Middle EastPolitics

Trump administration sends mixed signals on Lebanon military aid

A U.S. official has pushed back on reports that the Trump administration had suspended military aid to Lebanon’s Armed Forces.

“As the sole legitimate defense arm of the Government of Lebanon, 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,” the official told The National on Tuesday.

“No Lebanese expenditures or purchases of military materiel with FMF have been delayed,” the official said.

The Trump administration reportedly suspended $105 million in military and security assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces late last week, Reuters cited two U.S. officials as saying last week.

Both the Wall Street Journal and New York Times reported that the State Department and Pentagon objected to the freeze, citing U.S. Congressional officials who said they were not given a reason for the suspension.

The decision was an apparent policy shift since early September, when the State Department notified Congress that the administration was readying to provide the $105 million in aid to the LAF.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri stepped down last Tuesday in response to demands by massive protests that have called for a new government and an end to endemic corruption.

The reported suspension came just days after the Times of Israel cited a single anonymous official as saying the Israeli government had asked its allies to condition future security aid to the Lebanese government “dealing with Hezbollah’s precision-guided missiles.”

The U.S. sees the LAF and Lebanese government as a counterbalance to sectarian parties with their own militant wings, like Hezbollah, which receives support from Iran, the State Department’s senior counterterrorism official, Nathan Sales, told reporters last week.

The U.S. has sent more than $1 billion to the multi-sectarian Lebanese Armed Forces over the last decade.

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