Lebanon strikes out after U.S. funds withheld

//Lebanon strikes out after U.S. funds withheld
Israel Lebanon Border

Israel Lebanon Border

$100 million U.S. aid suspended only 24 hours before the Israeli Lebanese border clash of August 3.

A U.S. Congressional decision was made to freeze a $100 million aid package to Lebanon.  24 hours later a Lebanese army sniper opened fire on two Israeli officers as they watched a tree-pruning operation on the Israeli side of a security fence below the United Nations’ “Blue Line”. The Lebanese army said it first fired warning shots, then Israelis fired at their soldiers.

It has been reported that Hezbollah did not take part in last week’s clash, although Nasrallah has said his “powerful Shi’ite guerrillas would intervene if Israel attacked the army again”.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman said he decided August 2 to suspend Lebanon’s military funding in light of the increased involvement by the Hezbullah terrorist organization in Lebanese Army affairs, concerned that the money would be spent on weapons with which to attack the U.S. ally. Berman added in a statement after the attack, “The incident on the Israel-Lebanon border only one day after my hold was placed simply reinforces the critical need for the United States to conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military.”

A senior House Republican, Eric Cantor, said future funding to Lebanon should be stopped too, pending an inquiry into the clash. Cantor said the lines between Hezbollah, the Lebanese military and the government had become “blurred”.

But U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. President Barack Obama was not planning to re-evaluate its military cooperation with Lebanon.

The United States has provided more than $720 million in assistance to the Lebanese army since 2006.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was a mistake to arm Lebanon’s military with advanced weapons because they were being used by the army against Israel.

Iran has offered support to the Lebanese militant Shi’ite group Hezbollah.  This may increase Tehran influence near the Israel northern border and raises western concern.

A second Lebanese official earlier in the week called on the Beirut government to turn to Russia, China, Syria and Iran for future support.