use of Russian weapons formerly supplied to Syria by the Shi’ah movement Hezbollah do not stop in the Middle East. Israeli newspaper Maariv recently wrote that the documents confirming these facts were recently handed over to the Russian party by the Israeli delegation that visited Moscow. According to top ranking representatives of the Israeli security service to which the newspaper refers, among these documents were “photographs of missile, cases and packaging in which they were supplied, as well as accompanying documents confirming that these missiles were intended for the Syrian army.”
Maariv writes that Israel hopes that the Russian government “will draw conclusions that are obvious and will immediately stop supplies of missiles and ammunition to Syria.”
Israeli mass media remarked that having handed weapons over to Hezbollah, Syria breached the international arms trade law. The reason is that a country that buys weapons should receive a permit of the manufacturer country if it wants to resell the weapons to a third party. Israeli mass media pointed out that Syria did not do this.
Meanwhile, the Embassy of Israel in Russia confirmed the fact of the visit of the Israeli delegation to Moscow. At any rate, there is no official data yet saying that the Israeli party handed the documents confirming the use of Russian weapons by Hezbollah over to Russia yet.
Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, Vice President of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, says that “if it is proven officially that Russian weapons have been forwarded to Hezbollah, Russia will evidently have to settle the issue with the countries to which they have been supplied. In any case, this will be a process in the framework of bilateral relations “exporter-importer.”
Ivashov adds, “It is possible to say definitely that Russia has not supplied weapons to Hezbollah.”
Commenting on reports of Israeli mass media saying that Syria handed the weapons earlier purchased from Russia over to Hezbollah, Ivashov presumed that this would not impact the Russian-Syrian military technological cooperation.
The expert adds, “Even if these reports find documentary confirmation, this will hardly impact military technological cooperation between Moscow and Damascus.”
Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the international affairs committee of the Duma, agrees with this opinion. Kosachev presumes that information of Israel that Hezbollah has used Russian missiles supplied by Syria should be checked thoroughly. At any rate, he does not see any breaches on the part of Russia regardless of the results of the check.
Meanwhile, Mikhail Barabanov, scientific editor of Export Vooruzheny magazine, believes that statements of Israel about mass use of modern Russian grenade launchers RPG-29 Vampir and antitank missile systems Metis-M and Kornet-E by Hezbollah are ungrounded.
Barabanov said, “Although these systems had really been supplied to Syria before this did not mean that they were handed over to Hezbollah later.” Barabanov added that in 1997, the instrument building design bureau (Tula) signed contracts with Syria for supplies of Kornet-E systems worth $65 million and Metis-M systems worth $73 million. According to unofficial information, between 1998 and 1999, Russia supplied 100 launchers and 1,000 missiles Kornet-E and 200 launchers and 2,000 missiles Metis-M to Syria. Barabanov concluded, “So far, Israel has not presented any launcher or missile of these systems taken from Hezbollah.”
Along with this, Barabanov did not rule out that a few single systems Kornet-E and Metis-M, as well as grenade launchers Vampir could come to Hezbollah from Syria. “In any case, if this happened, what was not proven yet, the matter might be about handing over a very insignificant quantity, most likely single systems,” said Barabanov.
According to Barabanov, trying to confirm their accusations Israeli military regularly arrange vast exhibitions of trophies taken from Hezbollah. The exhibitions include Kalashnikov automatic rifles, pump rifles, small-caliber rifles, as well as a set of Iranian and Yugoslav clones of the Soviet antitank missile Malyutka and various kinds of American weapons.
The expert comments, “An extremely low percentage of missile hits, as well as a low percentage of the tank armor penetration shows definitely that the overwhelming part of the antitank guided missiles used by the militants belonged to all types. Systems of the level of Kornet-E and Metis-M would demonstrate an absolutely different level of efficiency and piercing capacity.”
According to Barabanov, the Lebanese army is obviously one of the main sources of weapons supplies to Hezbollah. In the 1990s, Lebanese army was practically fully rearmed by the US. Lebanon was given a big quantity of armament and ammunition released during reduction of troops in Europe. American antitank missiles TOW were a part of supplies.
Barabanov explains, “These powerful missiles weigh about 20 kilograms and have firing range from three to four kilometers. It seemed that a big part of these weapons including the antitank ones flowed to Hezbollah from the arsenals of the Lebanese army.” He added, “Hezbollah also has Iranian copies of American systems TOW designated as Toophan.” He concluded, “Thus, the arsenal of Hezbollah demonstrated by the Israeli military represents an incredibly motley mix of weapon models from all over the world and its overwhelming part is obviously obsolete.”
It is difficult to argue with opinion of Russian experts. It is quite clear that Russian weapons are not a determining factor in the conflict in the Middle East. It is also quite clear that it is necessary to speak more not about weapons but about the ways to resolve the conflict by peaceful means.