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WASHINGTON – Iran is looking to strengthen Lebanon’s army for regional protection as the survival of the Islamic republic’s long-time ally, Syria, becomes increasingly questionable and Tehran needs to look for a backup location to maintain its influence in the Middle East, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Lebanon apparently is that location, given the amount of investment Tehran already has expended in reconstructing southern Lebanon following the 33-day war in August 2006 between the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Israel and rebuilding all of south Beirut after it was bombarded during that brief war.

“Lebanon must have a strong army to defend its interests in the region,” said Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi. “We consider safeguarding Lebanon’s security an important part of stability in the region.”

In a meeting last week with Lebanese Defense Minister Faiz Ghosn in Tehran, Vahidi underscored Iran’s increasing ties to the Lebanese army. “Strengthening [the] Lebanese army is among the strategic policies of Iran,” he said. Ghosn, who has called for an expansion of defense cooperation with Tehran, is from the Marada Christian political party, which is allied with the Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

“Right now, there is complete coordination between the army and the resistance,” Ghosn said in referring to Hezbollah as the resistance. The current Lebanese government has the backing of Hezbollah which retains weapons and has developed a coordinated role with the Lebanese army on the use of those weapons in the event of an Israeli attack on the country.

The Lebanese opposition, led by the Sunni March 14 group, asserts that Hezbollah must be disarmed but, to date, the resistance group has turned down all such demands.

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