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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

 

The Trump Administration Has Said the Right Things about Syria, but Words Are Not Enough

Jan. 30 2018

While praising the White House for recognizing that Iran poses a major threat to American interests in Syria, Jennifer Cafarella argues that Washington still needs a strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and its allies:

The Trump White House identifies Iran as a primary threat. It has verbally committed to the departure from power of Bashar al-Assad. It claims to prioritize repairing relations with Turkey, seeks to destroy al-Qaeda, and wants to refocus the U.S. on Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. These are the correct goals toward which American policy should strive. . . . The problem is that the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined [in a January 17 speech] will not accomplish these goals. . . .

American policy in Syria, regardless of any tough administration statements, is to accept Assad and his regime de-facto. . . . The “de-escalation” agreement that President Trump signed in November 2017 with Russia is a surrender not only to Russia, but also to Iran. It heavily favors Assad. In that deal, Russia promised to compel Iran to withdraw its forces from southern Syria. It never happened. Pro-regime forces violate the de-escalation zone with impunity. . . .

Tillerson uses vague terms like “deny their dreams” to describe our strategy against Iran in Syria. He identifies no clear goal against which the U.S. can measure success. He states that the U.S. must deliver an “enduring defeat” to al-Qaeda—and we certainly must. Yet the U.S. Defense Department has offered no vision of how to do that. The strategy Tillerson outlines—and that the U.S. is pursuing—amounts to outsourcing the problem to Turkey, which is actually working with al-Qaeda in Syria. . . .

Two administrations have sought to substitute rhetoric for action and to outsource American interests to local partners. The U.S. must abandon this approach and recognize Syria’s importance to American security.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Al Qaeda, Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy