Thursday, January 11, 2018

U.S. NAVCENT Commander Visits Lebanon

Jan 11 2018 - Vice Admiral John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), visited Lebanon January 11, 2018.  As the NAVCENT Commander, Vice Admiral Aquilino is responsible for conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts, and strengthening partner nations' maritime capabilities in order to promote security and stability in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility.
Vice Admiral Aquilino visited Lebanon to discuss the international donors' conference "Rome II," as well as to focus on bilateral naval relations.  While in Lebanon, Vice Admiral Aquilino met with Lebanese Armed Forces Commander and key staff as well as LAF Navy leadership and representatives from the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon.
The United States remains committed to a stable, secure, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cook, Poe, and Ros-Lehtinen Urge More Action on Hezbollah in Western Hemisphere

Dec - 20, 2017 Washington, D.C. – Today, Representatives Paul Cook (R-CA-08), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Ted Poe (TX-02), Chairman of Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to President Trump urging stronger U.S. action on Hezbollah's drug trafficking activities in the Western Hemisphere. The letter urges the Administration to designate Hezbollah as a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) and as a Designated Kingpin Entity (SDNTK) and to open an investigation into Hezbollah as a criminal enterprise under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act:

Chairman Ros-Lehtinen: "It's no secret that, in its pursuit of the weak and dangerous nuclear deal, the Obama administration ignored Iran's illicit activity and the threat the state sponsor of terror-regime posed to our national security and the security and stability of our allies. If recent reports of the size and scope of Hezbollah's operations in Latin America are true, we should all be alarmed as it puts the terror group right in our own hemisphere. We have no time to waste in addressing this threat and that is why I have joined Ted and Paul in writing to the administration and urging it to take immediate steps to disrupt Hezbollah's financial networks and to attempt to reverse the damaged already caused."

Chairman Cook: "For far too long we have ignored the growing convergence of Iran-backed Hezbollah with transnational criminal networks in Latin America. While I applaud the Trump Administration for prioritizing the need to deter and disrupt Hezbollah in the Middle East and elsewhere, we need to do more to address Hezbollah's illicit activities closer to home in the Western Hemisphere. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that also runs a criminal enterprise and traffics drugs from South America to fund its global terrorist operations. The U.S. and our regional partners have a vital interest in using every possible tool to prevent Hezbollah's ability to conduct terrorism, particularly given past attacks on Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s and an attempted attack in Washington, D.C. in 2011. President Trump has a huge opportunity now to strike a major blow to Hezbollah's ability to carry out its terror operations, and I look forward to supporting the President's efforts on this critical issue."

Chairman Poe: "The U.S. government must use all resources at our disposal to go after Iran's number one terrorist proxy: Hezbollah. Hezbollah leverages both traditional fundraising methods as well as illicit activities, such as drug trafficking and money laundering, to fund their murderous plots.  Hezbollah is the poster-child for what has been called the "terrorist-criminal nexus." There is absolutely no reason why they should not be designated by the United States as a Transnational Criminal Organization and a Designated Kingpin Entity. The decades-old terrorist designations on Hezbollah only go so far to address the size and scope of Hezbollah's global illicit activities. I call upon the Trump Administration to not repeat the mistakes of the past administration and make targeting Hezbollah's illicit activities a first order priority."

The text of the letter can be found below.

December 19, 2017

President Donald Trump

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

We write to express our support for stronger U.S. action to address Hezbollah's drug trafficking activities in the Western Hemisphere. While Hezbollah is designated under several terrorism programs as well as Syria country sanctions, we do not believe that these actions are sufficient to address the size and scope of Hezbollah's illicit activities in the Americas. Therefore, we urge your Administration to advance a new focus on Hezbollah's drug trafficking efforts and connections to organized crime in the region by directing U.S. agencies to designate Hezbollah as a Transnational Criminal Organization (TCO) under E.O. 13581 and as a Specially Designated Narcotics Trafficking Kingpin (SDNTK) entity pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. We also urge you to direct the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into Hezbollah as a criminal enterprise under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

We are concerned over press reports that the Obama Administration may have inhibited efforts by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Treasury, and State to target and prosecute key Hezbollah operatives engaged in terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime. Addressing Hezbollah's illicit activities in the Western Hemisphere has been a top U.S. Congressional priority for many years as demonstrated by multiple oversight hearings and visits to the region. These efforts, along with findings by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, have uncovered direct ties between Hezbollah and criminal groups in the region that have reportedly allowed Hezbollah to amass nearly $1 billion annually to support its global terrorist operations.

We believe the U.S. has failed to take sufficient action to disrupt Hezbollah's illicit financing, and this issue warrants immediate review given recent developments. When the report mandated by The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act was submitted to Congress in 2013, the Government Accountability Office's 2014 review revealed that the report only addressed two of the 12 elements required by law. In June 2017, an individual with alleged ties to Hezbollah was indicted in Miami after being extradited to the U.S. by Paraguay, and one individual was arrested for attempting to provide support to Hezbollah in targeting U.S. and Israeli embassies in Panama. These events follow the 2014 arrest of a Hezbollah operative in Peru, the Iranian-linked assassination attempt on the Saudi Ambassador in 2011, and the terrorist attacks against two Jewish targets in Argentina in the 1990s as well as the assassination of former Special Prosecutor Alberto Nisman in 2015, who uncovered evidence of Iran and Hezbollah's role in these attacks.

In October 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3329, the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act, which included Section 105 mandating a U.S. strategy to address Iran and Hezbollah's illicit networks in the Western Hemisphere and requiring the alignment of U.S. actions on these issues and greater engagement with regional partners. We believe H.R. 3329 along with application of targeted drug trafficking designations are critical to address loopholes in the current U.S. approach to Hezbollah's illicit activities. We urge your support in addressing these matters and look forward to working with you to advance your new National Security Strategy in the days ahead.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Statements by Ambassador Richard and General Votel Following Meeting With Prime Minister Saad Hariri

On December 13, 2017, US Ambassador Elizabeth Richard and Commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, met Prime Minister Saad Hariri.  Following are Ambassador Richard and General Votel's statements following the meeting:

Ambassador Richard: "I am very pleased to have General Votel, the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, returning to Beirut, here with us today.

We have just come from meeting the Prime Minister, and we had an excellent conversation about the challenges facing Lebanon and the region.  We also talked about how the U.S. and the broader international community can support Lebanon in these challenging times.  Just last week, for example, the International Support Group for Lebanon met in Paris to recognize Prime Minister Hariri as a major partner in managing Lebanon's unity and stability.

The ISG drew attention to the Lebanese Cabinet's reaffirmation of a policy of disassociation from conflict and regional wars, and it recalled Lebanon's previous commitments under UN Security Council Resolutions, including 1559 and 1701.

The ISG also supported Lebanon's political leaders including the Prime Minister – representing all Lebanese – who have spoken with one voice to say that the prosperity of the Lebanese people and stability of this country depend on its ability to avoid entanglements in regional conflicts.

For our part as the United States, we are continuing our longstanding commitment to the Lebanese people and to Lebanon's institutions, including the Lebanese Armed Forces.

With General Votel, we discussed with the Prime Minister and earlier today with the Army Commander, three new U.S.  Department of Defense programs that we are announcing today.

These systems — valued at more than $120 million — include six new MD 530G light attack helicopters, six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles, and leading edge communication and night vision devices.  This advanced equipment will help the Army build on its steady strong capability to conduct border security and counterterrorism operations and importantly to defend the country and the people of Lebanon.

Again I'm very delighted to welcome General Votel back to Lebanon, another great example for our support for Lebanon and for the Lebanese Armed Forces."

General Votel: "Thank you ambassador and let me say how pleased I am to be back in Beirut and have an opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister this morning and with the armory commander as well.  I would echo what the ambassador said, we had an excellent discussion this morning and I think that we began to continue to take some steps to move forward in strengthening our relationship.

In closing I would just say how proud we are to be partners with the Lebanese Armed Forces.  They are professional, proficient, and focused on the Lebanese people and I speak from the helm of US Central Command we are extremely proud of their performance and very glad to be associated with them.

Thank you very much."

CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel’s Visit to Lebanon

On December 13, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard and the Commander of United States Central Command General Joseph Votel met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Minister of Defense Yaacoub el-Sarraf, and Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Joseph Aoun, and visited the Lebanese Military Academy to reaffirm the U.S. government's commitment to the Lebanese-American partnership and support the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole defender of Lebanon.
After their meeting with the Prime Minister, Ambassador Richard and General Votel announced three new U.S. Department of Defense programs of assistance to continue to build the LAF's capability to conduct border security and counterterrorism operations.  These programs are being funded through the Department of Defense's "Building Partner Capacity" program and are together valued at more than $120 million.  The first program will provide the LAF a rotary wing close air support capability through delivery of six new MD 530G light attack helicopters and associated equipment and training, valued at more $94 million.  The second program will provide the LAF additional command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities through the delivery of six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles and associated equipment and training, valued at more than $11 million.  The third program will provide the LAF additional capabilities to employ joint fire support and close air support through the delivery of communications equipment, electronics equipment, night vision devices, and training, valued at more than $16 million.  The announcement of these programs reaffirms the U.S. Government's commitment to the Lebanese-American partnership and support of the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole defender of Lebanon.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Secretary Tillerson Participation in ISG on Lebanon

Press Statement
Heather Nauert
Washington, DC
December 7, 2017
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will participate in the International Support Group (ISG) for Lebanon ministerial on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Paris, France.
The Secretary's participation in the ISG demonstrates the United States' strong support for the sovereignty, stability, and independence of the Republic of Lebanon and of its political institutions. Secretary Tillerson will re-emphasize the United States' continued commitment to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and our partnership in the fight against terrorism. The Secretary will also encourage the Lebanese government and other nations to move more aggressively in limiting Hizballah's destabilizing activity in the region, which will help make for a stronger, more stable Lebanon.
The Secretary will meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other international leaders during the course of the ministerial.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lebanon National Day

Press Statement
Rex W. Tillerson
Washington, DC
November 21, 2017

On behalf of the American people, I wish to pass along my warmest regards and congratulations to the people of Lebanon on the anniversary of your independence on November 22.

The United States looks forward to strengthening its friendship and cooperation with Lebanon as we work together to pursue our common goals and advance Lebanon's sovereignty, stability, and independence. We reaffirm our support for Lebanese state institutions and appreciate our close partnership in addressing shared regional challenges, particularly the fight against terrorism.

Our enduring commitment to the Lebanese people will remain strong as Lebanon works to fulfill the aspirations of all Lebanese for a prosperous and secure future. Once again, please accept our best wishes to all of Lebanon on this historic occasion

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Statement from the White House Press Secretary on the Political Situation in Lebanon

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 11 November, 2017 | Topics: Press Releases
The United States calls upon all states and parties to respect Lebanon's sovereignty, independence, and constitutional processes. In this sensitive time, the United States also rejects any efforts by militias within Lebanon or by any foreign forces to threaten Lebanon's stability, undermine Lebanese government institutions, or use Lebanon as a base from which to threaten others in the region.
Prime Minister Sa'ad Hariri has been a trusted partner of the United States in strengthening Lebanese institutions, fighting terrorism, and protecting refugees. The United States firmly reiterates that the Lebanese Armed Forces and other Lebanese state security forces are the only legitimate security authorities in Lebanon.

Friday, November 10, 2017

On the Situation in Lebanon

Press Statement
Rex W. Tillerson
Washington, DC
November 10, 2017
The United States strongly supports the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Lebanon and of its political institutions. The United States urges all parties both within Lebanon and outside to respect the integrity and independence of Lebanon's legitimate national institutions, including the Government of Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces. In this regard, we respect Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri as a strong partner of the United States.
The United States supports the stability of Lebanon and is opposed to any actions that could threaten that stability. There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state – which must be recognized as the sole authority for security in Lebanon. The United States cautions against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country.