I planned to write more about the Congressional Research Service report for Congress entitled “U.S. Foreign Aid to Lebanon: Issues for Congress”, but I couldn’t find enough time to do so. So I’ll just post some quotes and notes from the report with the link to the complete text in case anyone finds it interesting (thanks Pierre)
The Lebanese government and the March 14 coalition have always defended their claim that the support they are promised by the US government is unconditional.
The report begins, in its synopsis, by stating otherwise:
In order to prevent Lebanon’s fragile sectarian political system from imploding and to strengthen pro-Western and anti-Syrian elements, the United States has pledged to significantly increase its assistance to Lebanon. […]
H.R. 1591, the House Appropriation Committee’s FY2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, would fully fund the Administration’s request for aid to Lebanon; however, it would require the Administration to certify to Congress that before assistance is disbursed, the Lebanese government and Administration have fulfilled certain conditions placed on the assistance.
The report’s opening statements highlight the expected normal everyday activity of sectarian rivalry (or worse) that will be commonplace in the promised “New Middle East”:
As a result of conflicts in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, the current state of the Middle East has been frequently described in terms of a growing Sunni-Shiite rivalry in which Sunni Arab and Western governments aim to contain Iran’s pan-Shiite foreign policy. When applied to Lebanon, this narrative is becoming an increasing reality. […]
Since 2005, the Administration has pursued a policy of strengthening the pro-Western elements of the Lebanese government. Critics charge that the United States may be fueling civil strife in Lebanon by taking sides in Lebanon’s complex political mosaic.
When we read about the role of the Lebanese Armed Forces and the reason why is it being strengthened, we may understand the repeated calls by March 14 leaders to change, among other things, the LAF.
The Bush Administration, which has sought to pull Lebanon away from Syria’s orbit, has pledged to strengthen the LAF as a military counterweight to Hezbollah, Syria’s and Iran’s primary interlocutor in Lebanon.
Although the report mentioned that the LAF has reformed and managed to integrate Lebanese across sects under the leadership of non other than the current President Lahoud:
During Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, sectarian politics fractured the LAF along sectarian lines. In the 1990s, it was eventually reformed and restructured by General Emile Lahoud, the current pro-Syrian President of Lebanon. In 1997, Christian and Muslim brigades were integrated, and military units were regularly rotated between regions to shield soldiers from political influences. Lahoud also instituted national conscription, although that policy ended in early 2007.
One of the new roles of the LAF will be:
promote Lebanese control over southern Lebanon and Palestinian refugee camps to prevent them from being used as bases to attack Israel.
Lebanon is simply a battle ground between the US and its allies on one side and Iran with its allies on the other:
The battle for political primacy in Lebanon waged by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s March 14 government coalition and its U.S., European, and Saudi supporters against Hezbollah, Michel Aoun, and their foreign patrons in Syria and Iran is being fought on a number of different fronts, including in the economic arena.
But the US aid and support has its conditions, some of them being:
U.S. economic aid would reportedly be requested in the FY2007 supplemental request under ESF assistance and may be tied to certain benchmarks that the Siniora government would be required to meet. To assuage donors’ fears that foreign assistance would be mismanaged, Prime Minister Siniora has developed an economic reform plan designed to lower Lebanon’s crippling $41 billion public debt (which costs nearly $3 billion a year in interest payments or nearly 40% of the national budget), decrease public subsidies, privatize the electricity and telecommunications sectors, and increase the Value Added Tax (VAT) from 10% to 12%. […]
The Committee is concerned that the government of Lebanon has not fully implemented Section 14 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 and is concerned about reports of continuing arms shipments from Syria into Lebanon.
But my all time favorite condition is:
H.R. 1591 also specifies that no less than $10 million in FY2007 ESF funds be
made available for scholarships and direct support of American educational
institutions in Lebanon.
And my friend Z was complaining about some Lebanese learning the Iranian (Persian) language.
Just think about it. All this is happening on a little more than 200 km strip of coastal land on the Mediterranean with a total area of 10452 sq km.
Now convince me that Lebanon is not ‘qut3it sama’.