The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has praised U.S. Members of Congress Nita Lowey (D-NY), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Howard Berman (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) for blocking $100 million in U.S. aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), following Hizballahs unprovoked assault upon Israel from across the Lebanese border on August 5. The Hizballah attack resulted in the killing of one Israel Defense Forces (IDF) officer and the critical wounding of another.
Cong. Lowey, Chairman of the House Appropriations Sub-Committee that handles foreign aid and which authorizes such funds, said that she wants to find out more about the outrageous incident as well as watching how Lebanon responds in the wake of the violence: This incident was tragic and entirely avoidable. U.S. assistance is intended to enhance our safety and that of our allies.
House Minority Whip Cong. Cantor said, The LAFs unprovoked attack on the Israeli defense forces in undisputed Israeli territory demands a sweeping reassessment of how we distribute our foreign aid. He also called for the $100 million already requested by the Obama Administration for 2011 to be blocked until the incident had been investigated and it was clear that the Lebanese military wasnt collaborating with Hizballah. That money could also be affected when that spending bill is considered by the rest of the committee and House when Congress reconvenes from its summer recess in September.
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Cong. Howard Berman (D-CA) also applied a hold a day before the Lebanese border incident, citing more general concerns about reported Hizballah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces
Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hizballah influence on the LAF and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon. His office also wants more information on Hizballahs role in the LAF, how diligently U.S. weapons are kept track of and how well the LAF cooperates with UNIFIL (Hilary Leila Krieger, Congress halts aid to Lebanese army, Jerusalem Post, August 9, 2010).
Cong. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee requested of Committee Chairman Cong. Howard Berman (D-CA) a hold on military aid to Lebanon on August 5. Speaking of the hold imposed by Cong. Berman, Cong. Ros-Lehtinen said, After spending almost $700 million in the last 5 years alone, it has become clear that assistance to Lebanon has not advanced U.S. national security interests. Instead of being disarmed, Hizballah has massively rearmed and it is an increasingly influential part of Lebanons government. Syria and Iran have also regained their hegemony in Lebanon. The Lebanese government and military are not addressing the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axiss growing threat to Lebanons sovereignty and security. Instead, they have focused on what they call the enemy our democratic ally Israel and now an Israeli soldier has been killed as a result. Unconditional U.S. assistance has not changed this troubling reality. Its time to change course (Ros-Lehtinen Discusses Her Request for Hold on Assistance to Lebanese Armed Forces, August 11, 2010).
Despite acknowledging that the assault on Israel raised questions about U.S. military aid and whether any of our assistance was in some way implicated, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley defended funding LAF, saying, Irans activities compromise Lebanese sovereignty. The statements of Iran [saying they will fund the LAF if the U.S. ceases to do so] are expressly the reason why we believe that continuing support to the Lebanese government and the Lebanese military is in our interest (Philip J. Crowley, Assistant Secretary, Daily Press Briefing, August 10, 2010).
ZOA National Chairman of the Board Dr. Michael Goldblatt said, We applaud Members of Congress Lowey, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen for acting swiftly to put a hold on military aid to Lebanon in light of the unprovoked, lethal attack upon Israeli personnel on the Israeli side of the Israeli-Lebanese border last week. This attack confirms graphically the dominant role Syria and through it Iran and its proxy, the Islamist terrorist group Hizballah are playing in Lebanon. It is clear that the Lebanese military, to the extent it was ever an independent actor, is now no longer acting in any genuinely Lebanese interest. It subordination to the designs of Hizballah and Iran show that Lebanon has been effectively reoccupied by Syria, even though Syrian occupation forces at least for now are not walking the streets.
In these circumstances, it is only right that the U.S. suspend military aid to forces that have been turned into an active, hostile instrument of Iranian-backed terrorists assaulting a U.S. ally.
We are disappointed to see that the State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, tries to rationalize this policy of funding U.S. enemies by arguing that the Iranians will step in and do so if we dont. The logic here seems to be that it is better for us to fund our enemies than it is for Iran to do so!
Putting the squeeze on Lebanon might be our only way of affecting Lebanese behavior under current conditions. We commend Members of Congress Lowey, Cantor, Berman and Ros-Lehtinen for acting to freeze U.S. military aid.