The Trump administration released more than $100 million in assistance to Lebanon after months of delay.
By World Israel News and AP
The Trump administration quietly released more than $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon after months of delay.
The $105 million in Foreign Military Financing funds for the Lebanese Armed Forces was released just before the Thanksgiving holiday and lawmakers were notified of the step on Monday, according to two congressional staffers and an administration official.
All three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Pro-Israel members of Congress have long sought to de-fund the Lebanese military because it has been compromised by the Hezbollah terror group, which the U.S. and others designate as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has long advocated cutting the assistance and is expected to introduce legislation that would bar such aid as long as Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s government.
In recent months, Lebanese protesters have demanded that the government resign en masse due to endemic corruption. Hezbollah, and its puppet-masters in Iran, are widely seen as exerting undue influence over the Lebanese government.
The U.S. aid money had languished in limbo at the Office of Management and Budget since September although it had already won congressional approval and had overwhelming support from the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council. The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay despite repeated queries from Congress.
Lawmakers such as Rep. Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., had pressed the administration since October to either release the funds or explain why it was being withheld. The State Department had notified Congress on Sept. 5 that the money would be spent.
The State Department had offered only a cryptic response to queries, defending the assistance but also calling for Lebanese authorities to implement economic reforms and rein in corruption.
The delay had frustrated the national security community, which believes the assistance that pays for U.S.-made military equipment for the Lebanese army is essential, particularly as Lebanon reels from financial chaos and mass protests.
The aid is intended to help counter Iran’s influence in Lebanon, which is highlighted by the presence of the Iranian-supported Shiite Hezbollah terror group in the government and the group’s militias, officials have said.
The Pentagon and State Department claim that the army is the only independent Lebanese institution capable of resisting Hezbollah.