White House Lifts Mysterious Hold on Military Aid to Lebanon

Both the State Department and Pentagon, however, have pushed to ensure that aid continues to flow to the Lebanese Armed Forces, arguing that the military serves as a significant counterweight to both Hezbollah and Sunni extremist elements. The military is a multisectarian part of the government.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, traveled last week to the American Embassy in Lebanon. Mr. Murphy said in a statement on Monday afternoon that he was “relieved” the aid was unfrozen. But Monday morning, before news agencies reported that the hold had been lifted, he criticized the administration’s decision.

“It was very clear in Ukraine what they needed to do to get the money released. When I was there” in Lebanon, he said in an interview, “it was very murky. I went there, and all we knew was that the money was not flowing and no one would say on the record why.”

The aid to Lebanon had been held since at least late June, around the same period the aid to Ukraine was frozen, according to David Hale, the third-ranking official at the State Department. Mr. Hale talked with lawmakers during a closed-door House impeachment inquiry hearing on Nov. 6 about the holds on aid to the two countries, according to a transcript.

He said that on July 23, he learned via an email that the top State Department official in charge of Middle East policy had spoken to an official at the Pentagon about the mystery over the delays in Lebanon and Ukraine aid. The “two of them speculated, was this a new normal on assistance?” Mr. Hale said.

“The aid package to Lebanon was also being held in the same fashion,” Mr. Hale said.

He added that there was a wider review of foreign assistance taking place “to re-establish the norms that guide the assistance that we provide overseas.”

It was on July 23, he said, that the Office of Management and Budget said in a lower-level interagency meeting that the Ukraine aid had been suspended. He said the State Department was never given formal or informal communication about the rationale for the suspension of military aid to Lebanon.

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