BEIRUT -- Doha's new $60 million grant to Lebanon's cash-strapped armed forces comes at a critical time and will help the army carry out its patriotic duties and maintain security and stability, Lebanese officials and analysts said.
Qatari foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said the aid, announced June 30, reflects Doha's support for the "brotherly Lebanese people and its firm belief in the importance and necessity of joint Arab action".
Lebanese army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun said Qatar "has always been at the forefront in standing by Lebanon, and particularly by its army".
He noted that Qatar also "took the initiative about a year ago to send monthly food aid to the military in light of its suffering from the repercussions of the economic crisis that Lebanon is going through".
Doha also donated 70 tonnes of foodstuffs to Lebanon in June.
"Amid the disintegration of the state, which has weakened all of its institutions and put some of them out of commission, the military remains the backbone of the state and its security and stability," said former Lebanese MP Wehbe Katisha.
The Qatari grant will provide the armed forces' salaries and allow them to continue their duties and maintain security and social stability, he told Al-Mashareq.
Katisha, who is a retired Lebanese military officer, said the Lebanese armed forces have "the trust of Arab, Gulf and foreign countries, which have lost their trust in the Lebanese state".
Tensions with the Gulf states are largely due to Hizbullah, which has interfered in Lebanon's decision-making process and continued to bear arms, engage in drug-smuggling activity and to flout Lebanon's policy of dissociation from foreign wars.
The armed forces are the foundation of the state, which is why they have the trust of Arab and Gulf countries and the Lebanese count on them, Katisha said.
But they are facing critical challenges.
The Qatari grant will contribute to their steadfastness and readiness in maintaining stability, civil peace and border security, he said.
Michel Nasr, a journalist who follows military affairs, said that when the Qatari grant reaches the military, it will bring relief in the army's ranks, as each soldier will reportedly receive an extra $100 every month for six months.
The grant also will contribute to stimulating the country's economy, he said.
Part of the grant will be allocated to repaying the army's incurred debts to hospitals and medical facilities, he said.
Timing is critical
"The timing is very critical for the Lebanese army, which is facing difficult circumstances due to the stifling financial crisis that Lebanon is going through," Brig. Gen. Naji Malaeb said.
He said the Lebanese army has reached a stage where soldiers and officers alike are no longer able to withstand the low value of the national currency.
Many are "shackled" by debt, he said.
Malaeb said the Qatari grant, though helpful to the army and its personnel, does not solve the financial crisis the military institution is facing.
But if not for the multifaceted support the armed forces are receiving, the army's backbone -- its personnel -- would not be able to carry out its patriotic duties, he added.
The army "needs all kinds of in-kind, logistical and financial assistance", political writer Tony Boulos said, because Lebanon "is unable to supply the military institution with equipment and provide salaries and food for its personnel".
The Qatari grant came at the right time, he said.
This is important, particularly since the lack of payment and low purchasing power led some soldiers to leave the institution and pursue other work, he said.
Meanwhile, he said, Qatar's grant to the Lebanese army provides psychological assurance for the forces and allows them to perform their role in maintaining national security, including combatting smuggling along the country's borders.