Sources say the White House budget office is withholding foreign military assistance
Two U.S. officials revealed on Thursday that the Government is withholding security aid worth $105 million for Lebanon. The Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri resigned two days ago. The state department told congress that the National Security Council and White House Budget Office made a decision to withhold foreign military assistance. The officials didn’t give any reason for the action of the government. The state department has not commented on the issue.
Security assistance is necessary for Lebanon
The Trump-led administration sought approval for the security assistance in May. It was argued that it was essential for the country as it is in the volatile Middle East for border protection and an important partner of the U.S. The aid also covered weapons and night vision goggles for border security.
Despite this aid, Washington has continued to worry about the role of the Lebanese government of armed Shi’ite group Hezbollah which is backed by Iran. When prime minister Hariri resigned on Tuesday, Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state urged leaders of the country to initiate a new government that will be responsive to people’s needs.
Another U.S. official said he believes that Lebanon needs security assistance since it struggles with political instability and also houses lots of refugees from Syria which is torn by war. He also believes that it is crucial to strengthen the Lebanese military now as it is one of the capable organizations in the country due to support from the U.S. government.
Taking aid away from Beirut could give Russia a chance to move in says the official. Russia initially expanded its Syrian influence since President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country’s northeastern side. Lebanon has been in talks with foreign donors over the security aid for a few months. Hariri couldn’t convince the foreign donors to approve $11 billion aid before he resigned.