BEIRUT: US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, cautioned of the dangers of the increasing pressure on the banking sector while taking the opportunity to denounce the Iranian backed Hezbollah party. Pompeo reinforced the International Support Group (ISG) sentiment, with the ISG meeting being held today in Paris, that the security of Lebanon is in the best interest of the international community.
“I know the meeting is taking place; we’re working on it. We know that the financial situation is very serious and that the Central Bank is under real pressure,” Pompeo said in his remarks.
Pompeo called attention to the financial repercussions of the unofficial capital controls implemented by the banking sector. However, he rested the burden of banking rights, and long-term governmental reform, on the shoulders of the Lebanese people.
“The Lebanese people don’t have access to their accounts in a way that is full, and sufficient, and adequate, but the responsibility lies with the Lebanese people. The responsibility on how the government will be formed, and shaped, falls to the Lebanese people to demand Lebanese sovereignty, Lebanese prosperity, and Lebanese freedom from outside influence,” Pompeo said.
The 70th United States Secretary of State also denounced Hezbollah, verbally positioning the group as a roadblock to freedom.
“We have a designated terrorist organization, Hezbollah, and I know that the people of Lebanon understand the risk that that presents to their freedom, and to their capacity to deliver for themselves,” Pompeo said.
Speaking on behalf of the United States of America, Pompeo insisted that the State Department’s stance on Hezbollah is not an American proposal, but a proposal by the people of Lebanon. This statement was made weeks after the former Ambassador of the United States of America to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, was blasted for unraveling US interests during his recent congressional testimony, stating that the protests “fortunately coincide with US interests” against Hezbollah.
“This is not an American proposition, this is a proposition of the Lebanese people and we do stand ready to do the things that the world can do to assist the Lebanese people getting their economy righted and their government righted,” Pompeo said.
The tension between the US and Iran is felt in Beirut where the US has intensified its sanctions on Iran-backed Hezbollah. The US took extreme measures, such as sanctioning three top Hezbollah officials earlier this year, that was more geared towards sending a symbolic message than limiting Hezbollah’s influence in practice.
With Hariri’s formally accepted explanation to the West on why Hezbollah is represented in government, the distinction between “military wing” Hezbollah, and “political command” Hezbollah, out the window, the question now shifts to what is in store for Hezbollah in the future.
If a Trump re-election is in the cards, US sanctions against Hezbollah are only expected to grow more unrelenting.
“We have taken more actions recently against Hezbollah than in the history of our counterterrorism program,“ Sigal P. Mandelker, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury said at a conference in the United Arab Emirates in September of this year.
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