Thursday, May 14, 2020

Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Lebanon (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 13, 2020


Thank you, Mr. President, and thanks, Rosemary, for your briefing. We welcome the Secretary-General's most recent report on UNSCR 1559, and we share your concerns about the unfolding crisis and the negative effects that COVID-19 is having on the already dire situation in Lebanon.

Late April saw a disturbing turn of events in Lebanon. Peaceful protests that began in October became violent, amid economic distress and major public health concerns. Lebanon's currency has collapsed. Its banking system is reeling. And inflation is spiraling out of control. We welcome Prime Minister Diab's reform efforts, and we encourage him to undertake credible and comprehensive measures immediately to help Lebanon weather these crises.

We also recognize the additional hardships that COVID-related measures have imposed on Lebanon and its people. That is why, on April 16, the United States announced $13.3 million in new assistance for Lebanon. Unfortunately, we also remain deeply concerned about the continued operation of armed militias operating outside of government control, as well as Iran's and Syria's transfers of weaponry to Hizballah and other non-state actors in Lebanon. These actions only serve to increase already rising instability in the country.

To be frank, each of these semiannual reports enumerates far too many examples of UNIFIL being prevented from accessing sites of concern in its area of responsibility. Once again, the report states – and I quote – "there has been no tangible progress towards the disbanding and disarming of Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias," and that, "no specific steps have been taken to tackle this critical issue" since the adoption of UNSCR 1559 in 2004.

I would wish to emphasize those findings again: "no tangible progress," and "no specific steps" taken. My fellow Council members, it is perfectly clear that Hizballah is operating contrary to Resolutions 1701 and 1559. This report and others highlight Hizballah's continued contempt for both resolutions. The Security Council must do more to ensure UNIFIL has unimpeded, timely access to the entire Blue Line, including the ability to inspect areas deemed private property.

We strongly urge Lebanese civilian leadership to facilitate that access. But we also urge the Security Council to address both the incomplete implementation of Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and Hizballah's illicit activities. The Lebanese Armed Forces is the only institution that can legitimately defend Lebanon's territory and sovereignty.

The Council should continue how to best implement the arms embargo provision. While it is incorporated in Resolution 1701, I know that many in the Council prefer to discuss the embargo outside the context of UNIFIL. At the last briefing on Lebanon, Mr. Kubis said that there was no information submitted by members, and that, therefore, the UN could not report it. We find this explanation wholly unacceptable. But this onus is not only on the UN. We urge every Council member to treat the arms embargo with the appropriate seriousness.

I know that we all share the Secretary-General's desire for a secure and stable Lebanon. But we should also all share the Secretary-General's concern with the twin threat posed by Hizballah: its maintenance of weapons outside of state control and lack of accountability to any state institutions.

Regarding that last point, I want to briefly comment to our Russian colleagues made during last week's UNIFIL consultations. They suggested that we should avoid focusing on Hizballah because they are a legitimate and important part of the Lebanese government. But do legitimate political parties maintain weapons stored beyond the control of the political systems in which they participate? Of course not. Fellow Council members, Hizballah is fully deserving of our scrutiny. And as the Secretary-General urged in his report, those who have close relationships with Hizballah have a responsibility to insist upon their disarmament.

The Trump Administration is steadfast in its commitment to Lebanon, and we once again urge its friends and neighbors to join us in supporting a sovereign, stable, and independent nation.

Thank you.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Lebanon (via VTC)

Ambassador Kelly Craft
Permanent Representative
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
May 4, 2020


It's hard to believe we're already in May now. We're looking forward to a really robust schedule and hopefully all returning back to New York. And also, thank you, Special Coordinator and Under Secretary, for your briefings. I'd also like to express our gratitude to UNIFIL, Observer Group Lebanon, and all troop-contributing countries.

The United States is closely following the situation in Lebanon, which finds itself in an unprecedented crisis. The need for reform – reform that provides economic opportunity and ends corruption – is especially acute given the extraordinary economic and public health challenges now facing the country. The Trump Administration remains committed to its partnership with Lebanon, and it is because of our commitment that we want to see UNIFIL operate as an effective force.

But to make the Mission effective, we must be clear-eyed about what is really happening in southern Lebanon. The truth is that Hizballah openly flaunts its weaponry; flagrantly disregards Resolution 1701; and, for all intents and purposes, dictates to UNIFIL where and when it can patrol. Instead of working with the UN and the Security Council to address these manifest problems, the Government of Lebanon is preventing the Mission from fulfilling its mandate by denying it access to sites inside its area of operations.

For example, UNIFIL is still being kept out of sites associated with the September 1, 2019 attack and tunnel sites discovered over a year ago. Lest we forget, Resolution 1701's primary purpose was to ensure that the area south of the Litani River would be kept free of any armed personnel, assets, and weapons. But now, we see UNIFIL barred from the places it used to patrol and prevented from inspecting sites clearly used for military activity. Often, the explanation given is that these areas are "private property." This pretext is absurd, and prevents UNIFIL from discharging its mandate.

Moreover, it is appalling that during the most recent reporting period, there were 13 incidents where UNIFIL was prevented – often violently – from carrying out its mandate. It is clear enough to anyone willing to look that this Mission is not working as intended.

Hizballah has been able to arm itself and expand operations despite UNIFIL's presence. It puts the Lebanese people at risk by stockpiling munitions, digging tunnels for terrorist fighters, building factories to upgrade its rockets, and using women and children as shields in assaults on UNIFIL peacekeepers. Hizballah is no friend of peace.

We should have taken decisive action long ago to protect the integrity of Resolution 1701. Instead, the Council has never called out Hizballah for its activities.

We should not measure UNIFIL's success solely in the terms of the quantity or frequency of operational activities. To be sure, the Tripartite Mechanism, Maritime Task Force, and troop presence along the Blue Line help maintain stability. But patrols and checkpoints are of plainly limited use when offending parties can simply hide weapons and tunnel entrances on so-called "private property."

It is not acceptable for the Council to simply push off its collective responsibility in this matter. The time has come to either pursue serious change to empower UNIFIL, or to realign UNIFIL's staffing and resources with tasks it can actually accomplish. As agreed by all Member States in our Declaration on Action for Peacekeeping, we must seek measures to improve coherence between mandates and resources.

Further, despite Resolution 2485's request for an enhanced annex on the implementation of the arms embargo, the annex doesn't appear to have changed at all. Accurate reporting is critical to efforts to ensure implementation of the arms embargo. We remind all Member States that, pursuant to Resolution 1701, they are obligated to prevent the sale or supply, to any entity or individual in Lebanon, of arms and related materiel of all types, with the exception of those authorized by the Government of Lebanon or by UNIFIL.

As we approach the UNIFIL mandate renewal this summer, we hope that this Council takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that mission can be most effective and efficient. The United States also looks forward to the Secretary General's assessment of the mission. We expect that it will provide an honest account of the challenges the Mission faces, and that it will provide proposals for what can be done to improve the force.

Thank you.


Monday, May 04, 2020

U.S. Security Cooperation With Lebanon

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
May 1, 2020

U.S. security assistance for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is a key component of U.S. policy in Lebanon and aims to strengthen Lebanon's sovereignty, secure its borders, counter internal threats, disrupt terrorist facilitation, and build up the country's legitimate state institutions.  Key areas of cooperation include border security, maritime security, defense institution building, arms transfers, and counterterrorism.

The LAF has historically served as a pillar of stability in a country facing extraordinary challenges, including the presence of the terrorist group Hizballah.  The U.S.-LAF partnership builds the LAF's capacity as the sole legitimate defender of Lebanon's sovereignty.  Since 2006, U.S. investments of more than $2 billion in the LAF enabled the Lebanese military to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Lebanon and carry out operations against Al Qaeda and reassert control over Lebanese territory along its border with Syria.  It has also allowed the force to increase its presence in southern Lebanon to coordinate with the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.

In FY 2019, the United States provided $218 million in combined Department of State and Department of Defense (DoD) military grant assistance.  This includes $105 million in Foreign Military Financing, $3 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET), and $110 million in DoD-authorized funding.

Since 2014, the U.S. Department of State provided Lebanon with $12.86 million for IMET.  Over 6,039 members of the LAF received training in the United States since 1970, including 310 members in FY 2019.  IMET provides professional military education and training to military students and is key to establishing lasting relationships with future leaders.  IMET courses increase military professionalization, enhance interoperability with U.S. forces, offer instruction on the law of armed conflict and human rights, provide technical and operational training, and create a deeper understanding of the United States.

Since the August 2014 attack in Arsal by ISIS and the Al Nusra Front, the United States has provided the LAF with aircraft, vehicles, weapons, and other equipment to help keep the country's borders secure and conduct counterterrorism operations.  In December 2017, the Department of Defense announced a $120 million assistance package to provide the LAF with six MD-530G light attack helicopters valued at $94 million, six Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles valued at $11 million, and communications, electronics, night vision devices to enable joint fire support, and close air support valued at more than $16 million.

The U.S. government has $1.4 billion in active government-to-government sales cases with Lebanon under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system.  FMS sales notified to Congress are listed here, and recent and significant prior sales include: A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft, Huey II helicopters, and AGM-114 Hellfire and TOW 2A missiles.  The full complement of six A-29s was delivered in June 2018.

Since 2014, the United States also authorized the permanent export of over $139 million in defense articles to Lebanon via the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) process.  The top categories of DCS to Lebanon include:  military electronics, fire control/night vision, and aircraft. In addition, Lebanon has been a reliable recipient of DCS as evidenced by their 100 percent favorable rate on Blue Lantern end use monitoring checks, well above the global average of 75 percent.

With Lebanon, as with other allies and partners around the world, the United States conducts end-use monitoring (EUM) to mitigate the risk of unauthorized transfer or use of U.S. technology and equipment.  EUM is used to verify the end-use, accountability, and security of defense articles, services, and training provided under grant-based assistance and FMS sales programs, from delivery through their use and eventual disposal.  The LAF continues to comply fully with all of its EUM reporting and security requirements.

The United States is the largest donor to conventional weapons destruction (CWD) programs in Lebanon, providing more than $20 million since 2014 to enable the clearance of landmines and other explosive remnants of war  across the country, including explosive hazards laid by ISIS and other violent extremist groups in northeast Lebanon.  This support continues to play a vital role enabling economic development activity in previously inaccessible land and increasing civilian security.  CWD assistance also bolsters the LAF's capacity to manage munitions, preventing diversion while maximizing the LAF's battlefield readiness and combat effectiveness.

The United States conducts the annual bilateral military exercise Resolute Response with the LAF. Through this and other engagements the United States has trained over 32,000 Lebanese troops.