| 24 June 2021, Thursday |

Congress pushes U.S. administration to give importance to Lebanon

There is a common denominator between the United States and France as to having interest in the Lebanese situation at this stage; it lies in efforts aimed at bolstering the Lebanese Armed Forces’ capabilities and helping the military institution, diplomatic sources told Sawt Beirut International (SBI).

Washington and Paris seek to provide the army with funds and equipment to be able to fulfill its duties in protecting the country against potential internal threats in light of economic hardships and obstacles to the formation of a government.

Prior to the announcement by the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea that $120 million will be allocated in support of the LAF during this year, a meeting was held between the U.S. State Department and the Lebanese Army Command.

The meeting touched on the security situation in the two countries in addition to providing assistance to the Lebanese Navy and enhancing security capabilities on the eastern borders.

Washington’s contributions amounted to $2.5 billion in military aid to Lebanon since 2006. Annual donations, including training and equipment, have reached around $275 million.

Lebanese Army Commander Joseph Aoun is not visiting Washington soon after the above-mentioned meeting last week. His visit may come at a later stage.

Washington’s interest was not limited to this point; two groups in Congress sent two messages to the U.S. administration about the need to help Lebanon and the means for such assistance, as well as the need for the United States to coordinate with the international community regarding aid, provided that such aid is given directly to the Lebanese people, not through the government.

The groups also stressed the need to provide assistance to the Lebanese army and work to establish a commission that would investigate the port explosion. Moreover, the two letters included the need to bolster the Lebanese-American ties, and for Washington to contribute in efforts aimed at forming a cabinet, because Lebanon is on the brink of becoming a failed state as poverty among the Lebanese is not allowing them to move on with their lives normally.

The two letters reflect an interest in the Lebanese situation by the Congress which sought to follow up on it with accuracy.

According to the sources, the files of China and Russia are currently a priority for the United States as the American-Russian summit is due to be held on June 16 in Vienna. The climate change comes after those files in line of priority, in addition to the Palestinian tensions that flared up recently. Therefore, the necessary grounds for discussing the Lebanese file must be prepared as soon as possible.

Blinken’s latest Middle-eastern tour did not include Lebanon because it was all about Palestine and Gaza, and Lebanon has no role in that. There were highlights on the Egyptian role with Hamas, the means to give a greater role to the Palestinian authority and Fatah movement and then reconstructing Gaza up to the means to achieve the two-state solution.

There will be no visits by U.S. officials to Lebanon in the foreseeable future but this will change if a new government is formed. Washington is annoyed by the fact that officials are unresponsive to the various endeavors aimed to form a cabinet as well as by Hezbollah’s role.

Nonetheless, the United States focuses on supporting the Lebanese army which represents one of the most important pillars for stability and on which Washington always relies.