By Caroline Glick, JPost—
Since 2006 — the end of the Second Lebanon War — the U.S. has transferred advanced arms to the (LAF) worth $1.5 billion. The U.S. has also trained 32,000 LAF troops and officers.
Over the past 18 months, the shipments have included a startling array of advanced weapons, including: six A-29 Super Tucanos aircraft, six new MD 530G light attack helicopters, six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles, 32 Bradley M1A2 fighting vehicles, 200 MK-19 Automatic Grenade Launchers, and 827 Copperhead artillery rounds.
Last August, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard announced that over the previous 12 months, the U.S. had provided the LAF with 40 M198 howitzers; 50 armored Humvees; an armed Cessna aircraft, with Hellfire missiles; 55 mortar systems; 50 Mark-19 automatic grenade launchers; 1100 marching guns, including 800 50-caliber machine guns; 4,000 M4 carbines; over half a million rounds of ammunition; 320 night vision devices and thermal sights; and 360 secure communications radios.
As Badran noted at the time, Richard’s list corresponded with Hezbollah’s wish list. Indeed, last month federal authorities charged three men with illegally exporting drone parts and other material to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The three men reportedly “conspired and attempted to export goods including inertial measurement units suitable for use in drones, a jet engine, piston engines and recording binoculars to Hezbollah in Lebanon from 2009 to 2013.”
In other words, between 2009 and 2013, the three Hezbollah agents in the U.S. conspired to provide Hezbollah with precisely the armaments the U.S. has just provided for Hezbollah’s front group in Lebanon – the Lebanese military.
Rather than accept the abundant evidence that the LAF is controlled by Hezbollah, like the Obama administration, the Trump administration insists that the LAF and the Lebanese government are independent institutions and that the U.S. supports both as a counterweight to Hezbollah.
Speaking at a security conference in Tel Aviv in January, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield stunned his audience when he said, “We will sustain our efforts to support legitimate state security institutions in Lebanon, such as the Lebanese Armed Forces, which is the only legitimate force in Lebanon.”
He added that the LAF “could well serve as a counterweight to Hezbollah’s desire to expand its own influence there, as well as Iran’s reach in Lebanon.”
Likewise, during his trip to the Middle East last month, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to indicate that the Trump administration accepts Hezbollah’s legitimacy in Lebanon. Tillerson said, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they [Hezbollah] are also part of the political process in Lebanon.”
After giving a nod to Hezbollah, Tillerson travelled to Beirut. There, he was subjected to public humiliation as Lebanon’s Hezbollah-controlled president Michael Aoun kept Tillerson waiting uncomfortably in front of cameras before he came out to greet him.
During his meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saed Hariri, Tillerson ignored the fact that Hezbollah is the controlling faction inside the Lebanese government and that it enjoys a collaborative — indeed, a commanding — relationship with the LAF. Pretending these hard truths away, while clinging to the myth of Lebanese governmental and military independence, Tillerson said, “Lebanon will never be truly strong and stable as long as Hezbollah continues to act outside the confines of the Lebanese government. Its provocations at the behest of its regional masters like Iran ultimately put the Lebanese people at risk.”
He added, “It is unacceptable for a militia like Hezbollah to operate outside the authority of the Lebanese government. The only legitimate defender of the Lebanese state is the Lebanese Armed Forces.” The U.S., Tillerson said, “has considered Hezbollah a terrorist organization for over two decades.”
Trump administration officials tell Breitbart News that despite America’s continuous supply of advanced weapons to the LAF, President Trump will not bat an eyelash if Israel destroys all of the weapons the U.S. has supplied Lebanon in a future war.
But there are two problems with that assurance. First, Israeli military officials are concerned that America’s vast investment in the myth of LAF independence will cause Washington to demand that Israel not strike LAF facilities and forces in the coming war with Hezbollah. Second, the very fact that the military forces arrayed against Israel in Lebanon are equipped with advanced U.S. weapons systems means that the threat against Israel is much greater than it otherwise would have been.
In other words, American military assistance to the LAF is not possible to dismiss. It significantly degrades Israel’s military position vis-à-vis Hezbollah and Iran in Lebanon.
Senator Graham told Fox News that he is scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis this week to discuss his concerns about Iran’s growing control over Syria and the threat to Israel in southern Lebanon.
Graham said, “I will meet with General Mattis and tell him that seven senators – four Democrats and three Republicans — believe that Israel is in a no-win situation. The United Nations has failed miserably to protect Israel’s border regarding Lebanon and southern Lebanon. And it’s just a matter of time until Israel has to use military force. And the message is: You need to come up with a policy not just to destroy ISIL but to counter Iran.”
In other words, a year into the Trump administration, there is bipartisan support for Trump and his advisers to end Obama’s policy of supporting Iran and its proxies in Syria and Lebanon, and stand with Israel.
It is well past time — and indeed, it is urgent — that the administration heed the message.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.