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The Takeaway: November 20, 2019

1. US lawmakers probing aid delay to Ukraine surface another delay: to Lebanon

The Trump administration has still not explained a hold on US aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces, ignoring a congressional request for answers, and raising new questions about the origins of the hold at a time when the impeachment hearings are focused on questions about delaying aid to Ukraine. Could the Lebanon hold-up be tied to legislation introduced in June by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and others?

Background: On Sept. 5, the Department of State notified Congress of the intent to obligate $105 million in support to the Lebanese Armed Forces, which has been a mainstay of US security assistance to Lebanon, backed by the Pentagon, State Department and bipartisan members of Congress. The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has held up the aid, so far without explanation – just as it did with Ukraine aid. On Nov. 8, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Middle East North Africa and International Terrorism Subcommittee Chair Ted Deutch, D-Fla., sent a letter to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney asking for answers by Nov. 15 — a deadline the Trump administration missed.

Link to Ukraine aid?: Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, in testimony for the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry, said he first became aware of the hold on June 21, as the Trump administration had embarked on a review of American aid overseas. Hale said the White House did not explain the reasoning behind the hold, which came at the time the US withheld military aid to Ukraine.

Read more: Check out Al-Monitor’s coverage of Lebanon (as well as the article below) and US policy by Jack Detsch, Bryant Harris and the contributors to our Lebanon Pulse, as well as our Week in Review take here on how Lebanon’s protesters are setting the standard for a new social contract in the region.

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