TRANSLATED: Immature, Erratic Saudi policy means Lebanon Arms deal is off again
Translated in tonight’s Daily Briefing (for a free trial email firstname.lastname@example.org)
On November 27, the independent, leftist As-Safir daily newspaper carried the following report: “Coincidentally, both a French and a Lebanese clarifications concerning the three billion dollars Saudi endowment to arm the Lebanese army through the French, happened to be given on the same day. As the commander of the Lebanese army, Gen. Jean Kahwaji, was expressing his despair in Yarze over the possibility that this endowment might never be realized, a French official following up on this file was expressing his pessimism to As-Safir now that the deal has, once again, entered the long waiting tunnel knowing that a space for hope still exists to see the endowment released following a Saudi royal decision.
“The official also said that Al-Riyadh has once again asked for “slowing down the implementation of the deal” while French President Francois Hollande obtained no answer from King Salman Ben Abdul Aziz with respect to the fate of the endowment when he met with him in Al-Riyadh last May. It seems that Gen. Kahwaji thinks it’s unlikely that the deal/endowment will be realized any time soon as he said that the deal remains “ink on paper…” Kahwaji said: “We have been waiting for the Saudi endowment for a year and a half now. We have conducted all the preparations and all the necessary meetings. We determined our needs but everything is still ink on paper. All we got from the Saudi endowment so far is 47 French missiles only.”
“…The French official possesses more givens that shall make most of the Lebanese officers pessimistic beyond the statement of Gen. Kahwaji. Indeed, the Saudi ministry of finance asked the French side early this year to freeze the deals with the companies that manufacture or sell the weapons ordered by Lebanon. But the Saudi party was expected to activate the deal and launch the negotiations with the French companies with the aim of closing the deals with them and delivering or manufacturing the agreed upon equipment and gear before the present year ends. The French were expecting the French-Saudi-Lebanese deal that was signed on February 2015 to be re-launched in October. “We have been frozen without an official request this time. We are around six months late in delivery. The entire deal might be delayed from five to six years…”
“The French official stressed that “all the technical and administrative aspects of the deal have been completed. The Lebanese selected the weapons in agreement with us and the Saudis without any objections…” According to the French, the delay could be due to the conflict between the first crown prince Mohammad Ben Nayef and the second crown prince, Mohammad Ben Salman. Another French source believes that Mohammad Ben Nayef’s desire to take back the file of the military deals and his attempt at isolating and weakening former PM Sa’d al-Hariri are also reasons for the delay… The Yemen issue could also be in the background of the Lebanese problem in addition to the fact that 30 billion dollars were distributed to the Saudis on the occasion of Salman’s access to the throne.
“The Saudi priorities have changed. The Saudis borrowed 20 billion dollars. They sold 70 out of 760 billion dollars in terms of assets abroad in order to make up for their 20% worth budget deficit. This month, 1.5 billion dollars were spent to purchase American missiles to proceed with the war in Yemen while the Kingdom’s oil returns have been dropping… Whose decision is it? “The decision is in the hand of King Salman alone because the deal was launched by a kind and should be completed by a king” says the French official. “And we are waiting.””