Pentagon Officials Monitor Protests Overseas

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2011 — Defense Depart­ment offi­cials are close­ly watch­ing protests that have flared over recent days in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said today.
“These are three sep­a­rate, fast-mov­ing sit­u­a­tions that the sec­re­tary and oth­ers here in this depart­ment, and … obvi­ous­ly oth­ers through­out the gov­ern­ment, are mon­i­tor­ing close­ly as they evolve,” Mor­rell told Pen­ta­gon reporters in a brief­ing here.

The U.S. mil­i­tary rela­tion­ships with the three coun­tries vary great­ly, Mor­rell said.

“We have no mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with Tunisia, we have a long-stand­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with Egypt, and we have an evolv­ing mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with Lebanon,” he said.

Since Syr­ia pulled its forces out of Lebanon in 2006, Mor­rell said, the Unit­ed States has pur­sued a clos­er mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship, pro­vid­ing assis­tance “upwards of $600 mil­lion” to Lebanon in that time.

“In the case of Lebanon, we’re mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion as the con­sti­tu­tion­al process plays out. We will need to see what the final make­up of the Lebanese gov­ern­ment looks like before we make any deci­sions regard­ing our rela­tion­ship, includ­ing mil­i­tary assis­tance,” he said.

A Hezbol­lah-con­trolled gov­ern­ment would “obvi­ous­ly have an effect” on the U.S‑Lebanon rela­tion­ship, Mor­rell said.

“I think [the State Depart­ment] should take it from here, in terms of the ulti­mate impact that may or may not have on mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship and finan­cial assis­tance,” he added.

The White House has addressed the protest sit­u­a­tion in Egypt at length, Mor­rell said. A White House state­ment on Egypt released yes­ter­day urges all par­ties to refrain from vio­lence.

“We sup­port the uni­ver­sal rights of the Egypt­ian peo­ple, includ­ing the rights to free­dom of expres­sion, asso­ci­a­tion and assem­bly,” the state­ment reads, in part. “The Egypt­ian gov­ern­ment has an impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ty to be respon­sive to the aspi­ra­tions of the Egypt­ian peo­ple, and pur­sue polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt pros­per. The Unit­ed States is com­mit­ted to work­ing with Egypt and the Egypt­ian peo­ple to advance these goals.”

Defense offi­cials are host­ing senior Egypt­ian mil­i­tary lead­ers this week for their annu­al bilat­er­al defense talks, Mor­rell said.

“That’s just an exam­ple of how engaged we are with the Egyp­tians, even as these devel­op­ments have tak­en place on the streets of Cairo, and else­where,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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