Thursday, July 27, 2017

U.S. Humanitarian Assistance in Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis in Lebanon

By  | 25 July, 2017

The U.S. Department of State released the following fact sheet.

Today, the United States announced that it is providing more than $140 million in additional humanitarian assistance in Lebanon to address the urgent needs of refugees from Syria and those of Lebanese host communities. This announcement was made during the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to Washington, DC.

The newly announced funding brings U.S. humanitarian assistance to Lebanon to more than $1.5 billion since the start of the Syria crisis in 2012. It reflects the steadfast U.S. commitment to helping address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian need in Lebanon. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 one million registered refugees, representing nearly a quarter of its population, a sign of the great hospitality and generosity of the Lebanese people.

Through this support, the United States will provide food assistance, shelter for the most vulnerable families, emergency and hospital care, humanitarian protection, and child immunization and nutrition to the more than one million refugees and Lebanese host populations that are in need. The United States will also support infrastructure projects that improve access for Lebanese and refugees to safe drinking water and wastewater services.

This assistance supports the critical humanitarian needs addressed in the 2017 Lebanon Crisis Response Plan's appeal of $2.8 billion. The new funding supports the operations of UN humanitarian agencies in Lebanon. We encourage other donors to join us in providing additional humanitarian assistance for those affected by the crisis in Syria, including fulfilling not yet funded previously made pledges.

Chairman Royce Statement on Meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister

Press Release 

Media Contact 202-225-5021

Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) issued the following statement after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri:

"It was good to welcome Prime Minister Hariri to the U.S. Capitol for a candid discussion about regional threats, including Hezbollah and Iran.  As I've said, Hezbollah has a singular, hostile mission: to spread terror.  That's why, last week, I introduced bipartisan legislation to further crack down on Hezbollah's financial network and its transnational criminal activities, and those like Iran who support this terrorist group.  I look forward to continuing to talk with Prime Minister Hariri about security and stability in the Middle East."

Statement on Meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

July 27, 2017|Speaker Ryan Press Office
WASHINGTON—House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) issued the following statement after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri:
"Prime Minister Hariri and I just concluded a timely discussion on the importance of a stable and secure Lebanon living in peace with its neighbors. I expressed my concern over Hezbollah's expanded regional influence, and stressed the need to counter aggression from Iran and all of its proxies. In particular, Lebanon should continue to make progress enforcing international sanctions to cut off its banking sector from terrorist organizations and their supporters. Finally, I thanked Prime Minister Hariri for the efforts of the Lebanese Armed Forces to combat ISIS and al-Qaeda, and for hosting and providing for Syrian refugees."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East

Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 25, 2017


Thank you, Nickolay, for your briefing.

The United States shares everyone's concern about the heightened tensions in Jerusalem. All parties should work to reduce these tensions, and we offer whatever assistance we can in helping to do this. At the holy sites, it is vital that both access and security be ensured. In keeping with Nickolay's recommendation, I am going to refrain from further comment on this sensitive issue in the hope that wisdom will prevail over emotions.

This is our monthly gathering to discuss the Middle East. The complicated and seemingly unending conflict there is frustrating to many Americans. It's frustrating to me. But truth be told, the Security Council often makes the Middle East more complicated than it actually is. It obsesses over Israel. And it refuses to acknowledge one of the chief sources of conflict and killing in the Middle East – that is, Iran and its partner militia, Lebanese Hizballah.

Hizballah is a terrorist organization. In its own words, it is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It has the blood of hundreds of Americans and thousands of others on its hands. Together with its Iranian patron, Hizballah seeks to cause destruction throughout the Middle East. Some see "two wings" to Hizballah – a terrorist wing, and a political and social wing. This is a convenient excuse for Hizballah, but it is dangerous fiction. Just because a terrorist group also promotes political candidates for office doesn't make it any less a terrorist group.

For a glimpse of Hizballah's true nature, look no further than its work on behalf of the Syrian dictator. From its base in Lebanon, Hizballah sends its men into Syria. There, they have been responsible for some of the bloodiest campaigns of a very bloody war. They are returning to Lebanon battle-hardened, and their presence in Syria keeps open their supply route of sophisticated weapons from Iran. Simply put, Hizballah has grown stronger. It is preparing its men and its arsenal for a future war.

None of this is secret. The leader of Hizballah boasts about the destruction that his group is capable of. He talks openly about the support Iran provides. Hizballah even takes journalists on tours of its military operations on the border Lebanon shares with Israel – operations that are in defiance of this Council.

It is no secret where the United Nations stands either. It has passed multiple resolutions calling on Hizballah to disarm. It has called on the Lebanese state to exercise control over its territory. But neither of these things has happened. The trend is very much in the opposite direction. Hizballah openly defies these resolutions and impedes the Lebanese government's ability to exercise full control over its territory.

For too long, the Security Council has chosen to pretend that the status quo is acceptable for the people of Lebanon. It is not. Hizballah's illegal weapons build-up is putting the people of Lebanon in great danger. Remarkably, this Council cannot even bring itself to use the word "Hizballah" in recent resolutions or statements on Lebanon. Many here are happy to name Israel, time after time, but Hizballah is somehow off limits. It's absurd. Worse than that, it's dangerous.

The least the American people expect from this Council is to acknowledge the obvious threats that are right in front of us. How can I explain to them that there is a terrorist organization preparing its men and its arsenal for war, but the United Nations refuses to even say their name? This must change. We must show Hizballah that they cannot get away with its illegal weapons.

The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon has an important role to play. The United States supports UNIFIL. But there is much more that UNIFIL should do to help prevent another conflict. It can begin by acknowledging what is happening right under its nose. There are reports of UNIFIL not fully investigating alleged violations. Sometimes it fails to report what its investigators have found. If UNIFIL can't acknowledge illegal weapons that Hizballah parades in front of the media, one wonders what else it's missing. We will have more to say about UNIFIL when its mandate is up for renewal next month.

The American people sympathize with the challenges facing the Lebanese people. We will continue to support them as they combat ISIS and host over a million Syrian refugees. We understand that the issues in the Middle East are complex. But we also understand right and wrong, and we expect our leaders to know the difference as well.

Hizballah is a destructive terrorist force. It is a major obstacle to peace. And the dangers it poses are getting larger, not smaller. Simply acknowledging this – and saying it out loud – would be a significant step forward. But we must do more than that. We must begin to get serious about enforcing our own resolutions that have been routinely violated by Iran and Hizballah.

Thank you.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon in Joint Press Conference

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Hariri of Lebanon in Joint Press Conference

Rose Garden

3:24 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  Please.  I'm very happy to announce that, with zero of the Democrats' votes, the motion to proceed on healthcare has just passed, and now we move forward towards truly great healthcare for the American people.  We look forward to that.  This was a big step.  

I want to thank Senator John McCain -- very brave man.  He made a tough trip to get here and vote.  So we want to thank Senator McCain and all of the Republicans.  We passed it without one Democrat vote.  And that's a shame but that's the way it is, and it's very unfortunate.  

But I want to congratulate American people because we're going to give you great healthcare.  And we're going to get rid of Obamacare which should have been, frankly, terminated long ago.  It's been a disaster for the American people.  

Thank you very much.

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.  It is my honor to welcome Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon to the White House.  

The Prime Minister and I have just concluded an extensive conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Lebanon and its neighbors.  Lebanon is on the front lines in the fight against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Hizballah.  The Lebanese people, of all faiths, are working together to keep -- and you know this, and we've been discussing this at great length -- their country safe and prosperous.  They love their country, and they're going to keep it safe and prosperous.   

Mr. Prime Minister, I want to commend you and your people for standing up for humanity in a very troubled part of the world.  The ties between our two countries stretch back more than a century.  Long, long relationships.  

In 1866, American missionaries founded the American University of Beirut.  Now, more than 150 years later -- and with ongoing American support -- this university continues to educate generations of leaders in the region.  

Today, our two countries seek to strengthen our relationship in many ways, including the pursuit of stability, mutual prosperity, and peace.  What the Lebanese Armed Forces have accomplished in recent years is very impressive.  In 2014, when ISIS tried to invade northern Lebanon, the Lebanese army beat them back.  Since that time, the Lebanese army has been fighting continually to guard Lebanon's border and prevent ISIS and other terrorists -- of which there are many -- from gaining a foothold inside their country.  

The United States military has been proud to help in that fight and will continue to do so.  America's assistance can help ensure that the Lebanese army is the only defender Lebanon needs. It's a very effective fighting force. 

Threats to the Lebanese people come from inside, as well. Hizballah is a menace to the Lebanese state, the Lebanese people, and the entire region.  The group continues to increase its military arsenal, which threatens to start yet another conflict with Israel, constantly fighting them back. 

With the support of Iran, the organization is also fueling the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.  Hizballah likes to portray itself as a defender of Lebanese interests, but it's very clear that its true interests are those of itself and its sponsor -- Iran. 

I have repeatedly emphasized that Syria's neighbors in the Middle East must take responsibility for helping Syrian refugees until they can return home and rebuild their country.  The Lebanese people have led the way, accepting more Syrian refugees per capita than any other nation.  It's not even close.

I want to thank the Prime Minister and the Lebanese people for giving shelter to those victimized by ISIS, the Assad regime, and their supporters and sponsors, and pledge our continued support to Lebanon.  

Since the start of the Syrian crisis, the United States has helped Lebanon support Syrian refugees with clean water, food, shelter, and health care.  Our approach, supporting the humanitarian needs of displaced Syrian citizens as close to their home country as possible, is the best way to help most people.  America is proud to stand with those who have the courage to stand up to terrorism and take responsibility for affairs in their own region. 

The reliance and resilience of the Lebanese people in the face of war and terror is extraordinary.  We honor the citizens of Lebanon who are working to secure a future of peace, stability, and prosperity for their children.

Mr. Prime Minister, I'm grateful that you're here today.  It's a big day in our country because of the vote that you just heard about.  We stood and watched the results on television before coming out, and you found it very interesting, I hope --


PRESIDENT TRUMP:  -- and very important.  I look forward to working with you to strengthen our partnership and the enduring friendship between the American and Lebanese peoples.  

Thank you very much.  Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  Thank you.  Good afternoon.  I had the honor and pleasure -- and the pleasure to hold a very good meeting with President Trump.  I appreciate his leadership and the United States' leadership in the world today.  We discussed the situation in our region and the efforts we, in Lebanon, are making to safeguard our political and economic stability, while combatting terrorism.  

I thank President Trump for his support to our army and security agencies, as well as his support to maintaining peace and stability along our southern border, where our government is committed to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, as well as all resolutions.

We also discussed the pressures Lebanon is facing as a result of 1.5 million Syrians displaced in our country.  I outlined to President Trump my government's vision for dealing with this crisis with the support of the international community.  We also discussed economic prospects in Lebanon and our government's effort to jumpstart inclusive economic growth with a particular emphasis on job creation.

I thank President Trump and the United States of America for their support to the Lebanese people, striving to keep their country a model of moderation, dialogue, coexistence, and democratic governance in our region.

Thank you.  

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  

Margaret Talev, please.

Q    Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Hello, Margaret.

Q    Hi.  Hi, Mr. President.  Mr. Prime Minister, I'll have a question for you also in just a second, if you'll bear with me.  
You spoke earlier today with The Wall Street Journal -- we've all seen those comments -- but I think everybody here probably is hoping that you could talk a little bit more about this.  You have called your Attorney General "beleaguered."  You have criticized his decision to recuse himself on the Russia matters.  And your, kind of, catch-phrase or motto before the White House was, "You're fired."  So I'm wondering if you would talk to us a little bit about whether you've lost confidence in Jeff Sessions, whether you want him to resign on his own, whether you're prepared to fire him if he doesn't, and why you're sort of letting him twist in the wind rather than just making the call for him.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, I don't think I am doing that, but I am disappointed in the Attorney General.  He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office.  And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else.  So I think that's a bad thing not for the President, but for the presidency.  I think it's unfair to the presidency.  And that's the way I feel.  Thank you.

Q    Thank you.  Mr. Prime Minister, could you tell us what you think about the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar?  This is something that has been of great concern to the U.S. also in terms of resolving.  Do you think that Qatar is doing enough on terror?  And if so, would you like to see President Trump increase the pressure on the Saudi coalition to ease its blockade?

And, Mr. President, if you would give us any more of your thinking on, going forward, the path with Attorney General Sessions, and maybe your timeline for making a decision, that would be great.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  You don't give up.  That's okay.

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  Thank you.  I think there is an effort by the Kuwaitis.  They're leading this effort.  And I think they made some progress.  We believe that dialogue is the best way in improving this relationship between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  I believe that maybe the United States also could help in solving this issue in the Gulf.

Denise (ph).

Q    I have one question for the President and also for the Prime Minister.  Congress introduced additional sanctions against Hizballah last week.  What is your position towards these sanctions and on the role Hizballah is playing in the region and Syria?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I'll be making my position very clear over the next 24 hours.  We're going to see what is exactly taking place.  I have meetings with some of my very expert military representatives and others, so I'll be making that decision very shortly.  Okay?  Thank you.

Q    And about its role in Syria and the region?


Q    Hizballah's role.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I'll be talking about that tomorrow.

Q    (No translation provided.)

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  (No translation provided.)  

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Blake Burman.  Thank you.  Hello, Blake.

Q    President Trump, hello.  Thank you.  Indulge us here for a second.  Just to pick up where Margaret left off, the American people I think would like to know:  Do you feel that the Attorney General should indeed stay?  Do you intend on firing him?  Why should he remain as the Attorney General?

And, secondly, on a separate topic, with the healthcare vote that just came about, there is a still long ways to go.  At what point do you feel that Republicans, if they can't get something done, should just say, you know what, we gave it a go, let's move on to tax reform instead?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I want the Attorney General to be much tougher on the leaks from intelligence agencies, which are leaking like rarely have they ever leaked before, at a very important level.  These are intelligence agencies.  We cannot have that happen.  You know many of my views in addition to that, but I think that's one of the very important things that they have to get on with.

I told you before, I'm very disappointed with the Attorney General, but we will see what happens.  Time will tell.  Time will tell.

On healthcare, I'm extremely happy that we got this vote.  They say, if you look historically, this is the tough vote to get.  Now we're all going to sit together and we're going to try and come up with something that's really spectacular.  We have a lot of options, and a lot of great options.  And the Republican senators really went out there.  It's not easy when you have 52 senators and you have a bloc of 48 voting against you.  No matter what it is, no matter how good it sounds, it's very hard to get the kind of numbers that we got.  We ended up with 51 votes -- 51 to whatever.  I don't know what it is.  Yeah, 51-50.  

So we had two Republicans that went against us, which is very sad, I think.  It's very, very sad -- for them.  But I'm very, very happy with the result.  I believe now we will, over the next week or two, come up with a plan that's going to be really, really wonderful for the American people.  

Obamacare is a disaster.  It's failing on every front.  It's too expensive.  It gives horrible coverage.  It was gotten by a lie, 28 times.  It was a lie.  "You can keep your doctor, you can keep your plan" -- all lies.  And the people are sick of it.  And we're going to come up with a great healthcare that satisfies the needs of the people that we serve, which is the people of the United States.  

I will say -- and I said it right at the beginning -- healthcare is always difficult because you have to weed a very, very narrow path, like a quarter of an inch wide, right down the middle.  And if you go a little bit too far right, you lose three people on the left.  And if you go a little bit too far left, you lose five people on the right.  It is a very, very complex and difficult task, but it's something I actually know quite a bit about.  I want to just thank some of the Republican senators, who were really fantastic in getting us here, in particular John McCain for making the trip.  

But I think you're going to have a great healthcare.  This is the beginning of the end for the disaster known as Obamacare.
Thank you very much.

Q    Mr. President, how can the United States help Lebanon cope with the massive number of refugees -- of Syrian refugees?  And is there a way you can help facilitate the refugees' return to their home country?

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Well, we are helping.  And one of the things that we have made tremendous strides at is getting rid of ISIS.  We have generals that don't like to talk; they like to do.  And we were with General Mattis last night, and the success they've had against ISIS is extraordinary.  We've made more progress in the last four or five months than previous -- really, I could say, the previous administration made in eight years. 

And then we have to see what we have to see.  But I will tell you, ISIS in Syria, ISIS in Iraq, ISIS in other locations -- we have made tremendous strides.  Our military is an incredible fighting force.  And as you know, I let the commanders on the ground do what they had to do.  Before, they used to have to call in this beautiful house and speak to people that didn't know what was happening -- where they were, what locations -- practically, probably never heard of the countries they were talking about, or the towns.  I let the generals do what they had to do.  And we have made tremendous plans.  We were discussing it just before.  We have made tremendous gains with respect to ISIS in Syria, Iraq, and other places.  

Thank you.

Q    What about Bashar al-Assad in Syria?


Q    Assad.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I'm not a fan of Assad, okay?  He will tell you that, because we hit 58 out of 58, or, you could even say, 59 out of 59, when we launched the Tomahawk missiles. 

No, I am not a fan of Assad.  I certainly think that what he's done to that country and to humanity is horrible.  So, I have been saying that for a long time.  I am not somebody that will stand by and let him get away with what he tried to do.  And he did it a number of times -- when President Obama drew the red line in the sand.  And then he should have crossed that red line, because some horrible acts against humanity took place, including gas and the killing through gases.  That was a bad day for this country.  And I'd go a step further that, had President Obama gone across that line and done what he should have done, I don't believe you'd have Russia and I don't believe you'd have Iran to anywhere near the extent, and maybe not at all, in Syria today.

Thank you very much.

Q    (No translation provided.)

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  (No translation provided.)

Q    (No translation provided.)

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  (No translation provided.)

PRESDIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Appreciate it.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER HARIRI:  Thank you so much.

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Mr. Prime Minister, thank you.


Statement from the Press Secretary on the Visit of Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Statement from the Press Secretary on the Visit of Prime Minister Saad Hariri of Lebanon

President Donald J. Trump will host Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the White House on July 25. The two leaders will discuss issues of mutual concern, including the fight against terrorism, the economy, and refugees. This meeting will serve as an important opportunity to strengthen the bilateral relationship and will encourage other international and regional partners to support Lebanon as it faces a wide range of challenges.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Royce, Engel Introduce Hezbollah Sanctions Bill

Press Release 

Media Contact 202-225-5021

Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced H.R. 3329, a bipartisan bill to increase sanctions on the terrorist organization Hezbollah. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 1595).

Chairman Royce on H.R. 3329: "As Iran's leading terrorist proxy, Hezbollah has been fomenting insecurity around the Middle East for decades. Most recently, it has carried out heinous acts of violence in Syria and is amassing more than 100,000 rockets along Israel's border. The U.S. cannot allow Hezbollah to threaten our ally Israel and undermine our interests in Syria. These sanctions will severely limit Hezbollah's financial network and transnational criminal activities, as well as crack down on its backers – most importantly Iran."

Ranking Member Engel on H.R. 3329: "Hezbollah remains one of the biggest threats to America, our interests and our allies.  With support from Iran and Syria, Hezbollah has become more lethal and more dangerous in the region. We are introducing the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act Amendments at a critical time. Battle-hardened Hezbollah fighters are coming home after fighting for the murderous Assad regime and more and more rockets are pointed at Israel's population centers.  Congress must close any possible loophole that could allow foreign funding of Hezbollah.  Acting swiftly—and in a bipartisan manner—will show Hezbollah's foreign sponsors that the United States will not sit by while Hezbollah grows stronger."

The Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act builds on Chairman Royce's 2015 Hezbollah sanctions law by:

  • Further restricting Hezbollah's ability to fundraise and recruit
  • Increasing pressure on banks that do business with Hezbollah
  • Cracking down on foreign states – including Iran – that support Hezbollah