Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The United States Delivers Four A-29 Super Tucano Aircrafts to the LAF

By U.S. Embassy Beirut | 13 June, 2018 |
Ambassador Elizabeth Richard spoke on Tuesday June 12 at the Hamat Air Base on the occasion of the delivery of four A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts to the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Good afternoon.  General Aoun, Major General Shreim, General Haykal, our brothers and sisters in the LAF and the air force and dear guests.

It is just great to be back at Hamat Air Base to mark another milestone in the remarkable development of the Lebanese Armed Forces as one of the most capable militaries in this region.

Finally, all six A-29 Super Tucanos are in Lebanon!  Congratulations to the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Lebanese Air Force, and all those who worked on this program over the last several years to make it a success, and I include here the representatives with us today from the United States Air Force, who were with you through the entire process.

As you know the first two A-29 Super Tucanos were delivered last October; this set of four aircrafts that arrived recently completes the delivery.

But that doesn't mean the program has ended—the US will continue to support the integration of the A29s into your capabilities over the coming years.

I am also pleased to honor the recently returned LAF pilots, among the best professionals in the region.  The LAF is recognized in the U.S. for the quality of the officers and soldiers it sends to our training and education programs.

Lebanese students routinely finish at the top of their classes, earning 'honor graduate' recognition.  The recently returned A-29 pilots and maintainers upheld this real high LAF standard, and our military is very proud to serve with them.

The acquisition of the A-29 Super Tucano, a new aviation platform featuring advanced technology, will transform an already-strong air power capability that has been a key part of the Lebanese Army's ability to defend this country.

The A-29 provides the LAF with precision guided munitions and advanced precision strike capability.  This is a game-changing acquisition that takes the LAF to the next level of combat capability.

With the A-29, the LAF will now be able to conduct joint combined arms maneuvers in all conditions, day and night, in a way that greatly reduces the risk of collateral damage and the danger to civilians.

Before long, I would like to note, we will be complementing the power of the A-29 aircraft with six MD-530G light attack scout helicopters.  We announced these last December when General Votel visited Lebanon.  This is a significant Air Force that we are building together.

As demonstrated in the LAF's "Dawn of the Hills" operation last August, the Lebanese people can trust the LAF to achieve national strategic objectives and defend the country.

I'd like to also say, today is also another reminder of the strong bond between the U.S. and Lebanon.  Over the last decade, the U.S. government has invested over $1.5 billion in training and equipment, and we have trained over 32,000 Lebanese troops.  We will continue this partnership and support to the Government of Lebanon and to the Army.

I would like to highlight one very important point here.  For all militaries, including our own, the process of planning for, acquiring, and sustaining the capabilities needed to accomplish the mission is a long-term strategic endeavor.

Let me take a moment to salute all the former Army and Air Force officers – and some of them with us today – who understood that a modern armed force is not built through one-time, short fuse equipment donations or purchases.

Real capability is built over time, through thoughtful analysis of the threats, and careful planning and design of the Lebanese Army of the future.  None of what you see here today, and frankly, none of the great successes of the Dawn of the Hills battle, would have been possible without the dedication and the foresight of all those officers and non-commissioned officers who came before us.

We are very, very proud General Aoun, General Haykal, General Shreim, to be your partners.  Thank everyone for being here with us today.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Lynch Lays Wreath at Beirut Memorial to Honor U.S. Servicemembers Killed in Lebanon

Jun 1, 2018
BEIRUT—On Wednesday Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Boston) laid a wreath at the Beirut Memorial at the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon to honor the 241 American servicemembers, including 220 U.S. Marines, 18 sailors, and 3 Army soldiers, who were killed in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings. The memorial honors American servicemembers and diplomats who have lost their lives while serving in Lebanon. 

"In the midst of violence and civil war, brave American servicemembers and diplomats came to Lebanon to promote peace. We still mourn our brothers and sisters and sons and daughters who did not return home," said Lynch. "It was an honor to stand alongside the men and women who are currently serving in Lebanon, including the U.S. Marine detachment from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, to remember those who were taken from us as they sought peace here and throughout the Middle East."

The Beirut barracks bombings in 1983 were the deadliest single-day attack on U.S. Marines since the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. Earlier that year, 63 people were killed in an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and in 1984, 24 people were killed in an attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in Aukar. The Beirut Memorial honors hundreds of American military, intelligence, and diplomatic personnel killed in these and other incidents in Lebanon.

U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and the U.S. Marine Corps contingent stationed at the U.S. Embassy also participated in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Beirut Memorial. Lynch's visit to the memorial came during a week-long congressional delegation to the Middle East that included trips to Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, and the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

The panel's experts on Lebanon dismissed the mainstream narrative that the May 6 election results were a major coup for Hezbollah. Paul Salem, MEI's senior vice president for policy research and programs, said Hezbollah and its coalition, which won roughly 40 of 128 seats, certainly performed well, but that their gains were not large enough to dramatically alter the status quo. He predicted Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun would remain in their positions.

Salem also noted that the results indicate Sunnis and Christians are becoming somewhat more critical of Hezbollah, a Shi'i group. The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party opposed to Hezbollah, performed better than expected, winning 15 seats, he pointed out, while the Free Patriotic Movement, a Christian party led by President Aoun that has positive relations with Hezbollah, underperformed, securing 23 seats. Prime Minister Hariri's Sunni Future Movement also performed poorly, winning 20 seats. 

Salem believes some Lebanese Christians and Sunnis are displeased with Hariri and Aoun's accommodating approach toward Hezbollah. "Hariri may be feeling that he needs to pivot a bit away from his Aounist-Hezbollah positioning," Salem commented. He added that, longer-term, Hezbollah is likely concerned that this sentiment could lead to the group eventually losing influence with leaders of the Christian and Sunni communities. 

MEI senior fellow Bilal Saab agreed with this assessment. "Moving forward, Hezbollah is going to be worried about having two understandings with major figures in the next government—Michel Aoun and Saad Hariri—whose own support bases may have difficulties with the policies they pursue," he stated