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Reconsider American Support for the Lebanese Army

Jan. 26 2018

Last week, a Lebanese military tribunal sentenced a journalist named Hanin Ghaddar—currently a fellow at a U.S. think tank—to six months in prison for the crime of “defaming the army.” The trial was held in absentia and closed to the public. Although a Lebanese national, Ghaddar (along with her son) is now effectively unable to return to Lebanon to see her family. Elliott Abrams explains why this case should be a cause of concern for the U.S.:

Americans should realize something about [the Lebanese army’s] kangaroo court: we are paying for it! [The U.S.] has given the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) over a billion dollars in military aid, including $123 million in 2017, and Lebanon is the fifth largest recipient of foreign military financing. Our ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, said publicly on October 31 that support for the LAF from State Department and Defense Department accounts totaled $160 million over the previous year.

Whatever we think we are supporting with that aid, surely we do not wish to help pay for a system of military courts that suppress freedom of speech and seek to punish someone for speaking in Washington. It’s worth adding that what Ghaddar said that elicited these attacks on her was the simple truth . . . “that the Lebanese military targets Sunni [terrorist] groups while showing preference to Shiite groups, such as Hizballah.”

When Congress next takes up military aid for Lebanon, this effort to suppress free speech—and to make telling the truth about Hizballah’s role in Lebanon illegal—should be item number one.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen