House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., is calling for a cutoff of all U.S. aid to Lebanon's new government, which is dominated by allies of the Hizballah terror organization.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati - appointed head of a caretaker government in January after Hizballah toppled the moderate government headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri - announced the formation of a government in which Hizballah and its allies hold 18 of the 30 positions. Hizballah brought down the government in an effort to derail an investigation of the February 2005 murder of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The Shiite radical group is suspected of involvement in the slaying.
"The U.S. should immediately cut off assistance to the Lebanese government as long as any violent extremist group designated by the U.S. as foreign terror organizations participates in it," Ros-Lehtinen said Monday. She warned that Hizballah and its allies "will control the Lebanese government and likely benefit from the years of U.S. assistance, including to the Lebanese military."
By contrast, Iran and Syria welcomed the news. Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi "congratulated Mikati and the Lebanese people on the formation of the new government," the semi-official Iranian state news agency IRNA reported. Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime continues to commit atrocities against its own people, congratulated Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri on the formation of the new government.
The political breakthrough that made the new government possible was forged by Berri, a Shiite Muslim and longtime ally of Damascus, who relinquished a Shiite-controlled parliamentary seat to a Sunni ally of Damascus.
BBC News noted that for the first time since the Hariri assassination, Lebanon has "a one-sided, mainly pro-Syrian government." While Hizballah itself holds just two of the 30 seats in the new cabinet, "its status as the prime mover in the government is beyond doubt, for the first time," the BBC added.