Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Remarks at a Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in Lebanon (via VTC)

Ambassador Cherith Norman Chalet
Acting Deputy Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
August 10, 2020
The U.S. Government and the American people extend our deepest condolences to all those affected by this tragic event. We stand in solidarity with the people of Lebanon during this difficult time.
The Lebanese people are among the most generous in the world. Over the last decade they have welcomed over 1 million refugees from Syria. And now, we are committed to do all we can to help the Lebanese people in their hour of need. We recognize the urgent requirements for emergency medical support, shelter materials, psychosocial support, food assistance and much more in the coming days.
On Friday, the U.S. announced $17 million in funding for the emergency response. These funds bring the humanitarian aid provided by the American people in Lebanon since September 2019 to a total of $403 million. Initial U.S. aid includes six international emergency health kits that can support 60,000 people for three months. Our aid will also provide emergency food assistance for 50,000 households for three months. In addition to this first contribution, a U.S. team of disaster response experts has been deployed and is providing assistance in support of the Government of Lebanon and coordination with the United Nations. We appreciate the UN's immediate release of money from the Central Emergency Response Funds and Lebanon Country Based Pooled Funds.
The United States has long been a close partner with Lebanon, providing nearly $4.9 billion in bilateral assistance over the past 20 years, including more than $187 million for health assistance. The U.S. recently provided $41.6 million to bolster Lebanon's efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our long-standing support to university hospitals in Lebanon included Rizk Hospital at the Lebanese American University and the American University of Beirut Medical Center. Both are serving as main triage centers for victims of the explosion. These hospitals have already allocated space and resources for the response to the pandemic of COVID-19, especially for Lebanon's most-vulnerable communities.
In the days and weeks ahead, I want the Lebanese people to know that the United States stands with them. We will remain committed to helping Lebanon recover from this tragedy.
Thank you.

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Following Massive Explosion, Pentagon Flies Aid to Beirut

The Pentagon is in the process of shipping supplies to Beirut to provide much-needed assistance in the aftermath of a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs said.

"We ... want to express the department's sympathies in mourning the lives of so many lost in Lebanon on Tuesday. This is a horrific tragedy," Jonathan Rath Hoffman said during a Pentagon news conference today.

Hoffman said Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, has talked with the commander of the Lebanese armed forces to inform him that three C-17 aircraft will bring relief supplies to Lebanon.

The first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft has already arrived in Beirut to deliver supplies, a Centcom statement said today. Included in those supplies are 11 pallets of food, water and medical supplies.

Over the next 24 hours, the Centcom statement  said, two additional C-17s will depart Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to deliver additional supplies to Beirut.

Hoffman said the Defense Department will continue to work with the State Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development on any additional aid missions.

The exact cause of the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut is not known, Hoffman said, but the Lebanese government is investigating and the U.S government is ready to assist if asked.

"The investigation into the explosion is ongoing. We're going to defer to and give the Lebanese government space to complete their investigation and reach their conclusions," he said. "We're going to work with them. If they ask for assistance, the U.S. would be willing to provide that."

Statement by National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien on Lebanon

August 7, 2020 - Under the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the United States is delivering critical emergency aid to Lebanon following Tuesday's horrific event in Beirut.   The first wave of United States relief, coordinated between the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) includes food, water, and critical medical supplies.

The United States, through the support of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, will continue to work closely with authorities on the ground in Lebanon to identify further health and humanitarian needs and will provide further assistance in the period to come.  USAID is deploying a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) today to Beirut to assist in the coordination and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The United States extends our condolences to all of the families of those lost in this tragedy.  We stand firmly with the people of Lebanon and will continue to offer our full support through this difficult time. 

Saturday, August 08, 2020

U.S. Government Response to the Explosion in Beirut

08/07/2020 10:06 PM EDT
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
We mourn the loss of life from the horrible tragedy that caused such tremendous destruction to Beirut earlier this week.  We pray for the survivors and their families and for all the Lebanese people as they struggle to put their lives and city back together.  The United States has already pledged more than $17 million in initial disaster aid for Lebanon, which includes food assistance and medical supplies.  This assistance augments the $403 million in U.S. humanitarian assistance to Lebanon since September 2019, including $41.6 million in assistance for the COVID response.  We join others in the call for a thorough and transparent investigation into the cause of this explosion.  The Lebanese people deserve accountability and a government that prioritizes the safety and prosperity of its citizens.  No nation is more generous or compassionate than the United States, and we will continue to help the Lebanese people as they recover from this tragedy.

President Trump has spoken with President Aoun of Lebanon

President has spoken with President Aoun of Lebanon. 3 large aircraft are on the way with medical supplies, food, water, and emergency equipment to help.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Explosion in Beirut

08/04/2020 05:16 PM EDT
Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State
I'd like to extend my deepest condolences to all those affected by the massive explosion at the port of Beirut today.  We are closely monitoring and stand ready to assist the people of Lebanon as they recover from this tragedy.  Our team in Beirut has reported to me the extensive damage to a city and a people that I hold dear, an additional challenge in a time of already deep crisis.  We understand that the Government of Lebanon continues to investigate its cause and look forward to the outcome of those efforts.

Monday, August 03, 2020

U.S. Demining Assistance Fosters Security and Economic Development in Wake of Lebanese Military Defeat of Islamic Extremists in Arsal

JULY 28, 2020

Between 2014 and 2017, violent extremist groups operating in Syria, including ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra, occupied small swaths of remote terrain in the Arsal municipality on the Lebanon side of the Lebanon-Syria border. These terrorists laid defensive minefields around their hilltop positions; in addition, they mined and booby-trapped approaches to their positions in an attempt to block attacks from the Lebanon Armed Forces (LAF). In 2017, the LAF successfully retook this territory, killing or capturing hundreds of extremist fighters and returning this fertile land back to the Lebanese citizens who the extremists had expelled from their homes and farms.

While the extremists who once occupied this territory are gone, their deadly legacy remains in the form of landmines, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), unexploded ordnance, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW). Local farmers flocked back to the area after the LAF liberated it to find that extremists chopped down their apple and cherry trees for firewood and looted their homes. Eager to restore their livelihood, these farmers began replanting fruit trees and other crops, unaware their farmland was now contaminated with deadly explosive hazards. These explosive hazards have killed 6 civilians and injured 17 more since 2017, perpetuating the extremists' reign of terror and preventing displaced residents from rebuilding their lives safely.

In July 2018, the U.S. Department of State, in close coordination with the LAF's Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC), issued a grant to the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) to assess ERW contamination around Arsal and to deploy demining teams to begin clearing the explosive hazards identified during the survey. The goal of the assessment was to identify the full scope of ERW contamination in the area occupied by extremists and work with the LAF to develop an operational plan for addressing this contamination. MAG's extensive experience clearing ISIS-placed ERW in Iraq and Syria, as well as their close working relationship with the LMAC, enabled them to begin the assessment in July 2018.

During the assessment, MAG identified a wide range of explosive hazards including IEDs similar to those used by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, unexploded cluster munitions from Syrian government airstrikes, traditional anti-vehicle and anti-personnel mines, and even IEDs made out of rubber tires extremists rolled down hills in an attempt to block or disrupt the LAF. Following the assessment, and with the support of the U.S. Department of State, MAG and their partner organization Norwegian People's Aid (NPA) recruited, trained, and deployed several teams of Lebanese nationals in October 2018 to begin the methodical and dangerous process of clearing these explosive hazards.

Zahraa Mostafa is one of these brave deminers who puts her life on the line day after day to make Arsal a safer place. After completing a degree in Laboratory Sciences, Zahraa worked several jobs; however, none provided her the income required for her to help support her aging father. When she saw the online advertisement that announced MAG was hiring deminers, she knew this was an opportunity to earn a good salary while also doing her part to make Lebanon a safer place.

The work was difficult at first; however, it became easier with practice and she is now thriving in her role with MAG, according to Zahraa. Working as a deminer made her more confident, and she feels society views her differently since she took on this challenging work. Zahraa recently noted after working with MAG for over a year she "is more sure than ever that every woman can do any job if she sets her mind to it."

Zahraa and her MAG and NPA colleagues cleared more than 17 explosive hazards since 2018 and hope to clear Arsal of all explosive hazards by 2023. Due to the courageous and lifesaving work of Zahraa and her teammates, local residents of Arsal can safely return to their homes, farm their land, and live their lives safe from the threat of explosive hazards.

Ali Al Haloush and his wife Om Mahmoud live in Jroud Ras Baalbak, a mountainous area located near the Lebanon-Syria border. Agriculture is their main source of income and cherries from this region are regarded as some of the best in the country. In August 2014, ISIS attacked the area and occupied it for three years, displacing residents, destroying the local agriculture economy, and forcing farmers like Ali and Om Mahmoud to seek new sources of income. After returning to their farm in 2017, Ali and Om Mahmoud found ISIS had seeded their land with explosive hazards. With the support of the U.S. Department of State, teams from MAG surveyed and cleared Ali and Om Mahmoud's land, enabling the couple to safely access their farm and begin to rebuild their lives safe from the threat of buried ISIS bombs. After MAG finished clearing their land, Om Mahmoud said, "I feel safe again to work and rebuild. The main thing I am thankful for is that I am able to see my grandchildren playing in the area with no danger surrounding them."

Following an early investment from the United States that enabled MAG to conduct the initial contamination assessment, other international donors, including the EU and the government of The Netherlands, are now also supporting MAG and NPA's important work in Arsal. This synchronized approach to burden sharing is enabling the NGOs to field more demining teams and conduct their lifesaving work faster and more efficiently. Through smart investments in organizations like MAG, the United States is strengthening regional security and stability while enabling economic development across Lebanon in partnership with our close allies in the LAF. The United States is proud to support this lifesaving work and looks forward to 2023 when the people of Arsal can live their lives free from the threat of buried bombs.

The United States is the world leader in Conventional Weapons Destruction, programing more than $3.7 billion in over 100 countries since 1993 to advance security, stability, and economic development priorities. To learn more about the United States' global conventional weapons destruction efforts, check out our annual report, To Walk the Earth in Safety, and follow us on Twitter @StateDeptPM.

About the Author: Mr. Solomon Black serves as the Program Manager for Lebanon, Yemen, Emergency Response, and Analysis & Assessments in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs' Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement at the U.S. Department of State.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Text of a Notice on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Lebanon FOREIGN POLICY

Issued on: July 29, 2020
On August 1, 2007, by Executive Order 13441, the President declared a national emergency with respect to Lebanon pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701-1706) to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the actions of certain persons to undermine Lebanon's legitimate and democratically elected government or democratic institutions; to contribute to the deliberate breakdown in the rule of law in Lebanon, including through politically motivated violence and intimidation; to reassert Syrian control or contribute to Syrian interference in Lebanon; or to infringe upon  or undermine Lebanese sovereignty.  Such actions contribute to political and economic instability in that country and the region.

Certain ongoing activities, such as Iran's continuing arms transfers to Hizballah — which include increasingly sophisticated weapons systems — serve to undermine Lebanese sovereignty, contribute to political and economic instability in the region, and continue to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.  For this reason, the national emergency declared on August 1, 2007, and the measures adopted on that date to deal with that emergency, must continue in effect beyond August 1, 2020.  Therefore, in accordance with section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)), I am continuing for 1 year the national emergency with respect to Lebanon declared in Executive Order 13441.

This notice shall be published in the Federal Register and transmitted to the Congress.

July 29, 2020.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

United States Central Command Commander Visits Lebanon

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 8 July, 2020
General Kenneth McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), conducted a one-day visit to Lebanon on July 8, 2020.  General McKenzie met with President Aoun at Baabda Palace, where he reaffirmed the importance of preserving Lebanon's security, stability, and sovereignty, and underscored the importance of the strong partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Armed Forces.
General McKenzie was accompanied by USCENTCOM officials and officers, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, and the U.S. Defense Attaché, Robert Meine.
The one-day visit to Lebanon also included meetings with senior Lebanese political and defense leaders, including representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the Lebanese Armed Forces, office calls at the U.S. Embassy, and a brief stop at memorials honoring the memory of those who have perished in service to their country.