Anger in Lebanon as US Aid Called into Question
Lebanese politicians reacted angrily Saturday to what they alleged was “a campaign to prevent the army from being properly equipped.” They appeared to be referring to calls from Israel to restrict the sale of advanced weapons to the Lebanese army, and to fears that the United States may reduce military funding.
"The cabinet will draw up a plan to equip the army with all the weaponry it needs, and without taking the attitude of certain countries into account,” said Lebanese President Michel Suleiman. A statement from Suleiman's office said he would turn to “neighboring and friendly states” to obtain “all kinds of arms that will allow him to defend the country.”
MP Ali Khreis accused members of the US Congress of talking about “halting aid to the Lebanese Army because it challenged Israeli aggression.” The US “always supported Israel,” he said.
According to US officials in Beirut, America is planning to give Lebanon 100 million dollars in military aid this year.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak complained to the United States and France last week over weapons sales to Lebanon following a border clash Tuesday that broke out when Lebanese soldiers opened fire on IDF troops on the Israeli side of the border.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley later said there is “no evidence that the Lebanese army used American-made weapons” in the attack on Israeli troops. He condemned the “unjustified and completely impermissible” shooting, but said the US would continue to provide military support to Lebanon, support which he said contributes to regional stability.
While Crowley attempted to reassure Lebanese lawmakers, a Florida congressman said he expects that Congress will reassess aid to Lebanon in light of the border shooting. Representative Ron Klein, who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, told the Jerusalem Post that the incident “is certainly going to come up in our conversations in the Congress about the continued support of the Lebanese Army.”
Israel's objections to weapons sales to Lebanon predate the border clash. Israeli military leaders have expressed concern that advances weapons given to the Lebanese army could fall into the hands of Syrian-backed terrorist group Hizbullah.