2 February 2012, 22:11

Insurgents in Syria being armed from abroad - ex-General

Insurgents in Syria being armed from abroad - ex-General

The reconstruction of the Kleyate airport in the north of Lebanon has begun, the Arab media report.  According to official reports, the airport is being restored to contribute to the country’s economic development and to provide more opportunities for the national tourism industry.

The reconstruction of the Kleyate airport in the north of Lebanon has begun, the Arab media report.  According to official reports, the airport is being restored to contribute to the country’s economic development and to provide more opportunities for the national tourism industry.

But some experts believe that the airport is being reconstructed for other purposes. At present, the international airport in Beirut with passenger turnover of 6 million people a year fully meets the current needs of the country. It takes 2-3 hours to get to the airport from any corner of the country.  In addition, Lebanon has one more airport in the north – the Khamat airport, which was built specially for the needs of the tourism industry and also for export of agricultural products. However the airport has never been used for these purposes because of a civil war which took place in Lebanon in the 1970-1990s.

Now, in peaceful times, it would be logical to start using the Khamat airport, located near the sea coast, for the needs of the country's tourism industry rather than the Kleyate airport, which was built in the mountains as a military airport and lacks civil infrastructure. It is difficult and expensive to transport construction materials using roads which run through mountains.

Nevertheless the Kleyate airport has some advantages, too, but not for the purposes of exporting agricultural products. It is located by Lebanon's Syrian border. Reportedly, the decision on its reconstruction was made soon after the visit of a Western delegation to Lebanon on January 20.  We spoke to a retired Lebanese general, Amin Khteit, about this.

"The official explanations for the airport's opening were economic reasons, as well as the needs of the country's tourism industry and those of the local residents. But it seems that other reasons are behind it. For example, Burhan Ghalioun, the head of the oppositional Syrian National Council booked a special plane to fly medicines to Beirut, as it was reported, for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. But there is no need for Syrians in Lebanon to order medicines abroad. In fact there are proven reports that that plane delivered Israeli weapons which were later sent to insurgents in Syria. That is why there are grounds to assume that the airport in the north of Lebanon will become a transshipment base to supply weapons to Syrian insurgents. I suppose there is also an agreement with the Lebanese officials on an establishment of a US military base in this area."

If the US stations a military base in the Kleyate district, the airport could then be used in many different ways. One of the most likely options is that it could become a base for US drones, the editor in chief of the journal Independent Military Review Viktor Litovkin says.

"An airfield of this kind would be quite suitable for the use of drones.  Of course, there are different types of drones and some of them don’t even require any special landing area. In this particular case, everything will depend on the objectives set for the aircraft."

Perhaps there are those who believe that the military operation against Syria is now a decided issue and if this is the case, the airport will have to go back to its roots as a former military airfield.

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