CATF Reports Aug. 10, 2016, 9:06am

Elaph, an Arabic-language journal based in London, has claimed that new intelligence of close cooperation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah has led the U.S. to consider suspending military aid to Lebanon, a move that has been strongly opposed by the U.S. in recent times. Over the last decade, U.S. support to Lebanon’s army has surpassed $1.4 billion and has been focused on furthering the army’s control over its borders and stifling terrorist attacks. However, the future of the extensive U.S. aid has come into question after Saudi weapons intended for the army were reportedly transferred to Hezbollah by Yahya al-Husseini, the head of security in the southern Lebanese region of Hasbaya.

Elaph’s report comes months after the GCC labeled Hezbollah a terrorist organization and Saudi Arabia withheld billions in aid to the Mediterranean country and banned its citizens from traveling to Lebanon. Riyadh’s unexpected decision to halt its $4 billion payment of military aid is believed to stem from Lebanon’s unwillingness to endorse official statements of condemnation of the ransacking of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, growing Iranian influence in Lebanon, and the Hezbollah’s continued role of supporting the Syrian regime. On the other hand, the Obama administration chose to continue its support for the Lebanese army by requesting $105 million in foreign military financing for the FY2017 budget to support LAF’s “ability to secure the border and national territory against extremist threats, including ISIL and al-Nusra.”

Elaph’s recent report casts doubts over the future of the U.S.-Lebanon relationship. While withholding military aid from Lebanon would likely constitute a blow to the country’s economy and the army’s efforts against extremist groups operating along the border with Syria, reports of sophisticated American systems falling into the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization should not be taken lightly. It seems unlikely that the U.S. would follow Saudi Arabia’s decision to withhold its military aid even if such reports are confirmed, but talk of cooperation with Hezbollah from within Lebanon’s army will certainly concern the U.S. and its regional allies.

From Elaph (English translation by CATF):

“The U.S. is considering the possibility of suspending military aid to Lebanon after receiving intelligence of close cooperation between the Lebanese army and Hezbollah (which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization). The U.S. is studying this matter with staff from the Lebanese government after receiving information regarding the transfer of weapons from Saudi Arabian military assistance that was delivered to Hezbollah.

It was a senior Shiite Lebanese officer, named Yahya al-Husseini who serves as the head of security in the southern Hasbaya region, who transferred the weapons to Hezbollah and has made the U.S. fear that their weapons may be used against them in the region, in Syria, or against U.S. targets in Lebanon.”

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