In July 2006, the terrorist organization Hezbollah, backed by Iran and operating in Southern Lebanon, launched an attack on Israel during which they killed eight Israeli soldiers and kidnapped two. In doing so, they started a month-long war with Israel that created chaos and tragedy in both Lebanon and Israel. It was in this environment that the United Nations brokered a ceasefire under UN Resolution 1701, which created a buffer zone between the United Nations-drawn Blue Line in southern Lebanon and the Litani River in which neither Hezbollah nor the IDF could operate. Lebanon was called upon to cooperate with Israel in order to defeat Hezbollah and prevent the seeds of extremism from taking root inside its borders.
Since 2006, Hezbollah has only grown in power and influence, receiving funds and weapons from Iran and taking root in Lebanon by filling the void that its bankrupt government has left. Over the past several years, Hezbollah has received anywhere from $200 to $700 million per year from Iran depending on Iran’s financial situation, along with supplies and over 150,000 missiles. Hezbollah has become institutionalized in Lebanon, winning half of the seats in the Lebanese parliament and recently acquiring two ministry portfolios in its government in the 2020 elections. Even the current Lebanese prime minister, Hassan Diab is seen as an agent of Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a Shi’ite organization and the prime minister of Lebanon is constitutionally required to be a Sunni. However, Diab, a Sunni, was nominated by Hezbollah for his position seemingly because of his willingness to comply with their agenda. The nomination of Diab prompted widespread protests among Sunni Muslims in Lebanon who insisted that Diab represented Hezbollah’s interests over the interests of the Sunnis he is supposed to represent. Hezbollah is widely seen as propping up the government, which is bankrupt and would likely fail without the financial strength of the terrorist organization.
Despite UN Resolution 1701, which created mechanisms for Israeli and Lebanese cooperation in stopping Hezbollah, Hezbollah and the LAF have cooperated increasingly closely over the past decade. Israeli intelligence has found that the LAF and Hezbollah conduct joint patrols with Hezbollah operatives dressed in official LAF uniforms provided to them by Lebanon. Hezbollah officials have key positions in the LAF, especially along Lebanon’s border with Israel.
A picture from the official LAF website promoting – not opposing – Hezbollah fighters and their flag.
According to the US State Department, “In FY 2019, the United States provided $218 million in combined Department of State and Department of Defense (DoD) military grant assistance. This includes $105 million in Foreign Military Financing, $3 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET), and $110 million in DoD-authorized funding.” On top of this direct funding, the US has sold the LAF $1.4 billion of military equipment, including missiles and aircraft. The State Department maintains that the LAF has been “a pillar of stability” since 2006 and that the US counts on Lebanon in its fights against ISIS, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. However, the LAF has continued to cooperate with and rely on Hezbollah, rather than combatting this terrorist organization as the US expects from an ally it is giving billions of dollars in aid and weapons to combat terrorism.
The US claims that it does everything in its power to keep weapons in the hands of trusted allies in the LAF through End Use Monitoring, a process that involves inventorying arms sold to Lebanon each year. However, in a 2014 report, the US Government Accountability Office found that there are “gaps in efforts to document and monitor physical security of some U.S. equipment transferred to Lebanese security forces that may weaken efforts to safeguard physical security of some equipment.” The LAF and Hezbollah are simply too intertwined to discern where US arms are ending up, as can be seen in images of Hezbollah showing off US-made armored personnel carriers in 2016.
American-made tanks in Syria displaying Hezbollah flags in 2016
The close relationship between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government has lead the Arab Gulf nations to refuse sending Diab any aid until the new Lebanese government can prove that it can act independently from Hezbollah. Saudi Arabia has also withheld its pledged $1 billion in aid because of Lebanon’s relationship with Hezbollah, claiming that the reforms it conditioned its aid on have not occurred. The Gulf States and Saudi Arabia have made it clear that if Lebanon is willing to ally so closely with their enemies in Hezbollah and Iran, that is who they will have to turn to save their economy.
On April 30, 2020, Congressman Gregory Steube, along with Congressmen Doug Lamborn, Brian Mast, Scott Perry, Louie Gohmert, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which EMET helped draft, calling for a “reexamination of United States military assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces” due to LAF cooperation with Hezbollah. In the letter, the Congressmen expressed their concern that over $1 billion in taxpayers’ money have gone to Lebanese security assistance while our allies in the Arab world have frozen their aid until the Lebanese government extricates itself from Hezbollah. These representatives recognized the devastating and destabilizing effects that American weapons in the wrong hands could have on the region.
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