U.S. Congress plot against Lebanon revealed

February 6, 2022 - 21:45

TEHRAN – While Lebanon is still struggling to get over the ramifications of a deadly 2020 blast at Beirut Port, some people on Capitol Hill are busy drawing up plans to further exacerbate the situation in the country.

Lebanon is in bad shape economically and its people are grappling with day-to-day hardships to make ends meet regardless of their religion or political persuasions. But this does not seem enough for some U.S. congressmen to refrain from fanning the flames of political divisions in Lebanon at a delicate moment.

Ever since the 2020 destructive explosion that wreaked huge damage on the port of Beirut and the surrounding districts, the economic situation in Lebanon has been steadily deteriorating, with the country’s lira currency significantly losing its value against the U.S. dollar. Many gas stations and power stations ran out of fuel needed to power Lebanese cars and light homes.

The explosion led to a political vacuum in Lebanon after Hassan Diab, who assumed premiership in late 2019 by virtue of consensus among Lebanon’s main religiopolitical factions including Hezbollah, resigned. Diab remained in power as caretaker prime minister for about 13 months, highlighting the challenges of forming government in a country where political factions are divided along sectarian lines and pulling in different directions. Diab sought to strike a balance and render services to the Lebanese people without prioritizing foreign pressure to undermine certain groups that are part and parcel of Lebanon’s political system. 

Saad Hariri sought to form a government but he was given the cold shoulder due to a perception in some regional and transregional countries that he was unable to undertake reforms long demanded by these countries. And the main target of reforms is Hezbollah. In other words, Hariri was under pressure to form a government bent on weakening Hezbollah. Hariri simply withdrew and then went into self-exile.  

But external pressures continued unabated even after Lebanese leaders across the political spectrum formed a new government led by veteran politician Najib Mikati. 

Mikati has been trying to improve the economic situation in the country. But he is facing daunting challenges in this regard. Because Lebanon is resource-poor and relies, to large extent, on foreign aid to shore up its economy. To overcome economic woes, Lebanon needs foreign loans. The Mikati administration has formally begun negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to reportedly take out a $4 billion loan. 

The loan is part of a broader reform plan that aims to improve the economic situation. But it has been conditioned on the Lebanese government undertaking painful economic reforms and more importantly making a pledge to undermine Hezbollah.

The Tehran Times has learned that Senator James Lankford is spearheading efforts at the U.S. Congress to draw up some legislation on the situation in Lebanon that would direct the U.S. administration to refrain from supporting IMF assistance until needed reforms are made. 

The proposed bill also directs the U.S. to support incremental IMF assistance to Lebanon once reforms are made. 

In addition, the bill calls on the U.S. to impose sanctions on Lebanese leaders thought to be obstructing reforms. 

It goes without saying that reforms here mean measures against Hezbollah, which has long been in the crosshairs of the U.S. On the surface, the bill seeks to ensure stability in Lebanon. But deep down, it may well end up destabilizing Lebanon by pitting the Lebanese against each other.

The draft prepared by Senator Lankford lays out an array of measures to be taken by the U.S. administration in regards to Lebanon. The Tehran Times will shine a spotlight on the main contours of Lankford’s bill in the coming days.

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