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