President Donald Trump s administration said Monday it has released $100 million in military assistance to Lebanon that had been quietly frozen for months amid U.S. complaints about the clout of Hezbollah.
The $105 million in Foreign Military Financing funds for the Lebanese Armed Forces was released last week.
It was already approved by Congress and was backed by the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council, said the AP.
A congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the assistance has been unblocked by the White House's Office of Management and Budget.
In this context, another former U.S. 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.
"The money is good to go", the State Department official said.
The State Department's No. 3 official, David Hale, told House investigators as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump that the hold may have dated back as far as June. Hale described growing consternation among diplomats about the delay.
The money had been on hold without explanation at the Office of Management and Budget since September.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, unlike Ukraine, there has been no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking "a favor" from Lebanon in exchange for the aid, according to officials familiar with the matter. Murphy compared the situation to Trump's hold on security assistance to Ukraine, warning that doing so could benefit United States adversaries while harming important partners.
The aid is meant to help counter Iran's influence in Lebanon, which is highlighted by the presence of the Iranian-supported Shiite Hezbollah movement in the government and the group's militias, officials have said.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and recently traveled to Lebanon, said there was "no legitimate security rationale to withhold funding". Murphy said in response to the release.
Hale said during congressional testimony that there had been some disagreements about the efficacy of US aid to the Lebanese armed forces. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, introduced a bill calling for the United States to withhold 20% of USA aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, or LAF, until the military outfit could certify it was taking steps to cut ties with Hezbollah.