On Thursday, April 30th, 2020, Congressman Greg Steube (Republican, Florida), sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the reexamination of the U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) due to their cozy relationship with Hezbollah. The letter was signed by Doug Lamborn, (Republican, Colorado), Brian Mast, (Republican, Florida), Scott Perry, (Republican, Pennsylvania), and Louie Gohmert, (Republican, Texas).
Since 2010, the United States has provided over $1.82 billion in security assistance investment in the LAF. In recent years the LAF has received an average of $224 million each year in combined Department of State and Department of Defense military grant assistance.
Following the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, the UN Security Council adopted resolution 1701 which prohibits Hizballah from operating south of the Litani river. Israeli Intelligence show that Hizballah bypasses this restriction by cooperating closely with the LAF in the form of joint vehicle patrols, and the LAF has even gone so far as giving Hizballah official uniforms. In a 2016 military parade, Hizballah even displayed U.S.-made armored personnel carriers, presumably taken from the LAF.
Hizballah has also increased its political power in Lebanon in the past two years. In the 2018 elections Hizballah has managed to increase their representation in the parliament, and in the forming of the new government in 2019 Hizballah was given two ministerial portfolios including the prestige Health Ministry.
Given the close link between the terrorist organization and the LAF, and Hizballah’s growing political influence, Hizballah and the Lebanese state, in fact, are no longer two separate entities. There is a serious concern that Hizballah has easy access to the U.S. military assistance given to the LAF. Continuing to provide this assistance seems to contravene U.S. law by funding a terrorist organization. U.S. allies in the Middle East, the Arab Gulf states, have already declared in February 2020 that they postpone any aid to Lebanon as long as Lebanon continues to cooperate with the terrorist organization.
The Congressional letter asks Secretary Pompeo to follow those steps by conducting an investigation and freezing any military aid to the LAF until it is certain, beyond any doubt, that our financial military assistance is not being used to fund a designated terrorist organization.
Says Sarah Stern, EMET Founder and President, “Iran, through its proxy Hizballah, is on the march throughout the Middle East, and is experiencing a growing sense of triumphalism. Their presence is seen and felt in Baghdad and Damascus, but nowhere is it more profoundly felt than in Lebanon, which has become almost a puppet state of Iran. Hizbollah now boasts an arsenal of approximately 150,000 missiles staring down at Israel, from Southern Lebanon, and it has far too cozy a relationship with the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is known to share its uniforms with, and to go on patrols with Hizballah. As Ambassador Ron Dermer of Israel recently said to me, “I can point to any house in Southern Lebanon, and the owners could say, ‘Here is my bedroom; here is my kitchen; here is my rocket room.” It contravenes United States law to have any American funding going into the hands of a terrorist organization, which Hizballah is, according to the United States State Department. Our taxpayer funding to the Lebanese Armed Forces has got to cease immediately, until we can determine, beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether, directly or indirectly, any of these funds are making their way tint the hands of Hizballah.”
Founded in 2005, The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) is a Washington, D.C. based think tank and policy center with an unabashedly pro-America and pro-Israel stance. EMET (which means truth in Hebrew) prides itself on challenging the falsehoods and misrepresentations that abound in U.S. Middle East policy.