Why Not Apply the Pakistan Precedent and Suspend Military Assistance to Lebanon?

    Shimon Arad

    Security, Middle East

    Lebanese army soldiers take part in a parade at a military academy marking the 72nd Army Day in Fayadyeh, near Beirut, August 1, 2017. REUTERS/ Aziz Tahe​r

    Duplicity that undermines America’s regional policy should not be supported with U.S. resources.

    The administration’s decision to suspend military assistance to Pakistan is a bold move that may have detrimental consequences for the U.S.-led effort in Afghanistan. Though uncertain whether it will change Pakistan’s behavior, it sends a strong message that U.S. military assistance is not unconditional.

    This message is very pertinent to the government in Beirut, which accommodates a status quo that serves the Iranian interests in Lebanon. The U.S. military assistance to Lebanon affords a measure of respectability to the duplicity of Beirut and undermines the cohesiveness of the administration’s counter-Iran strategy in the region.

    Lebanon has become the fifth largest recipient of U.S. security assistance, having received over $ 1.4 billion since 2005. Recently, the United States has provided the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) with self-propelled 155 millimeter artillery pieces, armed Cessna aircrafts, armed HUMVEES and heavy machine guns. Given the budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration that zero out the foreign-military financing for Lebanon from the budget of the State Department, the present-day assistance is coming from Pentagon funds.

    The U.S. security assistance to Lebanon has aspired to promote three main goals: to bolster Lebanon’s ability to safeguard its border with Syria; to promote the LAF as the sole defender of Lebanon and to weaken Hezbollah; and, to support the Lebanese effort to enforce United Security Resolution 1701. All of these goals have been muffed along the way.

    Bolstering Lebanon’s Ability to Defend Its Border with Syria

    With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, countering the spread of ISIS and other extremist elements into Lebanon, become a primary U.S. interest. Accordingly, enhanced U.S. military assistance to bolster the LAF’s border protection and internal security capabilities were provided.

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