The US State Department has cleared Lebanon for a foreign weapons sale worth $55.5 million despite the state’s financial woes, Defense News reported.
This is the first foreign military sale for Lebanon approved by the US’ State Department since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2017.
The crisis-ridden state is reportedly seeking to spend the money on 300 high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (known as Humvees) to upgrade and standardise the army’s current fleet.
The vehicles, which will be sourced from military contractor American General, would be primarily used to counter extremism and terrorism along the Lebanese borders.
The delivery would also be accompanied by logistical, maintenance and technical support for the Lebanese Armed Forces.
However, the approval, which was announced by the US’ Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), does not guarantee the sales will take place in their current form.
The decision will have to be approved by Congress before Lebanon can begin to negotiate the details of the deal, including the price and quantity of the arms.
The DSCA said: “This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a partner country that continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East.”
However, the approval comes at a surprising time for Lebanon which is facing economic collapse and rising poverty; struggling to combat the coronavirus pandemic; and coping with the trauma of the massive 4 August explosion.
On Tuesday, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh warned his institution could only support state subsidies on basic goods for the next two months, before currency reserves reach dangerous lows.
The UN yesterday hosted a second International Conference on Assistance and Support to Beirut in efforts to coordinate aid efforts as Lebanon copes with the political, economic and social turmoil.
However, international leaders have become increasingly impatient with Lebanon’s lack of progress, despite constantly warning the state needs to overhaul its archaic systems to receive aid.
A similar conference in August raised nearly €253 million ($298 million) in aid pledges.
A fund managed by the World Bank will be created in the coming weeks to channel the international donations through UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.