BEIRUT: As clashes between the Lebanese Army and militants in Arsal intensified Tuesday, the international community weighed in to offer support to the Lebanese state and especially the military.
U.S. Ambassador David Hale said Tuesday that Lebanon could count on Washington’s continued assistance to the Lebanese Army, which was facing what he described as unprecedented threats, and praised the military for its work in insulating the country from regional turmoil.
Speaking after his meeting with Prime Minister Tammam Salam, Hale reiterated U.S. support for the Army and security agencies in their work to secure the borders, protect Lebanon from terrorism and insulate Lebanon from regional conflicts through disassociation.
Hale was referring to the policy of disassociation Lebanon’s government adopted to keep the country at a distance from turmoil in the region, particularly events in Syria.
According to the embassy’s Twitter feed, Hale also said that his country’s assistance program to the Lebanese military was “long-standing, ongoing and is helping the Army to meet its challenges.”
“US is committed to further efforts to build up the capabilities of Lebanon’s security forces to counter terrorism [and] address other challenges,” he said. “Lebanon can count on continued #American support for the @LebaneseArmy #partnership.”
Hale said the U.S. was closely following the situation in the northeastern town of Arsal, where the military has been battling militants from Syria for four days, in the worst violence since 2011.
The U.S. official commended the bravery of soldiers “as they confront these unprecedented threats.”
Sixteen soldiers were killed and at least 86 others were wounded in the ongoing clashes between the Army and gunmen, who attacked military posts and a police station over the weekend and kidnapped some 30 security personnel.
Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali sent a letter to Army Chief Gen. Jean Kahwagi to express solidarity with the “valiant Lebanese Army in its confrontation with the murky takfiri extremist forces.”
He sent condolences over the soldiers killed in the clashes, relaying his confidence that “the Lebanese Army ... will succeed to eliminate this deviant phenomenon.”
Fathali stressed Iran’s support to Lebanon, saying his country “stands by Lebanon” in its mission to “safe-guard its security and stability.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry voiced its support for Lebanon, saying recent attacks in Arsal were a serious threat to Lebanon’s stability.
The ministry stressed the need to preserve stability in Lebanon, saying Russia had provided military assistance to police. It asked its international partners to evaluate “the dangerous phenomenon appearing in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.”
“It is important to abandon the policy of double standards and avoid steps that would worsen the terrorist and radical threat in the Middle East,” the ministry said. “Authorities in Damascus, Baghdad and Beirut are facing a mutual threat: the proliferation of this international terror that does not recognize borders and seeks to control more territory.”
Meanwhile, Syria pledged support for the Lebanese Army in its fight against terrorism.
Syria “affirms that it stands with the Lebanese Army and stands in solidarity with them in dealing with terrorist groups and eliminating them,” a source at the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement published on the state-run Syrian news agency SANA.
The source said Damascus was confident of Lebanon’s victory in this battle, and in thwarting all plots that had been planned to destabilize Lebanon’s security and stability.
The U.N. Security Council backed Lebanon’s military operations in Arsal, but urged Lebanon not to get dragged into the war in Syria. The council “expressed support for the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces in their fight against terrorism,” calling on Lebanese politicians to “preserve national unity” and “refrain from any involvement in the Syrian crisis.”