Thursday, March 28, 2019

Remarks at a UN Security Council Open Debate on Combating the Financing of Terrorism

Ambassador Jonathan Cohen
Acting Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
March 28, 2019


Thank you, Madam President. We thank France for raising this issue in the Security Council and for its efforts to generate the groundbreaking counterterrorism financing resolution we adopted this morning. Thanks, too, to our briefers today.

Madam President, Ministers, Excellencies, the Security Council has been instrumental in building a global framework for Member States to counter the financing of terrorism, beginning with the adoption of Resolution 1373, which we drafted after September 11th that provides the foundation for our global counterterrorism financing efforts. This Council has come a long way to tackle the financing of terrorist groups, including by adapting our robust 1267 ISIL and Al-Qa'ida sanctions regime to the evolving threat we face, and adopting important resolutions like 2199, 2253, and 2368 that target ISIS use of oil, antiquities, and other illicit activities to raise funds.

The comprehensive resolution adopted today is an important step forward in adapting UN tools to address today's counterterrorism financing threat. As we heard from the President of the Financial Action Task Force, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Treasury Billingslea, the resolution brings Member States' obligations under UN Security Council resolutions further into line with the FATF standard on criminalizing terrorist financing.

Specifically, the resolution obligates Member States to criminalize terrorist financing even in the absence of a link to a specific terrorist act, so that States are equipped to stymie the general operations of terrorist groups and individual terrorists. This new and very important global obligation will help ensure that Member States have the frameworks in place to utilize effectively an important counterterrorism financing tool – the prosecution of those who knowingly finance and otherwise support terrorist groups.

Madam President, the Security Council is clear in its intent when creating this obligation, as we have reaffirmed many times before: Member States must implement this in a manner consistent with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international refugee law.

The United States supports the essential work of humanitarian actors and relief agencies that provide lifesaving assistance to those suffering through conflict. We are the single largest humanitarian donor worldwide, and we urge Member States to coordinate and strengthen risk mitigation efforts so that those in need can receive aid and so that the terrorists who cause their suffering do not benefit from such assistance.

The resolution adopted today also underscores the critical need for the full and effective implementation of all targeted financial sanctions flowing from the UN's 1267 ISIL and Al-Qa'ida Sanctions regime as well as from each Member State's domestic sanctions regime pursuant to Resolution 1373 to fully disrupt terrorist financing.

Madam President, the United States employs a comprehensive approach to counter terrorist financing. We use financial sanctions, other financial measures, and law enforcement action to cut off terrorists from their sources of revenue and from the international financial system. This involves close coordination and information sharing with our interagency and international partners. It also involves strong collaboration with the private sector and non-profit civil society groups to share and receive information on terrorist financing threats.

We must disrupt the financing of groups like Hizballah, who export violence and instability across the Middle East and have a long history of destabilizing activity that continues to threaten global peace and security. Hizballah, which continues to fight wars on two fronts in Syria and Yemen, uses an increasingly sophisticated array of tools and international networks of companies and brokers, including seemingly legitimate businesses such as the construction and pharmaceutical sectors, to generate revenue, conceal the procurement of weapons, and circumvent controls to disrupt money-laundering and terrorism finance. Such networks and tools cannot be tackled in isolation or in any one corner of the globe.

We cannot let proven terrorist groups like Hizballah continue to stay one-step ahead of our international monitoring and counterterrorist financing efforts. All of us must recognize Hizballah and other such groups for what they are – a global threat to peace and security. The terrorist financing threat that Hizballah, ISIS, and al-Qa'ida pose requires employing the full range of tools highlighted in today's resolution.

Madam President, we enhance the impact of our individual efforts to counter terrorism finance by working with key international partners. For example, the United States, together with its co-chair Saudi Arabia, established the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center in Riyadh to facilitate coordinated disruptive actions, information sharing, and capacity building to target terrorist financing networks and activities of mutual concern that pose national security threats to the United States and the Gulf. Together, we're countering evolving terrorist financing networks, including those supporting ISIS, al-Qa'ida, Hizballah, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba. Since its inception in May 2017, we've implemented three rounds of multilateral designations, sanctioning 36 individuals and entities.

We also work multilaterally through the FATF, the global standard setting body that promotes the effective implementation of its standards through a rigorous peer assessment and follow-up process to ensure states are taking action to combat terrorist financing, money laundering, and WMD proliferation financing.

In closing, Madam President, we must continue to bring all of our tools to bear to combat terrorist financing around the world. Our collective efforts have had a tremendous impact thus far, and while there is much more work to do, today's unanimous vote reinforces the Council's resolve to suppress the financing of terrorism worldwide.

I thank you.


Interview With Alain Dargham of MTV

Michael R. Pompeo 
Secretary of State
U.S. Embassy
Beirut, Lebanon
March 23, 2019

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mike Pompeo, thank you so much for your time and good to see you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: It's great to be with you. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. Let's start with your tough speech yesterday. You mentioned the Lebanese people should be brave and stand up against Hizballah. What can they do to face this strong group? Is Washington willing to go further steps to help if they do so?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, the good news is that my meetings here have shown that the Lebanese people are prepared to do this. They are prepared and they understand that their sovereignty and their independence depends on their own efforts.

I love this place. I love Lebanon. It is a special place in the Middle East. It is a democracy with enormous religious diversity, and that's why allowing Hizballah – funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran – is so dangerous. It's the threat that is posed to all those people, Christians and Muslims, people from a broad range of understandings and experiences to – people from the north, people from the Bekaa, all across Lebanon. We must all get this right. The United States is prepared to support that effort. We want our good partners in Lebanon to understand that we're with them in this battle and that they don't have to allow the Islamic Republic of Iran to underwrite a terrorist organization that infiltrates inside of their country.

QUESTION: Last night you gave a speech that's considered to be the pointed speech probably since you took office as Secretary of State. What led up to that?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, I don't know about that. What President Trump and our administration tries to do is speak the truth, to call out facts, to engage in a very realistic diplomatic effort to achieve the outcomes that we know every nation wants. This trip started in Kuwait and then traveled to Israel and came here. I was in the Middle East before that. I think I was in six or seven countries. Each one of those – each one of those nations wants America to help. They understand that we are a force for good in the region, and they want that help to assist them in stronger government, stronger institutions, and more capable resources to help their own people, and America is prepared to do that in each and every case.

QUESTION: You also said in your speech last night that Washington would continue to use all peaceful means possible to pressure Hizballah. Is Washington considering to expand sanctions to include Lebanese political figures close to Hizballah?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I never get ahead of the President with respect to who or what entities we might designate or which tools we might use, but I want the Lebanese people to understand that we're prepared to use all peaceful tools that the United States has in conjunction with and we'll work alongside our Lebanese partners to ensure that we get the right outcomes. If that involves sanctioning particular individuals, we're prepared to do that. If it means more American diplomatic engagement, we're prepared to do that as well. We want allies and partners in the region to be part of this too. It's a campaign in helping the Lebanese people have this one – this wonderful, diverse, great democracy that is so vital for peace and stability throughout the entire Middle East.

QUESTION: You're not worried that more sanctions could lead to hurting the Lebanese economy?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We don't want that. Indeed, we want just the opposite. I was with a group of folks yesterday talking about the Lebanese economy and how more American businesses might invest, how we might help the Lebanese economy grow. We certainly want that. We think a healthy, thriving Lebanese economy is good for the very peace and stability that I've been speaking about here this morning.

QUESTION: After your meetings with Aoun and Berri and Bassil on one side and Hariri and Hassan and Jumblatt and Geagea on the other side, have you sensed a unified opinion among them about Hizballah?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, I have. I think they all understand the importance of keeping the political power out of the hands of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It's been a consistent theme, something each leader I've spoken with has talked about.

QUESTION: See, some sources was mentioning that you were not happy after your meeting with Bassil. What happened exactly?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, I don't know who those folks are. We had a fine meeting. We had a conversation like all of my conversations yesterday that were very frank, that were very candid. That's what friends do: they talk about how to move forward, how to work together. Where there are differences, you try to resolve them – you make sure others understand your point of view. Every one of my counterparts yesterday did that. No, I thought each of the meetings I had yesterday was constructive and productive.

QUESTION: Let's talk about Syrian refugees. Some – you always mention you want a safe return for displaced Syrian refugees to their home, but might – the peaceful solution might take years and the Lebanese economy (inaudible) as well. Would you encourage a dialogue between the Lebanese president and Bashar Assad on this matter?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, I'll stay out of that. That's a decision for the Lebanese leadership to make. I will say this: I visited – it's been a little while ago – I had a chance to visit some of these refugees in the Bekaa Valley. I watched the graciousness, the nobleness of how Lebanon is treating these refugees. They were running after-school sessions, helping to educate the young people who have come here, displaced persons who were in a really bad place. Lebanon should be incredibly proud of what it has done to take care of these refugees. The United States appreciates the burden this has put on the Lebanese economy, and our mission in Syria is to get a political resolution such that the safe and voluntary return of these people can take place just as soon as possible.

QUESTION: It was a pleasure talking with you, Mr. Secretary.


QUESTION: Thank you so much.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Great to see you.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, Remarks at Media Stakeout Following UN Security Council Consultations on Resolution 1701, 28 March 2019 [EN/AR]

First of all, I am very glad that in my new capacity as the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, I had the opportunity to brief the Security Council about my activities but notably about the country, about Lebanon. I spoke about opportunities and some risks as well.

Opportunities, and I believe that it was recognized very clearly by members of the Security Council: The Government is there, the programme of the Government is there, a programme that is very solid, speaks about reforms, speaks about what to do and how to work. So, all of that was very much recognized and encouraged. It was one of the messages that I heard is a need to use the goodwill of the international community to support Lebanon and that was manifested in past days, past weeks through different visits as well and before that by different international conferences and to pursue the reform agenda. Deep reforms are needed for the benefit of the country and the people of the country because there were a lot of economic issues. That was one big block of opportunities and encouragement. I was very glad that a number of delegations also recognized, acknowledged the fact that there are four women in the Government, including the first Minister of Interior in the whole region, a woman and a very strong minister, I would say. I had a meeting with her and she has absolute clarity about what to do and how to do it and I am very much encouraged by that. Strong international support, as I said, is there. So all of that is on the side of opportunities.

I mentioned also certain risks, first again economy. Economic, social issues, it is obvious from my meetings in the past six weeks that this is very high in the agenda of the government . Hopefully soon the Government will adopt the budget and the budget that hopefully will send a very strong signal that it is a reform budget.

Secondly, I briefed about all the discussions and disputes that are sometimes happening around the topic of return of Syrian refugees. It is a discussed topic and I mentioned this also because I registered that there is a national consensus even, political consensus among the major political parties, in favour of return of Syrian refugees back home. There is another big discussion about how to do it, if there is room to do it, how to cooperate and there is another topic about how to shape relations between Lebanon and Syria as such. And this is a divisive topic. There is basic unity that refugees must return. So that is the second area.

Of course, I mentioned regional developments that are affecting the situation in Lebanon. And from that perspective, of course I believe that the Security Council had a number of discussions about regional developments and will have a number of discussions. Even just now I saw His Excellency the Ambassador of Syria waiting for that. So no question that regional developments are very strongly on the agenda. And from that perspective, many of those that took the floor, members of the Security Council, were bringing to our attention, and through me most likely to the attention of the leadership of the country, the implementation of steps that would ensure increased control of weapons by the State and increased control of any supplies of arms and of course activities of different armed groups that are still outside the control of the State.

So that was happening, that was quite a discussion. All in all, I was happy to hear a message of support of the members, united support of the members of the Security Council for Lebanon.

QUESTION: Regarding the issue of Syrian refugees that you mentioned, the national consensus …

SCL Jan Kubis: Political consensus.

QUESTION: People tend to agree that the refugees should go back. Are you worried that, now you are communicating with Mr. Pedersen and with UNHCR, because of that feeling in Lebanon that people might be pushed back into Syria where it is not safe for them to go?

SCL Jan Kubis: Let's put it like this, the position of the UN and I am also working on this although of course I leave the field to our humanitarian community and Humanitarian Coordinator, but you know that we cannot in any way differently, only to stress the principles of safe, voluntary and dignified return. You cannot expect from the UN, any side or any part of the UN, to do and think in any other different way. Yes, as I said, there is a discussion and a dispute and yes there might be some individuals tempted to maybe propose some other approach but I would say that at this point in time in practice everything is done according to the principles of safe, voluntary and dignified return. And I assume that this practice will be continued.

QUESTION: One final question on the other aspect you mentioned, the regional aspect. Given the situation in Gaza and given the US recognition of Golan, as you know in this region things tend to have unexpected consequences. How worried are you, given the fragility of Lebanon?

SCL Jan Kubis: I would say that by and large, there is a strong interest, and it is my assumption and assessment, not to go too far in destabilizing the situation. Everyone cares about stability of Lebanon, including the regional countries. This is what I heard also in Israel. So from that perspective, I am of course following this with certain concern, but I don't think we should expect any total instability.


Thu 28 Mar 2019 at 16:14 Politics
NNA - A diplomatic report issued on Thursday reportedly said that following his visit to Lebanon, US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, spoke to the US House of Representatives' subcommittee on aid funding Syrian refugees in Lebanon, as well as their return to their homeland. 

"In Lebanon, there are 1.5 million Syrian refugees; they are a heavy burden on the country in terms of the cost and the risks that they pose on Lebanon and its democracy," Pompeo said. 

"The US State Department has been broaching the best means to pave the way for suitable conditions on the ground in Syria, and the means by which the US and its Arab partners could secure the right conditions on the ground in Syria so that refugees can return to their homes. This is the exact task that the Lebanese people wish to see implemented," Pompeo added.

"I honestly believe that the return of these individuals is the best for them. We have to make sure that the conditions are appropriate for their return, a thing which the US State Department will be in the front lines to achieve," Pompeo said.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Press Releases: Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 23, 2019

The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces, General Joseph Aoun, in Beirut. They discussed the importance of the U.S.-Lebanese security partnership and how the United States can further support the Lebanese Armed Forces. The Secretary also raised U.S. concerns about the destabilizing role of Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, within Lebanon and throughout the region, and the U.S. commitment to bilateral counterterrorism, counter smuggling, and border control cooperation.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Near East: Remarks With Greek Orthodox Bishop Elias Audi After Their Meeting

Michael R. Pompeo
Secretary of State
Bishop Audi's Office
Beirut, Lebanon
March 23, 2019

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. (Inaudible.) It's wonderful to see you. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: A few words about your visit?

SECRETARY POMPEO: We had a great visit with a --

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you please turn for the camera, please?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, of course. We had a very nice visit with a dear friend. I enjoyed it very much. We've known – we've known – (inaudible) have known Bishop Audi for a long time. It was great to be with you today.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any reaction to the SDF declaration? Does this mean that the U.S. troop drawdown will begin? And is the administration willing to provide some additional funding to prevent a resurgence?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, our mission there hasn't changed. We still have work to do to make sure that radical Islamic terrorism doesn't continue to grow. Thank you all very much. Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo --


QUESTION: Secretary Pompeo --

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, thank you. So long. I'm sorry, we've got to run.

QUESTION: Did you come to Lebanon to say to --

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, my friend.

Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting With Lebanese Forces Party Leader Samir Geagea

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 22, 2019
The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met in Beirut today with Lebanese Forces Party Leader Samir Geagea. They discussed a number of issues, including the Lebanese government's continued work to strengthen security and stability in the country and to address the needs of the Lebanese people. The Secretary also reiterated U.S. concerns regarding the destructive role Hizballah plays both domestically and abroad, and the risks the terror organization poses to the Lebanese people.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Remarks With Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil

Michael R. Pompeo 
Secretary of State
Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Beirut, Lebanon
March 22, 2019

FOREIGN MINISTER BASSIL: Welcome, Mr. Secretary. Welcome in Lebanon, friend of Lebanon.

(Via interpreter) I was honored to welcome the U.S. Secretary of State Mr. Mike Pompeo in a visit which is first of its kind to Lebanon. It showcases the importance and the depth of the relationships between the two countries, and it indicates the importance of the Lebanese stability. This is in terms of the form.

In terms of the content, it shows the depths of these particular relationships between the two countries. As such, we have established today a positive and constructive dialogue based on the depth of the relationships between the two Lebanese and American people. Usually, when you establish ties between countries, it is more difficult to concretize this at the level of both peoples, but the bilateral relations between the two peoples are very deep. We have more than 1 million Lebanese who are well-integrated in the American community, and they were exceptionally hosted by the American community. And Mr. Pompeo experienced this when he was a congressman from the Kansas state.

The U.S. supports the legitimate institutions in Lebanon, most importantly, the Lebanese Army, which is the basic pillar and major pillar, and the guarantee of the stability in Lebanon. That is why we appreciate this. We thank this and we thank the Americans for their assistance to the security institutions, to the Lebanese Armed Forces. We thank the USA for the assistance granted to a large group of Lebanese communities.

We have discussed the border issues, and Lebanon is showing a lot of positivity in this regard. And as basic for that, the Lebanese sovereignty, and as you know, my position, personal position, is very clear, and the position of whom I represent is a positive position, and there is an opportunity to recover the rights of Lebanon, the lands of Lebanon, without any concessions. And this allows Lebanon to achieve a diplomatic and political victory. The political and diplomatic victory is equivalent to any kind of other victory. On such a basis we can achieve this without making any concessions, whether on the land or in the sea regarding the oil and gas resources, and we will exert a lot of efforts with internal parties in order to secure the rights of Lebanon.

As for the oil issues, it is a personal issues that I work on as a former minister of energy for a certain period and at a certain time, and we were able to convince the U.S. companies to take part in the bidding processes. And when they were eligible to do that, they did not want to participate anymore, then a consortium of European and Russian companies have won the bidding. They were coming, of course, from different countries, and as you know, there are sanctions imposed between the EU and Russia.

As such, I invited the American companies to take part in the bidding processes related to this field in Lebanon, and we invite as well the American companies to take part in the light of the alliance between Russia and the USA. But of course, as this would increase the stability and this would secure more stability in Lebanon. Lebanon, with multi-diversity, is open to – with its diversity to all. I have related our commitment to 1701 resolution and to secure tranquility at the southern borders and to stop the recurrent Israeli violations which are around 1,800 per year. And I reiterated the natural right of Lebanon to defend itself and to resist the occupation of its land and any aggression against its people, and it is a sacred right in the international treaties and instruments.

We discussed as well the diversity of Lebanon. And this Easter – and the USA invites us on a yearly basis to an interfaith dialogue conference. That is why I reiterated our desire to cooperate with the USA in order to hold this conference and to reject the unilaterals and to secure the diversity of Lebanon, which is an unprecedented model, in order to counter terrorism. We cannot counter terrorism with unilateralism but with diversity, and the crimes perpetrated in New Zealand show the legitimacy of our position. The extremism leads to extremism, while tolerance coupled with international laws and instruments is remedy for extremism. It is the one that paves the way for dialogue, for peaceful coexistence and sound coexistence between populations.

I also discussed the issue of the displaced, and I explained to His Excellency Mr. Pompeo the risk and the danger of the presence of the displaced to the presence, the unique presence of the Lebanese identity, and I established a comparison with regards to the presence of the Syrian displaced in Lebanon. For Kansas, that has 2,700,000 U.S. citizens, if I apply the number of the Syrian displaced and the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, which are 200 per square kilometer, they – it is equivalent to around 2 million Canadians in Kansas. And this is not related to the bilateral ties between countries; this shows that one American state would have to host 1.5 the number of the inhabitants of Canada, and this is unbearable for any country, especially for Lebanon.

As such, we have requested your support for the safe and decent return of the Syrian displaced without having it as a voluntary return, because the requirements for the return and the completion of these requirements do not give the displaced any choice to stay. When such requirements are fulfilled and secured, the return should take place. All in all, we did not talk about a forced and collective return. We are hosting those displaced, but it is time for their return, and this is in the interest of Lebanon. This is in the interest of all brotherly countries.

In Syria, the solution that we are striving for is a political solution. It is a solution that leads to democratic and free elections that gives to the Syrians the right to choose their own representatives. As such, Lebanon disassociates itself from all these issues and is willing not to intervene in the affairs of others so as to disable others from interfering in its own affairs.

At the end, we discussed the Hizballah issue from our own side – from both sides as well. From our side, we reiterated that Hizballah is a political party, that it is not terrorist. His deputies are being elected by the Lebanese people, and they garnered a huge political support. As for the classification of Hizballah as a terrorist group, it is not our classification. It is a classification of the country that wants to do that, but we are attached to our national unity and we are attached to the fact that this should preclude good relations with the USA.

As such, we do not want our relations with the USA to be impacted or influenced by this, and we want to work together in order to solve all these problems, including the issue of Hizballah and the perception of Hizballah and how to deal with Hizballah.

At the end, the stability of Lebanon and the preservation of the national unity of Lebanon is in Lebanese interest and is in American interest. It is a regional interest and it is an international interest because there is an interest in keeping Lebanon as a paradigm able to fight and counter terror and to show that it is a vital model.

Mr. Secretary, I would like to conclude with the following. I would like to address you and the American Government and the American people. Maybe geography separates us, but what unites us are human principles. What can separate us is the principle of resistance, but what unites us is the struggle for freedom. What separates us is unilateralism, but what unites us is the acceptance of the other. That is why Lebanon will be – remain unique in its diversity, in its rebellion, in its freedom, and it won't be at any time a fertile soil for terrorism, but a resistance to such terrorism. We won't change our nature, our diversity, and Lebanon won't be unilateral, but it will remain diversity. Please, show priority to the friendship with Lebanon and let us work for its stability and unity.

Thank you, Your Excellency.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Foreign Minister. Thanks for hosting me here today. It's great to be returning to Lebanon to – and for I think the third or fourth time, but the first time as Secretary of State. As the foreign minister said, I represented southcentral Kansas, home to a thriving population from – that came to the United States in the 1890s – successful entrepreneurs, doctors, leaders, capable immigrants that came to the United States and integrated successfully. It's that same flourishing that we see of the Lebanese people in southcentral Kansas that we hope for everyone here in this great country.

I had the chance to meet today with President Aoun, with Speaker Berri, with the prime minister, and now with the foreign minister. I have other meetings on my schedule for later today and tomorrow. In each of my discussions, Lebanese leaders conveyed their hopes for a better future of peace and security and prosperity for their country and for their people. Every citizen of Lebanon should know that the United States wishes precisely the same.

But we have to confront the facts. Hizballah stands in the way of the Lebanese people's dreams. For 34 years, Hizballah has put the Lebanese people at risk with unilateral, unaccountable decisions on war and peace, and life and death. Whether through political promises or outright intimidation of voters, Hizballah sits inside the national assembly or other state institutions and pretends to support the state. Meanwhile, Hizballah defies the state and the people of Lebanon through a terrorist wing committed to spreading destruction.

Hizballah's armed campaigns are squarely opposed to the interests of the Lebanese people. How does the expanding of – expending of resources and lives of those constituents in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria help the citizens of south Lebanon, Beirut, or the Bekaa Valley? How does stockpiling tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in Lebanon territory for use against Israel make this country stronger? Moreover, Hizballah does these nefarious activities at the behest of the Iranian regime. Its foot soldiers serve at Tehran's bidding. Hizballah and its illegitimate militia put the entire country of Lebanon on the front lines of Iran's misguided proxy campaigns.

Rest assured, Hizballah's Iranian patrons don't want the status quo in Lebanon to change. They see peace, prosperity, and independence for Lebanon as a fundamental threat to their political interest and their hegemonic ambitions.

Finally, Hizballah's global criminal networks – its drug smuggling, its attempts to launder money through the international system, and its interference with customs and other trade controls – place Lebanon under the microscope of international law enforcement. Indeed, Hizballah robs the Lebanese state of resources that rightfully belong to its people.

The Lebanese people should no longer be made to suffer for the political and military ambitions of an outlaw nation and its terrorist affiliate. It will take courage for the nation of Lebanon to stand up to Hizballah's criminality, terror, and threats. It will take effort to ensure full respect and independence for the Lebanese Armed Forces and other national security interests.

To be clear, we understand the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. This is another dimension in Iranian aggression, and we support their return to Syria in a secure and voluntary manner as soon as conditions allow.

I want everyone in Lebanon to know that you will continue to have a friend in the United States. We will continue to support the legitimate state institutions of Lebanon and all of its people. In 2018, this year past, the United States provided more than $800 million in assistance to Lebanon. A fair question: What did Hizballah and Iran contribute? They contributed coffins of young Lebanese returning from Syria and ever more Iranian weapons. Qasem Soleimani and Hizballah's other Iranian backers continues to undermine Lebanon's legitimate security institutions and jeopardize the safety and security of the Lebanese people. It's plain to see which country is a force for good in Lebanon.

The United States will continue to bring unprecedented pressure to bear on Iran until it ceases all malign behavior, including that which is carried out by Hizballah. Iran's support of Hizballah poses a threat to people – to Arab people of all faiths, it weakens the Lebanese state, and undermines the prosperity of future generations. It also increases the likelihood of conflict and undercuts opportunities for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The clerics in Tehran provide Hizballah with as much as $700 million each and every year. This is a staggering sum, especially given that up to 90 percent of Iran's labor force has long lived before – below the poverty line.

Our pressure on Iran is simple. It's aimed at cutting off the funding for terrorists, and it's working. On March 8th, Hassan Nasrallah begged Hizballah supporters to make new contributions. And we believe that our work is already constraining Hizballah's activities. The United States will continue to use all peaceful means – everything at our disposal – to choke off the financing, the smuggling, the criminal networks, and the misuse of government positions and influence that feeds Iran and Hizballah terror operations, and we will not hesitate to call out those who active – actively and passively support these activities and betray the trust and hopes of the Lebanese people.

I've had a chance to discuss each of these issues with Lebanese leaders. I expressed hope that the new Lebanese Government would be able to meet the needs of the Lebanese people. In that regard, I shared concern about both external and internal pressures upon the government, including coming from some of its members which do not serve an independent, thriving Lebanon.

Frankly, Lebanon and the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward as an independent and proud nation or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hizballah to dictate your future. You all know the history. Lebanon has paid a terrible price over the past half-century for the sake of its independence. As I traveled from the airport, I was reminded powerfully of this past suffering. I passed the site where 35 years ago the predecessors of today's Hizballah murdered U.S. Marines on a peacekeeping mission. I passed near the site of the U.S. embassy where the same terrorist thugs killed America's diplomats as they worked. I viewed the memorial to Mr. Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, brutally assassinated for his courageous opposition to cruel tyranny of the Assad regime over Lebanon.

But from that bitter past a better future beckons, and it is all around us. Neither Iran nor its partner Hizballah have the right to exact more suffering from the Lebanese people. Beirut is rightly seen as a symbol of rebirth out of ashes; of coexistence out of separation; of mosques, churches, and synagogues rebuilt side by side in what was once a bitter green line that divided family from family and friend from friend.

Mr. Foreign Minister, you should know and I want all the Lebanese people to know the United States will continue to stand with the Lebanese people as they seize the opportunities they so richly deserve, to live as a free people.

Thank you.

Press Releases: Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With Lebanese President Michel Aoun

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 22, 2019
The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met today with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut. The Secretary discussed a number of pressing bilateral and regional issues, notably the U.S. government's strong concerns over the role of Hizballah and Iran in Lebanon and the region and the risks this poses to Lebanon's security, stability, and prosperity. The Secretary and President Aoun also discussed efforts to maintain calm along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel and Lebanon's humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria.

Press Releases: Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 22, 2019

The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met in Beirut today with Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berri. They discussed a number of issues related to the Lebanese economy and implementation of critical reforms, as well as the need to maintain calm along the boundary between Lebanon and Israel. Secretary Pompeo expressed hope that Lebanon would be able to join the other states of the Eastern Mediterranean in developing offshore resources in a manner of benefit to all the people of Lebanon. He highlighted U.S. concerns about Hizballah's destabilizing activities in Lebanon and the region and the risks posed to Lebanon's security, stability, and prosperity.

Press Releases: Secretary Pompeo's Meeting With Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri

03/22/2019 09:58 AM EDT
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 22, 2019
The below is attributable to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino:
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met in Beirut today with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. They discussed the importance of the U.S.-Lebanese security partnership and the need for continued support for Lebanon's legitimate state security institutions, particularly the Lebanese Armed Forces. The Secretary commended the Lebanese people for hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, whose presence is a consequence of Syrian repression and Iranian aggression. He emphasized U.S.concerns related to Hizballah's destabilizing activities inside Lebanon and the region and the risks posed by their illicit and provocative behavior.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Remarks With Traveling Press

Michael R. Pompeo 
Secretary of State
En Route to Shannon, Ireland
March 18, 2019

SECRETARY POMPEO: Let me just say a couple things, and then happy to take a few questions. Had a great visit; it was fun to go back home. I think it really set up what we'll do on the 4th and 5th in the Netherlands to be a very successful event for any American entrepreneurs and for American businesses, and I think it was a good message, and so it was a – that was a fun day.

Now to Kuwait, and then to Israel, and then to Lebanon – multiple missions, different in each place for sure, but Kuwait's been a longtime partner of the United States. We all know the history of the first Gulf War. We'll go back and make sure that we reconnect with them, talk to them about what we're doing with the Middle East Strategic Alliance, some energy issues, and also of course talk about things we talk about with all the states in the Gulf region: the threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Israel – a long-planned trip. We will spend a lot of time talking about Syria, the challenges that are presented there. That's my first chance to see the new embassy since it moved as well. I'm personally looking forward to that and to get a chance to talk to our team there. And then we'll also talk about issues and how we're jointly going to work against the terror threats they face with Hamas, and Hizballah, and Iran of course as well.

And then on to Lebanon, where we'll spend a lot of time talking with the Lebanese Government about how we can help them disconnect from the threat that Iran and Hizballah present to them. Financial, economic, all the assistance we have provided to the Lebanese Armed Forces, talk to them about those serious issues. And meet with some of the religious leadership of the country as well.

So I'm looking forward to all three stops, and then heading back home. With that, happy to take a few questions.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Thank you for coming back. You going in Israel in the middle of quite tense election, you can imagine that it can be seen a support to Netanyahu. Is it part of the message, or not at all?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So there's always an election. We've got an election a year away, they've got one that's less than a month away. I'm going to Israel because of the important relationship we have. Our relationship is between the United States and Israel the same way that theirs is between Israel and the United States. Leaders will change in both countries over time; that relationship matters no matter who the leaders are, and we're going to go talk about the strategic issues we work on together, and talk about a whole bunch of things that matter to each of our two countries. That's the mission set.

QUESTION: What would be the basis for meeting with Palestinians (inaudible) --


QUESTION: Is there any basis for reopening talks with Palestinians?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they'd have to want to talk to us. That'd be a good start. Look, we desperately want a good solution. Mr. Kushner's working on the Middle East peace plan. There'll be a right time when we will introduce bigger pieces of that. The Palestinians will definitely have to be a part of that, right. This is, as we've always said, Israel and the Palestinians are going to have to work this thing through. We hope that they will, we hope we'll be able to engage with them at the right time so that they can solve this decades-on problem.

QUESTION: On the issue of military organizations related to Iran, do you have any plans to designate the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization, or any other militias in the region, in Iraq or elsewhere, to be FTOs? I know you did one earlier this month.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Right. We did HAN. There are others that we're taking a look at. Our mission set there is pretty clear in Iraq. We're trying to help Iraq become an independent, sovereign state disconnected from any other country. We want them to stand on their own two feet and to be that truly independent, strong Iraq that they had been as a historical matter – that is, they have great capacity for that. They can be the linchpin in the Middle East, and we're trying to build that out. And to the extent there's a terror group that is operating outside of that, we're going to make sure that we protect the American people. And so there may well be other organizations that we designate.

I don't want to talk about any particular one or the others that you mention, the IRGC or the IRGC Quds Force. We're certainly looking at all of those. Our campaign to convince the Islamic Republic of Iran to change its way continues. We've put a lot of pressure to date, but there's more to follow.

QUESTION: With all of the headlines with anti-Semitism here in the United States, how much will you bring that up with the prime minister – or excuse me, Benjamin Netanyahu?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Oh, we have so many things to talk about. And certainly that'll be among them. And it's certainly something I know they must be thinking about; I know Jewish people all across America are thinking about that, so I'm sure it'll be part of our conversation, where we have lots of issues – security issues, economic ties, too. I'm going to have a meeting when I first arrive with the Greeks, the Cypriots, and the Israelis talking about energy and energy opportunities. We'll do that on the first night there. There'll be a meeting of the four countries. There's some real opportunities for energy to flow into places they – it hasn't before, which takes down leverage from some of the other countries in the region as well – an important economic and national security issue.

So I'm sure it'll come up, among many issues.

QUESTION: On Lebanon, you mention disentangling Hizballah from --


QUESTION: And yet you're going to meet with President Aoun and I think the foreign minister as well, and they facilitated Hizballah's arrive to power. So how do you sort all of that out?

SECRETARY POMPEO: In my business we talk to a lot of people that we're hoping to change their way.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. (Laughter.)

MR PALLADINO: One more, sir?

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, has the State Department – the State Department has essentially dropped the word "occupied" from its reports when it talks about the West Bank and the Golan. Was that an accident, or is that deliberate to sort of de-emphasize that word in describing the territory that (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I hope there were no words in the Human Rights Report that were accidental. We – I hope that they were all thoughtful and intentional. Our mission set with that, with that Human Rights Report, is to lay out facts, right. This isn't a policy document. It is to document and lay out facts that surround human rights abuses all across the globe. It's the case that we do our best to call those facts like we see them. That language reflects the facts as we understand them.

So it was an attempt to factually indicate what we believe is actually happening, whether that was what we described in North Korea, what we talked about in Syria – all the places. That includes the statements we made about Israel and the West Bank as well.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, you no longer see the territory as occupied, then? You talked about referring to it as facts --

SECRETARY POMPEO: I think this is a – this was a factual statement about how we observe the situation. And we think it's very accurate, and we stand behind it.

QUESTION: Have you – just a quick question. Mr. Netanyahu has been using comments by Mr. Trump for his election adverts. Have you asked him not to include you in any of his election adverts?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I'm going to talk about the relationship between our two countries. That's what we'll do.

MR PALLADINO: We'll keep it there. All right.

QUESTION: Can I ask you on Syria?

QUESTION: Just to follow up on his question --

MR PALLADINO: Let's wrap it up there.

QUESTION: Will there be a designation on this trip, an additional designation of one those groups, Quds Force or --

SECRETARY POMPEO: I'd rather not get in front of what we're planning in terms of designations. As you know, they're sensitive issues, and so I want to make sure we got it all locked down before I make an announcement. So stay tuned.

MR PALLADINO: All right, great.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you, all.

MR PALLADINO: Okay, thank you all.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Secretary Pompeo's Travel to Beirut, Jerusalem, and Kuwait City

Press Statement
Robert Palladino 
Deputy Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 15, 2019

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo will travel to Beirut, Jerusalem, and Kuwait City March 19-23.

In Beirut, the Secretary will meet with Lebanese leaders to discuss the political, security, economic, and humanitarian challenges facing Lebanon. The Secretary's visit will underscore U.S. support for the Lebanese people and Lebanon's legitimate state institutions.

In Jerusalem, the Secretary will meet with Israeli officials to engage on critical regional issues, including countering the Iranian regime's malign influence and reaffirming the United States' unwavering commitment to Israel's security. The Secretary will also discuss the Administration's dedication to monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism. While in Jerusalem, the Secretary will also participate in a meeting with Israeli, Cypriot, and Greek leaders to discuss key energy and security issues facing the Eastern Mediterranean region.

In Kuwait City, the Secretary will lead the U.S. delegation at the third U.S.-Kuwait Strategic Dialogue. The dialogue will focus on many areas of growing U.S.-Kuwait bilateral cooperation, including defense, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, strengthening trade and investment ties, and education. The Secretary will also meet with Kuwaiti leaders to discuss important regional issues, such as Yemen and Syria, as well as progress on the Middle East Strategic Alliance and the need for GCC unity in order to confront the region's challenges and advance prosperity, security, and stability.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Support for Germany's Request for Lebanon to Extradite Syrian General Jamil Hassan

Press Statement
Robert Palladino
Deputy Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 5, 2019

The United States continuously seeks to shed light on abuses committed by the Assad regime, including its use of torture, and calls for the regime to allow for unhindered access of independent monitoring organizations to detention centers. Moreover, the United States supports effective mechanisms for holding those responsible for atrocities in Syria accountable. To that end, the United States would welcome any decision by the Government of Lebanon that would facilitate the lawful extradition of Syrian General Jamil Hassan to Germany, in compliance with the Government of Germany's extradition request and consistent with applicable law.

General Hassan serves as the chief of Syria's Air Force Intelligence Directorate and is notorious for his alleged involvement in the extensive use of torture in Syrian detention centers. The German federal prosecutor issued an arrest warrant against the General  in June 2018 for committing crimes against humanity based on a complaint filed by Syrian refugees residing in Germany. The Government of Germany requested the Government of Lebanon to extradite General Hassan, who is reportedly visiting Lebanon to receive medical care. Moreover, the European Union and the United States have previously sanctioned General Hassan due to his support to the Assad regime per Executive Order 13573.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Senator Lankford Visits Israel, Lebanon, UK for International Economic and Trade Events


WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) returned earlier this week from a congressional delegation trip to Israel, Lebanon, and the UK to discuss economic development and the important regional partnerships we have in the Middle East and Europe to boost trade and economic prosperity internationally.

In Israel at the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Forum, Lankford was the only US elected official to speak to the conference, and he challenged the attendees to plant trees of peace that would allow their children to climb their branches in the coming years. In Lebanon, Lankford had an opportunity to meet with Lebanese leaders and learn more about the Syrian refugee population there and the long-term strategy for stability in the region. In London, Lankford met with Members of Parliament to address trade and Brexit.

"In all three countries there were extraordinary gatherings to develop trade, peaceful relationships and greater cooperation," said Lankford. "Meeting with Israeli and Palestinian regional and business leaders to talk about greater economic cooperation holds promise for improved relationships and greater prosperity for everyone. For too long economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians have been forbidden; it is time to allow everyone in the region to succeed. This first of its kind joint business conference allows neighbors to plan together and talk about the real issues that hinder economic development. Along with American Ambassador Friedman, I was privileged to witness multiple business and regional leaders from both sides of the Green Line talk for the first time about economic development.

"In Lebanon, I was honored to meet two days in a row with the Prime Minister to work on our joint commitment to end terrorism in the region and further economic cooperation. I also met with the President of Lebanon and the military leadership of the country to discuss the Lebanese Armed Forces and their consistent work to combat ISIS and other terror organizations in and around their country. On Saturday, I was able to drive over the mountains to Zahle in the Beqaa Valley to meet with UNHCR leadership and to spend the morning walking through one of the Syrian refugee camps in the Beqaa Valley. While the world has moved on to other issues, more than 1.5 million people live as refugees in Lebanon and many million more in Europe, Jordan and Turkey. We must stay engaged to help these refugees return to their homes in Syria. The refugees I spoke to fled Syria years ago because of the brutal regime of Bashir Assad. For the future of the region, we must resolve the issues around the future of Syria so the Syrian people can return home in peace. Lebanon is a strong ally of the US, and we jointly commit to promoting human rights, opportunity for all, and peaceful relationships in the region. 

"On the way back from the Middle East, I was able to stop for one day in London to meet with multiple members of Parliament about the future of American trade and ways we can increase trade in agricultural products with the UK. The Brexit debate is not just about the future of Europe, it is also about the future relationship between the US and the UK. Several of the Brexit proposals currently under consideration from the EU, exclude the UK from trading with the US. I do not believe the citizens of the UK who voted to leave the EU also wanted to give the EU the power to stop their trade with the US. UK citizens wanted more access to trade and the ability to make their own decisions, not fewer options."

As a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees, Lankford's committee assignments provide him an opportunity to work on regional partnerships around the world to enhance American interests and boost existing diplomacy efforts.