The Donald Trump administration has lifted a hold on $105 million in security assistance to Lebanon after failing to explain the delay in military aid that could date as far back as June.
The aid was released right before Thanksgiving, and lawmakers were notified on Monday, two congressional staffers and an administration official told The Associated Press.
It was already approved by Congress and was backed by the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council, said the AP. The White House has yet to offer any explanation for the delay despite repeated queries from Congress and the media.
In this context, another former USA ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, in testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month warned of the potential benefits to Iran and Russian Federation from withholding the military funding to Lebanon.More news: Dean Smith: Aston Villa need more belief
A congressional committee aide told Al-Monitor that the U.S. administration gave the State Department guidance last Wednesday that it would not announce that the aid would be released, but did not provide a rationale for disbursing the money.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Murphy compared the situation to Trump's hold on security assistance to Ukraine, warning that doing so could benefit U.S. adversaries while harming important partners. It was likened to the Ukraine aid hold-up, which sparked a full-blown impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
"The delay had frustrated the national security community, which believes the assistance that pays for USA -made military equipment for the Lebanese army is essential, particularly as Lebanon reels from financial chaos and mass protests".
Democrat Sen. Chris Murphy called the report "stunning", saying holding the money weakened the Lebanese army.More news: Eva Longoria: 'Gabrielle Union's firing is unacceptable'
"The military assistance now under review should be rapidly released", Feltman said to House lawmakers last month.
"There's literally nothing in the Middle East this White House can't screw up (State and DoD opposed the hold FYI)", Murphy wrote on Twitter.
"I m pleased to see this critical aid finally resuming".
Hale said during congressional testimony that there had been some disagreements about the efficacy of USA aid to the Lebanese armed forces. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has long advocated cutting the assistance and is expected to introduce legislation that would bar such aid as long as Hezbollah is part of Lebanon's government.More news: Trump says China trade deal might have to wait for 2020 election