Russia is supplying the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah with advanced weaponry, including “long-range tactical missiles, laser guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons,” according to two anonymous Hezbollah commanders, The Daily Beast reported on Monday.
The duo, who used the false names Bakr and Assir, met with The Daily Beast separately in December and spoke of the growing coordination between Hezbollah and Russia.
According to Bakr, Russian help was essential to Hezbollah’s success in the Latakia region in western Syria.
“Around Latakia was very difficult for us,” he said, but when Moscow’s bombing campaign started in September, “the intervention of the Russians made it much easier.” Bakr said that the Russians rely on Hezbollah for intelligence and target selection. “Without their air force we can’t advance and they couldn’t give us air support without our information from the ground,” he said with evident pride. The Russians had also put Special Forces on the ground in the Latakia district, he said, especially around the airport used by Russian planes.
Assir, described as a trainer and recruiter, said that Russia had come to rely on Hezbollah more than on Syrian troops. He also boasted that Hezbollah had access to an extensive store of Russian arms.
“Hezbollah is teaching the Syrian army how to use many of these new weapons,” says Assir. He maintains that Moscow hasn’t placed any restriction on how Hezbollah can use the Russian arms in its possession, including against Israel if the organization deems it necessary. “When it comes to Israel, Hezbollah doesn’t take directions from anyone,” he says emphatically. But it is not clear that he is in a senior enough position to know what secret agreements have been made.
Bakr admitted to assisting the Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militia Kata’ib Hezbollah in 2014, as well as the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen the following year. Assir acknowledged that elite Syrian forces, Iraqi militias, and Houthis all train in Syria with Hezbollah.
Bakr and Assir confirmed that Russia, which does not consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist group, has played a major role in keeping Assad in power. They added that the arsenal Hezbollah received from Iran would be sufficient for the terrorist group to fight Israel, even without the help of Russian arms.
Russian officials did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Russian troops reportedly began fighting in support of Assad in September of last year. In October, Iranian troops openly fought in Syria with the support of Russian airstrikes.
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