Friday, November 22, 2019

Lebanon National Day

Press Statement by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo
By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 22 November, 2019 
On behalf of the Government of the United States of America, I congratulate the people of Lebanon as they celebrate their Independence Day.  Seventy-six years ago today, Lebanon became a free nation.  Today, the Lebanese people are showing the entire world their commitment to this ideal.  On this occasion, the United States reaffirms its enduring friendship to the Lebanese people.  We remain committed to a brighter future for Lebanon and proudly stand with the Lebanese people in their peaceful demonstrations calling for reforms and an end to corruption.  The United States stands ready to work with a new Lebanese government that is responsive to the needs of its citizens and has the capacity and political will to build a stable, prosperous, independent, and secure Lebanon for all.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

NEA Press Office

The United States welcomes the decision yesterday by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to establish a second chamber. This is an important step toward accountability and justice for the political assassinations it is investigating. #STL (1/2)

We call on the #Lebanese judiciary and government agencies to fully support the Tribunal's work. (2/2)

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Reps. Zeldin, Luria Lead 241 Members in Urging UN to Stand with Israel and Combat Hezbollah

Nov 18 2019 

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

As Republicans and Democrats, we are united in our concern about the continuing, serious violations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 and the resulting threat our ally Israel faces on its northern border.

As you know, UNSCR 1701 called upon the Lebanese Government to extend its sovereignty over all of Lebanon and to disarm "all armed groups in Lebanon, so that…there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than that of the Lebanese State." The resolution also increased the size and mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to help Lebanon secure its border, prevent the unauthorized importation of arms and promote a zone north of the Israel-Lebanon border, "…free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon and of UNIFIL…"

After 13 years, Lebanon's attempts to implement this resolution have been unsuccessful. Instead, under the nose of UNIFIL and the international community, Hezbollah has built a murderous capability aimed at Israel's civilian population.  In the thirteen years since the unanimous passage of the Security Council resolution, Hezbollah, with the assistance of Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, has amassed a deadly arsenal of about 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel.  Iran is currently exacerbating this threat by transferring precision guided munitions to Hezbollah and building munitions factories in Lebanon for the benefit of the internationally-recognized terrorist organization. Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, regularly threatens the people of Israel and, as recently as last month, Hezbollah launched a missile attack on northern Israel.

Hezbollah has also spent tens of millions of dollars to develop an underground attack capability. Last year, Israel exposed six terror tunnels that crossed from southern Lebanon into Israel. Hezbollah built these tunnels to enable armed Hezbollah terrorists to enter Israeli towns to kidnap and kill civilians. 

The United Nations Security Council spoke out clearly and unanimously by passing UNSCR 1701. In doing so, the international community committed itself to Lebanese sovereignty and Israeli security. Hezbollah's military build-up threatens both. We believe Beirut must address the Hezbollah challenge on an urgent basis. Continued failure to do so weakens Lebanon's relationship with the international community and increases the threats to the Lebanese People and Israel's security. 

We also urge you, Mr. Secretary, to assist Lebanon's Prime Minister and President to finally reclaim Lebanese sovereignty and implement all the terms of UNSCR 1701, including allowing UNIFIL to fulfill its mandate in southern Lebanon. At the same time, we request that you insist that UNIFIL fully implement its mandate despite pressure from Hezbollah. UNIFIL should accurately report on Hezbollah violations of UNSCR 1701 and work with the Government of Lebanon to remove Hezbollah's weapons from the south.  

It should be evident to all that Israel faces a growing threat from Hezbollah's missile arsenal.  No country can tolerate a terrorist organization on its border acquiring the capability to endanger its population. Israel has the right to defend itself and will have the full bipartisan support of the United States if it must act to protect its citizens.

Furthermore, in light of recent events, we recognize major steps will have to be taken by Lebanon's political leadership to address deep popular concerns about economic instability, governance, and corruption. We therefore urge the UN to continue efforts to ensure the government of Lebanon remains independent and fully sovereign.

We urge you, Mr. Secretary, to lead an international effort to limit Hezbollah's capabilities and to avoid the devastating but avoidable outcome of which you have previously warned.  We fear significant civilian costs in Lebanon if Israel must act to defend its citizens because Hezbollah has positioned its massive arsenal in civilian areas – turning much of Lebanon's population into human shields. Hezbollah will bear the responsibility for that, as will the Government of Lebanon and the international community.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this and other issues with you in the near future.  

Thursday, October 31, 2019

McConnell: ‘The United States Should Stand With These Protestors’

October 31, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor regarding global protests:

"I've spoken at length in recent weeks about the protests in Hong Kong and the situation in Syria. I'd like to close today by recognizing other important developments in the Middle East that regrettably haven't received much attention.

"Massive protests are currently underway in Lebanon and Iraq. Millions have taken to the streets to demand more responsive, more transparent, and less sectarian governance, and an end to rampant corruption.

"By all accounts, these protests are cross-sectarian, directed at an entire class of political leaders who have behaved undemocratically and unethically.

"The protests are also directed at Iran. The Islamic Republic has long sought, through proxies like Hizballah and Iraqi militias, to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon and Iraq. Now even Shiite communities that have typically been heavily influenced by Iran are demanding politicians that represent their interests instead of Tehran's interests.

"Unsurprisingly, the Iranian regime is reportedly involved in violently suppressing peaceful protests in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and of course Iran itself. The mullahs are showing the same fear as the Chinese Communist Party. They're afraid of citizens demanding reform and speaking up for basic freedoms.

"The United States should stand with these protestors.

"The administration should use the tools at its disposal to expose corruption and foreign interference in these nations, impose consequences for violent crackdowns on peaceful protests, and work with the Lebanese and Iraqi leaders who are committed to doing right by their people."


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Terrorist Financing Targeting Center Jointly Designates Network of Corporations, Banks, and Individuals Supporting IRGC and Hizballah

Coordinated action represents largest-ever tranche of targets designated by the United States and Gulf countries as part of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center created under President Trump's leadership

RIYADH – Today, the seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) jointly designated 25 targets affiliated with the Iranian regime's terror-support networks in the region.  This is the TFTC's largest joint designation to date, and is focused on entities supporting Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran's regional proxy, Hizballah.  Several of the businesses targeted in this action are providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force (Basij), a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC that have long been used as shock troops by the regime to oppress domestic opposition with brutal displays of violence, while also recruiting, training and deploying fighters to fight in IRGC-fueled conflicts across the region.

"The TFTC's action coincides with my trip to the Middle East, where I am meeting with my counterparts across the region to bolster the fight against terrorist financing," said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  "TFTC was created under the leadership of President Trump on May 21, 2017 during his historic trip to Saudi Arabia.  It is a bold effort to expand and strengthen the cooperation amongst seven countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States — to counter the financing of terrorism. The TFTC coordinates disruptive actions, shares financial intelligence information, and builds member state capacity to target activities posing national security threats to TFTC members."

"The TFTC's coordinated disruption of the financial networks used by the Iranian regime to fund terrorism is a powerful demonstration of Gulf unity.  This action demonstrates the unified position of the Gulf nations and the United States that Iran will not be allowed to escalate its malign activity in the region," said Secretary Mnuchin.  "We are proud to join forces with our TFTC partners to expose and condemn the Iranian regime's gross and repeated violations of international norms, from attacking critical oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia to fomenting strife in neighboring countries through regional proxies such as Hizballah.  This coordinated action is a concrete step towards denying the Iranian regime the ability to undermine the stability of the region."

Twenty-one of these targets comprised a vast network of businesses providing financial support to the Basij Resistance Force (Basij). The Iran-based network Bonyad Taavon Basij, translated as the "Basij Cooperative Foundation," employs shell companies and other measures to mask Basij ownership and control over a variety of multibillion-dollar business interests in Iran's automotive, mining, metals, and banking industries, many of which have significant international dealings across the Middle East and Europe.  OFAC previously designated these entities on October 16, 2018 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  Additional details on these targets, including their identifying information, is available on Treasury's website.

Four of the targets designated by the TFTC today were Hizballah-affiliated individuals who lead and coordinate the group's operational, intelligence, and financial activities in Iraq.  These designations again highlight the degree to which Hizballah operates as a clandestine, terrorist arm of the Iranian regime by smuggling oil for Iran, raising funds for Hizballah, and sending fighters to Syria for the IRGC-Qods Force on behalf of Qasem Soleimani.  OFAC previously designated the four individuals, Shibl Muhsin 'Ubayd Al-Zaydi, Yusuf Hashim, Adnan Hussein Kawtharani, and Muhammad 'Abd-Al-Hadi Farhat, on November 13, 2018 as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  Additional details on these targets, including their identifying information, is available on Treasury's website.



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Political Situation in Lebanon

OCTOBER 29, 2019

In light of Prime Minister Hariri's resignation, the United States calls on Lebanon's political leaders to urgently facilitate the formation of a new government that can build a stable, prosperous, and secure Lebanon that is responsive to the needs of its citizens.

The peaceful demonstrations and expressions of national unity over the last 13 days have sent a clear message.  The Lebanese people want an efficient and effective government, economic reform, and an end to endemic corruption.  Any violence or provocative actions must stop, and we call upon Lebanon's army and security services to continue to ensure the rights and safety of the protesters.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

36th Anniversary of the Beirut Barracks Bombings

OCTOBER 23, 2019
Thirty-six years ago today two Iranian-backed Hizballah suicide bombers drove trucks into buildings housing U.S. and French peacekeepers from the Multinational Force in Lebanon at Beirut International Airport. We grieve for those 220 U.S. Marines, 18 sailors, and three soldiers murdered that day. Today, we remember their sacrifice and the tremendous loss suffered by their families, friends, and partners.

Our outrage over this despicable act of terrorism perpetrated on those patriotic men and women remains as deep as ever. As President Reagan said from the White House lawn back in 1983, "These deeds make so evident the bestial nature of those who would assume power if they could have their way and drive us out of that area." We remain more determined than ever to push back on those who threaten the sovereignty, stability, and prosperity of this vital region.