Now that Lebanon has a government dominated by allies of Hezbollah, a bipartisan group of Congressmen think maybe it’s time to curtail US aid, Josh Rogin reports:
Now Howard Berman (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is pushing a bill to end almost all U.S. assistance to Lebanon. He’s joined by the top Lebanese-Americans in Congress, including Darrell Issa (R-CA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), and Nick Rahall (D-WV).
His bill, the Hezbollah Anti-Terrorism Act (HATA), is modeled on Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act (PATA) that Congress passed after Hamas won the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council…
Berman had put a hold on assistance to Lebanon last summer, but later allowed the money to go through because he wanted to strengthen the LAF in its internal struggle against Hezbollah. But now the situation is totally different and he won’t back off, he said.
“The notion that the LAF will remain an island of independence under a government that is dominated and welded together by Hezbollah is a very different proposition,” he said.
Berman’s bill would still allow support for rule of law and democracy programs, educational funding, and even training of Lebanese forces in America under the IMET program. The president would also be able to waive restrictions in the law in cases that were deemed to be in the national security interests of the U.S.
His GOP counterpart, HFAC chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) is generally supportive of the idea and is considering supporting the bill, Berman said.
Of course, when it comes to dealing with Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon, adjusting foreign aid to Beirut is no substitute for a strategy toward Hezbollah’s sponsors in Tehran and Damascus. On the latter, Lee Smith (who argues that the composition of the new Lebanese government undermines a pet theory of Obama counterterrorism czar John Brennan’s) explains some of the steps for putting pressure on Assad that the Obama administration has so far declined to take.