Saudi Arabia, knowing full well that Iran is an enemy to its own interests, has decided to cut $4 billion in military aid to Lebanon specifically because it is controlled by Iran-proxy Hezbollah. The US State Department doesn't see that as problem, however, and has pledged to continue allocating taxpayer funds to Lebanese security forces. CNSNews reports:
Spokesman Mark Toner declined to comment on the Saudi decision, but said U.S. support for the Lebanese army and police would continue, noting that the U.S. has provided around $1.4 billion since 2005.
“We’re going to continue our support to the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] and security services [Internal Security Forces, ISF] with one objective in mind, which is to ensure that the army continues its role as a legitimate protector of Lebanon’s borders, people, including from extremist threats,” Toner told a briefing on Friday.
Earlier Friday, Saudi Arabia announced it was canceling a combined $4 billion in pledged aid to the LAF and ISF, in response to the Lebanese government’s perceived siding with Iran in a bitter Saudi-Iran rivalry that is a key factor in conflicts across the region, including the civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
The tipping point was the refusal of Lebanon’s foreign minister to back a Saudi-initiated resolution, supported by all other Arab states attending an emergency meeting last month, condemning Iran for an attack on the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran. (The missions were ransacked after the kingdom executed a prominent Shia cleric in early January.)
Saudi Arabia on Friday called the Lebanese stance “regrettable and unjustified” and said the aid – a $3 billion arms deal for the LAF and $1 billion to support the ISF – has been cut. The resolution that Lebanon refused to back at the emergency meeting also classified Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.
CNS notes that representing Lebanon at the Arab ministers' meeting was Hezbollah supporter, Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil.
It is incredible that despite being controlled by an officially designated terror organization -- one that has targeted the US and Israel time and again -- Lebanon will still enjoy the material support of the US to the tune of more than $105 million in 2017:
The Obama administration fiscal year 2017 State and Foreign Operations budget request includes $105 million in foreign military financing (FMF) for Lebanon’s LAF.
There is also a $10 million item to help Lebanon’s ISF “become more responsive to the public’s internal security needs, and enhancing the ability of Lebanon’s criminal justice institutions to work together to provide effective criminal justice and internal security services to the public.”
The FY2017 budget justification says the FMF funds will support the LAF’s “ability to secure the border and national territory against extremist threats, including ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] and al-Nusra.” It says nothing about Hezbollah.
By contrast, the administration’s FY2015 budget justification did cite Hezbollah in that context, saying U.S. aid was designed to help a sovereign and prosperous Lebanon “which can counter Iranian, Hezbollah, and Sunni extremist influences.”
Saudi Arabia’s decision to halt the aid won support over the weekend from its Gulf allies, including the United Arab Emirates whose foreign ministry in a statement accused Hezbollah of “hijacking” Lebanon’s position.
The Saudi people are rightfully applauding their country's decision to cut funding to an Iran-terror proxy. Americans don't have a similar reason to celebrate. It is alarming when Saudi Arabia exercises greater clarity than does the United States. Sadly, however, this has become par for the course under the Obama administration.