US sees Iran's hand in new Lebanon threat

Obama administration officials are pointing the finger at Iran for a growing threat to Israel in Lebanon, potentially complicating nuclear talks with Tehran.

The officials told The Wall Street Journal that the Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah is transferring advanced weapons from Syria into Lebanon in anticipation of a clash with Israel. Iran's elite Quds Force is believed to have directly overseen weapons shipments to Hezbollah, according to the Journal.

Hezbollah's increased power has prompted Saudi Arabia, which has been critical of the Obama administration's reluctance to get more involved in battling the Iran-backed Syrian government, to offer $3 billion to the Lebanese military to battle threats such as Hezbollah. The Obama administration said Thursday that it welcomed the Saudi offer.

“We would certainly welcome further assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces of this kind,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. 

“We’ve seen, not just in Lebanon but in Iraq and other places throughout the region, the incredibly destabilizing impact that Syria has had throughout the region,” she said. “We strongly support the Lebanese Government, the Lebanese Armed Forces in this fight against — our shared fight against these kinds of terrorist attacks, certainly.”

The Journal report prompted immediate criticism from Iran critics.

Orde Kittrie, a former State Department attorney, professor of law at Arizona State University and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote on Twitter that the allegations would put Iran in violation of United Nations resolutions that call on all parties to “prevent ... sale or supply to any entity or ind'l in Lebanon [except Leb'ese Army] of arms & related materiel” and on Iran specifically not to “supply, sell or transfer directly or indirectly ... any arms or related materiel.”

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