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August 28, 2006
Lantos: No Lebanon Aid Until Beirut Acts Responsibly

Rep. Tom Lantos wants Congress to perform the task that the United Nations appears unwilling or incapable of doing: forcing Lebanon to take responsibility for its own sovereignty. The ranking member of the House International Relations Committee wants to suspend aid to Lebanon until the Fuad Siniora government agrees to fully implement UN Security Council Resolution 1701:

A congressman said Sunday he would ask the U.S. administration to freeze the $230 million aid package to Lebanon proposed by President Bush until the Lebanese government takes control of its borders with Syria and prevents arms smuggling to Hezbollah guerrillas. ...

Lantos said he told Olmert the U.S. aid package to Lebanon was important, "but that this package should be withheld until the Lebanese government displays responsibility."

"A porous Syrian-Lebanon border will only invite the repetition of Hezbollah attacks in the future. Hezbollah must not be allowed to rearm again," he said.

This seems to be the right move at this point. With Kofi Annan rapidly retreating from any UN responsibility under 1701 and Siniora trying desperately to give Hezbollah a pass on compliance, it will fall to the member nations to underscore the need for Lebanese compliance. It makes a return trip from Israel by the IDF less likely if Western aid gets tied to the successful implementation of all requirements of the cease-fire.

It does have its risks. Iran has already sent plenty of cash to Hezbollah, which it has used to give large sums of cash to a number of families in the sub-Litani region. A de facto sanctions regime from the West leave Iran as the only benefactor willing to spend big cash in the region to rebuild the damaged infrastructure. That puts even more influence in the hands of the mullahcracy, a situation that neither the US nor Israel wants to encourage.

However, this situation becomes a catch-22 at this point. If the West cuts off aid, then Iranian money buys influence in a market with no competition. If we do not insist on full implementation of 1701, then Hezbollah gets re-armed and re-deployed on the Blue Line and starts conducting provocative attacks again. Either way, Iran can gain, but the odds are better for the West in the former rather than the latter. We want to support real reform in Lebanon, but we do not want to help fund the rebuilding of terrorist infrastructure, which is what our money will allow while Siniora avoids implementing the terms of the cease-fire.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 28, 2006 5:35 AM

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