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Wednesday, January 26, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

As Hizbullah gains power, Congress scrutinizes military aid to Lebanon

WASHINGTON — For the first time, the United States has warned of ending its military and security programs in Lebanon.


The administration of President Barack Obama, under pressure from Congress, has raised the prospect that it would end U.S. military and security aid for a Lebanese government dominated by Hizbullah. Officials said this could block plans to deliver a range of military platforms to the Lebanese Army in 2011.

"The larger the role played by Hizbullah in this government the more problematic our relationship will be," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

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On Jan. 25, the Lebanese parliament voted to appoint a pro-Syrian tycoon to replace Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Najib Mikati, promoted by Hizbullah, won a majority in the 128-member parliament to become the prime minister of what appeared to be a Hizbullah-dominated government, Middle East Newsline reported. The vote came amid violent Sunni protests of Hizbullah's successful campaign to depose Hariri.

"This is a democratic process," Mikati said. "I want to rescue my country."

In a briefing on Jan. 24, Crowley acknowledged the prospect that U.S. law would not enable the continuation of military and security aid to Beirut. The Iranian-sponsored Hizbullah, which achieved a majority for the next Lebanese government, has been deemed a terrorist organization by the State Department.

"Our view of Hizbullah is very well-known," Crowley said. "We see it as a terrorist organization, and would have great concerns about a government within which Hizbullah plays a leading role."

Since 2006, the United States has supplied about $750 million in military and security aid to Lebanon. In 2010, Washington supplied the first heavy weapons to the Lebanese Army.

Crowley's statement came about a week after the State Department insisted that it would continue military and security assistance to Lebanon despite the collapse of the Hariri government. At the time, officials said they envisioned that Hariri could continue to be head of a caretaker government for much of 2011.

"A Hizbullah-controlled government would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Jan. 25. "As we see what this new government does, we will judge it accordingly."

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