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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Saudis Pledge $3 Billion to Support Lebanon's Army - Grant Seeks to Bolster Armed Forces Against Iranian-Backed Hezbollah; Saudi Arabia sees itself as a patron of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia also backs rebels in Syria, while Iran and Hezbollah support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; Saudi Arabia and Egypt don't mess around with regard to letting you know where you stand.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Saudi Arabia pledged $3 billion to bolster Lebanon's armed forces, in a challenge to the Iranian-allied Hezbollah militia's decadeslong status as Lebanon's main power broker and security force.

Lebanese President Michel Sleiman revealed the Saudi gift on Lebanese national television Sunday, calling it the largest aid package ever to the country's defense bodies. The Saudi pledge compares with Lebanon's 2012 defense budget, which the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put at $1.7 billion.

Lebanon would use the Saudi grant to buy "newer and more modern weapons," from France, said Mr. Sleiman, an independent who has become increasingly critical of Hezbollah. It followed what he called "decades of unsuccessful efforts" to build a credible Lebanese national defense force.
 
As a direct challenge to Hezbollah, the Saudi gift—and the Lebanese president's acceptance—has potential to change the balance of power in Lebanon and the region. It also threatens to raise sectarian and political tensions further in a region already made volatile by the three-year, heavily sectarian civil war next door in Syria.
 
The Saudi move was announced hours after thousands of Lebanese turned out for the funerals of former cabinet minister Mohamad Chatah and some of the other victims killed Friday in a bombing in downtown Beirut. The bomb was believed to have targeted Mr. Chatah, an outspoken critic of Hezbollah's dominance of Lebanese affairs and security. No group has claimed responsibility.
 
Saudi Arabia on Friday responded to the assassination by calling for Lebanon to build up the government and armed forces "to stop this tampering with the security of Lebanon and the Lebanese."
 
Saudi Arabia sees itself as a patron of Lebanon's Sunni Muslims. Saudi Arabia also backs rebels in Syria, while Iran and Hezbollah support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Saudi Arabia increasingly is using massive cash infusions to support allies around the region. This year, the kingdom bequeathed billions of dollars to Egypt after the Egyptian military helped force out a government allied with the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Muslim political faction that, like Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, stands as a rival of Saudi Arabia.
 
Saudi Arabia's $3 billion grant to Lebanon surpasses the $1 billion in U.S. assistance to Lebanon's armed forces since 2006, when Washington resumed military aid after a long hiatus.
 

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