WASHINGTON – Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman announced a hold has been placed on military aid to Lebanon and asserted that Hezbollah's involvement in Lebanese military affairs must be thoroughly investigated.
"I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon," wrote Berman.
The aid suspension was decided on a day before the border skirmish between the IDF and the Lebanese army during which four people were killed, including Lt. Col. Dov Harari. The incident, according to Berman, only reinforced the need for the committee's decision.
"The incident on the Israel-Lebanon border only one day after my hold was placed simply reinforces the critical need for the United States to conduct an in-depth policy review of its relationship with the Lebanese military," explained Berman.
The US provides about $100 million of special military aid to Beirut every year.
Berman said in the statement he issued, "I have been concerned for sometime about reported Hizballah influence on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and its implications for our military assistance program for Lebanon. For that reason, on August 2, I placed a hold on a $100 million dollar security assistance package to the LAF."
Berman continued, "I strongly condemn the unprovoked attacked by the Lebanese Army that resulted in the death of an Israeli officer. Until we know more about this incident and the nature of Hizballah influence on the LAF -- and can assure that the LAF is a responsible actor -- I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon."
Hezbollah, as far as can be ascertained, was not involved in last week's exchange of fire on the border. However, the IDF has mentioned following the incident that the organization's influence on the Lebanese army is intensifying.
The decisive stance expressed by Berman is in opposition to the official stance of the US administration, which continues to assert that aid to the Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri acts as a counterweight against Hezbollah and other armed militias operating in the country.
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