Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Remarks by Ambassador Elizabeth Richards Opening of the Ashrafieh Police Station

Minister Mashnouk, Minister Pharaon, Director General Osman, it's very nice to see you here today, everyone, all our friends and colleagues, especially those who will be working in this very building.  It gives me great pleasure to join you this morning for the re-opening of the Ashrafieh Community Police Station.

This location represents much more than the opening of another police station.  The Ashrafieh Community Police Station represents a new Community Policing model for the ISF.  The importance of Community Policing is that it is built on a foundation of police and local citizens working together to maintain and improve safety and security.  The key here is effective cooperation between the police and the citizens, with an emphasis on both sides on public service.

The police alone cannot assure public safety.  However, when communities and police work together, they can counter crime, reduce violence, and stamp out terrorism.  I look forward to this Community Policing Station becoming a model of public service, where the role of each and every police officer, and the public service they provide, is highlighted.  We know that the ISF works tirelessly every day throughout the year, to help keep Lebanon safe and they need your help.

The United States is very proud of the efforts that we have spent to assist the ISF over the years.  Since 2008, the State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has provided training for thousands of ISF officers, providing  over $178 million in support  to the ISF, one of our closest partners here in Lebanon.  This is just one part of the over $5.4 that we have invested in Lebanon over the past ten years.  We are proud of the strong and successful partnership we have with Lebanon and with the ISF, and of what we have achieved together.

This building is an excellent example of that success: a modern police station, accessible to the public, and staffed by officers who are trained to work cooperatively with the local community to counter crime and promote safety.

I want to congratulate the ISF and the Ministry of Interior on launching this project, and on their focus on Community Policing.  I really look forward to the great work you are going to do for all of us as you accomplish everything that you've set out to do through these efforts.  We are proud to help support this important work.

Thank you!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

U.S. Security Cooperation With Lebanon

Fact Sheet
BUREAU OF POLITICAL-MILITARY AFFAIRS
May 11, 2018

The United States and Lebanon share the goal of building the Lebanese Armed Forces' (LAF) capacity as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon's sovereignty. Lebanon's state security institutions, particularly the LAF, have historically served as pillars of stability in a country facing extraordinary challenges.

U.S. assistance for the LAF is a key component of our policy to reinforce Lebanon's sovereignty and secure its borders, counter internal threats, and build up its legitimate state institutions. Additionally, U.S. security assistance supports implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701, and promotes the LAF's ability to extend full governmental control throughout the country in conjunction with the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

  • The United States is Lebanon's top security partner and, since 2006, our more than $1.7 billion investment in the LAF has paid significant dividends for U.S. interests in the Middle East. Over the last 12 months, the LAF has defeated ISIS in Lebanon, reasserted control over Lebanese territory along its border with Syria, and increased its presence in southern Lebanon in support of UNIFIL.
  • In FY 2017, the United States provided over $235 million in combined Department of State and Department of Defense (DoD) security assistance. This includes $121 million in Foreign Military Financing and $2.75 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) and $112 million in DoD-authorized funding.
  • Since 2006, Lebanon has received $25 million in IMET support, which has funded U.S.-instructed training for over 946 members of the LAF, including 110 members in CY 2017. IMET provides professional military education and training to military students to increase professionalism, enhance interoperability, and grow lasting military-to-military relationships.
  • Since the August 2014 attack in Arsal by ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, the United States has supported the LAF with munitions, weapons, and equipment to help the LAF keep the country's borders secure and conduct counterterrorism operations. The Departments of State and Defense continue to work closely to support the provision of training and equipment that Lebanon needs, including fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, vehicles, arms, and munitions. We applaud the LAF for its resolve in confronting violent extremists and will support its ongoing efforts as it combats this shared threat and protects the Lebanese people.
  • To mitigate the risk of unauthorized transfer or use of U.S. technology and equipment, the United States conducts end-use monitoring (EUM) of its security assistance programs around the world, including in Lebanon. EUM is used to verify the end-use, accountability, and security of defense articles, services, and training provided under Foreign Military Sales and other grant-based assistance programs, from delivery through use to their eventual disposal. In Lebanon, the LAF continues to successfully coordinate with the U.S. government to ensure compliance with all its security requirements and remains a valued partner in the fight against ISIS and other violent extremists.
  • Lebanon also receives assistance through Department of Defense authorities, which further bolster partner nation militaries' counter-terrorism and border-protection capabilities. These authorities include, among others, "Building Partner Capacity" funding and assistance specific to border security operations. Congress has legislated critical State Department coordination, concurrence, and joint planning and development roles in these authorities.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Treasury Targets Key Hizballah Financing Network and Iranian Conduit

MAY 17, 2018

Action disrupts Hizballah's global business empire in Europe, Africa, and Middle East

 

Washington – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Hizballah financier Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizballah's representative to Iran Abdallah Safi-Al-Din 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.  Also designated today as SDGTs are five companies located in Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East for being owned or controlled by Mohammad Bazzi and another SDGT.  Specifically, OFAC designated Belgian energy services conglomerate, Global Trading Group NV; a Gambia-based petroleum and petroleum products company, Euro African Group LTD; and Lebanon-based Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL, Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore; and Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES), an import/export  company based in Lebanon.  This is the third action in the past week in which OFAC has designated terrorists with a connection to the Central Bank of Iran.

"This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hizballah and its Iranian backers.  Despite Nasrallah's claims, Hizballah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism," said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  "The savage and depraved acts of one of Hizballah's most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated.  This Administration will expose and disrupt Hizballah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran."

As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC's regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Today's actions show the convergence of Iran's support for terrorism with many facets of illicit criminal activity, including narcotics trafficking.  In addition to providing millions of dollars to Hizballah, Mohammad Bazzi is a close associate of Yahya Jammeh, the corrupt former leader of The Gambia who, in addition to ordering targeted assassinations, plundered The Gambia's state coffers for his personal gain.  In addition, Bazzi has business ties to the Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization.  As Hizballah's chief benefactor, Iran is complicit in the despicable behavior of Bazzi.  Specifically, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, Hizballah's representative to Iran and cousin of Hasan Nasrallah, Hizballah's Secretary General, worked with Bazzi to reestablish a political relationship between The Gambia and Iran.  Moreover, Bazzi and Safi-Al-Din previously worked with the Central Bank of Iran, which OFAC recently identified as being complicit in facilitating the IRGC-QF's access to hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. currency, to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.

These designations by OFAC follow President Trump's decision last week to cease U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to begin reimposing U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.  They are in furtherance of the goal of addressing the totality of Iran's malign activities and regionally destabilizing behavior, including that of Hizballah.  These designations complement the disruptive action Treasury took last week to shut down an extensive currency exchange network in Iran and the UAE that was transferring millions to Iran's IRGC-QF.  This action is also in addition to two other actions taken this week targeting IRGC-QF and Hizballah financing, including an action against Iran's Central Bank Governor and an action taken with Terrorist Financing Targeting Center partners designating Hizballah's Shura Council and other leaders and financiers.  Today's actions further restrict Hizballah's access to the U.S. financial system and the Iranian regime's network of regional proxy groups.

MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM BAZZI

Mohammad Ibrahim Bazzi (Bazzi) was designated for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Hizballah. 

Bazzi, who operates or transacts in or through Belgium, Lebanon, Iraq, and several countries in West Africa, is a key Hizballah financier who has provided Hizballah financial assistance for many years and has provided millions of dollars to Hizballah generated from his business activities.  

Bazzi maintains ties to Hizballah financiers Adham Tabaja (Tabaja) and Ali Youssef Charara (Charara), whom OFAC designated as SDGTs for providing material support to Hizballah on June 10, 2015 and January 7, 2016, respectively.  Between 2009 and 2010, Abdallah Safi-Al-Din, also designated today, and Bazzi worked with the Central Bank of Iran to expand banking access between Iran and Lebanon.  Abdallah Safi-Al-Din was previously identified by Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) as being involved in Iranian officials' access to former Lebanese Canadian Bank (LCB), which FinCEN identified on February 10, 2011 as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act for the bank's role in facilitating the money laundering activities of an international narcotics trafficking and money laundering network. 

In addition to providing millions of dollars to Hizballah, Mohammad Bazzi is a close associate of Yahya Jammeh who was identified on December 20, 2017, in the annex to E.O. 13818, which implemented the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.  Further, Bazzi has business ties to the Ayman Joumaa Drug Trafficking and Money Laundering Organization, which OFAC designated on January 26, 2011 pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act.  Bazzi also worked to provide funds to Tabaja, with whom he held a joint line of credit. 

ABDALLAH SAFI-AL-DIN

Abdallah Safi-Al-Din (Safi Al-Din) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Safi Al-Din is Hizballah's representative to Iran and acts as a conduit between Iran and Hizballah.  He has also has served as the interlocutor between Hizballah and Iran on financial issues.  As of 2011, Safi-Al-Din and Bazzi worked together to resolve a dispute between Iran and The Gambia and reestablish a political relationship between the two countries.  Safi-Al-Din is the cousin of Hizballah's Secretary General Hasan Nasrallah (Nasrallah), whom OFAC designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on May 16, 2018, E.O. 13582 on September 13, 2012, and also pursuant to E.O. 12947 on January 23, 1995. 

 

DESIGNATED BAZZI-OWNED OR -CONTROLLED COMPANIES

 

GLOBAL TRADING GROUP NV

Global Trading Group NV (GTG) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is one of the founders and a Managing Director of GTG, a global energy products and services company headquartered in Antwerp, Belgium that also has locations in Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Ivory Coast, and Benin.  As of 2015, Bazzi, as an owner of GTG, had drafted two securities totaling approximately $1 million to operate and maintain two power plants in Lebanon. 

EURO AFRICAN GROUP LTD

Euro African Group LTD (EAGL) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director and majority shareholder of EAGL, a petroleum and petroleum products company located in Banjul, The Gambia.  GTG, in collaboration with EAGL, claims to have been the exclusive importer of all fuel products into The Gambia since 2003.

AFRICA MIDDLE EAST INVESTMENT HOLDING SAL

Africa Middle East Investment Holding SAL (AME Investment) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the Chairman, Managing Director, and majority shareholder of AME Investment, a holding company located in Beirut, Lebanon.    

PREMIER INVESTMENT GROUP SAL OFFSHORE

Premier Investment Group SAL Offshore (PIG Offshore) was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi.  Bazzi is the founder, Chairman, Managing Director, and majority shareholder of PIG Offshore, a financial services company in Beirut, Lebanon. 

CAR ESCORT SERVICES S.A.L. OFF SHORE

Car Escort Services S.A.L. Off Shore (CES), an import/export company based in Lebanon, was designated for being owned or controlled by Bazzi and Charara, who collectively own two-thirds of the company. 

These five companies should not be viewed as an exhaustive list of companies owned or controlled by Bazzi, and the regulated community remains responsible for conducting necessary due diligence and maintaining compliance with OFAC's 50 percent rule.

Each of the two individuals and five entities designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implements the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

Hizballah was designated by the Department of State as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 1997 and as an SDGT pursuant to E.O. 13224 in October 2001.  It was listed in January 1995 in the Annex to E.O. 12947, which targets terrorists who threaten to disrupt the Middle East peace process, and also designated in August 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13582, which targets the Government of Syria and its supporters. 

Today's action was conducted in coordination with several U.S. partners, including the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's Special Operations Division's Counter-Narcoterrorism Operations Center (CNTOC) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's National Targeting Center (NTC).

A network chart on the individuals and entities designated today.

Identifying information on the individuals and entities designated today.

####


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Treasury and the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center Partner Together to Sanction Hizballah’s Senior Leadership

MAY 16, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, the seven member nations of the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC) took significant actions to disrupt an Iranian-backed terrorist group by designating the senior leadership of Lebanese Hizballah.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the co-chair of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), and the other TFTC member states – the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Kuwait, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – designated members of Hizballah's Shura Council, the primary decision-making body of Hizballah.  Specifically, OFAC, together with Gulf partners, designated Hasan Nasrallah, the Secretary General of Hizballah.  OFAC and the TFTC nations further designated Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Al- Khalil, and Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.  In addition, TFTC Member States also designated the following key Hizballah-affiliated individuals and entities: Talal Hamiyah, Ali Youssef Charara, Spectrum Group, Hasan Ebrahimi, Maher Trading, Hashem Safieddine, Adham Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting, all of whom were previously designated by the U.S.

"The TFTC again demonstrated its great value to international security by disrupting Iran and Hizballah's destabilizing influence in the region.  By targeting Hizballah's Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called 'Political Wing' and Hizballah's global terrorist plotting," said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin.  "Under the dictates of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), Secretary General and head of the Shura Council Hasan Nasrallah is prolonging the human suffering in Syria, fueling the violence in Iraq and Yemen, putting the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people at risk, and destabilizing the entire region."   

This is the second TFTC designation action since the center was announced on May 21, 2017.  The TFTC is a bold and historic effort to expand and strengthen the seven member states' cooperation to counter the financing of terrorism.  The TFTC facilitates coordinated disruptive actions, sharing of financial intelligence information, and member state capacity-building to target terrorist financing networks and related activities that pose national security threats to TFTC members. 

These designations follow President Trump's decision last week to cease U.S. participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and to begin reimposing U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.  They are in furtherance of the goal of addressing the totality of Iran's malign activities and regionally destabilizing behavior, including that of Hizballah.  These designations complement disruptive action Treasury took last week to shut down an extensive currency exchange network in Iran and the UAE that was transferring millions to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF), and they build upon actions taken yesterday targeting Iran's Central Bank Governor and Iraqi-based al-Bilad Islamic Bank for moving millions of dollars for the IRGC-QF to enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hizballah.  Today's action also expands the number of Hizballah-related individuals and entities designated by Gulf states, building upon prior actions by the Gulf Cooperation Council in March 2016.  

BACKGROUND ON THE SHURA COUNCIL

The Shura Council is Hizballah's supreme decision-making body responsible for religious, military, and strategic matters and asserts control over administrative, planning, and policy-making authorities.  In the event of a deadlock in the Shura Council, the Supreme Leader of Iran casts the deciding vote.  There are five subordinate councils of the Shura Council: (1) the Executive Council, which oversees the daily activities of Hizballah; (2) the Parliamentary Council, which selects Hizballah's nominees for parliamentary elections and ensures that the parliamentary representatives carry out the Shura Council's decisions and policies; (3) the Political Council, which manages relationships with Lebanon's political parties; (4) the Jihad Council, which oversees all of Hizballah's military and security operations, deliberates on fighting strategy and tactics, and assesses threats to the organization; and (5) the Judicial Council, which organizes judicial representatives who work with Hizballah on conflict resolution and ensures compliance with their law.

HASAN NASRALLAH

Hasan Nasrallah (Nasrallah) was designated for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah, which he has led since 1992.  As the Secretary General and head of the Shura Council, Nasrallah is Hizballah's highest-ranking official and exercises direct command over Hizballah's military and security apparatus as its supreme commander, including its involvement in the war in Syria.  Nasrallah has stated that Hizballah's intervention in the war in Syria marked a completely new phase for the organization, sending military forces abroad to protect its interests.

OFAC previously designated Nasrallah as a Specially Designated Terrorist pursuant to E.O. 12947, "Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process," on January 23, 1995, and pursuant to E.O. 13582, "Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Syria," on September 13, 2012.

NAIM QASIM

OFAC and the TFTC designated Naim Qasim (Qasim) for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Qasim is the Deputy Secretary General of Hizballah, which he joined in the early 1980s.  Before ascending to his current position, he served as the Deputy President of the Executive Council.  Qasim has stated that Hizballah does not separate its military and political wings.  Specifically, he has said that Hizballah "has one single leadership, and its name is the Decision Making Shura Council.  It manages the political activity, the jihad activity, the cultural activity, and the social activities."

MUHAMMAD YAZBAK

OFAC and the TFTC designated Muhammad Yazbak (Yazbak), one of Hizballah's original founders, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Yazbak is the current leader of the Judicial Council and has overseen a military command in central Lebanon that provides logistical and training support to Hizballah.  He has supervised training camps and the smuggling of weapons, and hosted experts from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to train Hizballah fighters on weapons systems.  Yazbak has also managed Hizballah's bank accounts.

HUSAYN AL-KHALIL

OFAC and the TFTC designated Husayn Al-Khalil, Hasan Nasrallah's political advisor, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Previously, he was one of several senior Hizballah commanders who shared responsibility for the group's special operations in Europe.

IBRAHIM AL-AMIN AL-SAYYID

OFAC and the TFTC designated Ibrahim al-Amin al-Sayyid (al-Sayyid) for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  Al-Sayyid is the head of Hizballah's Political Council.  He was Hizballah's first official spokesperson and was involved in the formation of Hizballah.

As a result of today's action, all property and interests in property of Hasan Nasrallah, Naim Qasim, Muhammad Yazbak, Husayn Khalil, and Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyid that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.  OFAC's regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

Each of the five individuals designated today are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, which implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015.  Pursuant to this authority, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on opening or maintaining in the United States a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of, at the direction of, or that is owned or controlled by, Hizballah.

 

Additional TFTC Member State Designations:

TALAL HAMIYAH

Talal Hamiyah (Hamiyah) is the head of Hizballah's External Security Organization (ESO), which maintains organized cells worldwide.  The ESO is the Hizballah element responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of terrorist attacks outside of Lebanon.  OFAC designated Hamiyah on September 13, 2012 pursuant to E.O. 13224.

HASHEM SAFIEDDINE

Hashem Safieddine (Safieddine) is a senior leader in Hizballah and a key member of Hizballah's executive council.  The Department of State designated Safieddine on May 19, 2017 pursuant to E.O. 13224.  The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia joined the United States in designating Safieddine on the same day.

ALI YOUSSEF CHARARA AND SPECTRUM GROUP

Ali Charara (Charara) has facilitated commercial investments on behalf of Hizballah.  Charara's company, Spectrum Investment Group Holding SAL, is a Lebanon-based telecommunications company that provides integrated telecommunications services in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.  OFAC designated Charara and the Spectrum Group pursuant to E.O. 13224 on January 7, 2016.

ADHAM TABAJA, AL-INMAA GROUP, AND AL-INMAA ENGINEERING AND CONTRACTING

Adham Tabaja (Tabaja) maintains direct ties to senior Hizballah organizational elements, including the terrorist group's operational component, the Islamic Jihad, and holds properties in Lebanon on behalf of the group.  Tabaja is the majority owner of the Lebanon-based real estate development and construction firm Al-Inmaa Group.  The company's subsidiaries include Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting which has been used by Hizballah as an investment mechanism. Tabaja has used the Iraqi branches of Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting to obtain oil and construction development projects in Iraq that provide both financial support and organizational infrastructure to Hizballah.   OFAC designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting pursuant to E.O. 13224 on June 10, 2015.   The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia designated Tabaja, Al-Inmaa Group, and Al-Inmaa Engineering and Contracting in November 2015.

HASAN EBRAHIMI AND MAHER TRADING

Hasan Ebrahimi, an IRGC-QF official based in Beirut, Lebanon has facilitated cash transfers to Hizballah worth millions of dollars.  Ebrahimi is the manager of Maher Trading, which has been used to launder funds and smuggle goods to Hizballah.  OFAC designated Ebrahimi and Maher Trading pursuant to E.O. 13224 on February 3, 2017.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Pentagon to keep backing Lebanon military, despite Hezbollah gains

MAY 11, 2018 / 2:26 PM / UPDATED AN HOUR AGO

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military is committed to supporting and providing assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, the Pentagon said on Friday, despite the Iran-backed Hezbollah group and its allies making significant gains in parliamentary election

Shi'ite Muslim movement Hezbollah, together with parties and politicians aligned to it, won more than half the 128 seats in Lebanon's parliament on Sunday.

The United States, which has given Lebanon's army substantial support, classifies the heavily armed Hezbollah as a terrorist group and condemns its role in the Syrian conflict.

The strong showing by parties and politicians who support Hezbollah's possession of weapons risk complicating Western policy in Lebanon, which is banking on foreign aid and loans to revive its stagnant economy and receives U.S. military support.

Late last year, U.S. ally Israel said Hezbollah had gained control over Lebanon's conventional military, a charge the Lebanese army denies.

"The United States remains committed to supporting Lebanon's sovereignty, stability, security, and its state institutions, to include the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) as the professional, multi-confessional and sole legitimate armed forces of the Lebanese state," Lieutenant Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Reuters in a statement.

"Strengthening the U.S.-Lebanon defense relationship is all the more important in light of the continuing threats emanating from Syria, including continued ISIS challenges and Iranian aggression," Rebarich said.

She added that the United States and Lebanon shared a goal of building the Lebanese armed forces' capacity as "the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon's sovereignty."

The United States has provided Lebanon more than $1.5 billion in military assistance since 2006.

A grouping of major powers urged Lebanon on Thursday to uphold a policy of keeping out of regional wars.

Hezbollah is heavily involved in the war across the border in Syria, sending thousands of fighters to help President Bashar al-Assad's military.

Israel said it struck nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.


Tuesday, May 08, 2018

U.S. Embassy Beirut Statement on the Parliamentary Elections

U.S. Embassy Beirut congratulates the Lebanese people for holding a national election on May 6, its first in nine years.  We also recognize the Lebanese Armed Forces and Internal Security Forces, which provided the security measures for the Lebanese people to exercise their voting rights safely.
As Lebanon looks ahead to forming a new government, we urge all parties to uphold Lebanon's international obligations, including those contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and Lebanon's policy of disassociation from foreign conflicts.  We hope Lebanon's next government will continue along the path toward building a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace and responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel Visits Lebanon

On April 20, 2018, the Commander of United States Central Command General Joseph Votel met with President Michel Aoun, President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, and Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Joseph Aoun, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth H. Richard.

In his meetings, General Votel reaffirmed the U.S. government's commitment to the Lebanese-American partnership and its support to the Lebanese Armed Forces in their capacity as the sole defender of Lebanon.