Report: White House Is Withholding $105 Million In Security Aid To Lebanon
The Trump administration is holding up $105 million in U.S. security aid to Lebanon, Reuters reported on Thursday, though no official explanation has been provided to Congress.
The report came two days after Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned his post amid massive protests against the country’s ruling elite, at which time Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “urged Lebanon’s political leaders to help form a new government responsive to the needs of its people and called for an end to endemic corruption.”
Earlier this year, the administration sought approval for an aid package to Lebanon, arguing it was crucial that the U.S. ally in the Middle East be well-equipped to protect its borders. The aid included night vision goggles and weapons used in border security, Reuters noted.
But the State Department told Congress this week that the White House budget office and National Security Council had opted to withhold the aid, according to two officials who spoke with the news outlet. No explanation for the hold up was provided to lawmakers, and the State Department declined to comment on the matter.
Although the administration argued in May that the aid was necessary, Washington has also “expressed concern over the growing role in the Beirut government of Hezbollah, the armed Shi’ite group backed by Iran and listed as a terrorist organization by the United States.”
One official told Reuters that Lebanon desperately needs the U.S. assistance, noting the turbulence within its own government and in the region on the whole as reason to provide the aid.
The country has also taken in thousands of Syrian refugees, the official noted, adding that failing to provide assistance could open the door for Russia to move in to Lebanon — particularly after Russia expanded its presence in northern Syria following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region.