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U.S. gives some stylish new bikes to Lebanon

The Syrians may be arming Hezbollah with long range missiles, but don’t let it be said that Uncle Sam isn’t providing material help to the Lebanese government. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut dropped off 20 Harley Davidson motorcycles to the Lebanese police today. U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison, who has been intimately involved in the diplomacy ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

The Syrians may be arming Hezbollah with long range missiles, but don't let it be said that Uncle Sam isn't providing material help to the Lebanese government. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut dropped off 20 Harley Davidson motorcycles to the Lebanese police today.

U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison, who has been intimately involved in the diplomacy surrounding alleged Syrian arms transfers, presented the motorcycles as a gift to Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) as part of the United States' ongoing effort to support the Lebanese government, a policy dating back to George W. Bush's administration.

The Syrians may be arming Hezbollah with long range missiles, but don’t let it be said that Uncle Sam isn’t providing material help to the Lebanese government. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut dropped off 20 Harley Davidson motorcycles to the Lebanese police today.

U.S. Ambassador Michele Sison, who has been intimately involved in the diplomacy surrounding alleged Syrian arms transfers, presented the motorcycles as a gift to Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) as part of the United States’ ongoing effort to support the Lebanese government, a policy dating back to George W. Bush’s administration.

"Today, we add another iconic American vehicle to the ISF arsenal," Sison said at the handover ceremony in Beirut. "These impressive and easily recognizable motorcycles will certainly assist the ISF in projecting its presence in the eyes of the Lebanese citizens, and if I might add — doing so with great style."

The Lebanese government, of course, might be less concerned about looking good and more concerned about whether violence will break out in the historically war-torn country. But hey, these aren’t just your everyday motorcycles: They’ve go specialized police equipment, including enhanced steering and braking capabilities and lights and sirens with mounted microphones and speakers, the State Department said.

But what if the Lebanese police want to haul some cargo? Not to worry. U.S. taxpayers have already given them 480 Dodge Chargers, 60 Ford Explorers, and some new parts for the 24 Harleys America gave them already. The new motorcycle gift cost a total of about $500,000, the State Department said, part of more than $100 million that State’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau, known as "Drugs and Thugs," has spent on the ISF since 2007.

On the military side of the equation, the U.S. has given the Lebanese Army more than $400 million in military assistance since 2006, and Vice President Joseph Biden promised Lebanon a new military aid package valued in the hundreds of millions when he visited Beirut last year, to include 42 fighter jets, helicopters, unmanned aerial drones, and tanks. The Lebanese complained recently that much of this aid has not yet been delivered, especially the highest technology stuff, like the fighter jets. Of course, the Russians already gave Lebanon 10 MiG fighter jets, and last week pledged to arm Syria with its own jets, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank weapons.

As for the bikes, "the capability that these Harley Davidson motorcycles will provide the ISF is something that the ISF officers who enforce the law in Lebanon have been asking for," Sison said. No word on whether they came with matching leather jackets.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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