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May 20, 2009
Since 2005, the United States has provided over $600 million in security assistance to the government of Lebanon to increase the capacity of its various security forces to combat terrorism and secure Lebanon's borders against weapons smuggling to Hezbollah and other armed groups.
The recent increase in U.S. security assistance to Lebanon is an extension of a long-standing commitment on the part of the United States to foster a friendly and independent Lebanese government. The Lebanese civil war (1975-1990) was punctuated by targeted bombings against U.S. and Western interests and kidnappings of U.S. and Western civilians in Lebanon. At times, the violence threatened to spill over into adjacent areas of the Middle East, demonstrating the dangers to U.S. interests posed by instability in this small country.
A war between Israel and Hezbollah in mid-2006, subsequent clashes between radical Palestinian militia and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), and ongoing sectarian conflict complicate U.S. support for Lebanon. In a broader sense, ongoing conflict not only jeopardizes the long-term stability of Lebanon, but also presents the United States with a number of pressing policy questions, including how to manage a long-standing commitment to Lebanon with other regional challenges.
Many observers believe that U.S. policy toward Lebanon has succeeded diplomatically in bringing France, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Arabs together in order to thwart Iranian and Syrian influence through their proxy, Hezbollah. Critics, however, charge that U.S. policy has inflamed sectarian tensions and strengthened the resolve of Iran and Syria to maintain their influence in Lebanon.
As Lebanon approaches parliamentary elections, scheduled for June 7, 2009, attention has focused on the future of U.S. policy toward Lebanon and, in particular, the viability of U.S. security assistance as a tool of that policy. This report discusses the variety of current U.S. security assistance programs to Lebanon including objectives, vetting processes, end-use monitoring, and issues for Congress. The last section of this report discusses the upcoming elections and the future of U.S. security assistance to Lebanon. See also CRS Report R40054, Lebanon: Background and U.S. Relations, by Casey L. Addis.
Contents Background U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon U.S. Military Assistance to the LAF International Military and Education Training (IMET) Section 1206 Foreign Military Financing (FMF) U.S. Military Assistance to the ISF Training Equipment Infrastructure Issues for Congress Vetting and End-Use Monitoring The LAF as a National Institution The Effectiveness of U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon 2009 Parliamentary Elections and the Future of U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon Contacts Author Contact Information
The United States has historically sought a stable, democratic Lebanon free from Syrian and other foreign influence. In 2005, after the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon prompted Syrian withdrawal from Lebanese territory and brought an anti-Syrian and pro-Western government to power, the United States initiated a program of assistance to support Lebanon's government. After the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the United States refocused its policy toward supporting the Lebanese government along with the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF) and enabling them to assert control over the entire territory of the country. (1) To that end, the Bush Administration requested and Congress appropriated an expanded program of security assistance to the LAF and ISF. Since then, U.S. policy and, in particular, U.S. security assistance to Lebanon, has been designed to increase the operational capacity of the LAF and ISF so that they can maintain law and order in times of political turmoil and secure Lebanon's borders against smuggling and, in particular, against the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and other nonstate actors.
U.S. Security Assistance to Lebanon
The Bush Administration's 2006 request for increased U.S. military assistance to Lebanon marked the third time in the last 25 years that the United States has sought to expand military cooperation with the Lebanese government. In the early 1980s the United States provided between $145 and $190 million in grants and loans to the LAF, primarily for training and equipment during the civil war. In the early 1990s, at the end of Lebanon's civil war, the United States again provided military aid, primarily in the form of non-lethal equipment (such as armored personnel carriers and transport helicopters) through the U.S. Department of Defense's sale of Excess Defense Articles (EDA).
For the first time since 1984, President Bush requested Foreign Military Financing (FMF) grants to Lebanon in the FY2006 foreign affairs budget. Originally, he sought approximately $1.0 million in FMF for FY 2006 and $4.8 million for FY 2007 to help modernize the small and poorly equipped LAF following Syria's withdrawal of its 15,000-person occupation force in 2005. However, the summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah spurred Western donors to increase their assistance to the LAF. Drawing from multiple budget accounts, the Bush Administration ultimately reprogrammed an estimated $42 million to provide spare parts, technical training, and new equipment to the LAF. (2)
The FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-28) (3) included over $220 million in FMF for Lebanon, a significant increase from previous levels. The request also included an additional $60 million in International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement assistance (INCLE) to train and equip Lebanon's ISF. In addition, Section 1206 assistance to Lebanon increased in FY2007 to $30.6 million from the FY2006 level of $10.6 million (See "Section 1206" below). According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. security assistance would:
promote Lebanese control over southern Lebanon and Palestinian refugee camps to prevent them from being used as bases to …