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U.S. Wants to Build Up Lebanese Army to Protect the People There and to Stop ‘hostile’ Forces from E

March 4, 1983
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Nicholas Veliotes, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, maintained yesterday that the U.S. wants to build up the Lebanese army so that it can “protect” the people of Lebanon and stop any “hostile” forces from entering that country.

“Any group that would come into Lebanon with a hostile attempt against Israel would also be viewed as having a hostile attempt against Lebanon,” Veliotes said in testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

While he did not spell it out, this apparently is the same argument the U.S. is making to convince the Israeli government to drop its insistence on having military outposts in south Lebanon after the Israeli army withdraws.


Lt. Gen. Philip Gast, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Assistance Agency, told the subcommittee that within two weeks, the Lebanese army will have four brigades of 20,000 men, fully equipped with sophisticated arms bought from the U.S.

But when Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D. Md.) asked if this would allow the U.S. marines to leave Lebanon soon, Gast replied that how long the marines stay in Lebanon will depend on the “peace process”, the withdrawal of foreign forces, how much popular support is given the Lebanese army, and the extent of “mischief” from outside.

Gast said, however, that the four brigades would enable the Lebanese army to make a “contribution” to the security of Lebanon after the withdrawal of Israeli, Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces. But it could not cover all of Lebanon, he said.

The Reagan Administration is asking Congress for a supplemental foreign aid appropriation for 1983 of $251 million for Lebanon. This includes $150 million in economic aid which will be spent in 1983-84, $100 million to allow Lebanon to buy weapons in the U.S. and $1 million to cover the cost of training the Lebanese army.


Robert Basil, chairman of the American Lebanese League’s policy committee, praised the Administration’s efforts to help rebuild Lebanon. He observed, however, that 80-85 percent of the destruction in Lebanon occurred during the “seven years of Syrian-PLO occupation” and only 15 percent resulted from the Israeli invasion last summer.

Thomas Dine, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), stressed that U.S. aid to Israel has declined 63 percent in real terms because of inflation and other factors in the last nine years. United States aid to Israel in 1984, he said, would be one-thirteenth of the American expenditure on NATO “at a fraction of the cost of the support to the security of South Korea. Moreover, unlike many allies, Israel seeks no contribution of U.S. combat forces on its behalf.”

Also testifying yesterday was David Sadd, executive director of the National Association of Arab Americans, who maintained that U.S. aid to Israel “is not encouraging stability and peace in the Middle East.” He urged a “linking” of aid to Israel’s cooperation with U.S. policy in the Middle East.

The Administration is asking $2,485 billion in aid to Israel in 1984, the same as this year. Israel must pay back to the U.S. this year $1.1 billion in debt service.

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