Procurement: Hard Times in Southern Lebanon


March 12, 2007: Southern Lebanon used to be a playground for freelance arms dealers. Hizbollah had plenty of Iranian cash, and no one, not the Lebanese police, army or coast guard, was keeping anyone out. Hizbollah controlled access, and if you had weapons to sell, you were welcome. No more. Despite threats of retaliation from Hizbollah, the Lebanese army and UN peacekeepers have been seizing weapons, at least large quantities found in the backs of trucks. This has made some of the gunrunners a little hesitant to go into southern Lebanon looking for buyers. Recently, a guy, in possession of three portable Russian surface-to-air missiles was busted, and his missiles seized by Lebanese police. To make matters worse, for Hizbollah, the government made a big deal of it with the media. All this was, in effect, telling Hizbollah, "what are you going to do about it?" The missiles were elderly SA-7 models, and not much use against Israeli warplanes, which indicated potential customers would want to shoot down civilian aircraft.

Gunrunners are having an easier time of it the rest of Lebanon, where the various Christian, Shia, Sunni and Druze factions are building up their arsenals in anticipation of another civil war. But southern Lebanon, despite the risk of another war with Israel, is definitely an unfriendly place for arms dealers.


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