The Trump Administration has quietly Released more than $100 Million in Military Assistance to Lebanon after Months of Unexplained Delay that led some Lawmakers to compare it to the Aid for Ukraine at the Center of the Impeachment Inquiry.
$35 Million in Congressionally Approved Aid to Ukraine has still Not been Delivered. The Money was Reportedly Earmarked for Grenade Launchers, Secure Communications, and Naval Combat Craft, but it has Not Left the U.S. Treasury.
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.
The Money had Languished in Limbo at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) 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 had been pressing the Administration since October to either Release the Funds or Explain why it was being Withheld. The State Department had notified Congress on Sept. 5th 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.
As with the Ukraine Assistance, OMB did Not Explain the Delay. However, unlike Ukraine, there has been No suggestion that President Trump is seeking “a favor” from Lebanon in Exchange for the Aid, according to Officials familiar with the matter.
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 Movement in the Government and the Group’s Militias.
Some Pro-Israel Members of Congress have sought to Defund the Lebanese Military, arguing that it has been Compromised by Hezbollah, which the U.S. designates as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization”.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), 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.
The Pentagon and State Department Reject that View, saying the Army is the only Independent Lebanese Institution capable of Resisting Hezbollah.
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