Two interesting stories this week rooted in Lebanon:
Lebanon’s internal intelligence agency appears to have been caught spying on thousands of people — including journalists and military personnel — in more than 20 countries, according to researchers at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Lookout, a mobile security company.
In a rare article published on Arabic-language media, IDF spokesperson warns Lebanese civilians of possible war if Iran develops precision weapons in Lebanon and if Hezbollah takes control of the political system there …
The United States taxpayer sends hundreds of millions a year of their hard-earned money to colleagues in Lebanon in the form of several types of foreign assistance. According to Uncle Sam:
U.S. foreign assistance will build the capacity of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) to secure Lebanon’s borders and disrupt and mitigate violent extremism. Non-military assistance will improve the quality and supply of public services, particularly clean water and education. Assistance will also create jobs and boost rural incomes to ensure that all people benefit from new economic opportunities …
The bulk of the money is used to sell or finance U.S. defense exports to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Why do we do it? The reasons are many and, well, complicated. If you would like to learn more about it, there was a Congressional hearing on October 11, 2017, that you would find interesting.
Advocates of sending U.S. military equipment and providing defense services to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) claim that, without it, the strategic balance in the region would suffer. It is a very persuasive argument; however, in light of new realities a bit stale.
Meanwhile, opponents of sending U.S. taxpayer monies to the LAF claim it is too high a price to pay, primarily since, they argue, Iran proxy and terrorist group Hizbollah is the de facto ruler of Beirut. Also a strong argument, but it simplifies matters in a place of the world where things are not as black and white as folks think it is.
By the way, for those of you who follow Latin America matters, Hizbollah has been making trouble for years in Latin America and the Caribbean. With the support of state sponsor of terror Iran, Hizbollah operatives have embedded themselves in several Latin American nations.
Iran uses Hizbollah and Hizbollah uses Iran to create many problems for America and other defenders of liberty in the Western Hemisphere. So anytime I read stories about shenanigans in Hizbollah’s home base, Beirut, I’m reminded of how events 5,824 miles away impact us right here.
Whatever the case may be about U.S. assistance to Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces, there is no doubt that trouble has brewed in Lebanon for some time. Decades. How could it be any other way? When you make a deal with the Devil, sooner or later, you’re going to get burned.
If they want to keep receiving American money, the Lebanese government can and must do better. The old ways and excuses are no longer good enough. Who knows, if they fail to do so, they may find a similar fate as Pakistan. Time is wasting with old school politics and approaches to regional challenges. As we say in these parts, pick a lane.
And for our friends in Latin America, you, too, can do much better. When will allies in South America, at least one, do as the United States has done and designate Hizbollah, a terrorist organization? When will partners throughout the region impose sanctions on Hizbollah and those who support them? How about breaking relations or conditioning relations with Hizbollah’s chief sponsor, Iran? A lot more must and should be done.
The Congress and Trump administration should remind recipients of U.S. foreign assistance that access to the U.S. market is a privilege, not right. If necessary, condition the aid with requests for assistance on these matters.