So we have a plausible explanation for the decision to deny aid, a conflict between State and the Pentagon. A short argument suggests that the aid is insufficient to prevent the intrusion of Russian influence.
(NY Times) White House Freezes Military Aid to Lebanon, Against Wishes of Congress, State Dept. and Pentagon contradicts this with factual authority. The NSC decision process that resulted in Lebanon aid cancellation, with apparent objection by State and Defense, remains unexplained. The article echoes widespread suspicion of something like the Ukraine holdup. Quoting,
Though the president has denied it, senior administration officials have testified that there was indeed a quid pro quo, and the top American diplomat in Ukraine said he sent a cable telling Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that it was “folly” to withhold the aid.
This has become an open-source question of more than average interest. The question of the hour is whether the Lebanon aid cutoff is the result of
- Improper intrusion of politics, or something illicit.
- Proper, but ill advised decision making.
- A process that takes due measure of the concerns of the principals, though lacking broad consensus. With the opposition of State and Defense, it can’t be broad.
The NSC principals with the most at stake are the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Homeland Security Advisor. But the White House Chief of Staff, who is not a direct stakeholder, and the Homeland Security Advisor are most susceptible to pressure external to the deliberations of the NSC.
It is not impossible that Trump, acting through the White House Chief of Staff, dictated the cutoff. There is a significant and influential minority opinion, prioritizing the danger of indirect aid to Hezbollah. This would explain a decision that seems to lack consensus from the majority of stakeholders.
Receipt of new information is also possible. Such information could be in powerful opposition to personal links that have been established by State and Defense with their peers in Lebanon.
I’m not going to spell this one out. Those who have read this blog for a while, and have taken a shine to the craft of open source intelligence, may independently derive it. It will remain unstated, for reasons more important than writing an interesting article.