August 11, 2010

ADDENDUM to: Lebanon - Let's not overreact

A few days ago I published an article with the title/plea Lebanon - Let's not overreact, hoping that our representatives in Congress would not do something that plays right into the hands of our enemies. Unfortunately, there are a few uninfomred souls who do not subscribe to Middle East Perspectives.

Less than a week after the border clash between soldiers of the Lebanese Army and Israel Defense Forces, at least two members of Congress have chosen to overreact. Two prominent Democrat Jewish members, Howard L. Berman (California), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Nita M. Lowey (New York), chairwoman of the Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, froze military aid to Lebanon because the money provided by the United States might be used to buy arms that could be turned against Israel. Berman said, "I cannot in good conscience allow the United States to continue sending weapons to Lebanon."

The argument fails on many levels, but just a few here before I move on to the real problem with this knee-jerk reaction. First, money is a fungible commodity. If the Lebanese are going to buy weapons, they will use money from other sources and not the American-provided money. The net result is the same. Secondly, I am sure the Lebanese do not have weapons designated to be used against specific targets, like this batch of rifles will only be used against Palestinian extremists, this batch against Hizballah, etc. It is as ridiculous as it sounds.

In my article, here is what I wrote:

"If some of these representatives in Congress have their way and the assistance is not provided to the Lebanese armed forces and government, where will they turn for money, weapons and training? No doubt this will force them even more into the sphere of influence of Syria and Iran. The key beneficiary here will be Hizballah, already arguably the key power broker in the country."

Not one day after the pronouncement by the two representatives, Iran announced that it would make up the shortfalls created by the loss of the American aid. Iran's ambassador to Lebanon, Ghazanfar Abadi, told Lebanese army chief Jean Kahwaji that Tehran was renewing their offer to replace all U.S. aid to the country. The Lebanese defense minister basically told the United States to keep any money that comes with conditions.

It's a smart move for Iran. Lebanon needs the $100 million promised by the United States to maintain and upgrade its army. Allowing Iran to fill that vacuum is abandoning the army to the primary sponsor of Hizballah. This will be yet another step in Hizballah becoming the key power broker in the country.

It's not a real smart move for the United States. If the United States chooses not to have a role, it is ceding all of its influence in Lebanon directly to Iran. As with its nuclear program, Tehran seems to have outmaneuvered the Obama Administration once again.