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January 30, 2012

Lebanon's Weapon Smuggling: a lucrative business!

January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012


Wadi Khaled had turned during the 1980s into a market for smuggled goods from Syria. But since the Syrian revolution started, weapon smuggling became a common business for this impoverished part of Lebanon. According to a Lebanese government source, everyone, even some of the Syrian regime's allies, has chipped in this lucrative business. Since 2005, weapon prices in the Lebanese black market hiked to unprecedented levels due to high levels of demand. "When political tensions rise, the price rises accordingly. you could have bought a Kalashnikov for $200 before 2000, but later the price rose to around 500, even more, especially following Lebanon's mini civil war on 7th of May 2008". The Syrian demand levels have more than doubled the prices, and decreased the availability. A Kalashnikov is now priced at 2000/2500, while the price of a single rocket propelled grenade rose ten folds from 50 to $500. Bullets which were worth around 15 cents each, are now priced at $2 each. The Lebanese source added that "the hike in bullet prices were behind the surprising lack of celebratory fire during this New Year celebrations" (it is a usual nuisance at that time of the year).
Such smuggling to support anti-regime Syrian fighters was politically supported, according to the Lebanese source. But the Lebanese army intelligence which maintains a strong presence in the North tried to contain the smuggling operations by arresting known smugglers. The result was a local campaign against the Lebanese army, and a fatwa banning conscription in the military. The Lebanese army had to back up to avert any repercussions.

The high demand for weapons in Syria, and the rise in prices have both led to scarcity. It is very difficult to find weapons to buy in Lebanon's black market, and when you do, it is very expensive. Hezbollah is the most well armed party in Lebanon, after the military. Recently, an unconfirmed report mentioned that a son of a known Hezbollah leader has been involved in smuggling weapons to Syria. About two years ago, it was rumored that a Hezbollah cadre sold weapons to the party's local rivals; sources told the Arab Digest that this is true. The organisation enjoys a strict hierarchy, and it is unlikely that their members would join the smuggling business en mass. However, the temptations are plenty. According to the Lebanese government source, "by selling 10 Klachnikov's, an average citizen would cover his annual expenses".


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