WASHINGTON – Some members of Congress are threatening to reassess US aid to the
Lebanese military following its border clash with Israel on Tuesday.
start shooting as they did – one person killed, one seriously injured – is a
very serious move by the Lebanese army,” said Florida Rep. Ron Klein, who sits
on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in response to a question from The
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“It certainly is going to come up in our conversations in
the Congress about the continued support of the Lebanese Army,” he
Klein was speaking by phone from Israel, where he happened to be
visiting when the incident, which also left two Lebanese soldiers and a
journalist dead, took place.
He noted that the UN had confirmed that
Israel was operating in its territory while cutting down a tree along the
border, when the Lebanese army opened fire.
Klein indicated the degree to
which higher-ups had been involved would affect Congress’s view.
fact it’s factually shown that this was a Lebanese government authorized action,
I think a lot of members would be very concerned about continuing to provide
military support to Lebanon,” he said. “I certainly would be.”
the US approved $100 million in assistance to the Lebanese military, as well as
$109m. in economic aid and $20m. in anti-narcotics funds. The Obama
administration has requested the same levels for 2011, with small increases for
anti-narcotics, anti-terror and military training programs.
Department representative declined to respond to a Post query about whether the
incident would affect US aid to Lebanon, or to otherwise address the concerns
being expressed in Congress.
The subcommittee dealing with foreign
operations has already approved the funds for 2011, but it will only be reviewed
and voted on by the full Appropriations Committee once Congress returns from its
“One of the purposes of aid to Lebanon is to
professionalize its military so incidents like this do not happen.Congress will
surely look closely at this assistance as the situation unfolds,” said one
Democratic Capitol Hill aide in anticipating how the full committee review would
“Whenever there’s somebody who receives foreign aid of any kind from
the United States who has a conflict with any of our close allies, especially in
the Middle East, which is such a volatile region, you absolutely rethink US
support,” a congressional staffer with the foreign operations subcommittee
But he echoed Klein’s position that the extent to which Tuesday’s
shooting was authorized by superiors would affect the steps Congress
“When you have the UN standing up for Israel, clearly the Lebanese
army made a mistake,” he said.
“The question is, how high up does it go?
Was it premeditated? Are the Lebanese soldiers going to be reprimanded?” he
“If soldiers were out of line, that’s one thing. If it comes from
the top, that’s another.”
But either way, the committee staffer pointed
out that the realities of the Middle East would still likely result in some
level of American aid directed to the Lebanese military.
“It doesn’t mean
there’s going to be a certain reduction, because unfortunately for that region
it’s the lesser of two evils.
We’d much rather work with the army than