The United States has rejected a request from Israel to condition U.S. assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which has supported the U.S.-designated terrorist group and Iranian proxy Hezbollah.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told JNS that the United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces to secure Lebanon’s borders, defend its sovereignty and preserve its stability, and that no Lebanese expenditures or purchases of military materiel has been delayed.
“The United States continues to support the efforts of the Lebanese people to form a new efficient and effective government that will bring economic reform, and an end to endemic corruption,” continued the spokesperson. “We have expressed clearly our concerns at violence or provocative actions against protesters, and note efforts by the LAF and other institutions to ensure the rights and safety of the protesters.”
David Schenker, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near East Affairs, said in a briefing with reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday, “We have confidence in the Lebanese army, and we think they are important partners in the fight against Sunni jihadists.”
No U.S. assistance to Lebanon has been withheld. Rather, it has been subject to “a budget process” that consists of “a continual review of all assistance programs to ensure we are meeting U.S. foreign-policy objectives and optimizing the value for the American taxpayer.”
The State Department referred JNS to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which declined to comment on the record.
Israel has expressed concern that funding that goes to the Lebanese Armed Forces has supported Hezbollah, a known terror organization. The LAF, which received $100 million last year from the United States, and Hezbollah are known to have cooperated together.
Jewish Policy Center senior director Shoshana Bryen said “it is important for the State Department to take military aid to Lebanon under review—not least because the government under which the Lebanese Armed Forces operates is dominated by Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terror organization allied with Iran and pledged to Israel’s destruction.”
Furthermore, she continued, “as the people of Lebanon demand a government that is not dominated by sectarian interests or by Iran, the LAF has been defending the government from its people, killing at least one demonstrator this week. It is entirely unclear how American arms and training for the LAF furthers stability or peace in the region.”
Reportedly, the U.S. State and U.S. Defense Departments have been for continuing the aid, while many in the White House advocate halting it.
Israel has called for Lebanon to shut down Hezbollah’s precision-missile manufacturing, in addition to cutting ties with the group.