Friday, December 22, 2006

U.S. Security Package For Lebanon

A new International Crisis Group paper, Lebanon at a Tripwire, deals with the conflict between the U.S. and Iran/Syria which is playing out today in Lebanon.

There is domestic responsibility for the crisis. Profound confessional rifts were never fully healed after the civil war; society is hopelessly fragmented along clan, family, regional, social and ideological lines; there are no genuinely sovereign, credible and strong state institutions; and above all, a corrupt patronage system has created vested interests in perpetuating both sectarianism and a weak central state.

But the principal contributors to today’s conflict are foreign. Lebanon is vital to the Bush administration's regional strategy, Israel’s security, Tehran's ambitions and the Syrian regime's core interests. As the July war reminded everyone, it is also a surrogate for regional and international conflicts: Syria against Israel; the U.S. administration against the Syrian regime; pro-Western Sunni Arab regimes led by Saudi Arabia against ascendant Iran and Shiite militancy; and, hovering above it all, Washington against Tehran.

Right on schedule, the U.S. is coming through for the team.

The United States is preparing a package of almost $500 million in aid for Lebanon's military and police to help strengthen the security forces, part of almost $1 billion in total U.S. assistance to help the beleaguered Lebanese government, according to U.S. officials. ...

Although U.S. officials say the final details have to be worked out, the aid package is likely to be divided about evenly among training, spare parts and ammunition. The leadership training will probably be done by contract workers rather than by the U.S. military. U.S. Army trainers attempted to retrain and reform the Lebanese army in the early 1980s, but they achieved limited results because of sectarian divisions and other problems in the military. ...

The aid increase is one of the largest outside Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years. Until this year, U.S. aid for Lebanese security forces hovered around $2 million to $3 million a year, and training has been limited to 60 to 100 military officers, U.S. officials say. This year, it has increased to roughly $44 million.

The train-and-equip package includes about 300 Humvees that the United States has pledged to deliver by the spring, with up to another 700 Humvees coming during the year, the sources said.


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